How To

Consolidate Your Gadgets to Cut Digital Clutter

Cell phone. Internet tablet. MP3 player. Netbook. Digital camera. Digital video camera. Ebook reader. Portable GPS. Digital pedometer. The number of gadgets that slowly work their way into your life is enough to make anyone go ga-ga (and not in the “Lady” sense). With each of these devices comes a spider web of cables, and Murphy’s Law dictates you’ll find yourself short at least charger on your next business trip (the one you needed most, alas). What started as a technological revolution has become a burden of remembering to charge this, update that and download the essential folder off…which gadget was it again?

Fortunately, technology has begun consolidating gadgets (camera cell phones, for example), and so should you. Each device you remove from your life is one less gadget you have to charge, one less data cable you have to (not) lose. It might seem daunting, though, even a bit scary, to rid yourself of gadgets you’ve relied on so heavily. You can make the transition easier on yourself, however, by planning ahead and being honest about your needs.

Determine your needs

Let’s face it—our needs change over time. The gadgets you bought last year are likely obsolete or limited in their abilities (a music player that can do nothing else, for example), though you may be reluctant to rid yourself of them. They’re only a year old, after all, and still function fine. Isn’t upgrading a waste of money?

Not necessarily. Each gadget must be charged, requires new batteries when the old ones die, and is a potential money pit of repairs when it meets an unfortunate fate on the pavement. In addition, each of these gadgets slows you down, and time is money. Every time you pause to pull out a different device, hunt down your data, transfer it to yet another gadget, find the appropriate data cable and an outlet to charge it, you’re costing yourself in minutes that add up substantially over time.

Instead of figuring out which individual gadgets you need, determine what features you require in your everyday and business life. A camera to take pictures? A pedometer to ensure you’re burning enough calories every day? A music player to keep yourself sane while the cubicle mate to your left munches his way through a bag of chips.

Once you know precisely what you require, you’ll be able to figure out what devices fulfill your needs best while letting you live a minimal-gadget lifestyle.

Inventory your gadgets’ capabilities

Look at the gadgets you own. Some of them, such as a digital camera, have an obvious (if not limited) purpose, while others, such as a smartphone, have much more potential. Consider whether any of your gadgets can perform multiple functions. For example, does your smartphone have a headphone jack, microSD card slot and music playing app? If so, you can load your favorite music onto your cell phone and ditch the MP3 player. This applies to both the camera and pedometer mentioned, as well. Exercise and tracking apps are available for both the iPhone and Android smartphones. In addition, many new cameras are equipped with high-quality digital cameras — some can even record 3D or 720p HD videos.

Upgrade to consolidated devices

And now comes the hard part. Which gadgets can you get rid of? Consider portability and battery life when looking at new gadgets. An iPad, for example, may be better option than a netbook, which, for all intents and purposes, is simply a crippled laptop. In fact, you might find that an iPad meets all your on-the-go needs, allowing you to ditch your laptop altogether. The iPad, thanks to the Kindle app and iBook store, can also take the place of your dedicated ebook reading device, such as the Kindle or Nook.

Not ready to part with your laptop? Forget the iPad and upgrade to a high-end smartphone. You’ll be able to read books, utilize a plethora of apps, listen to music, take pictures and record video, navigate using GPS software, monitor your health, access the Internet cloud apps, such as Google Docs, send email and more, all from a single device.

Purge properly

Once you’ve acquired your new, consolidated device, follow through and purge yourself of the old devices it is replacing. Start by checking out the resale market for your old gadgets. If the resale price isn’t worth the hassle, consider donating them to a charity or non-profit organization (cell phones and digital cameras are high-demand items) so you can give your gadget a second life and score a tax-deduction at the same time. Barring that, look for an electronics recycling program in your community. Still can’t bear to part with your beloved iPod nano? Pack it up in a time capsule for your descendants to find. They’ll have fun trying to decipher the purpose of an obsolete relic, and you’ll enjoy a little more free space on your power strip.

Stuart Pratchett is an East Coast writer who was a featured writer for Logic Media and contributes to many publications. Stuart blogs via Contently.com.