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Tax time is a great time for your annual tech spring cleaning

It's not hard to build up a big collection of tech gear that's too good to just toss but not anything you'll ever use again. Between phones and wearables and smart bulbs and A/V equipment and everything else that seems to find its way into our lives, those unused desk drawers or cube storage bins can get pretty full over time. And that's just the hardware; when is the last time you went through your phone or computer and saw the apps and other software you haven't used in a while? Yes, it's not hard to build up a bunch of stuff at all.

The amount of both physical and digital junk that can build up in a year is surprising.

For the past few years, my wife and I have used tax time as a reminder to clear out all gear and the digital cobwebs that accumulate. Setting aside a specific time for it has made quite the difference, too. As I take a peek at my little space for things that need to go somewhere I see a lot of junk. Some of it is still in fine working condition and just not something I want or need any longer, and some of it is busted or torn apart because parts were scavenged, but it's still all great junk. The packrat inside me really wants to keep it all, but because it's that time of year I know I'm not going to.

I'm also looking through my phones and seeing apps I just wanted to try and haven't used since I installed them, or apps for products that are in that pile of wonderful things that will be moving on. Digital junk can build up just as easily as physical junk can, and it takes just as much room only in a different way. I get vicious here; installing software is simple so I'm not afraid to uninstall it to get everything clean. I certainly don't need the old Philips Hue app installed beside the new Philips Hue app or to-do lists from last May, but there's a chance I might want to play this Hydraulic Press (opens in new tab) game again one day. Since it's always going to be in my Google Play library I'm uninstalling it, too.

It's usually easy to find someone who wants the good junk, it's the other junk that is harder to deal with.

It's actually kind of fun to go through it all. Not everything, mind you — I had a home server die and needed to look through the hard drives which means a lot tiny screws and unplugging of things — but going through and making sure I won't ever need the parts to build a Raspberry Pi case is almost enjoyable. I just have to resist the temptation to keep any of it rather than pass it along to someone else who will never need it. That's my rule: if any of the kids or their friends or whoever wants something from the pile, they have to take the box that it's in. Saves me from having to sort it out into the right plastic bin at the recycling center.

The best part is knowing that you can pass things on to someone who will use them. A 128GB Galaxy S6 edge (in glorious gold) makes a great phone for someone who needs a phone and donating an old Mac Mini and a Windows 7 laptop to a local daycare makes me warm and fuzzy. Equally important, though not quite as warm or fuzzy, is getting rid of apps and accounts you're not using instead of leaving them in place for someone else to try and use because that's the world we live in. Any and every online account is ripe for the right person to come along and try to do unfriendly things. Better safe than sorry and all that.

Don't forget your digital junk! Old accounts or apps aren't a thing you should leave laying around for someone else to play with!

Do yourself a favor. Look inside that place where you put things you don't want to throw away and go through the app drawer on your phone or the hard drives in your computer and do a little spring cleaning. You might be able to help out someone else, you'll cut down on the clutter, and you'll make room to get more stuff!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I mostly subscribe to this idea, and have purged a lot of things I used to hoard, but I still do leave myself some eceptions. Probably my favorite example is that I keep the processors from old/dead PC's One of the "cooler" old tech things I still hang on to is the processor from the first family computer when I was a kid. It was a Pentium Pro Processor with MMX TECHNOLOGY, that ran at 200MHz. It's kind of neat to put that beside a Raspberry Pi 3 or my GS8+. I also have an old Motorola Startac phone, because one day I want to show my kids what mobile phones were like when I was a kid. That's the kind of stuff I keep. Things that I know will be significant as a piece of my own personal tech history. A lot of the rest can go.
  • My thing is I'm trying not to throw stuff away that'll just fill the landfill, so that means my storage unit fills up with cables and computer stuff that I don't need anymore. Can I recycle this stuff at all?
  • No doubt, I must have at least two dozen 6-ft Ethernet cables since every router, switch, etc. I've ever bought comes with one!
  • If in the US, Goodwill should be able to take that stuff and recycle it.