Reader Douglas submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I had a quick question about boxes. How long do you recommend I hold on to old boxes for things like TVs and computers? I have some big boxes, I’ve kept just in case I have to return the items. I’m not sure if it’s actually necessary for me to keep them though, because they take up a lot of space.
This is one of those questions that I answer so often that I thought I had already used it for an Ask Unclutterer topic. Apparently, I haven’t.
Most electronics purchased from major retailers have a 30 or 45 day maximum return policy for those instances when you simply decide you no longer want the item. This date is always printed on the receipt, which you’ll also want to hold on to if you are seriously considering returning the item. So, for items you think you may not want to keep, it is reasonable to hold onto the box for that amount of time.
In all other circumstances, I only recommend keeping the box IF:
- You plan to sell the item in less than three years after its date of purchase, and
- The original packaging improves the price of the product when you sell it.
For example, I sell my laptops on eBay when I upgrade to a newer model. After tracking laptop sales on eBay for many months, I found that people will pay a little more for the product if it still has its original packaging. So, I keep my laptop boxes to ship them in to the new owner. Granted, the boxes that laptops come in are relatively small and, since I only have one computer at a time, our storage space isn’t overrun with cardboard boxes.
If your situation does not meet both of the qualifying statements above, then you should recycle the boxes immediately or right after the 30 or 45 day return deadline. Keeping lots of cardboard in the house is an awful fire risk and it wastes a significant amount of storage space. There is also no need to keep the packaging because if the product is a lemon or has some other manufacturing defect, you don’t need the original packaging to return it. Additionally, if you move, you can wrap your electronics in towels or bubble wrap surrounded by packing peanuts and put them into traditional cardboard boxes.
Thank you, Douglas, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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