DIY Productivity

5 Ways to Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk

Mihir Patkar Updated 26-03-2020

Cable clutter is the scourge of the modern work desk. Sure, we are trying to go wireless as much as possible, but there are still plenty of cords snaking around. Let’s do some desk cable management to organize them once and for all.

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The charging cord for your laptop and phone, USB hubs, mouse, and other odds and ends create mess in any work space. It’s time to learn how to organize and manage computer cables on and under your desk.

5 Steps to Organize Cables on Your Work Desk

People on the internet continue to share several different cable management ideas, tips, and hacks on how they manage cable clutter. Largely, you can group desk cable management into five basic ways.

  1. Hide the power strip and plugs.
  2. Collect and tie the cables together.
  3. Shorten cable length.
  4. Hold unused cables in place.
  5. Identify the cables.

1. Hide the Power Strip and Plugs

A power strip is designed for functionality, not for looking good. Yes, you should use a surge protector, but the resultant mess of cables is an eyesore. That’s the first place to start your desk cable management.

Make a DIY Shoebox Power Strip

The simplest cable management idea for this is to create a DIY box for the power strip out of a shoebox. The video below has step by step instructions to make a good-looking one. If you’re okay with a basic box, then just cut holes on both sides so that the power strip’s cable, and the cables of connected plugs, can come out from either side.

Buy a BlueLounge Cablebox

Instead of making your own, you can even grab one off the shelf. I’d recommend the BlueLounge Cablebox or the Cablebox Mini, depending on the size of your surge protector.

It looks sharp and comes in a variety of colors. The Mini includes a surge protector too, so you don’t have to buy your own. Computer cable management has never been simpler.

2. Collect and Tie Cables Together

Now that the power strip is out of the way, let’s deal with the myriad loose cords hanging around.

Start by identifying the cords that are going to stay there permanently or for a long time. Collect them together and bunch them up for under-desk cable management. There are two options for this.

Bind Cables With Zip Ties

A pack of 100 zip ties costs only $5 on Amazon, so get one for yourself and start zipping up cables all over your house. Make sure your cables are neatly separated first, then hold them together, and zip tie them. It’s best to add zip ties at multiple points, so they stay neat from the power strip up to the desk or PC. Once you secure a tie, use a pair of scissors to snip off the end. Zip ties are also excellent to organize cables inside desktop PCs.

Zip ties have some pros and cons. Taking a cable out of a zip tie means cutting them all loose, and fastening new ones again. That said, given how cheap zip ties are, you can create multiple bunches of cables.

This way, you can remove and attach a collection of cords at the same time. When you have so many ties, you’ll find that you come up with your own cable management ideas.

Group With Cable Sleeves

Blue Key World Cable Sleeve Blue Key World Cable Sleeve Buy Now On Amazon $10.98

Cable sleeves like the Blue Key World Cable Sleeve are better for desk cable management than zip ties because you can also add semi-permanent cables here. A zippered or velcro cable sleeve holds all your cords together, and you can easily remove or add cords.

And perhaps it’s a personal choice, but I think it looks a lot better than zip ties, since you get a uniform color. Unless cost is a factor, I’d say cable sleeves are better to conceal computer cables How To Conceal Your Computer Clutter: Same Cables, More Space Despite decades of technological advancement the average home computer is still plagued by one obvious yet complex issue – cable clutter. Many home PCs are still plagued with more grasping tentacles than a low budget... Read More .

3. Shorten Cable Length

The power strip box and cable sleeves or zip ties simplify under-desk cable management. But the cables sitting on the desk are still an issue. You need them there, but you don’t need them taking up so much space. The solution is to shorten their length temporarily.

Make a DIY Cablebone

Cablebone is a free DIY cable organizer to manage desk clutter

The no-cost DIY solution is the Cablebone from Instructables. You’ll need a rubber mat, a marker pen, a cutter, glue, and a drill. Draw small bone shapes on a rubber mat, cut them out, and glue two together.

The resultant rubber bone should be roughly a quarter of an inch thick. Drill a hole at both ends of the bone, and cut it slightly so a cord slip in. Now just wrap the cord from one end to the other, coiling it around the bone to make it as short as you need. Clean and simple desk cable management!

Learn the Loop Method

If you don’t want to do even that, try the loop method or crochet chain stitch. It’s one of the oldest cable management ideas as a way to reduce the length without damaging it. You’ll need one of the ends of your cable to not be large.

This Instructables guide demonstrates each step of how to loop cables. You can make as many or as few loops as you want depending on desired length, and simply tug on it to release them one by one.

4. Hold Unused Cables in Place

There are many cables that you need off and on, but not always. Your phone or tablet charger, for instance, may not always be plugged into the device. And so it sits on the desk, adding to the clutter, getting tangled with other wires. Good desk cable management would mean you should arrange these unused cables in one place.

Affix With Sugru

The all-purpose moldable silicone putty Sugru has many geeky uses. Desk cable management is right at the top of this. As the video above shows, you need to only stick the Sugru on your desk (or to its side) and make a groove with a toothpick. In a matter of hours, you will have as many custom cord holders as you need.

Sugru Sugru Buy Now On Amazon $15.99 ($49.97 / oz)

Try the ONME Cable Clips Organizer

ONME Cable Clips Organizer ONME Cable Clips Organizer Buy Now On Amazon $6.69

If you don’t want to make your own Sugru pieces, you can buy ready-made products like the ONME Cable Clips Organizer. Stick it on a desk or a wall and run any cables up to 6mm diameter through it. It’s ideal to manage power cords, headphone cables, and other essential cables that run around your desk regularly.

Put Binder Clips on Edges

Similar to the Sugru, you can attach binder clips at the edge of your desk and run the cord through the opening. It’s one of the coolest cable management tips. The only issue with this is that your desk needs a jutting edge, and it should be thin enough to affix a binder clip.

5. Identify The Cables

So you have all your cables neatly arranged. But while you get rid of the mess, this bunching up lost the ability to easily identify which cable does what. Don’t worry, there are simple cable management ideas to help remember that.

Repurpose Bread Clips

The most popular cable management tip is to use bread clips. Attach one to a cable, write out what it’s for. I’m not a fan of this though. Bread clips don’t work for thick cables, and the writing isn’t readable from a distance. Still, it’s free and simple.

Write on Duct Tape

Add a duct tape to wires and write on it to know which cable is for which device

The easiest way to identify cables is to wrap colored duct tape around the line, with a little bit jutting out. On the part that’s jutting out, use a sharpie or marker pen to write what the cable is for. And to ensure that the back doesn’t stick somewhere, put a piece of paper there and write the identification again. It doesn’t look great, but it’s the most functional choice.

Make Your Desk Productive

Now that you’ve mastered desk cable management, it’s time to get to work in your tidy workspace. But simply cleaning up isn’t going to magically make you more productive. Other aspects of your work setup should be looked at as well.

The height of your screen matters, as does the height of your chair and desk. Even the lighting for your desk can affect how much work you get done. Learn all the hacks to make your desk more productive 7 Hacks to Make Your Work Desk More Efficient for Maximum Productivity Do you feel sore or fatigue? Do your eyes ache or is your neck killing you? An optimized work desk might cure your ailments and boost your productivity. Read More to maximize your work efficiency.

Explore more about: Declutter, Workspace, Workstation Tips.

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  1. HildyJ
    March 27, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    Re labeling - always label both ends of the cable. For cables and organizing in general consider investing in a label printer.

    For shortening cables consider a cheap bag of permanent cable ties (velcro is better than the removable ones). Clip off the end after tightening them and forget about it until you need to redo your workspace (when you will have to cut them off). For big bundles you can use multiple ties to keep them neat.

  2. Jeff
    March 11, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    This is a great article, Mihir. Very creative and informative. As someone who works from home, I am always looking for ways to keep my home office from building up clutter, and you mention a bunch of great ways to do so. One of the biggest issues I was running into was combining all my cables together but then not knowing which is which. The bread clip trick you mention has fixed this for me! Another thing I've done is tape cables and power cords underneath my desk to avoid from them getting pulled on. There's a great article by Tape University that talks about what types of tape are best used for that. Here's the link for anyone interested: https://www.tapeuniversity.com/2018/05/why-shouldnt-i-tape-down-cables-with-duct-tape/

    Thank you for the great article, Mihir!

    • Jeff
      April 18, 2019 at 2:44 pm

      Duct tape leaves an awful residue on most things when removed. Its especially bad on cables.

  3. Ken Mitchell
    August 15, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Rather than cable sleeves, you may need "split loom" protectors. One of my perennial problems is that I have several cats, and I've lost more than one wire to kitty toothmarks. Split loom is like plastic armored conduit, absolutely proof against cats.

  4. fcd76218
    August 15, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    "1. Hide the Power Strip and Plugs"
    You're just replacing a set of smaller 'boxes' with a set of larger ones. Power strips/surge protectors are smaller than a shoe box.

    If you have a wooden desk or table, another way to get the power strips out of the way (hide them) is to attach them to the back of the desk.

    "3. Shorten Cable Length"
    That can be done with twisty ties and/or duct tape. No need to enrich some gizmo manufacturer. In my shop I use twisty ties to keep my power tool cables from snaking all over the place between uses.

    "4. Hold Unused Cables in Place"
    One way to eliminate cable clutter is to remove unused cables from underneath the desk. I store unused cables in my basement.

    "5. Identify The Cables"
    Bread clips are a good idea. I also use permanent printable labels. Like duct tape they can be cut to a needed size. Unlike tape, they are easier to write on.

    "How Do You Store Loose Cables?"
    I have a box that used to hold printer paper. In it I have a separate plastic bag for each type of cable: USB, printer, power, telephone, ethernet,etc.