Marie Kondo’s best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sparked a nationwide phenomenon of possession purging and a cult of evangelists who swear by her tidying techniques. And while it might be tempting to toss any technology that doesn’t “spark joy” in the wastebin as you declutter, it actually requires a bit more care to cast off your gadgets. Unlike old shoes or your grandmother’s vase, technology might be valuable, it might be environmentally unsound to throw away, or it might contain your personal data. For those reasons, you’ll need a bit more help saying goodbye. Here are some tips for those who want to apply the KonMari method to their technology clutter.
First, a Few Basic Guidelines
Don’t dilly dally. The sooner you sell your tech, the better. A computer or mobile phone that is a few years old can be updated by a pro to be used by someone else; but a device that is older than that will probably be taken apart and recycled for its parts (sniff!). So take each item in your hand and decide if it still sparks joy. If it’s collecting dust, it’s ready to hit the road.
Gather ye stuff. When you donate electronics, try to include the whole shebang. Dig around for the cables, keyboard, the manual, the charger, throw in the monitor—make the kit as complete as you can so that it will be more like to be truly useful for a new owner (and, if you’re selling, that effort might yield a higher price).
Back it up. Copy everything from your old device before you donate it, so you won’t accidentally lose any precious photos, contacts or data—the ones you will suddenly remember you need in about a month. You can use an external hard drive or a cloud service. If you’re donating a smartphone, the data is may be backed up by your service provider, or a cloud service. If you’re selling a smartphone online, many companies will wipe the phone clean for you, but it’s always better to do this yourself.
Here’s my advice on how to backup your computer.
Deauthorize the device. Before selling or giving away a Mac or PC, remove its access to content you bought. This might include purchases from the iTunes store, such as movies, apps, books and songs; here are instructions on how to do that. It might also include software, such as Windows, which come with a limited number of computers that can run the software, or PC games.
Step 1. Wipe the drive
- For iOS, under Settings, tap General, then Reset, then Erase all Content.
- For Android, use the Factory reset option. Under Settings, tap backup and reset, then Factory data reset.
- For a Mac, There are several steps to take; view the complete instructions here.
- For a PC, you can use data-wiping software, such as Darik’s Boot and Nuke.
Here’s more on prepping to unload your gadgets in a story I did for HGTV on 8 Things You Should Do Before Selling Used Electronics.
Now You’re Ready to thank your gadgets for their service and send them on their way. Here Are Some Options:
Step 2. Donate, Sell or Recycle
Donate. Dell and Goodwill Industries Dell Reconnect Program accepts computer equipment of any brand, in any condition, at more than 2,000 locations. This means you can unload monitors, desktop computers, laptops, scanners, printers, hard drives, keyboards, mice, speakers, cords and cables, and ink cartridges. Some locations will also accept TVs, cell phones and tablets. The program refurbishes and sells some equipment, and for the rest, it responsibly recycles the materials. Use the zipcode finder here to find a drop-off location.
The National Cristina Foundation has a nonprofit locator on its website that helps link up charities and schools in need of tech equipment with nice people like you who are trying to unload said equipment. It’s really easy to use; scroll through and you can see, “oh, this rehabilitation service is a half mile from my house and needs a keyboard.” Click the “Donate Now” button and you’ll be connected.
The HopeLine program from Verizon collects mobile phones, chargers and batteries in any condition and from any service provider and uses them to aid victims of domestic violence. You can drop off or mail the phones using a preprinted mailer to a Verizon Wireless retail store. For more on how to prep your phone or to find a location, click here.
Sell. My advice when it comes to selling your used smartphones, tablets and other electronics? Don’t be shy! Post on social media and let your friends know in person, too, that you’re looking to unload that gently used smartphone, table or computer. You may be surprised how quickly a buyer appears from your group.
OfferUp makes easy work of listing your item (if you can take a smartphone picture, you’re good), and putting it in front of local buyers. Chat with potential buyers inside the app, and get it out of your life without having to deal with shipping.
Gazelle allows you to sell iPhones, Android phones, Apple computers, iPads, tablets, and iPods. You find your gadget on their listing, answer a few questions about condition and receive a quote. Shipping is free in a box specific to your device, and you’ll get paid via check, Amazon.com gift cards or PayPal.
NextWorth gives instant quotes online, and then you mail in your device (free shipping) via a trackable UPS package. Within a week, you get paid via PayPal, check, Target gift card or Discover PrePaid card. You can also trade your electronics in for something else on the site. Some Target stores also allow for instant NextWorth quotes and same-day store credit.
Usell buys phones as well as games, iPods and iPads. Like NextWorth, you get an instant quote. Usell has a network of screened, professional buyers. If you accept an offer, they send you a prepaid shipping kit, tracking included. Within five days, payment is transferred via either PayPal or check.
Recycle. If your tech gear is too far gone to sell or donate, you can drop it off for responsible recycling. That means entrusting the devices to an e-waste company which prevents the illegal exportation of hazardous e-waste to developing nations and which uses safety protocols for its workers. The handy website SearchEarth911 can help you find the right spot to unload everything from from blu-ray players and cables to game consoles. (If you’ve been really putting things off—like since 1992—you can even find out where to recycle those floppy disks, boomboxes and VCRs. They won’t judge.) E-Stewards also has a zipcode-based finder that lists certified recyclers who are audited and certified to the highest global standard for used-electronics management.
Ready to get your tech decluttered and organized? Let me know if you’re stuck in the comments.