I have a tendency to collect electronics. Maybe it’s a broken controller to fix. Maybe it’s an old phone or videogame system to hack. Maybe it’s a laptop I only boot up or use every once in a while. Over time, this has accumulated in a sizable collection of everything from videogame systems, to android devices, to audio equipment, to laptop and desktop computers, to microcontrollers and their accessories.
Some parts of this are good, as it means there’s always something new for me to work on and mess with. I’m never without another project to work on. It means I almost always have the right tool for the job as well, and when I get an itch to work on a project, I can see it through. There is also a joy in simply collecting them, and admiring them for what they are.
Some parts of this are not so good. These devices take up a lot of space, and it’s sometimes very difficult to actually find what I remember I had because it may be in one of the bins at my current place, or in one of the bins I have somewhere else. A lot of this stuff never reaches it’s full potential either. I have a lot of stuff that at one point I was really excited to work on that over time, life got in the way or I lost interest.
I used to be really into fixing videogame systems and especially controllers, across various different systems and generations. I would even fix them for several pawn shops and videogame stores I knew, and made a little bit of money that way. I was heavily into that at a point in my life where I didn’t have a lot else going on, and so I had the time to spend hours trying to clean, fix, and test these controllers and systems. That point in my life has passed, and has been passed for a while now. Yet, I still have a lot of controllers I haven’t fixed yet, and I still have all the spare parts and tools I used to, I’m just not doing anything with them.
I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection recently and one of the epiphanies I had was that anything that I own that I am not going to do anything with is just as useful or good for me to have and keep as not having it at all. This was partially inspired by an article I had read on iFixit and initially rejected, but a seed was planted in my mind. A part of me has been holding onto this idea that by keeping these devices, even in their broken state, that I am somehow “saving” them from their inevitable fate in the ewaste bin, where I found a lot of them. Maybe at some point in the future I will find a use for it, or I will eventually fix and sell it. Maybe in the future there will be better recycling processes and the longer I hold on the better off society will be. These questions aren’t the most reasonable when presented with the truth that the best option for what should be done with devices I won’t use is to give them to someone else who has a better chance of getting usefulness out of them. My device being given to them potentially offsets that person going and getting some other device, potentially a new one which would have a worse environmental impact.
The longer I hold out on getting rid of these devices the less chance I have of finding someone who will use the device as well. Since I started fixing controllers, the PS4 became last gen and now all the parts I have for those controllers are now worth less. All of the parts I have for PS3 controllers are now potentially worthless, where if I had sold them off or used them a few years ago, they would have seen more actual use.
This isn’t an advocacy for minimalism, as there are a lot of stuff I have that I am going to or am currently doing something with that I don’t necessarily need to have. This is an advocacy for only keeping what you’ll actually use. While I may still pull stuff out of the ewaste bin in the future, I won’t be holding onto it for long afterwards if it’s of no use to me.