Site icon Melanie Novak

Does Not Compute

I love the idea Spring Cleaning.

While the calendar turns over at the end of December, I’ve always felt that the spiritual new year begins in the spring. 

Bud are appearing on trees, neighbors are out walking, windows are open, and clocks are turning, which means it’s time for decluttering.

I love a good purge.  Nothing rejuvenates me more than going through all the closets, drawers, and storage containers in my house and ruthlessly dispatching items that have outlived their usefulness.

Then comes the most critical part of the process—you have to get the stuff you no longer want out of your house, and you have to do it fast.

There’s nothing more annoying than spending a weekend decluttering, only to find yourself tripping over the piles of stuff you’ve marked for removal.  If you don’t act quickly, you’ll find yourself going back through the pile and reconsidering whether you really should get rid of the sweat stained t-shirt from your freshman year of high school, twenty-seven ChapSticks that are so worn down you can’t get the stuff on your lips, or the return address labels from a place you no longer live.

If the items are broken, torn, unusable, or unfixable, it’s easy.  You toss them into the recycling or trash bins, drag them to the curb on the appropriate day and wash your hands of them.  Clothes, shoes, and blankets with life in them take only slightly more effort—bag them up and donate or sell them to your local Goodwill, second-hand shop, or animal shelter.  Make a little cash or a least feel good that you’re moving them out of your closet and into the hands of someone who can use them.

Then we get to electronics.

Old cellphones, laptops, computers, televisions, monitors.

All I can say is, good luck.

As of last weekend, I still had every cell phone I’d ever purchased, all the way back to my initial silver flip phone that was the height of cool back in 2004.  Most are so old they have zero value on the resale market.  I found a place to donate the flip phones that recycled and reused them, but I was wary of my oldest smartphones—they had personal data on them, and I’d lost their chargers, so I couldn’t turn them on to wipe them.

I ended up buying a tiny little screwdriver to open them up and pulled out the motherboards.  I smashed up the motherboards, then donated the rest of the phone.

I have no idea if this was overkill or not enough in terms of protecting my privacy. 

But I did feel better.

Desktop and laptop computers are easy—they can be resold or donated.

But I have an old television and a computer monitor that no longer work.

Since the last time I needed to get rid of these types of items, apparently Pennsylvania has enacted strict recycling rules to protect the environment.  I’ve got no beef with recycling or protecting the environment.  But one of the (likely unintended) consequences of these laws is that it’s impossible to find a convenient place to donate or recycle these items.

None of the places that took my phones and laptops would touch the monitor or television.  Each gave me the name of a place where I could take my items and pay to have them recycled.  I called each of these places and found them out of business, or open for only one day every three months for collection.

And after seven days of trying to get rid of them, I was beginning to think they’d be with me until the day I died…and possibly buried with me.

Eventually, I found a place in downtown Pittsburgh that accepts such items—for a fee—and is open for about two hours a week and requires an appointment.

So I’ll be going down there at two in the afternoon this Sunday, emptying my trunk and wallet to dispose of these items.

Then—and only then—will my Spring Cleaning be complete.

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