Monday, January 30, 2012

Just what I always wanted; a big box of wires

There was a fantastic cartoon in The New Yorker on January 16th showing a father and son standing in the doorway to what could easily have been my Opa's utility closet two years ago. The father proudly promises his son that the family collection of A.C. adapters, having long outlasted their gadgets, will someday be passed on to the next generation. The A. C. adapters, with their little cord tails trailing behind, remind me of a mice infestation I once had in my apartment. The son has that kid-perfected blank look on his face, conveying the complete opposite of "This is the most exciting day of my life!"

I made the same face when I was cleaning out Opa's storage closet and came across a box on a shelf, way up high in the deep recesses that had not recently been visited. All capital letters written in black marker told me that it held, "WIRES". It was a large box, and it was full. The majority were VCR and television cords, and in his pre-dementia organizational style, they were neatly coiled and labeled. The red, yellow, and white ends even had little pieces of tape to remind him where they belonged. Having had a lifelong love for cameras and related technology, Opa was a big fan of the VCR when it first came out. During his retirement, he spent many hours editing and copying home videos, (and also taping episodes of The Young and The Restless, if he and Oma happened to have an appointment during that hour.) The year I turned 21, he gave me a video about "my life" and I have a tradition of watching it every year on my birthday. I like watching my brother and sister and self goofing around when we were little kids. I like seeing our family dog wagging her tail. I like listening to Opa's voice superimposed over the old Super-8 films. I will never downsize it.

The box of wires though, needed to go. I had no idea what to do with them, so I piled them all onto his desk and took this picture:
Opa's collection of WIRES

I posted it on Craigslist under "free stuff", not expecting much of a response. I was shocked. A dude named Travis replied immediately, followed by four more people within about twenty minutes. I didn't understand what the big demand was for a box of wires, but a more worldly friend explained that people strip them for copper. I arranged to meet the wire-stripping guy at a public place in broad daylight, but he stood me up. I recognize in retrospect that this might have been for the best. Ultimately, I was running out of time on the condo clean-out and had to donate them to Goodwill. I really hope they recycled them, or hooked them up with Travis, or that they made their way into the hands of some other industrious person.

Have you got e-waste accumulating in your closet, basement, or garage?  How many T.V's are you storing? If you think your loved ones are going to be excited about these treasures after you are dead, guess again. My little collection of A.C. adapters is headed to the local transfer station this week, where they will be transported to a recycling center that breaks them down and recycles the metal. The larger stuff (TV's, VCR's, computer monitors) can also be taken there. There is a charge for disposal, and some people criticize this, but I'd prefer to pay somebody to handle it responsibly now than to store it in the barn for thirty more years.

What will you do with yours? This week's Downsize Challenge is to gather up your e-waste and make final disposition decisions. Your community may have a free e-waste collection day in the spring. Ask around. There are many places that have ongoing collection sites, including some major retail stores that sell electronics. If you are not sure where to go, check out Earth911 or the iRecycle app, search for "e-waste" and plug in your zip code. Don't wait for The New Yorker to feature your family in a cartoon!


  1. Hi Julie. I wanted to share with you another Craig's list success story with you.

    I recently disposed of my collection of old computer parts, cords and cell phones. Well, it was actually a collection that I dug out of the trash at work, plus a few additions of my own. I knew I could redirect it one way or another, and just couldn't feel good about "turning the other cheek", and ignore the problem of others trashing it.
    My town has a yearly electronic waste collection, but I thought I just might be able to get rid of is sooner, than stash it till the spring, and potentially miss the collection day.

    My good friend "Craig" is great for helping me find new homes for my unwanted stuff.

    I posted the e-waste on Craig's List, and found a taker. He told me that he collects old computer parts to rebuild them and give them to others who can't afford to buy new ones. His collection times were from 6am-12pm, and since I work really early, the 6am was perfect. I was a little hesitant, simlpy because I am nervous about creeps posting and answering ads on the internet. It didn't help that the guy said I could put my computer parts, cords, and old cell phones in his yellow pickup parked outside Office Depot. (Appartently Office Depot collects e-waste for recycling, but charges you), but since the guy offered a free service, I risked the dark parking lot at 6am. So, I loaded it up, and made the decision to drive by, and if I saw anyone or felt uneasy, I'd keep driving and find a new home for it. As I pulled into the parking lot, looking for the yellow pick up, there it was, an old beat up yellow truck, with no window on the back end, making it very convenient to toss the box into the back of the truck, quietly thanked Ben, the Craig's List taker, and drove off into the sun rise.
    Craig's list has become a huge resource for me to find new homes for stuff. I'm surprised at the things I've gotten rid of, made money on, or worked out a trade.

    If we could manage to redirect, and utilized things more creatively, the world would be a better place. Plus, it can make for fun dinner conversation.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. I have had wonderful Craig's list experiences too and have been amazed by the things that have found new happy homes through the process. I have met lots of wonderful people, many like Ben. I've often let things go for much less than they are really worth, but I've never felt badly about it, even the few times I've thought that the person might just turn around and sell it on eBay for more money. The exchange itself has value and knowing it's going to someone who really wants it is worth a lot to me. What I like most about Craig's list is that it forces us to interact in a way that has become too foreign for too many of us.

  3. Love the Craigslist idea! So much easier than a trip to the thrift shop, 20 minutes away.

    And just for kicks, my husband saw the title of the post and said, "A box of wires? I have a bunch of those! Does she want them?" LOL. Sigh.

  4. Julie - so very cool! I just discovered your blog. It reminds me of those little houses you once showed me at work. Hope you're well.