Inside the home, we're always fixated on closets, cabinets, and countertops when we go on a spring cleaning spree. But our digital lives deserve a reboot too. If you have a home full of electronics, here are a few tips for tidying up your tech and giving yourself a clean slate if you've been feeling bogged down by all your gadgets.
Centralize TV remotes and simplify media collections
If you're still juggling several different remotes for the TV, DVD player, cable box, receiver, and speaker system, consider getting a universal remote. Set aside a night to program all your remotes into one and you'll no longer be digging under the couch cushions to find the one that's always missing when you need it. Digitize all your CDs and get rid of those bulky jewel cases. If your favorite movies can all be found on Netflix, Amazon, or another movie streaming service, ditch the DVDs as well. (Or, store all the discs in a portable travel case to bring with you on the road if you like to watch your own movies in vacation rentals.)
Update your computer's security software, purge unwanted files, change your passwords, back up important files
Install the latest security patches and updates and run a full system scan to clean up any malware on your computer. Delete old files you no longer need. Empty the recycle bin. Change the passwords for your online bank accounts, social media accounts, and email accounts (preferably, a different password for each site). If you have too many to keep track of, here's a list of the passwords you should definitely change first in light of the recent Heartbleed bug. If your computer isn't set up to automatically perform backups, make sure your important files are backed up on an external hard drive and/or cloud service.
Organize your cords, cables, chargers, and batteries
Corral that messy tangle of cords behind the computer or media console with zip ties, twisty ties, or velcro strips. Donate or recycle any extraneous cables (because you're not likely to need five identical USB cables for your smartphone). Recycle orphan chargers from old gadgets. Remove the batteries from tools you don't use often and check for leaky batteries. Recycle any corroded batteries and clean the contacts with a Q-tip moistened with vinegar. If you're still using disposable batteries, consider switching to rechargeable batteries to save money and waste.
Download memory cards and organize media backups
Gather all your memory cards and download the files to your hard drive. Do the same with your smartphone! Organize your digital photos and make sure they're backed up to an external drive or cloud service. Before you shoot more pictures, format the card in your camera. Try to do this after every major trip or event, or at least once every three months to keep your card from showing that dreaded "Memory card full" message when you're in the middle of shooting.
Recycle any unwanted or obsolete tech
Old iPhones, outdated laptops, chargers and cords from gadgets you no longer own — if they're still in good working condition, donate them to your favorite charity; if they're non-functioning, send them to the nearest electronic waste recycling center. The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation operates a number of S.A.F.E. (Solvents/Automotive/Flammables/Electronics) Collection Centers that accept old and unwanted electronics. Many cities in Los Angeles County also hold one-day e-waste recycling events if you can't make it to one of the permanent collection centers; check the Department of Public Works' updated calendar to find an event near you.