Seven Steps to Reduce Gadget Clutter and Enjoy Your Toys

Man holding cables with text reading Seven Steps to Reduce Gadget Clutter and Enjoy Your ToysGot a new gadget over the holidays? Maybe it’s a beautiful new iPod, phone, or camera… and maybe the boxes, instructions and accessories are all over your desk and counter tops!  The second Monday in January is National Clean Off Your Desk Day, so let’s clear this gadget debris. No more empty boxes, drawers and bins full of old cords and cables, and no more files full of obsolete manuals. Here’s my seven-step checklist for making sure your gadget has the best possible life!

1. Look at the return policy. Make sure you notice on the receipt what the return policy is for that store. Some stores only allow you to return items within 14 days, and some are 30 or even more.

2. Write the last date of return on the box. Take a permanent marker and write on the side of the box the last possible return date. Later you’ll see this box on a shelf and wonder if it’s okay to throw it away… the answer is YES!  Boxes like this are just boxes full of air taking up lots of valuable storage space.

3. Label the cords and cables. Many homes have graveyards of old “black box” adapters, USB cables and other accessories, and typically people have absolutely no idea what they each belong to. If you grab a label maker and quickly type out a few labels that say, for example, “Olympus FE-280 Camera” and stick them on the power adapter, the PC cable and the battery charger, you’ll always know. Bonus tip: Sometimes it’s good to use the “FEED” button to feed out an extra length of label tape before cutting, so you’ll have extra tape to wrap around a cord and still be able to read the label clearly.

4. Take care of rebates immediately. That great deal you got “with rebate” does you no good if you don’t mail in the rebate information. Make sure you follow their instructions to the letter, in a timely manner, with copies of the UPC code, the receipt and everything else they ask you to provide.

5. Read the quick setup guide. Yes, good gadgets should be intuitive. But there are so many times that one important step makes all the difference, such as whether to plug in the USB cable to your device before or after installing the drivers.  Sometimes it’s a very big deal!  Those “quick setup guides” are designed for people like you who want the bottom line.  Take just two minutes and look it over before making a mess of everything.

6. Protect your device from loss or theft. Take a moment to put your name and contact information in the “owner information” section if one is featured in your device. Offering a reward for return is a great strategy. You can also put an address label on the device if it’s large enough, and you can use labels from or other asset ID tags for further protection and easy return.

7. After the return period expires, file the software, receipt and documentation (if needed). Check online to see if the documentation exists in PDF form, and if so, save that to your hard drive and toss the paper. If you want to keep the receipt for warranty purposes, file that in your warranty files or your accounting paperwork.

Enjoy your new gadget, and remember to recycle your old gadgets (and computers) with Goodwill’s Reconnect program, in conjunction with Dell. Go to and put in your zip code to find the nearest drop off location. Recycling with Reconnect means you get your desk cleared and also help people in your community with job training, job placement and other services!