Ask Doug: Dealing with Husband’s Old Computer Parts

Helping to fix things or explaining why men still wear their oldest t shirt, Doug gives us the man’s perspective.

My husband has a room full of old computer parts, help!
Covered with keyboards in Phoenix, AZ

I have heard this can happen. I think it would help if I try to shed some light on the inner workings of a man’s mind where it relates to computer parts:

“It’s cool to fix something, computers are cool, if I fix a computer I’m cool.”

There may be nothing you can do about this room. Also, I would like you to know that there are worse things that can fill a room than old computer parts.

Seriously though, I spent a large part of my growing up years wishing we could afford nice computers. Technology kept changing and leaping forward, and wow that stuff was really great. The techie geek kid in me longed for that stuff, dreamed about it. Today the stuff of my kid dreams is going in the trash and the Flash Gordon type technology is all around us. It is very hard to look at that old stuff without thinking about how it meant so much to me just a few short years ago (okay, 25 years ago). This applies to all kinds of stuff, not just computers.

That might not be the case, but if it is, then you have a great opportunity to get to know your husband even better while you love him into getting rid of that stuff. Ask him about his thoughts and his experiences with technology and what computers have meant to him and still mean to him. Approach the computer graveyard issue from an attitude of a respectful desire to understand why he’s keeping the parts. You’ll both find out right away if the computer parts have an emotional tie that keeps them around. In all other cases old computer parts should go; they have no value.

Have a question? Send it to Ask Doug.

Doug’s first job was in a meatpacking plant. He ran with the bulls in Pamplona. He’s read the works of C. S. Lewis. He’s manly, and he’s here to help.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. does this apply to outdoor gear as well? I have a husband who works for REI…

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Wardrobe Challenge Day 5

  2. Ha! Ha! In our tiny two bedroomed home we have a room devoted to well: It is a technology graveyard… I used to tremble and quake at the mess of it all, but now I just shut the door. Every house has a spot of “disaster-zone” and I am so glad I am not responsible for ours!!! Tell me about cables: heaps of them everywhere and I confess they are mine. I have this cool laptop, that I love and adore… and a cable for my ipod, and a cable for each camera, and a cable for the scanner and cables for back-up drives… it is eternal and ugly… paper free no problem, but cables free-never!!!

    se7en´s last post…This Week (18 January) at Se7en…

  3. My husband is also a ‘computer guy’. We have all the part, cables, etc. down to one big bin.

    My husband says it has nothing to do with emotion, he thinks it’s inefficient to throw something away that he might need in two weeks.

    Your best bet is probably to get him down to ONE of each item. I really think a whole room for computer stuff is unnecessary…unless he does hardware repair?

    Hayden Tompkins´s last post…4 Steps Toward A Better 2010

  4. I love this! Thankfully we knew someone even ‘geekier’ than my husband who likes to take old computers (dinosaurs) and network them together when our old computer was no longer working for us. If not for him we would probably have three computers set up… scary isn’t it.
    For all those cables and cords that ‘we might need someday’, I have a box thats about the size of two shoe boxes and once it gets full we have to go through and weed it out of the truly outdated stuff.
    We just recently got rid of an old ‘joystick’ that hadn’t been used in years and wouldn’t be used again – Im pretty sure it hung around our house those 9 years for sentimental reasons. ;-)

  5. I agree with you, Doug. But I’m a girl, after all, and here’s what worked for me.

    If you can save a little on the side, bribery works really well. “I’ll trade you your old gnarled dozen cables and old router for a brand new wireless deal- you pick!” I set aside the money myself because the clutter is my issue, not his. It makes me happier to have a clean/ clear room. If he won’t go for it and you’re not sacrificing some space for children then it doesn’t seem worth it to fight (to me at least).

    Also, try for a lot of different tidy workspace ideas.

    • Absolutely, it’s worth the trade but not the fight, and I think hearing “upgrade” and “wireless” is music to any man’s ears.

  6. Early on my husband and I struck a deal: I got to keep the unused crafting supplies and he got to keep his collection of extension cords (sounds harmless, but looks like a nest of snakes, approximately the size of our dining room table). In the end, he chose to get rid of the majority of his extension cords of his own volition when we were moving. Time works wonders.

    Adele´s last post…Colorful Crockpot Beef Stew

  7. Doug, I LOVE your participation! What a delight it is to hear from you!! Thanks for adding your two cents, which I expect is worth much more than just .02!!

  8. As a husband that lost his computer graveyard to a nursery I feel like I have a unique perspective on this issue. The first thing to realize is that there are two types of stuff that we don’t like to release.

    A) Stuff we THINK we MIGHT need later.

    B) Stuff we love that we own even though we haven’t turned it on in years.

    Getting rid of these two categories takes different tactics. The first one is by far the easiest. My wife made a deal with me. I get rid of all the cables, adapters, PCI cards etc. and if I ever need something then I could go buy it. This has worked out well for her because she got an entire closet cleaned out and I am pretty sure the only thing I have purchased since then (about a year and a half) is a single A-B USB cable. The core truth is that we don’t really need any of that stuff. I wonder if I could have even found a USB cable in that mess anyway.

    The second grouping is a little bit more difficult. My wife (sneakily I might add) convinced me to take all my old computers to my office at work as decoration. Her argument was that at least there, an IT office, the people that saw it would appreciate things like a working Newton eMate.

  9. My husband doesn’t have a room of computers, but he does have a fixation with wires and cables. When we were moving in together and I first discovered his obsession he told me, “All men have boxes of wires.”

    “Hmmm,” I thought. I consulted my older sister. She confirmed that her partner’s top dresser drawer was filled with wires and cables.

    My husband and I compromised by selecting a box that would be for his wires. (I think the box is too big and he thinks it’s too small, so it’s probably just about the right size.) Whatever he can fit in the box, he can keep. Whenever we need a cord for something he makes a special point of telling me, “Good thing I have a box of wires!”

    Meg´s last post…Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I think all men have wires. We have several cables too, and I’m trying to corral them in one place. I can’t get rid of them myself because I don’t know what any of them are for!

  10. What about boxes upon boxes of paperwork that “just might” be needed or useful someday? I don’t have a garage; I have a REALLY big filing cabinet. Sigh… But boy, do I love that man.

    Coach J´s last post…TSO: Recap and Review

  11. I come from grandparents on both sides that are extraordinary hoarders, not for computer stuff but for farm machinery, cars, stuff etc. But their main reason was the great depression having such an impact on their early lives, they really were afraid to let things go ‘just in case’. This definitely has influenced my parents also…

    Claire St Juin´s last post…LXXXXVIII

  12. Doug's mother says:

    Does this mean I can throw away all the stuff you still have at my house? Or do I have to subtly inquire about your attachment? Your wires are still here! Oh well, I guess I can be grateful you don’t save things like your brother does.


  13. Mom, I just asked myself very subtly and apparently you can toss all that stuff, no attachment detected. In fact I should probably come over and help!

    Love ya!

  14. This is awesome to see Doug’s column. Doug is the coolest. I did not know he worked in a meatpacking plant. That was my dad’s first job also. To this day, I have yet to meet anyone who can carve a turkey at Thanskgiving with my dad’s skill, fervor, quickness and accuracy. He should truly be on Iron Chef. I am sure it came from that first job.
    Gosh, you guys are my favorite people. I miss you kids!

  15. Oh man, the Mom/Doug exchange cracked me up!

    Minnesotamom´s last post…Markus, 1 week

  16. My husband holds onto smaller broken computer or appliance parts to take apart with our 5-year-old son. They get to use screwdrivers and pull things apart and see how they fit together, and we don’t have to worry about putting it all back together or making it work again… and it’s a lot less messy than their “kitchen chemistry” projects! (which always seem to devolve into cornstarch and vinegar)… my son keeps some of his favorite pieces on the shelf next to his bed, he loves to look at and hold them and show them off, the rest we throw out or recycle, guilt free.