As many of y’all know, we’re preparing for a move to Seattle in June. As part of the prep work, I’m getting rid of some of the clutter we’ve picked up in our 16 years of marriage and life in Texas. To inspire me, I’ve started watching “Tidying up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix. I also picked up a book on minimalism by Fumio Sasaki.
Both the book and the show have helped me part with 10%, maybe even 15% of our stuff. What I haven’t done is tackle the connected devices. This is becoming increasingly urgent as we get closer to listing our house on the market, as everything we show with the home has to stay in it for the buyer.
Before I watched the Marie Kondo show, rather than ask myself if something sparked joy, I would ask whether it added to the value of the home or if it was something that would be too complicated to convey to new owners. But my thoughts would get mired in logistics and I would find myself writing user manuals in my head as I tried to figure out how to explain new devices to owners who may not even want them. Now I realize that might have been the wrong approach.
Kondo can’t help me with everything, but I am borrowing some of her philosophy and technique to decide what I should leave behind and — more importantly — which devices I should bring into my next house. Obviously, as a tester of smart home gadgets, I’m always going to be bringing in new gear, but I don’t have to keep it. And lately, every time I’ve installed something I’ve been frustrated and resentful of the mental space it’s taken up.
Kondo recommends taking everything out from where it’s stored and putting it on the counter so you can touch it and see if it “sparks joy.” However, because some of the devices are installed in a wall or screwed into the ceiling, I instead took the boxes my devices came in and piled them onto the floor. Not everything made it that far, but for those devices that didn’t, I went around the house and categorized them. They included my June oven, my sous vide cooker, a connected scale, the Wink hub, the SmartThings hub, and several different types of light switches. Also, all of my Hue lights, my MyQ garage door opener, and some sensors.
So what sparked joy in me?
The June oven. My connected kitchen faucet. My Lutron lights as well as my Hue bulbs and accompanying motion sensors, which make it so my closet, laundry room, and bathroom lights turn on at the appropriate brightness based on someone entering the room and the time of day. I LOVE that.
But, also in the lighting category, I realized I hate having multiple variations of light switches. There are four different types installed on my walls. My future home will have one, and that one will be Lutron. On a related note, I’m uninstalling the WeMo switch, the Brilliant review switches, and the Leviton switch as part of prepping my house for sale. But because I love my Lutron lights, I’m going to make sure they stay in all of the house’s most important rooms. They spark so much joy for me and are so easy to live with that I think they do add to the overall value of the house. So smart light switches stay with the house and when I move, they along with the Hue bulbs plus motion detection sensors will have a place in my new home, too.
Lighting isn’t the only category of devices that I will keep. Having a smart thermostat has also been helpful to me. However, not just any smart thermostat. I love the ones from Ecobee and Nest that have the ability to regulate the temperature of my house based on whether or not I’m home. I also like the ability to set the temperature with my voice when I’m in bed at night. But even if a new owner doesn’t have an Alexa or Google device, they should still appreciate the potential savings from a smarter thermostat.
I have some miscellaneous devices that Kondo would call “komono,” or anything that isn’t clothing, paper, sentimental items, or books. They include the kitchen gear — such as the June oven, which will stay with me because it sparks joy — and the sous vide cooker, which doesn’t. I’ll give that away. I’ve already given away a connected kitchen scale. The Delta Alexa-enabled faucet stays because changing it is a pain, although if someone doesn’t have an Alexa it’s useless to them. This really bothers me. I hate having a connected device that no one uses. It’s not just a waste of time and space, but also a potential vulnerability in the home that offers only risk and no reward.
That said, my realtor thinks it will add to the story of my house as a smart home, so I’ll leave it. Also staying is my Chamberlain MyQ, which allows me to remotely see if my garage door is open, and if so, close it. If my new home in Seattle has a garage I’ll install a new MyQ there, too.
So what about WeMo outlets, my IKEA Tradfri lights and hub, and my Awair air quality monitor? The IKEA Tradfri lights are going because they require a separate hub and were glitchy with voice control. I’m keeping the air quality monitor because it not only can tell me the air quality but can also take action such as turn on a dehumidifier or fan plugged into the device without me having to do anything.
I’m keeping the WeMos and putting them with my holiday decorations because they add a lot of value by letting me schedule and use voice control for my holiday decor. I’ll dump the two ZigBee outlets because I’m trying to divest myself of hubs. That’s right, no more hubs. I’ll keep the Wink and SmartThings for testing purposes, but I’m not setting up anymore crazy automations. They don’t spark joy, to say the least.
I’m not a camera lover, so I gave my Wyze cam to the neighbors, for whom it sparks a ton of joy. Meanwhile, I have a few Arlo cameras that I don’t care about, but my husband loves. Should Wyze make an outdoor camera I will dump the Arlo and the dedicated hub, but until then, we’ll pack them up for the move.
When it comes to the video doorbell, however, I’m torn. I packed up the Nest doorbell and lock because they are review units, and I decided not to replace the Nest Hello with my connected video doorbell made by August. I never liked that doorbell and I think it just adds complexity. Though it admittedly does take away from the “smart home” marketing approach. If my realtor complains, I’ll put the August doorbell back. But in my new home, I’m not sure I’ll want or need a connected doorbell. I don’t currently have security worries and my family has become annoyed by the feeling that I’m stalking them because I use that camera to watch them leave in the mornings when I am out of town. They think it’s creepy. And I’ve never really used the remote answering feature.
I don’t have connected locks in my current home because the doors we use every day are commercial grade, so no connected locks fit them. Otherwise, I would love to have a keypad lock so I could dump my key. Talk about sparking joy! We do have a connected lock on the garage door, but it’s Z-wave, so it will have to go. I’m not burdening a new homeowner with a lock that requires a hub.
So basically I’m putting my home up for sale with Lutron light switches and a hub, connected thermostats, a connected garage door, and a kitchen faucet that talks to Alexa. I may add a connected lock on the back door and a video doorbell if my realtor says I should.
As for my new home, we’ll add back most of the above items, with the video doorbell being contingent on the situation, and bring my Hue lights and motion sensors, my Awair air quality monitor, and my many (many!) connected outlets. The hubs we’ll keep for testing, and I’ll set up a board to test new light switches so I don’t have to live with the clutter of so many switches and apps.
And if you notice that I said nothing about smart speakers, that’s because I am currently in a pitched battle with my family over Google and Alexa. I am pro-Google, but my family loves Alexa. And frankly, I’d rather have my family than a smarter digital assistant. Thanks, Marie Kondo!