5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

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Tangled Power Cords   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your DeskComputer cable clutter is one of technology’s biggest annoyances. While it’s easy to conceal your messy cable collection in a closed box, the cables that catch dust under your table are a completely different story. Try to vacuum those tangled beasts or remove a single cable from the mess. Fortunately, the Internet is a treasure trove for great ways to organize and clean up the cable monsters under your desk.

For my own project, I used items I already owned, including binder clips, plastic cards, punchers, scissors, power strips, double-sided tape, and bread clips. Nothing too fancy and such is the result. If you have some more time, skill, and tools available, find inspiration from more elaborate projects towards the end of this article.

Binder Clips To Keep Cables From Falling

My desk top is pretty thick, so binder clips, even the big ones, only fit onto the book shelf behind my desk. I used one to hold the audio and LAN cable in case I disconnect my laptop. You can use them to hold any cable that tends to slip off the desk if not connected to a device.

Binder Clip Cable Organizer   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

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This tip was also mentioned in Nancy’s 10 Great Geek Hacks article.

Plastic Card Cable Organizer To Fix Cables In Place

Don’t have any paper clips handy? How about an old club or credit card, a puncher, and scissors? Punch some holes into the card, cut into the hole from the edge and insert your cables. The punched card can work just as well for keeping your cables from falling off your desk. I got this idea from Unclutterer.

Punched ATM Card   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

I’m using the card to hold my tablet’s and phone’s charging cables next to my bed. The shelf I’m using as my nightstand is too thick for paper clips. After taking the picture, I turned the card upside down to hide both the card and the cables underneath the shelf.

Plastic Card Cable Organizer   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

Now you only need to find a way to fix the card to your desk. Maybe the next item can help.

Double-Sided Tape To Mount Power Strips

My cable modem is pretty light and I didn’t want to mount it to the wall, so I decided to stick it to my desk using double-sided tape. I actually used Tesa Power Strips. Now the modem is out of the way, but in reach when I need to plug in a cable or reset it.

Cable Modem   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

I did the same for the powerstrip and simply mounted it to my desk.

Power Strip   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

If you want to mount the power strip upside down to the bottom of the desk top, you might want to use something like velcro. It allows you to easily remove the power strip when you need better access to it. And it’s also a little more durable than double-sided tape. Alternatively, you could get a cable organizer from IKEA (Signum) or build one yourself.

IKEA Signum Cable Organizer   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

Bread Clips To Organize & Label Cables

If you have more cables than you can possibly keep apart, label them with bread clips. My German bread clips look a little different than standard American ones, but have the added advantage that they can also keep cables together.

Bread Clip   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

And this is how your result may look like.

US Bread Clips   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

A Knot For Storing Long Cables

Overly long cables usually contribute most to clutter. Below is a great video explaining how to use a monkey braid to fold up long cables.

The cable used in the example above is massive. You can do the same with much smaller, yet too long A/C or power extension cords. This idea came via The Closet Entrepreneur, who also provides beautiful step by step pictures.

My Result

Unfortunately, I missed to take a before picture. But maybe you can imagine how a completely loaded power strip with a bunch of cables around it must have looked like. This is much better I think.

Cable Clutter Off The Floor   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

I admit that my result isn’t perfect zen. Although it’s practical, there is still a lot of hanging cable clutter. However, my goal was not to hide all cables, but to get the power strips and as many cables off the floor as possible. Frankly, I find that the more perfectly you manage to hide cables, the more of a pain it becomes to move furniture or re/move a single cable.

Perfectly Hiding Cable Clutter

Are you dreaming of making your cables invisible? My colleague Matt has some great tips for concealing computer clutter and below are three before/after examples for the perfectionists among you. The first one is from Instructuables, meaning you’ll find step by step instructions and pictures for the entire process.

Computer Cable Management on the Cheap   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

This two person work table I found on The Closet Entrepreneur. See the article for some more impressive work spaces.

Two Person Work Table   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

Lifehacker created a cordless desk with some cheap accessories from everyon’s favorite Swedish home improvement / furniture store.

Cordless Desk   5 Ways To Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

Conclusion

Quickly organizing cables and getting them out of the way can be quite simple, but the result isn’t necessary beautiful. Perfection comes at a price. To tame the cables, you must tie them down. While this can keep them out of sight, it also makes it much harder to exchange cables or move a device later on. Which compromise do you choose?

Do you have any additional tips for organizing computer cable clutter under the desk?

Image credits: Tangled Power Cords via Shutterstock, IKEA Signum Cable Organizer via Pinterest, US Bread Clips via Things To Stumble, Computer Cable Management via Instructables, Two Person Work Table via The Closet Entrepreneur, Cordless Desk via Lifehacker

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41 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Chris Marcoe

I always say I am going to clean up my cable mess. But, alas, I never do. Probably because our instructor in my ITS program makes us do it for 3 different class rooms.

I like the idea of mounting the power strip to the desk. But, I think, if it is on a vertical surface or mounted upside down, I would not use double-sided tape. I’d use screws to mount it so it didn’t fall off.

These are all great ideas, though. I think it jsut might inspire me to get going on my cable management.

Tina Sieber

Using screws to mount something vertically is definitely better than power strips, if you don’t mind the holes.

Kirby

Some devices, like modems have holes underneath it for the specific purpose of mounting them on walls with screws.

Cyberjunkie

An easy tip for when you are mounding with screws, since it is always a pain to line up the wholes perfectly. You photocopy the bottom of the device, then tape the photocopy where you want the device and drill your holes in the perfect position.

Tina Sieber

Awesome idea!

If you’re lucky, your modem or router came with a drill sheet. Mine did. Have a look into the box or documents that came with it.

Reply

Zhong J

There’s one solution to all of this: use wireless devices/peripherals.

BON

i don’t think you can use power wirelessly? =)

Chris Marcoe

The tech exists. But I believe it is prohibitively expensive at this point.

Alexis Ceroleni

I don’t trust wireless and is slower

Tina Sieber

Once wireless power, wireless USB, and wireless HDMI are here, I’ll gladly let go of the cables! :)

Chris Marcoe

That would be great, wouldn’t it? And so much cleaner. Of course, I would still probably take forever to change over…

Reply

Yiz Borol

Wow, a bunch of helpful tips here!

Reply

Joe Leach

My desk looks like the one with all the dangling cords….lol A lot of good ideas here for making cables more manageable, I just have to motivate myself….lol

Reply

Catherine M

“How about an old club or credit card, a puncher, and scissors?”
CAUTION here folks. I am concerned the cable will wear and possibly cut through its’ protective sleeve over time. Anything with a sharp edge, such as the cut holes in the cards would be, could possibly damage the sleeve. And someday something doesn’t work and it may take you hours to finally figure out it is a small slit in a cable.

In my opinion the binder clips are a better solution since the metal is rounded and smooth.

Tina Sieber

You could smooth the edges by sanding or taping them down. Paper clips are the better option if you have somewhere to clip them to.

Catherine M

You are right Tina, you can sand the edges down, but personally I don’t want to do that – I’m a black & white kind of thinker – it is either right or it is wrong. What I wanted people to realize is the edges are sharp and could pose a risk to the cables.

Chris Marcoe

Is there really so much movement of cables that are managed (placed out of the way and held) that they would wear out like this, though? I could see it on a wired mouse but I don’t think anything else in the system is moved so much that it would wear holes in the sheath.

Catherine M

You are right about managed cables. But, as many of us know – including me – I can start managed only to need to re-manage again. But that aside, you are right, they should not wear holes in the sheath (I knew someone would come up with the right word) but I only caution about the ‘possibility’ of damage and not the ‘inevitably’ of damage.

Here is my personal example – I use the bulldog clip method myself because it gives my cables not only a smooth edge to ride on but a lot of leeway in movement. I use a laptop that is constantly in motion on the top of my desk – I have a bad back and actually use 2-different chairs depending on my pain level, I sit to the left, to the right, I lean in, I lean back – I am constantly re-positioning my laptop to accommodate my needs. Now add to that, I share my laptop with a husband who spins it around 180-degrees to see a video or a picture I am excited about. Yes, my laptop travels and I take care of my cables.

Paul G

Wow!
I guess you have not worked as a professional in the I.T. sector.

Once installed, how often is a cable moved? RARELY. So, where are your concerns coming from?

Reply

Pratish Rao

so many cables at home…. was lokin for such thing…
super like ma’am thank u soo much… best part using plastic stufs… vil try..

Reply

Jignesh Solanki

I am currently using some ideas from long time…thankx

Reply

macwitty

Creditcard and bread clips was new to me – will use them. Otherwise, well I have bought the on from a Swedish furniture store and it works well

Reply

dragonmouth

If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?

Tina Sieber

Is clean the same as uncluttered? Does uncluttered necessarily mean empty?

dragonmouth

“Is clean the same as uncluttered? Does uncluttered necessarily mean empty?”

Now we are getting into the metaphysical. :)

EL

A clean desk can be an empty desk, or a neatly organized desk. Take your pick.

dragonmouth

If you wish to argue the point, argue with Herr Einstein since that is a quote from him.

Reply

Amir Meta

these are really useful tips i used this “technique” and now i like my desks both office and home!
TY MYO!

Reply

Jeff Stevens

I’ve used the plastic bread bag tabs before they work great at identifying what the cable is to, and stay near the business end of the cable where theyr’e needed. To make the cables neat, I have always used those velcro cable ties available at any electrical or communications supply house, you can use them to shorten cables and to bind buches of cables together. To fasten cables to the back of a desk, the nylon ratcheting wire ties with the hole on the ratchet part for screwing the tie to something, they will securely fasten the cables to any surface you can put a screw into and you can buy them at the electrical supply house in bags ranging in content number and sizes. There are all sorts of things you can sue to harness wires to keep them neat online, all you need to do is search for them and use your imagination

Reply

Aibek Esengulov

excellent article, Tina!

Reply

Reedyseth

Great article, but, dont you think is a little bit dangerous the velcro ? I mean, what if there is a electrical shock ? the house can get on fire, I liked it pretty much though, thanks for sharing this !!

dragonmouth

Reedyseth,
Why worry about only Velcro? Isn’t your desk or work surface made of wood or something similar? Don’t you have papers strewn about your work area? Right there you have a big fire hazard in case of an electrical short. Besides, if you have to worry about short circuits, you have bigger problems than just cable clutter.

Reply

Kirby

You could also use rubber bands to tie up those wires from the mouse / keyboard / monitor so you would be dealing with only one group of wires as it drops down from behind the desk.

Tina Sieber

Great suggestion, thank you Kirby!

Kirby

By the way, you should also watch out since SOME power cables have a tendency to interrupt info being streamed through your data cables.

Reply

Douglas Mutay

Thank you Tina, I really like these idea and will try some of them. That’s really brilliant!

Reply

Ahsan Javed

Highly Creative ….. But I’m Still A Lazy Guy …..

Reply

lmdramones

After reading this article and applying the tips my workstation looks great! No more loose cable everywhere everything is organized. I feel more productive now seeing little mess.

Tina Sieber

Thanks for the feedback! Can we get a picture? :)

Reply

Ian

Be careful with coiled electrical leads, they can generate some extra heat :)

Reply

Rock Smeja

Has anyone ever tried out the CableHub? It’s a brand-new cable management and organizer product that can be personalized to fit any room: http://www.thecablehub.com

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