New Gadget Nirvana

Got a new gadget? Maybe it’s a beautiful new iPod, Blackberry, or camera. We’ve seen a lot of debris from these gadgets in our organizing work… empty boxes, drawers and bins full of old cords and cables, and files full of obsolete manuals. Here’s my 7-step checklist for making sure your gadget has the best possible life!

1. Look at the return policy. Right when you get home with your new toy, make sure you notice on the receipt what the return policy is for that store. Some stores are only 14 days, and some are 30 or even more.

2. Write the last date of return on the box. Take a permanent marker and write on the side of the box the last possible return date. Alternatively, you could write the purchase date, but unless you remember the return policy, that date might not be as meaningful. What happens is that later you’ll see this box on a shelf and wonder if it’s okay to throw it away… the answer is YES!  Boxes like this are just boxes full of air.  They are taking up lots of valuable storage space. (The exception is if you are really meticulous about re-selling your gadgets later on eBay. If you really like selling them in the original box later, go ahead, as long as you have space.)

3. Label the cords and cables. If you could only see the graveyards of bins, boxes, and drawers we’ve seen, full of old “black box” adapters, USB cables, and other accessories… typically the owner has absolutely no idea from which devices these extras have originated, and that makes it really difficult to discard them. If you grab a label maker and quickly type out a few labels that say, for example, “Olympus FE-280 Camera” and stick them on the power adapter, the PC cable, and the battery charger, you’ll always know. Bonus tip: Sometimes it’s good to use the “FEED” button to feed out an extra length of label tape before cutting, so you’ll have extra tape to wrap around a cord and still be able to read the label clearly.

4. Take care of rebates immediately. That great deal you got “with rebate” does you no good if you don’t mail in the rebate information. In fact, the manufacturer is counting on that! Make sure you follow their instructions to the letter, in a timely manner, with copies of the UPC code, the receipt, and everything else they ask you to provide.  And don’t forget to spin around three times and say the magic word before mailing.

5. Read the Quick Setup Guide. Yes, the good gadgets should be intuitive. You don’t need no stinkin’ instructions. But there are so many times that one important step makes all the difference, such as whether to plug in the USB cable to your device before or after installing the drivers.  Sometimes it’s a very big deal!  Those Quick Setup Guides are designed for people like you who want the bottom line.  Take just 2 minutes and look it over before making a mess of everything.

6. Protect your device from loss or theft. Take a moment to put your name and contact information in the “Owner Information” section, such as seen in a Blackberry or Palm device. Offering a reward for return is a great strategy. You can also put an address label on the device if it’s large enough, and you can use Stuffbak labels or other asset ID tags for further protection and easy return. If your device has a calendar feature with alarm, you can set a weekly alarm at the same time (I like Monday at 10:00 am when most people are at their desks) to ring and pop up with your owner information. This strategy is great for that honest person who found your device but doesn’t know how to look up the owner information on it. Yes, you’ll hear it once a week, but you can just shut it off and keep going.

7. After the return period expires, file the software, receipt, and documentation (if needed). If the device came with a CD with drivers on it, you may want to file that with your other software. I like using CD wallets for this purpose, to store them in the least amount of space. Do consider whether the documentation is really necessary, since most of the time manuals are obsolete from the moment they are printed. Check online to see if the documentation exists in PDF form, and if so, save that to your hard drive and toss the manual. If you want to keep the receipt for warranty purposes, file that in your warranty files or your accounting paperwork.

Enjoy your new device now that you’ve made sure it’s identified and protected properly!

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