To be fair, my home office and adjacent hallway space is, well, enough of an Over-Clutter Central that even largish things — like notebook computers — can stay hidden if I’m not careful.
But it’s even worse for the small techno-doodads, both the ones I use daily, and the ones I use infrequently.
The first instance of this trend was close to a decade ago, when a 1GB IBM MicroDrive (a CF-card sized hard drive, about half an inch squared by one-eighth of an inch) went AWOL. “How can I misplace a gigabyte?” I wondered, once I realized I couldn’t find it. (This was back in the day when a gigabyte was a significant amount of storage, and not cheap — this 1GB Microdrive was about $340. Now, of course, solid-state CF cards are about two dollars per gigabyte up through 32GB, you can get a professional-photographer-class 128GB CF card for about $600, and 256GB CF cards should be available — not cheaply — by summer 2012.)
My cell phone was the next major offender. I finally decided that, like my glasses, I needed a standard place to put it when I wasn’t carrying it, and, a few years later, dedicated a small box to “stuff that goes in my pockets.”
This strategy has, for the most part, helped me keep track of my cell phone.
But it’s not always good my Bluetooth headsets – they’re a little too small for that pile, so I’ve started a separate, smaller box more or less just for them.
Nor has it helped for my pocket digital cameras, which I don’t use as often. Even worse are their associated AC adapters/battery chargers and cables. Some of these have spent up to a year in hiding. Again, creating a dedicated box is helping — when I remember to use it.
Then there’s the pile of flash drives, SD cards, and other storage media. Again, a dedicated box helps — to some extent.
The worst offender, and biggest nuisance, is cables-and-chargers. Regular USB cables, no problem, I’ve got lots of those. But there’s at least three smaller-size USB cable plugs used for headsets, cameras, and other devices. I know I have lots of each…but where?
Notebook accessories, too, continue to plague me. I don’t have a lot of this, but I don’t some of the accessories that often. My external CD/DVD drive, for example, which recently went on a three-month vacation near my desk. Dedicating a notebook carry-bag to the machine helps keep some of this together.
Part of the challenge is whether I’m solving by category or activity. I’ve got a few small bags I take on trips, with USB adapters, chargers and the like. (I know, a medium-size box marked “Tech Travel Stuff” would be a big help here.)
Another part of the challenge is that, like travel bags for clothes and toiletries, my tech travel needs keep shifting and evolving. Two years ago, I was still using my Nokia “dumbphone.” The only accessories were a wall charger and a car charger. Now, with an iPhone and iPad, I’ve got a handful of accessories to take with me. But as the tech I use changes, so do the associated piles of cables, chargers, accessories, and whatnot.
I also have additional challenges that most people don’t: as a technology journalist who does some reviewing, I’m surrounded by a sometimes-depressing sludge of trial devices and left-over cables, plus, from trade shows, all the free USB flash drives, cables, hubs and whatnot given away at the booths.
One answer, in theory, is to continue to clean and purge. But a surprising selection of that older stuff still comes in handy. And cleaning and organizing takes time. I enjoy it, but it takes time. Plus I have to remember what I did.
So, like many, for affordable things, I often end up buying another of whatever it is. Or I spend an hour or two excavating my desk or digging through my closet.
Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is to LABEL EACH AC POWER ADAPTER WHEN I GET IT. Not necessarily for the USB ones, but all others. Especially for notebooks.
OK, and to have a place for each thing or category, and to put stuff away in the same place each time. And to keep getting rid of stuff.
Because next thing you know, I’ll be misplacing terabytes.