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DT Debate: Why do we all have a drawer full of old chargers and other cords?

DT Debates is where we hash out some of the most controversial topics in tech. This time: We’ve reported on rumors that the iPhone 12 might not come with a headphones or a power adapter. That got us thinking, if our phones didn’t come with chargers and headphones, would everyone still have a drawer or box full of old cords? 

The Digital Trends team came together in Slack to discuss: Why does everyone have a box or drawer full of old phone chargers anyway? 

Matt Katz, Associate Managing Editor: Everyone has a drawer full of old phone chargers and other cords. Why do we all have it? Should you keep your drawer of chargers? How can you get rid of it? How can you be organized?

Jaron Schneider, A/V Editor: Gaming editor Lisa Marie takes offense at “everyone.” As she does not have this drawer.

Matt Katz: FINE everyone except for Lisa Marie has this drawer

Jaron Schneider: Ok, first of all, I need someone to explain to me why it’s bad that I have this drawer.

Jennifer McGrath, Senior Writer: If you didn’t, you could stock that drawer with colored pencils, rose petals, and whimsy.

Luke Larsen, Computing Editor: USB-C solves this in a lot of ways, and I feel bad for all you iPhone people.

Will Nicol, Senior Writer: The drawer is a metaphor for all the baggage you’re carrying.

Matt Katz: I still have at least 5 micro-USB chargers though @Luke.

Maya Shwayder, Reporter: Here’s an example of why you should keep it. My partner recently rediscovered an age-old iPad, like, first-gen, that he was able to repurpose into a white noise machine for his older son, who has trouble sleeping. He needed the charging cable for that, and lo and behold he still had it. So, put “might need to create a white noise machine so you can occasionally get some sleep” on the list, I guess

Suzanne Sutherland, Copy Editor: You’re supposed to dispose of these things “properly” and I don’t know what that means and I’m not going to make an extra trip. I will keep them forever. I made a move with them. My children will have to deal with them when I die.

Maya Shwayder: THE CABLES ARE IMMORTAL

Jennifer McGrath: “And to my least-favorite child, I leave my cord drawer.”

Caleb Denison, Senior Editor, Video: First off, for many, it is a box, not a drawer, and often has way more than just phone chargers. HDMI cables, RCA cables, speaker wire, power adapters for that old Casio keyboard, or rechargeable speaker … the list goes on.

Genevieve Poblano, Senior Visual Designer: Sometimes the cables new things comes with are so short or you want another for a different location. Being lazy and all you don’t want to have to take your phone charger to every room. Also, I feel bad about tossing it. Like it is a waste when I can find something to use it with possibly maybe.

Jaron Schneider: I told this story to Lisa Marie, but I’ll share here why I have a hard time getting rid of items I determine are “useful.” When I was growing up, my dad and I took apart my old play structure as carefully as possible to be able to reuse the parts. We eventually did use the wooden beams and 2x4s, but we also had these swing set chains that we set aside because we thought they would be useful for something as they were, well, metal chains. they sat in our yard for several years without being used. Finally, during one of our summer cleaning sprees, we decided that since we hadn’t used them, it was time to take them for disposal. Not even two weeks later, we cursed ourselves because we had a perfect need for those chains, and they were gone. Highly inconvenient. That moment has forever scarred me, and I refuse to be caught without my chains ever again.

Matt Katz: Jaron is that a slippery slope towards hoarder-ism?

Caleb Denison: We recently dug out that piano keyboard for the kids to take virtual lessons, I had to supply a replacement 30-pin iPod cable because my partner rocks one in her van, and what if my neighbor comes over asking for a cup of sugar and a high-speed HDMI cable? That actually happened to me once.

Jacob May, Copy Editor: Every time I’ve moved, I tend to visit an electronic recycling center, yet I’m sure I have some USB cables in a box somewhere.

Suzanne Sutherland: Do the DT offices have electronics recycling receptacles?

Matt Katz: Yep, and yet we STILL all have the cable/charger drawer/box.

Will Nicol: Thinking about how I can’t boot up my Zune because I lost the cable; maybe the Drawer-ers have the right idea

Caleb Denison: I already have a drawer of cables at the office, and a separate bin in the A/V room. Pretty sure Nick Mokey has benefitted from their existence at least once.

Jaron Schneider:  Yes, it is, Matt. I have been able to get rid of stuff though, but cables are tough because I often will find myself needing that SDI, extra HDMI, or even USB. The best part of having duplicates in my drawer is that when I misplace the one cable I bundle with, say, a hard drive, I don’t have to spend 20 minutes digging around for it. I know where my spares are.

So no, I don’t NEED 25 USB-A to USB-B cables, but I have them because it’s convenient.

Matt Katz: Will, you can buy a charger on Amazon for $8 but that’s $8 you would still have if you had kept your drawer full of chargers

Chris DeGraw, Visual Designer: Regardless of people’s aversion to regularly assessing the practicality of its contents, having spare current styles (HDMI, lightning, 3.5mm, type C, even micro) cords lying around can be quite helpful. Maybe you’ve moved a room around and created a new need. Maybe you just don’t want to lose your adapters when you aren’t using them.

The problem arises in that most people don’t bother cleaning it out, rendering it a much more arduous task to find what one might need.

Jaron Schneider: I do have a LOT of original Thunderbolt cables… and very few items that use them still.

Lisa Marie Segarra, Gaming Editor: So, as someone who covers gaming and previously general tech, I’ve acquired lots of gadgets. My solution: Keep two of the common ones. HDMI. USB-C. lightning. etc. The exclusive charger to my speaker, I keep with my speaker.

Paul Squire, News Editor: I have so many HDMI cords…. there must be at least a dozen extra.

Lisa Marie Segarra: And I keep them all in one place so I’m not looking for them all the time.

Luke Larsen: A Dozen HDMI cords? Sheesh.

Luke Larsen: I got rid of a lot of cords recently and I will say… it feels great.

Lisa Marie Segarra: Yes! Luke gets it!

Matt Katz: Luke, how did you dispose of them?

Luke Larsen: Either donate or recycle

Brandon Widder, Senior Editor: I’ve always brought mine to the office, since we have an e-waste station there.

Luke Larsen: Best Buy does electronic recycling also

Chris DeGraw: I’ll admit this looks pretty serial killer-y.

Chris DeGraw's box of cords

Lisa Marie Segarra: I love this

Paul Squire: I feel at peace just looking at that drawer

Lisa Marie Segarra: Be the change, Paul. Live your truth.

For less serial killer vibes, I keep my SD cards and flash drives in a tiny jar in a shelf above my desk where I use them the most

Lisa Marie Segarra's jar of SD cards

Matt Katz: Is that less serial killer-y?

Lisa Marie Segarra: Yes. It’s Brooklyn hipster who watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, put The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on their Goodreads to-read list, but did this instead vibes.

Caleb Denison: I’d crawl under the house and take a pic of my Rubbermaid bin of cable snakes, but I don’t want to emotionally damage anyone. It’s like Indiana Jones snake-pit level of disorganization

You can almost pick it up all at once in a ball. But it’s really heavy. And I’m proud of that.

Nick Mokey, Managing Editor: Like Jaron’s tale of chains, I think all of us with cable stashes are just haunted by the one time we gave a cable away only to later need it. I mean, if you ever had to walk into a Best Buy in a bind and get gouged $60 for some sort of platinum-plated Monster HDMI cable, you will never throw away another HDMI cable in your life. In fact, I just blame Monster for this entire situation.

Sam Slaughter, Editor, The Manual: …I have a box. and a drawer. I also have a box full of branded USBs, as well as having them scattered around the house.

Drew Prindle, Features Editor: I’ve mostly gotten rid of my cable clutter, but I still have a zip bag stuffed totally full of micro USB cables. Honestly, they still come in handy so often that I don’t regret keeping them around

Sam Slaughter: While I have an iPhone, it helps to keep other chargers around for guests, or for cameras, or PS controllers. When one breaks, I just go to the ol’ drawer and get another.

Jaron Schneider: I will say this much: I don’t keep cables like the original iPhone charger. That’s clearly no longer useful. I do draw the line somewhere.

Drew Prindle: Agreed

Chris DeGraw: Old cords represent past traumas, and you simply can’t live in the now unless you discard the ugly parts of your past.

Matt Katz: Question: what is the oldest cable you still have?

Jaron Schneider: I have a mini-USB to USB-A, for an old GoPro Hero3

Matt Katz: I still have the charger for the Nokia 6820.

Chris DeGraw: I bought a charger for this ‘wave one ‘Windows tablet I got on the free table at work. It took ages to find the right one, it took almost a month to arrive, and when I booted it up it asked for JVC’s password, so… that was a pointless exercise.

Jaron Schneider: I also have a mini, micro, and full-sized HDMI cable, with the appropriate number of cables required to connect any of them to any other HDMI source.

Drew Prindle: During a spirited burst of spring cleaning this past season, I finally parted ways with the 30-foot VGA cable I had been holding onto for the past 10 years

Sam Slaughter: I think my oldest cable is a black one… about 4 feet long.

Jaron Schneider: So, even if Lisa Marie can convince me to grab hold of my destiny and clean my life, the bigger question is how to responsibly dispose of these things. It’s easier in cities, and some organizations will do a once-a-year disposal service to help with e-waste and confidential documents (Redwood Credit Union in the Bay Area does this annually and it’s called the Shred a Thon), but for the most part, how to be responsible with your cables and e-waste is an enigma to the average person.

Lisa Marie Segarra: A lot of cities have different disposal options. It helps to look on the town/city’s website. I checked 311 for how to get rid of stuff I wasn’t sure about during quarantine.

Chris DeGraw: Yeah, I think “enigma” is an overstatement, giving far too much credit for what is essentially laziness or environmental indifference. At least if you live in a large city, that is.

Jaron Schneider: Oh totally. It’s very lazy, and that’s a problem. I guess it’s more of a “you have to care enough” to both want to clean up and be responsible about it.

Chris DeGraw: Also, whether or not the e-waste facilities are truly being responsible is another question entirely.

Jaron Schneider: So if you’re lazy but also don’t want to damage the environment, you end up just keeping the cables

Lisa Marie Segarra: This is my gaming drawer, by the way.

Lisa Marie Segarra's gaming cord drawer

Chris DeGraw: I have a very similar, albeit slightly more cluttered drawer specifically for gaming.
Lisa Marie Segarra: But it’s so easy to get rid of them! And in things like phones, there are rare resources that can be collected!

Lisa Marie Segarra: Also to be fair, this is my general tech drawer

Lisa Marie Segarra's tech cords drawer

Jennifer McGrath: It’s beautiful

Paul Squire: It’s very organized…. but it’s still a cord drawer

Lisa Marie Segarra: I mean if we’re covering gaming/tech we’re going to have slightly more. But it’s not a mysterious drawer and it doesn’t have more than I need. It’s different! Let me have this!

Rick Marshall, Contributing Editor: Working from home, my big drawer of cables is actually a big plastic bin that I’ve carted from one apartment/house to the next over a decade. I periodically cut down on the number of each type of cord it contains, but always try to retain at least one type of each cord, as I almost always end up using some old device that requires that type of cord at some point down the road.

I recently unearthed an old box of Hi8 8mm video cassettes and was happy to discover that I had the right cord on hand to connect the camera to my TV.

Lisa Marie Segarra: The phone drawer is further proof that this is such an extreme sample group. I have FOUR mice because of reviews. I wouldn’t even have all three consoles if I didn’t cover gaming or an audio cord section if I didn’t have to record interviews.

Juan García, Editor in Chief, Digital Trends en Español: Here’s my drawer of headphones and glasses and boxes of phones.

Juan Garcia's drawer of cords

Now I’m looking at my drawers, thanks DT.

Lisa Marie Segarra: Is it possible to get rid of the drawer entirely? Because getting rid of the drawer means getting rid of your computer, work computer, phone, etc and whatever else makes it work properly

Getting to that point for me meant acknowledging, “Yes. I need some cords. But I don’t need 10 lightning cables. What needs to go and how do I get rid of it”

Jaron Schneider: I think I need at least three lightning cables though. And I like to keep at least one spare for when they inevitably break.

Lisa Marie Segarra: So I have a wireless charging dock. I had one extra, one I would throw in my bag, and one at my desk. But now I don’t….leave home.

I also keep a lightning and watch charger and my boyfriend’s who has two insane cord drawers that give me anxiety whenever I look at it.

Wireless charging pads have made it so much easier. I have one at my desk that I can use for my phone or AirPods depending on what I need.

Jaron Schneider: I fear if I got wireless charging pads, I would still keep the lighting cables as backups to those pads. But I would have fewer of them I guess. Additionally, my keyboard and mouse both need lighting to charge. So it only eliminates possibly two cables from my bedroom.

John Velasco, Smart Home Editor: I just want wireless charging in everything to eliminate the mess of wires coming out of my surge protector.

Lisa Marie Segarra: I would LOVE that @John Velasco.

Matt Katz: I look forward to the day that my entire house is a wireless charger

Lisa Marie Segarra: The reason Apple takes up soooo much space is because I need cords to plug in cords to everything.

Jaron Schneider: I once read a novel that took the idea of a dystopian future where wireless electricity reigned supreme, and corporations pulled their support inwards towards cities and away from rural America, driving those people back into the dark ages.

This is the cordless future, if we’re not careful.

Lisa Marie Segarra: I can’t wait for all of these conversations to turn into signs that we’re moving toward dystopia

Matt Katz: So what you’re saying Jaron, is that the drawer full of old chargers is the only bulwark against a totalitarian dystopia.

Lisa Marie Segarra: NO. NO WAIT.

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