Cable management Tips for Home Office Organization

Cable management is generally treated as an afterthought when setting up a new home office or electronics in general. Whether you are setting up a computer desk or an entertainment system, you have to consider how your cables will run and how much of them you want to see.

There are visually aesthetic ways to display cables and still make the entire setup look clean and neat. This is going to go over some of the options to manage cables and mistakes to avoid making during the process.

Let’s talk about some of the mistakes that are frequently made first. This will help you understand why cable management is important and the benefits of organizing cables and cords. Here are a few issues you can run into that you should be aware of to help out in your set up.

Some of the Mistakes Frequently made

#1 Tangled Cords

This is an issue when the time is not taken to properly route cords and cables distinctively enough to keep them separated. We’ve all been in this situation. We are too busy rushing as quickly as possible to get setup. We are then working with no thought of what the cords are going to look like after the fact.

This is how most home office desks start with cable management or lack of.

When this occurs, you run into a situation where the only option is to unplug everything at start over. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve started over. It is messy, unorganized, and can cause airflow issues behind your electronics. I for one have always wondered how that monitor cord was able to successfully wrap around that power plug 6 times. Right?

#2 Over Bundled Cords

This is what happens when we believe we have the perfect solution and get zip-tie happy. All of the cords get linked together and we later find we need to be aware of what each cord does. This of course always happens after they are bundled together.

Once we bundle the peripheral cables (Those are things like your mouse and keyboard.) with your power cords, you will eventually want to move your mouse to the other side of your desk for some reason. It will be really important when you need to move it. This is the time the cord will cling on with “the cable death grip” to every other cable it comes in contact with or even comes close to in some cases.  We want to try to avoid this.

#4 Cumbersome labeling system

Create a system for attaching labels to each cable in an effort to quickly locate them later. There are some good ways and some bad. Avoid cheap labels that will fall off, rip, get damaged, or become hard to read over time. The most effective way to determine where a cable comes from and where it goes is to put your hand on it and follow it. The 2nd best way is to use a quality ptouch label maker. Finding out you just unplugged your computer instead of those old speakers is a real downer.

#5 Buried lines

Troubleshooting is always easier when you can get your hands on the lines themselves. While it can look nicer to have cords tucked away out of sight, keep in mind the difficulty later on. If you need access to those cords later, some of the more permanent cord management solutions may not be for you.

Knowing what to avoid is half the battle!

Let’s figure out how to set everything up.

  1. Place your desk or piece of furniture first
  2. Set up your devices
  3. Keep the cables off to the side, we will worry about those later.
  4. Double check that you have everything set the way you would like it to appear.
  5. Consider how many cords there are to manage. Where do they go? What do they do? How much movement is needed for them? Which can be linked together smoothly?

Now, consider how much space is available to manage cables and how much money you want to invest in getting this completed. Leaving them free hanging behind your furniture is obviously an option but you  it will make things hard to keep neat and clean.

You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you considered that an option. This is good, as it shouldn’t be an option for anyone.

Let’s take a look at what options are available

#1 Basket under your desk

-This is an inexpensive first option to get your cords up and out of the way. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and can be picked up almost anywhere. Make sure to use a mesh metal type basket. You do not want hot electronics or power bricks in melt-able materials.

Pros Cons
  • Minimal effort
  • Removes cords from floor
  • Inexpensive
  • Air Flow
  • Mountable

 

  • Can be difficult to dust around
  • Cords can become tangled
  • glass or metal desks mounting challenges

 

 #2 Sleeves and Tubes

There are several tubing options to choose from including different colors and sizes. To use this system, first measure the length of the cords you need to contain. This will be important in getting the correct lengths cut. If you are unsure, you can get one long tube and cut to size.

Pros Cons
  • Easily color coded
  • Contains cords
  • Inexpensive
  • Conceal behind furniture
  • Able to be  removed to reorganize
  • Easy to bend and move as needed

 

  • Must be cut to a specific length
  • bulky for a home office
  • A large number of cables may require multiple sleeves

 

 #3 Binder Clips

This is a very quick fix option. Especially if you have a stash of binder clips sitting in your office. Check the size as smaller clips won’t be very effective at holding multiple cords together and even the larger ones can struggle with this at times. It will work in a pinch but not suggested as a long-term solution.

Pros Cons
  • Easy to change and move
  • Able to clip them in place behind furniture

 

  • Even large clips hold few cords
  • Not very secure

#4 Velcro Straps

These are a bit more sturdy than binder clips and work on the same principles. You can quickly wrap multiple cables and hold them together effectively. These are a great choice when you are able to hide the bundled cables behind your furniture. They adjust easily and allow great configurations.

Pros Cons
  • Easy to change and move
  • Cost effective option
  • Expandable for different sized bundles
  • Great for bulk cord management
  • Multiple color and size options

 

  • Can hold onto dust, dirt and pet hair
  • Multiple straps are required to secure tightly

 

#5 Zip Ties

This is by far the most common type of cable management. Be careful, zip ties will lead to over bundling of your cords. It could also lead to something I call spider webbing. This happens when the cables are bundled at every point where they separate. This is a good system to keep things secure however can be torture to pick apart one cable late. Zip ties generally need to be cut off which can result in nicked or cut cables.

Pros Cons
  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Effective
  • Cheap

 

  • Required to be cut off
  • Can  not reuse
  • Can result in over bundling

 

#6 Tape

This is an option that can be combined with any of the other suggestions. Tape is easy to use, safe for cables and cheap to complete in bulk. You need to make sure the tape you are using is safe for cables. If you choose to go this route, use colored plastic tape. This allows it to be multi-purpose by helping with color-coded labeling.

Pros Cons
  • Same as zip ties quick and easy
  • Removable
  • Used to color code easily
  • Easily combined with other options

 

  • Can leave residue on your cords
  • May require cutting to remove

#7 Attaching Cables Directly

There are several examples found online. Attaching cables directly to the surface allows for pretty cool designs. One way this is achieved, attach your cables directly to the wall. Then there is always the less obvious ways to do this against the back of the desk or entertainment center. Look this option up, I bet you will be surprised at all the different configurations.

Pros Cons
  • Create amazing designs
  • Removable
  • Can be hidden

 

  • Not ideal if you need access to cords
  • more of a permanent option

#8 Cable Clips and Staples

Cable clips are plastic holders with one or two nails attached to them. This allows you to line up your cables and tap them into place with a hammer. Staples should be thick preferably from an industrial stapler. Don’t pick up the stapler from the desk for this task. Skinny staples are going to nick or go through your cords. Cable clips or staples is one of the ways you can attach cables directly to a surface like in Step number 7.

Pros Cons
  • Quick and easy
  • In-expensive
  • Ability to Create Designs

 

  • Staples can puncture cords
  • Permanently attached solution

#9 Gaffer Tape

This is an easy and convenient way to manage cables along a wall, floor, and even the ceiling. This is more of a thicker tape with a matte finish. This type of tape securely holds cables down but removes effortlessly from your surfaces. It is reported that you can stick this to a wall and remove without damaging paint.

Pros Cons
  • Covers and hides cords
  • Manage cords further than other options
  • Options to display cords creatively
  • As removable or permanent as required
  • Multiple colors options
  • Gaffers tape can require time and patience to lay flat and smooth
  • More expensive than other types of tape

#10 Cables through walls and attics

If you are going to be in a permanent place or are building from the ground up, professionally running cords behind walls and through attics is an option. Electricians will bring cords for main things like power and Ethernet through walls. Other cable options are available like options which allow for mounting monitors and extending HDMI cables. This is an option and normally used for home entertainment systems.

Pros Cons
  • Hides all cords giving a clean look
  • No messing with cords
  • Requires drilling into walls
  • Permanent solution cannot be moved without effort
  • Access to troubleshooting is difficult

Now to Wrap it all up

We’ve talked about what watch out for and options for setting up cable management. Before wrapping up, let’s look at just a few tips and tricks to remember while getting everything set up.

Have a Plain in Place

It is important to have a plan in place before getting started. This helps to make sure the cable management chosen gets installed smoothly and effectively the first time.

Remember When Bundling like cords

With a plan in place, think about which cords are selected to link together. (tied, taped or otherwise) Bundle only those cords traveling to the same general destination. Keep it simple to one line at a time.

Avoid the ‘spider web’ with ties to multiple places. Place clips, ties, tapes or straps along the cord in 1 to 2-foot intervals. (longer for longer cables)  This will help keep them smooth and untangled.

Gaffer tape for hiding and securing cables

When cables need to be run in open areas, with the need to hide them or fastened them the floor to avoid trip hazards, use Gaffer tape. This tape is designed to stick on cables securely and is easy to remove from surfaces.

Gaffer tape is designed to not damage surfaces, however, test a small out of sight area first. Something important to remember about this type of tape is that it is very sticky when it connects with itself. For this reason, use caution when wrapping around cables. When removing or replacing the tape, remove the tape first and then the cables. If you attempt to remove them at the same time, they can become a tangled mess.

Don’t forget to dust

Electronics that have fans that need air flow. If the area where these fans bring air into devices are dusty, this is going to affect how your electronics run. Dust the cable management solution both before and during the life of the setup.  This will go a long way in keeping a clean look.

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