A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Jan 19, 2020

Admit It: You Have A Box Of Cords You'll Never Use, Ever Again

And raise your hand if you still have VCRs, DVDs, tapes, cassettes and printer/faxes, to say nothing of the chargers - and cords - that came with them. JL


Katharine Bindley reports in the Wall Street Journal:

For as long as consumer electronics have existed, people have had a hard time ditching old cords to expired and outdated devices. The TV sets, computers, printers, camcorders, VCRs, DVD players, MiniDisc players, BlackBerrys and iPods that the cords belonged to may not even be in their owner’s possession. But the cords survive, in drawers and bags and boxes. They might be useful someday, people tell themselves, even if some cords’ purposes are lost to history. A common cord-hoarder refrain is that immediately upon getting rid of cords you are guaranteed to need them.
There’s a box that moved with Sarah Loveless and her husband from San Diego to Charleston, S.C., from Charleston to Dallas and from Dallas to Richland, Wash. The box, never unpacked, went into a closet or the garage each time. Contents: 20 to 30 electronics cords.
“The box was just always a part of our life,” says Ms. Loveless, 38. “It wasn’t useful to us. We weren’t doing anything with it except for moving it.”
Four years ago, they sorted through the box, paired a handful of cords with the respective devices and got rid of the rest. It was like having a weight lifted, she says and remembers thinking: “This isn’t going to happen again. Why would we keep cords we don’t need?”
Then last summer, going through the garage, Ms. Loveless noticed a bag. “There is another collection of cords,” she says. “I was just kind of, like, I thought we handled this. I thought this was in the past.”
For as long as consumer electronics have existed, people have had a hard time ditching the old cords to expired and outdated devices. The TV sets, computers, printers, camcorders, VCRs, DVD players, MiniDisc players, BlackBerrys and iPods that the cords belonged to may not even be in their owner’s possession.
But the cords survive, squirreled away in drawers and bags and boxes. They might be useful someday, people tell themselves, even if some cords’ purposes are lost to history.
Henry Hall, of Bradenton, Fla., recalls going through his girlfriend’s stuff after it came off the moving truck when she moved in with him in 2011. “There’s this filing cabinet,” says Mr. Hall, 34, a freelance artist who remembers her telling him: “That’s just cords that I haven’t sorted through.”
There were 40 to 50 cords, including FireWire, power cables, VGA cords, Micro USBs, phone chargers and old telephone cables. They put the cabinet in a spare room, Mr. Hall says, where it “became part of the landscape.”
The cabinet remained there for eight years until the couple moved and consolidated the cords from the cabinet with other cords they’d been storing in a box. Now all the cords live together tangled in a basket in a closet.
Thea Teufel-Hall, 38, now Mr. Hall’s wife, says she has a hard time getting rid of things unless they are broken, including cord-box contents. “Periodically I would go through it and then I would be like, ‘Boy I sure don’t listen to that MP3 player from high school,’ ” says Ms. Teufel-Hall, a seamstress. “I have original iPod cords I kept, just in case.”
While his wife’s cord-storing doesn’t align with his organizational values, Mr. Hall says he hasn’t suggested they go through the box. He can’t shake the sense that each cord “serves an important function, even if I don’t know what it is.”
Margo Franssen, 61, isn’t so charitable about her husband’s cord box. After years of not having a proper place to do craft projects at home outside of Richmond, Va., the couple converted their garage into a dedicated crafts room. “I finally have grown up and have my own big space,” says Mrs. Franssen, but “I keep coming across this giant box.”
There are around 100 cords in the box, which is too heavy for her to shove even with her body weight. Yet whenever Mrs. Franssen has needed a cord, she says, her husband “finds it in some other place other than that box.”
She says she has unsuccessfully asked her husband if they can get rid of the box, which she says must be over 20 years old and to which her husband hasn’t added anything in years.
“Not true,” says John Franssen, 61. “I was just in there the other day. I just put another extension cord in there.”
Mr. Franssen, a transportation broker, says the box contains mostly extension cords, but also phone lines and computer cords. He has used items from the box as spare parts, cutting cords and attaching them to power tools whose cords have broken.
Some cord hoarders say they don’t know how to properly dispose of them, and that there’s something about cords that makes them reluctant to send them to the landfill with the rest of their rubbish.
For them, there are solutions like Best Buy Inc., which says all its locations recycle old electronics and cords. Its website says they will “even take technology that hasn’t seen the light of day for decades.”
Many Goodwill Industries International Inc. locations accept cords and sell or recycle them. A spokeswoman in an email says that “people can let go of ‘their box of cords and cables’ and donate them.”
But watch out: A common cord-hoarder refrain is that there is a principle like Murphy’s Law governing their disposal. Immediately upon getting rid of cords, it goes, you are guaranteed to need one of them.
Emily Batty, 39, a police-department analyst in Edmonton, Alberta, says she and her husband decided to get rid of their cord box before moving. “It felt like no big deal,” she says. “We were both agreed that we didn’t need it.”
A few months later, they went to set up the printer in the office but couldn’t find the cord to connect it to the computer. The couple realized that when they had converted the office in their old house into a nursery they had unhooked the printer and stored it away—and had put the cord in the box they threw out.
“I knew exactly where it was and that we just couldn’t get it back,” says Ms. Batty. They both print things at their offices now, she says, and have no plans to buy a new cord.
“We just gave up on having a printer,” she says. “We still have the printer. I’m not really sure why.”

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