Digital Spring Cleaning – Beyond the Windex

Ah, the renewal of spring. The dreadful winter months have finally come to an end. Like many people, you may have a long list of things you want to clean, trim up or sort through.

Green grass with sunset views.

After the list is done, it can be very satisfying to sit back and enjoy your accomplishments. Don’t you wish you had that same peace of mind for some of the other things around your home that you’ve been putting off? Here are a few tips for some valuable things you can do, without feeling overwhelmed.

Recycle Old Computers, But Grab A Screwdriver First
If you’re like me, you have a graveyard of old desktop computers that are sitting around “just in case.” At this point, the CPU towers are probably better suited as building blocks for a large fort. Computers tend to get crankier as they get older, so take a deep breath, make like the famous movie and let it go. Find an electronics recycling facility in your area, but before you do that, get a screwdriver.

To protect your personal information, you should remove the hard drive from your machine and have it securely destroyed and recycled separately. Look for a service that does this locally, or go online for a reputable option that allows you to ship hard drives to them directly.

I’ll never forget the time I dropped off an old computer for recycling at a used computer store. The recycling area was outside, but as I drove away I watched an employee pick it up and bring it inside. At that point I was pretty glad I had removed the hard drive.

Usually, this is just a matter of removing a few screws to access the computer case, then the same process for the drive itself. You might have to do a little prying here and there as well, so be careful. If in doubt, numerous help videos can be found on YouTube. As a bonus, this process will make you feel oddly more computer literate and tech savvy than you really are.

Shred Events: Put them On Your Calendar

Many banks, credit unions and other organizations will sponsor “shred events” with a secure shredding service in the area.  These are typically held on Saturday mornings, and are open to their members as well as the public. Starting with your financial institution, do a little research and find out what upcoming dates and locations are near you. Put those dates on your calendar, and set a goal for yourself to drop off something at each one.

Start setting some time aside weekly to sort through old documents and piles of paper.  Start with junk mail and receipts you don’t need. The FTC has a simple infographic on what you can get rid of and when.

Once you have a box or two ready, look at the calendar and simply plan to drop off at the next upcoming event. You’ll save time, and your home shredder will thank you for the break.

Copying and Digitizing Photos: Stop Putting It Off

It’s hard for the younger set to believe, but once upon a time there were no smartphones or devices to take pictures on a whim. Chances are you have a collection of printed photos, some nicely arranged in albums, and others probably piled in a storage bin. Start small and dedicate a little bit of time to this each day so you don’t get overwhelmed – but start.

If you do nothing more with this task, just pick ten or so printed photos that are the most irreplaceable and important to you. Take them to your local camera shop to have them scanned and digitized, while you wait if possible. Anyone who has experienced a disastrous event like a fire or flood can tell you they wished they had done so.

So, back to the bin. If you have printed photos, I recommend sorting these into two piles. Photos you care about and those you care less about. Any photos in the more important pile should be brought back to the camera shop for digitizing, or scanned to your home computer if you want to do it yourself.

If you have negatives, separate them from the prints in separate envelopes. Number each so they correspond together, and if possible include brief details. Then, make sure you put the negatives elsewhere–maybe a relative’s house, or at a minimum in a fireproof box.

For the photos you care less about, you may not choose to have these digitized, especially if the negatives are available. If you do, there are online services that allow you to mail them by the box for processing.

If you have a smartphone or tablet, be sure and back up your device to your computer regularly. Often, you can adjust your settings to download new photos taken on the device without performing a full backup. If you have a digital camera collecting dust, dig out the cables and connect it to download any photos. If the cables are long gone, just take out the memory card – you can take that to the camera shop too.

Finally, take a walk around your home and take photos (or a video) of valuables,  especially jewelry, and put those with your other digital files.  Buy an external hard drive, or even a large flash drive, and copy all of your digitized photos and important files. Take it to work and lock it in a file drawer, or bring it to a relative’s house, but just make sure it’s somewhere other than your home.

As you wind down your spring cleaning, try and invest some time now for these important activities. By doing so you can potentially save yourself a lot of headache and heartache down the road.