How Long Should You Keep Electronics and Appliance Packaging?

All it took was two episodes of "Hoarders" and I knew that the next morning I was going to...had to...go downstairs to clean out our apartment basement storage area. Hidden downstairs was a slowly expanding Jenga pile of boxes, the majority of them empty, but all kept under the presumption I'd need them later for moving or resale. It was time to get serious and clean house for 2012...The biggest source of empty boxes were for electronics and appliances. It seems I had kept every camera, audio component, video game console, computer, and appliance packaging and box, some which I no longer even owned! It was time to use the three pile system of decluttering: "toss", "keep" and "maybe".
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We'd change this t-shirt's answer to, "Hoarders Keep the Styrofoam Liners to Electronics".

Determining what to toss and what to keep was fairly easy. If I no longer owned the item or strongly believed I was going to use/own the item for more than 5 years, the box was getting tossed into recycling. If the packaging was for a product with a quick update/upgrade replacement cycle, like computers or camera equipment, I kept the packaging and broke them down flat for optimized storage.

Of course, a few "maybes" can bring any decluttering project to a halt, with niggling, "but I might need this later" thoughts sneaking back into the head. But the rule I set myself was for any "maybe" kept, I was to throw out three other packaging items that fell into "maybe" territory. I discovered using this system, I ended up keeping only one small box, and I in an hour's time, I was able to reduce the towering pile by 50% (I was battling a flu, so I called it a day after filling the apartment trash/recycling). The results were ultimately very satisfying and ensure I will not be making any appearance on Hoarders any time soon.

Storing Electronics Packaging Guideline:
1. When possible, break down boxes and store flat. But before doing so, it could be helpful to take a photo of how items were packed originally before removing elements; this will make repacking easier if you move or plan to resell items. Exceptions noted below.
2. For big ticket items like HDTVs and computers, keep the packaging as long as it's covered by the manufacturer's warranty. Afterward, break down boxes and either store away or recycle.
3. Most appliance packaging can and should be tossed away after a few weeks of use; packaging for kitchen and home appliances do not usually affect resale value as much as electronics, and their larger size takes up too much room.
4. Keep the packaging for regularly upgraded tech like digital cameras, laptops, and smartphones. This insures when you upgrade, the resale value of your old device will earn the highest bid. We usually do not break down or fold these packaging flat, but instead store them inside a larger box.
5. Keep instruction manuals, warranties and other literature in a filing cabinet, especially if the boxes for the item have been broken down and stored flat. Better yet, many manufacturers make instruction manuals available online; download them and keep them on a flash drive (just in case you lose internet connection).
6. Consider listing your excess storage boxes on Craigslist for other who may need them for moving purposes.
7. Here are some ideas of what to do with any excess packing peanuts.

(Images: 1. Gregory Han, 2. Zazzle)