Cable Spaghetti – Tips and Tricks for the Office and Home
The problem of confusing tangles of electrical cords is as old as electrical devices themselves. Every device has a cord through which it draws electricity, but power points tend never to be close by. Hence, cords are often plugged into extension cords and power boards. This mass of cables bridges the distance between our devices and power points. However, a writhing mass of cables is a functional compromise that neglects both aesthetics and order, and it can be avoided using our simple tips and tricks.
Whilst cables for fixed appliances such as TVs, gaming consoles or desk lamps can be hidden behind wardrobes and under carpets, the solution to tangled cables is not always so simple. Clever cable solutions have been found for appliances that see less frequent use, such as vacuum cleaners or clothes irons. The office industry has come up with trendy cable storage solutions for all your home and office needs. The need to create order out of a confusing array of cables will remain relevant for as long as electrical devices draw their power from external power boards. Even when a single device needs to be moved in a company office, the company interns will often draw straws to avoid having to confront the masses of cables beneath the desks of the office. The loser then begins a protracted wrestling match with the dust-covered serpents beneath the desks and will be lucky to wrench the right cable free from the heaving mass.
We have all made a resolution to organise our hopelessly tangled cables at the next opportunity, but this of course never eventuates. The truism, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ holds true. In one respect, the fact that the cables are out of sight can itself be a good thing. As long as cables are out of sight, it is difficult to trip over them. The biggest danger associated with what is otherwise an annoying tangle of cables is the trip hazard that a disarray of cables can create. A cable under your desk can be quick to transform itself into a tripwire that activates next time you stand up. Similarly, a carelessly laid extension cord can cause your unsuspecting co-worker, diligently studying some paperwork on his way past your desk, to trip and fall.
An organised workplace makes for a happier and more aesthetic working environment. With a few handy tips and tricks, you will be able to ensure a safe and tidy workplace at minimal cost. There are many companies that offer effective solutions for your cable needs. Anyone planning a commercial office space should consider these options carefully.
However, you can also free your cable-constricted home office by using a few simple tricks.
Clothes Pegs, Roof Gutters and Toilet Rolls
Your desk is likely to be a natural habitat for Ethernet cables and other cable species. As a result, your desk is one of the first places to focus on. The cables that one finds here are rarely limited to those that connect your monitor, PC and sometimes your printer and scanner behind your desk. Even the top of your desk is most likely assailed by a tangle of USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt cables as a result of external hard drives, cameras, smartphones and other electricity-hungry gadgets.
The first step towards order is simple: tidy up. If there is an Ethernet printer connection that you rarely use, for example, get rid of it. The fewer cables you have to cause disorder, the better. Secondly, the things that you do not urgently require on your desktop should be stowed in a drawer. Take care to wind your cables into organised loops so that you avoid accidentally tying a Gordian knot. But take care not to loop the cables too tightly, for otherwise you may damage the sensitive fibres on the inside of the cable.
Recycled materials also offer a smart and cheap way to organise your cables. The cardboard on the inside of every toilet roll can be a tremendous bringer of order. Place several toilet rolls upright in a drawer to separate your cables from one another and provide a quick overview of your cable assortment. There is another common household item that can play a similar role: the humble clothes peg. Every rolled-up phone charging cable will only stay wound up reluctantly. A clothes peg is ideal for keeping the cables on your desktop in check. Another option is to thread an unrolled cable through the small hole in the clothes peg (the one designed to fasten the peg to the clothes line) and to then clamp the peg onto the edge of your desk. In this manner, you can clamp each peg and cable to the edge of your desk to form an organised and accessible row. Roof guttering is a third cheap and common household item that can bring organisation to your office. It can be purchased at hardware stores by the metre. Fasten the roof gutter to the back of your desk to stow your cables in an organised manner and safely above the ground.
Cable Ties and Cable Conduits
If your desk is located in the middle of your office rather than against the wall, the cables at the back of your desk pose a safety hazard. The simplest solution for this problem is to tie cable ties around all the cables. This creates a highly visible bundle of cables that leads to your power board. It would be ideal to locate a power board immediately behind your computer monitor or printer. If you have a power board on your desk, all your computer cables are readily connected to the power board. They do not leave your desk, as only the single power board cord leads to your power point. This reduction in cables entails a reduced trip hazard. Cable conduits are an alternative to cable ties. Cable conduits do not look dissimilar from the pipe of a vacuum cleaner, but a slit on the side of the conduit allows you to conveniently add or remove cables from the conduit. A somewhat more costly option is a professional cable spiral, which is similar to a cable conduit but provides the cables it holds with additional stability.
Unstylish tangles of cables have been a thorn in the eye of well-known office designers; the need for a more aesthetic and organised means of storing cables has been satisfied through designer cable boxes. Cable boxes, cable chests, cable cans and even cable drums have since appeared on the market. These accessories range from between 5 and 500 Euros depending on the designer. Regardless of price, all cable boxes work the same way. You thread your cables into the box through a hole in the side and then connect the cable to the power points on the inside of the box. On the other side of the box, the box’s main cable connects to an external power point to provide the whole set-up with electricity. A cable box is also an easy do-it-yourself (DIY) option. Suitable DIY materials include a shoebox or wooden box. When considering cable boxes, remember that too much strain on a single power point can cause a fuse to blow. If you have several vacuum cleaners at your office, for example, it is a good idea to distribute the electrical load over two power points with separate fuses.
Whether you need of a power source for a single device or for your whole office, power points have a tendency to be inconveniently far away. This leaves you with no other option than to use another cable to connect your devices to a power source. Anyone with surround sound or a hi-fi-system and subwoofer is well aware of this problem, which entails extension cords upon extension cords running through the rooms of your house. The solution for this problem is a cable duct. The original cable duct is a classic white plastic casing that channels cables along your wall. Whether or not a white plastic casing is more appealing than an individual cable is up to you. However, the functions of the cable duct, which can be used as a skirting board, undoubtedly trump those of the naked individual cable. There is a wide range of cable ducts in well-known hardware stores, and with a bit of luck, the ducts will fit into your existing skirting board rails at home. Behind the cladding of your cable duct, the duct channels your cables from A to B. In some houses, particularly in older buildings, there are opulent skirting boards that are often hollow. These can also be used as ready-to-go cable ducts. Depending on your desk model, you can integrate a conventional cable duct to assist in managing your cables. There are even special models with rubber openings that allow you to run cables in and out of the duct as you require.
Some creative homemakers have seen the cable problem as a chance to add some flair to their home. Hence, they used this opportunity to create an entire cable wall. The method for the cable wall is as follows: run your cables along the side of the wall to the required power point. Once you have done this, hide the cables behind a screw-on cable wall. Wood, MDF, aluminium or Plexiglass are all well suited as cable wall materials. The cable wall is then screwed onto the existing wall, leaving a few centimetres of space for the cables. The cable wall sets no limits on creativity. Some simply paint theirs a glossy white. Others, however, put LED lights on the back of their cable wall, which then function as a source of indirect light. As such, the cable wall can be anything from a functional way of managing your cables to a decorative and new source of light.
And finally, a quick tip for people who live in houses with elevated power points. People who live in such houses often have no choice but to hang their mobile phone or tablet from the charging cable while it charges. This is detrimental to the materials of both the charging cables and the power point, as both bend and become stretched. Charging trays, which are available at office warehouses, provide a much-needed remedy. Charging trays use the power pack of chargers as a hook, and the electrical device then lies in a tray of plastic or wood as though it were in a hammock. A charging tray can also be self-made using a small basket, a small cardboard box or a small ice cream container.
Safety concerns are of course the paramount consideration. Devices that become very hot when charging should not be put into a cardboard box or into a closed plastic box. Open cables that run through a room should contrast as much as possible with the colour of the floor. Many hardware stores offer power points in bright colours such as red. Do not leave any open cables lying about in apartments and offices to which animals, particularly rodents, may have access.