When you finally decide it's time to do something about that rat's nest of cables that's spreading like kudzu, you don't have to spend a lot of time and money to get it under control. Whether you're looking to stow your headphone wires tangle-free in your gym bag, hide the ugly wire spaghetti you keep kicking further under your desk, or organise your gadget chargers and power plugs, we've got some cord management tricks for you. Hit the jump for photos and videos of our top 10 favourite ways to get cables under control.
10. ID Your Plugs with Labels
Crawling around under your desk rearranging the power strip is a pain in the knees enough without having to guess which power plug belongs to which gadget. If you want something smaller and better-looking than your label maker or masking tape and marker can produce, identify your plugs with a $6 set of previously mentioned ID PILOT Identification Labels. Each sticker is small and round and displays a photo of the gadget the plug's connected to.
9. Shorten Lengthy Cords with DIY Wrappers
When you're tripping over your headphones' extra lengthy cord, it's time to get wrappin'. With a rubber mat and some scissors, cut out a soft, "cablebone" shortener. Or re-purpose a solder-wick spool to shorten and dispense an endless cord (pictured), turn that old credit card into a cable wrapper, or for a super-cheap (and more flimsy) option, coil that sucker up into a coin wrapper instead.
8. Tie 'Em Up with Reusable Millepede Cable Ties
You've got to sever standard-issue plastic cable ties when it's time to re-wire, but reusable Millepede Cable Ties (original post) can be undone, daisy-chained, and according to a reader at the Cool Tools blog, come in sizes big and strong enough to fasten down car-top luggage. For regular ol' cord management, we also like colourful, reusable velcro ties available at most office supply stores.
7. Build Your Own Cable-Hiding Charging Station
From the digicam to the cell phone to the iPod, we've all got a handful of corded gadgets to charge day in and day out. Organise them all at a single charging station, which is easy to build yourself out of all sorts of material. Here's a modified Ikea nightstand charging station, a $3 plastic toolbox-turned-charging station, and a media box turned into a nice-looking cable organizer and charging station (original post.)
Here's a quick video on how to mod a simple plastic box into a cable-hiding recharging unit:
6. Hide Cables with Foam Pipe Insulation
Hide the mess of gadget cables tangled up near the power strip with a piece of inexpensive foam pipe insulation. Just cut the insulation to size, slice down the length, stow your cables inside and pull out the ends through the slit. Huh-what? The Unclutterer blog features step-by-step photos. A similar pipe solution that's not as soft and flexible is the PVC pipe cable catcher.
5. Store Extension Cords Tangle-Free in a Paper Towel Tube
Store your extension cords in a compact and tangle-free package using leftover cardboard paper towel tubes. We just love this ingenious repurposing trick, which isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but will make your pile of extension cords stacked in the closet a lot more manageable.
4. Master the Art of Earbud Cord-Wrapping
Hit the video above to see how to make a quick-release, tangle-free earbud cord wrap around your MP3 player, so that you don't have to spend 10 minutes de-tangling after you pull your iPod out of your bag at the gym.
3. Catch Plugs with a Binder Clip
Keep your laptop and cell phone's power plugs from falling off the back of your desk using a simple binder clip, no modification required. Just release the wire clamp, run the plug through, and clip onto the back of the desk. Check out lihab's full Flickr set to see it in action.
2. Get Under-Desk Cables Off the Floor with a Wire Basket
Get all those USB, monitor, FireWire, audio, and power cords off the floor under your desk using a simple wire basket. Check out how Adam turned his Ikea desk into a cordless workspace with the Ikea basket, some cable ties and a little elbow grease.
1. Mount Your Gadgets to a Pegboard
Custom-mount all your peripherals and their cords to a piece of pegboard using wire or cable ties, then stow the whole shebang under your desk for one of the neatest, desk-clearing DIY organizing solutions we've ever seen. Here's the original project, and here's a gallery of a Lifehacker reader's take on it (pictured right.) Another riff on the pegboard mount project uses wire grating and clamps instead, but no screws or adhesives—good for your work or dorm desk.
Now that we've told you our favourite ways to get cables under control, tell us yours—in the comments.