The iPhone Graveyard

Ten years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Computer Graveyard in which I describe the phenomenon of getting a new computer but not being ready to get rid of the old one. So the old one sits on the floor until you get another new computer, and then the one you’ve been using goes on the floor next to the older one, and . . . well, you get the idea.

Now that smart phones have become so prevalent in our lives, I’ve discovered a new phenomenon: the iPhone graveyard. And I was shocked to discover it in my very own home.

I have a couple of drawers in my home office designated for small tech. One is for chargers (cables, plugs, power banks, etc.) and another one is for headphones. This kind of stuff comes into our homes relentlessly, so it’s handy to have a specific place for them. It keeps down the clutter and helps me find one when I need it.

I was cleaning these drawers out to get rid of anything too old or non-functional. That’s when I discovered my very own iPhone graveyard, which had accumulated in the headphones drawer. Apparently each member of my family got a new iPhone in the last few years, and I stashed the old ones in that drawer. I had a few other items to take to electronic recycling, so I decided it was time for these old iPhones to go. I wanted to clear all of the data off of them first, but I encountered three hurdles.

Hurdle No. 1: they had all lost their charge and I couldn’t even turn them on. Luckily, I had already cleaned out the chargers drawer, so I was able to pull out three functional iPhone charger cables and USB plugs and get these phones plugged into various electrical outlets in my apartment.

Once the phones were charged enough to be able to turn them on, I encountered Hurdle No. 2: I needed to enter the passcode for each phone. I knew mine and my husband’s, but not my daughter’s. I texted her, and luckily she remembered the passcode for that old phone, which was two phones ago.

I went into Settings and found the option “Erase All Content and Settings”. That’s when I encountered Hurdle No. 3: I couldn’t erase all content and settings without providing the Apple ID and password on each phone. Again, I knew mine and could look up my husband’s, but I had to reach out to my daughter to find out hers. Now I was ready to reset all three phones and take them to Best Buy for recycling.

In the rush of our daily lives, it’s easier to just stick an old phone in a drawer when we get a new one. But the amount of trouble I went through to get these items ready for recycling reminded me that everything is easier if you do it when it’s current, rather than putting it off.

New Life for Your Old Electronics

If you receive my monthly newsletter, you’ve seen my listings of electronics recycling events throughout New York City. Most of these events are sponsored by the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a longtime promoter of recycling and composting. The Center opened a permanent drop-off site for electronic waste in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn in 2012.

A recent New York Times article described the role the Center plays in providing old electronics for television shows and movies that need props to reflect an earlier era. Old computers, monitors, rotary phones, copiers, cameras, televisions, record players, typewriters  — these unwanted items are brought to the Center for recycling and end up finding new life on the screen. An item you bring to an e-waste event may end up making an appearance on your favorite TV show!

The Center also has a ReUse store featuring a diverse selection of inexpensive and hard-to-find electronics. This fun video which appeared on local station NY1 shows just what kind of stuff the electronics warehouse holds.

Later this month, the Center will be holding its annual Vintage Electronics Flash Sale at its E-Waste Warehouse, located at 469 President Street in Brooklyn. The sale takes place on Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29 from 10AM – 5PM, and Saturday, March 30, 10AM – 4PM.

You can learn more at the Lower East Side Ecology Center at

Dispose of E-Waste Right at Your Door

Since January 1 of last year, it has been illegal in New York State to dispose of e-waste in your household trash. According to the NYC Department of Sanitation web site, “The electronics covered by this New York State law include computers and their peripherals, televisions, fax machines, VCRs, DVD players, printers/scanners, video game consoles, MP3 players, tablets, and small servers. The law does not include appliances, batteries, or light bulbs.”

So what do you do with all of these items when you want to dispose of them? If they work, you can donate them or sell them. If they don’t, you can take them to Best Buy or Staples, who will recycle them responsibly. But what if you have too many items to take to the store, or you want to make sure your data is erased from your devices before recycling?

Enter 4th Bin. They will come to your NYC home and pick up your electronic items to be recycled. They guarantee that your data will be wiped clean. They charge a fee, but they promise accurate quotes before pickup so that there are no surprises.

If you’ve got piles of outdated technology in your home that you’ve been afraid to get rid of, here’s your chance to free up that space!

The Camera in Your Pocket

It’s Black Friday, and on this notorious day of over-shopping, I’m going to tell you a tale of de-acquisition.

As you may recall, I’ve been on a kick to get rid of anything I’m no longer using. Back in June, I sold quite a bit on eBay (see Cash for My Trash), including my old digital camera. However, I held on to my most-recently purchased digital camera, which I got in 2012.

I used to take a lot of pictures. I’m a scrapbooker, and my daughter’s childhood is beyond well-documented. As she got older, however, I took fewer photos. I knew that once she left for college, my picture-taking would drop significantly. Now I mostly take pictures of my dog. (I can’t help it – he is very cute).

But it was more than just my daughter growing up that has led me away from the digital camera. When we visited London over the summer, I decided to use just my iPhone to take photos. It was one less thing for me to carry and recharge. When I photograph my dog, I always use my iPhone. His eyes look positively devilish when I use a flash, and the iPhone takes better non-flash photos than the digital camera.

A few weeks ago, I used my iPhone to take photos during the dress rehearsal of the musical I had directed. They came out great! And I was able to take a lot of pictures because there is little to no shutter lag. I took almost 1,500 photos in less than 3 hours.

That experience pretty much convinced me that I didn’t need my digital camera anymore. Today, while many of you were out shopping on Black Friday, I listed my camera on eBay. Back in June, someone paid $47 for my much older camera. So I should be able to get at least as much for this one. Even if I get less, it will be nice to create more empty space.

Do you still have a drawer full of cameras that you don’t use anymore because of your smartphone camera? What are you waiting for? Get them out of your life and put some cash in your pocket.

(P.S. The camera sold for $59.26!)

An action shot taken on an iPhone: the sword dance from "Brigadoon"

An action shot taken on an iPhone: the sword dance from “Brigadoon”

Cash for My Trash

As I mentioned last time, I recently upgraded my sound system to a wireless solution using Sonos. In the process, I sold my Bose Wave Radio/CD Player on eBay and made a nice amount of cash.

Once I was in the eBay groove, I started listing other items in my home that I wasn’t using anymore. In the last two months, I have netted over $400 on eBay.

Even more than the cash intake, I appreciate getting items out of my house (thus giving me more space) as well as keeping them out of the landfill. I like the idea that these items are being used by people who want them, and not just becoming waste.

So far I have sold:

  • Bose Wave Radio/CD Player
  • Canon digital camera
  • iPhone 3GS
  • iPod Nano
  • Flip video camera
  • Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit
  • Betsey Johnson raincoat
  • Unworn and barely worn shoes

The final selling price of some items surprised me. The iPod Nano (with two cases and a speaker) did not sell the first time I listed it at $10. I relisted it at $4.99, and by the time the bidding ended 5 days later, it sold for $36!

My experience with eBay is that items that are easily identifiable are more likely to sell than items that are less distinct. If potential buyers know exactly what they are getting — and can easily compare with the price of a more recent model — they are more likely to bid.

Take a look around your house. What are you holding on to for no good reason? Wouldn’t you rather have the space and the cash?