I have a fairly high tolerance for clutter. But I absolutely, positively, cannot STAND a disorganized hard drive or email folder, and I’m not the sort to put up with a drawer full of non-working cell phones, old digital cameras, thumb drives missing their caps and other digital detritus. So, for me, April is high-tech spring cleaning time.
What with kids going off to college, old laptops running Windows XP that have been replaced with newer Windows 7 models, and the continual process of upgrading speakers, printers, and displays, it’s time to recycle quite a bit of high-tech gear. I’m not going to follow the example at the café at Infomart and turn the old gear into funky light fixtures. I’ll sell the useful stuff on eBay or Craigslist, and recycle the rest.
There was a time, just before the economic crisis, when it looked like the IT disposal and recycling business was going to grow at a rapid pace. Back then, there was a strong demand for used equipment (especially abroad), and there seemed to be money to be made in the business.
Then, two things happened. First, a lot of states and cities decided that they wanted to “do something” about discarded digital junk winding up in landfills. And then the economic crisis hit. Families and businesses alike stretched the life of every bit of gear until they absolutely HAD to replace it.
So now, it’s hard to find someone to haul away old gear without paying a fee. Most not-for-profits don’t want used equipment anymore, and there are fewer responsible choices for recycling. Of course, you can still put it out on the curb during bulk trash week, and people will come by and pick it up before the trash men get there if you’re lucky.
I save inkjet cartridges, and instead of dropping them into the recycle bin at Target or OfficeMax, I wait until I have a shoebox full, and then I send them to The Chiapas Project. It’s free to me, and they take old working or non-working cell phones (no chargers or accessories), and printer cartridges, recycle them, and use the money to help women and children in Latin America.
A notice over the microwave at work tells me that a local e-cycler is going to be hauling away old TV’s, computers, monitors, and other hardware from a tent in the parking lot, so I’ll probably show up with the seat down and a stack of stuff to be hauled away.
In the meantime, I’ve run back-ups, checked my Zone Alarm subscription renewals, and run the basic disk optimization programs on all the computers at the house. I’ve also changed all of my passwords – another ritual that happens every spring. (Yes, I know I should do it more often. And I do on things like my bank and PayPal accounts. What I’m talking about here is erasing the cookies and “auto fill” records of EVERY password, for EVERY web site and account, and manually changing each and every one of them as I access the site or application.)
I’ve cleaned up my desktop icons, deleted unneeded folders and uninstalled programs I haven’t used in the last 12 months. Last, but not least, I’ve deleted or archived old emails, files, photos, and videos.
Why do I do it in April? Because after the taxes are finished, and the receipts are put away, cleaning up the computer just makes me feel as if I’ve really accomplished something besides helping to pay for a new bomber jet or cruise missile.