Tech Decluttering Your Home
Courtesy of The Hartford
Published: October 22, 2018; Updated: June 25, 2021
by Johnna Kaplan
Technology can make life more convenient and entertainment more accessible, as well as helping you connect with friends, family, and the wider world. But between necessities like laptops, fun gadgets like GoPros, and old favorites like the CD collection you’ve amassed over the decades, all that tech can make for a very cluttered home.
It can feel slightly overwhelming to contemplate organizing everything from cables to chargers to computers to cassette tapes. But, once it’s done, your home will be safer and feel more comfortable, and you won’t have to waste time searching for a misplaced memory card or headphones. Here’s how to declutter your home tech.
Why You Should Organize Your Tech
First, it may help to remember why you’re doing the decluttering in the first place. Safety is a big motivator; neglected cords can be a fire hazard, and cables or gadgets left underfoot can cause a fall. Cleanliness is another; it’s more difficult to dust, vacuum, or wipe down a cluttered area, so eliminating that barrier makes cleaning easier and therefore more likely to get done.
There’s also the aesthetics, of course. Ugly wires, bulky unused appliances, and remote controls lying about can make even an otherwise neat room look messy.
Finally, technology should make your life easier, not harder. If finding the right adapter or charger, or just plain using any of your gadgets is a source of stress, that’s all the more reason to get your tech in order.
Tech Clutter Hotspots
Every home has certain areas that are likely to be overtaken by technology and its attendant clutter. These hotspots will vary in different households, but here are some of the most common tech clutter zones:
You know, the place where all the cords snake along the floor — or, if you have a wall-mounted TV, slither down the wall. Some ways to tame cords include clips and hooks that stick to your walls or desk, clamping cords in place; slim tubes that fit around cords and can be fixed to the wall or floor then painted over, virtually blending the cords into the background; and boxes that fit over power strips, hiding the unsightly gathering of plugs. Many large homeware stores and websites offer a seemingly endless array of products to help manage cords and cables. A simple online search using the term “cord organizer” will provide some options; you can probably find one that’s just right for your needs.
Home offices or other designated work areas
Computers, printers, and other appliances need to be here, but they don’t have to make the space unattractive or difficult to navigate. To clean up your workspace, first get rid of any tech you’re no longer using, like ancient laptops or broken printers. Then determine how frequently you use everything that’s left. Items you use all the time (like your laptop) can stay on your desk, but try moving those you use less often (perhaps a scanner or shredder) to a nearby shelf or closet. When you’re upgrading or replacing old technology, consider streamlining by choosing, for example, a combination printer/scanner/copier instead of three separate items.
Often in a living room or den, these can also be found in bedrooms and other areas. In addition to TV cords, smaller objects like remote controls and iPads can collect here. To clean up these areas, focus on clearing surfaces by adding a tray or basket where all small tech will “live” in the future. Once returning remotes to the tray becomes a habit, they’ll never clutter up your table, couch, or floor again. Bonus – this may also help eliminate the time spent searching for the remote tucked in the sofa cushions.
That spot near the door where items naturally accumulate
This might be a kitchen counter, console table, or the first piece of furniture you see upon entering your home. When you drop your phones, camera, and car charger along with your glasses and keys, these hotspots get even hotter. Don’t try to fight against your tendency to deposit things here, but work with your habits and the layout of your space and place a basket or hutch in this clutter zone. This will help keep small items from cluttering up the area, as well as preventing them from mysteriously wandering off.
Organizing Your Collections
The abundance of new technology — combined with ever-expanding shopping options —makes it easier than ever to accumulate gadgets, whether your weakness is for new DSLR lenses or vintage audio recording equipment. And just because music lives in the cloud these days, and movies can be streamed on a laptop, that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to give up the DVDs, records, VHS tapes, and other collections you’ve built around earlier technologies.
Collections can bring you a lot of happiness — that is, until you have to organize them. The first step, as with any decluttering project, is to be really honest with yourself and get rid of anything you no longer want. Old CDs can be brought to a state or local government recycling facility, if that service is offered in your area, or sent by mail to an organization like the CD Recycling Center of America. (Note that this organization is closed due to COVID and check to be sure they have reopened before sending). While you’re at it, this is a good time to recycle CDs of old installation software and user manuals.
Next, deal with any items you don’t plan on using anytime soon, like old home movies you never watch but can’t part with. These collections usually can be stored out of sight and out of your way in a closet, basement, or storage unit. Choose containers that will protect your items from water and dust, pack them securely, and label everything clearly. Be aware that extreme fluctuations in temperature or humidity can damage electronics.
Now it’s time to organize everything you want to keep accessible. The simplest storage options are open shelving or attractive boxes. Carefully assess the size of your collection before buying any new furniture or storage accessories; pick up a bookshelf that’s too bulky or a cabinet that’s too small and not only will you have tech clutter, but furniture clutter as well.
When deciding where to put your collections, go with the general organizing guidelines of keeping items near where they’ll be used (that is, keep movies in the same room as the TV you’ll watch them on) and storing like with like (store all your music together.)
Sorting Out the Small Things
A good deal of tech clutter results from the accumulation of small accessories and extras: power strips and cords, thumb drives and headphones, batteries and chargers, memory cards and their tiny plastic sleeves, those little foam earbud covers, and so on.
Once you’ve removed anything you know you’ll never need again, the simplest way to organize small tech items is to keep them all in one place: a shelf, a cupboard, a box, or whatever works in your home. That way, you won’t have to race from the hall closet to the office to the basement every time you need an SD card or extension cord.
But a different method might work better for your particular circumstances. For instance, if you travel often, you might want to keep travel-related tech items, like adapters and external chargers, in a pouch in your suitcase. Or, you might store the technology you use for work or a particular hobby in the rooms where you use them and keep other household tech items in a separate location.
As a general rule, work with your own lifestyle and preferences. If you always reflexively check the kitchen drawer when you need extra batteries, then go ahead and store them there. If your house has a spot that’s particularly great for storage, utilize it. Once you declutter and organize, it should feel easy and natural to keep it up. If it’s a struggle, you’re probably trying to go against your instincts or the layout of your space.
And don’t forget to label everything; this can be a lifesaver when you need to identify which cord goes with which phone and which small black rectangle charges which camera battery. You can use a label maker for a uniform look, or simply grab a marker and some tape. Colored tape can be helpful for spotting what you need in a sea of black and white cords. To keep cords from getting jumbled, wind each one up and secure it with a cable tie, bread wire tie, Velcro strip, or rubber band before returning it to the box or drawer.
Getting Rid of Unwanted Tech
If you have a stash of disused laptops, phones, cameras, and other assorted technology somewhere in your home, you’re not alone. If you’re holding on to them because you’re not sure what to do with them, check with the manufacturer of the item or your local government to see if they run a recycling program. Many companies, among them Best Buy, Staples, and Apple, offer electronics recycling services. You may also be able to donate old computers and other items to charitable organizations, or to sell them.
Many electronics contain hazardous materials and should not be simply thrown in the trash; your city or county should offer instructions on how to safely dispose of these items in your area. And make sure that your personal information is deleted and all hard drives are backed up, and thoroughly erased or overwritten.
As already mentioned, you can recycle CDs of the installation software and user manuals you no longer need. You can probably declutter your paper user manuals, too; make sure the information is available online, and then recycle all those little booklets and free up some space in your household files.
Decluttering one aspect of your life, like technology, can inspire you to keep going and organize additional areas of your home. Another great way to start? Clean out your closets in a weekend. Wherever you begin, clearing the clutter from your life will free up not just physical space, but valuable mental space as well.