How To Tame Office Clutter: Organizing Cords, Wires, & Cables

Q: Since I’m an avid reader/adorer of all things YHL, I’ve seen pretty much all the pictures of your home that you’ve managed to cram into the blog. And every time I see these pics, I swoon over how organized and neat your house is- so very unlike my own. One thing in particular annoys me: office clutter! Cords, cables & wires. Lettin’ it all hang out is NOT my idea of organization or attractiveness. How do you guys make your cords/wires/cables more organized and neat? Must I resort to actually having to tie each wire and cord individually? There must be another way! Right? Please? – Erin

A: I’m crazy. I’ll just get that out there before I get to answering your question. But here it goes…

I also HATE cord clutter. In fact, I’m such a freak about keeping cords in check that the two white cardboard Ikea boxes that you see stacked to the left of our computer on our desk actually contain our cable modem and our external hard drive. We punched a bunch of holes around the top, back and sides of the boxes for ventilation (safety first! you don’t want anything to overheat!) and cut out notches in the back of each box for the cords to escape so we could easily plug things in under the desk (so no one’s the wiser that our “storage boxes” actually store a lot more than paper and files). In over three years of using this method with our cable modem (and about a year with our external hard drive) we’ve never had an issue with overheating or malfunctioning (although we do occasionally lift off the tops to check on them and air things out). We know it sounds crazy, but it works for us!

Oh and another thing we do (this one’s less crazy) is that we have a leather ottoman that we slid right under the left side of our desk with the printer on it (which gloriously hides all the cords that run from the backs of those Ikea boxes and plug into the wall behind it). Sometimes the best cord hiding strategy is just to snatch up something to put in front of those babies- and cheap Target ottomans work just as well as the next thing (all while offering up some great concealed storage for extra office supplies).

Yet another method would be to hit up places like The Container Store, Room & Board and even Target since they all sell “cord wrangling kits” that can help you snake cords down the legs of desks or velcro them all together so you don’t even need to use an ottoman to hide anything (this definitely comes in handy if your desk is too compact to accommodate an ottoman underneath it). And a few other office aids that work hard to keep our desk looking orderly are those two white tins on the desktop next to our modem-hiding-boxes, which are also from Ikea. They store all of Burger’s food and treats so they’re always at arm’s reach.

And of course a potted plant, some free DIY art and a cup full of pens rounds out our desktop for a functional and pleasant place to put in some serious blogging time. Plus I can’t forget those two shallow drawers in our beloved West Elm parsons desk (which was one of our favorite wedding gifts ever) that help hide clutter like bills to be paid or notes that I scribble down at the end of the day. It really is true that a clean and organized desk makes for a clean and organized mind. I actually feel like I work more efficiently (and feel better) when my desk is nice and organized. So that’s our combination of insanely weird (hiding your modem in a box???) and semi-practical solutions (using a storage ottoman to block cords) that keep our compact corner office working hard for us. And it literally is a corner office. See, it’s in a corner of our den:

But now we want to hear what you guys do to hide cords and keep your desk in check. Any tips and tricks to share? Do tell.

Psst- Want another cord management idea? Check out Nicole’s awesome solution over at Making It Lovely. And to see how we organize and store nearly everything else in our house, check out this exhaustive post of yore.

Update: We’re so glad you’re loving the Ikea box idea! And while it works seamlessly for us, we can’t guarantee that it won’t cause your components to overheat or even catch fire so it’s important to take adequate precautions when implementing this method. Remember to punch lots of holes in the top, bottom, and sides of the box (as well as to cut a wide square in the back for the cords to exit). Regularly opening the boxes to ensure that’s nothing’s getting too hot is always a good idea- especially in the beginning to check if your ventilation is adequate. The last thing you want in your lovely home is a fire hazard!

Comments

  1. miss j says

    Your Ikea boxes idea might be just the thing to hide all the unsightly cords underneath my tv unit. Thanks YHLr’s.

  2. Melissa says

    LOVE the box idea. I’m totally talking my husband into this too (and convincing him that I’m not crazy)! Every project seems to start with him thinking I’ve lost my mind.

  3. Jennifer says

    I like that idea, too. Our modem, etc. gets so dusty. Boxes would help with that, too!

    • says

      So glad you’re loving the Ikea box idea everyone! Just remember to punch a ton of holes in the top, bottom and sides of each box (as well as to cut a wide square in the back for the cords to exit) so nothing overheats. And opening the boxes a few times a day just to ensure that’s nothing is getting too hot is always a good idea. Especially in the beginning to see if your ventilation is adequate. The last thing you want in your lovely home is a fire hazard!

      xo,
      s

  4. says

    interesting box idea, thanks for sharing! we mostly wrangle all our cords together (yay, velcro zip ties!) and hide them behind the rather substantial pieces of furniture that are our desk, bookshelf and entertainment center.

    a related question that i’d love to hear some input on is what do you do with lamp cords? if you want to put a table lamp somewhere that isn’t immediately by a wall outlet, how do you keep the cords from being glaringly ugly or, worse, tripping hazards?

    • says

      Katie- If you have a floating seating area, hiring an electrician to pop an outlet in the floor under each of your side tables with lamps can definitely solve your cord problem for around $100. We have yet to find another easier (or cheaper) way to hide cords that snake out into a room and become tripping hazards (other than tucking them under rugs when that’s possible.

      Dusty- Great tip about the black tape (could it be electrical tape? or black duct tape?). Thanks for sharing!

      Allison- Just click the link that we mentioned at the end of our post to see a ton of other ways that we store nearly everything in our house (including files, receipts, etc). And as for pens, they’re in a cup on the desk while envelopes and tape are in our thin desk drawers.

      xo,
      s

  5. Dusty says

    We recently bought a console table and put a lamp on it and the cord hanging down was driving me crazy! I ended up using tape and taped the cord along the back of the table. At first, I used Scotch tape and that wasn’t strong enough, so I ended up getting this black tape (not sure what kind it is) and it works like a charm!

  6. Allison says

    What do you do with all your files? I have never seen a filing cabinet in your house. With the several properties we own, investments, and the other normal stuff, we really can’t go without a filing cabinet. Any clever ideas that are very functional and accessible(hubby won’t go for anything he can’t get to from his desk chair)? Also, where are all your office supplies, like envelopes, pens, markers, tape, craft paper, etc.

  7. Tia says

    I’m loving that our new house is pre-wired for media, so both the modem and wireless router are hidden in a box in our closet. This box also houses our cable. Your Ikea box idea is really cute though!

  8. Cheryl says

    Great idea! I’ve been “holding back” on the West Elm Parson’s Desk and it never goes on sale! so I may just cave . . . But I haven’t found anything that comes close to its clean, simple lines and I do want white. Ever tried having a piece of glass cut for the top and then put wallpaper or gift-wrap underneath the glass?

    Have a question two, unrelated to this posting: are you going to take some time off after your baby arrives from offering your Monday design advice for two lucky early-risers? Just curious.

    • says

      Hey Cheryl,

      We haven’t tried the glass with gift wrap or wallpaper thing for our desk because I think we’re both just addicted to the smooth white lacquered finish. It’s so clean and crisp that it makes a great non-busy backdrop for working such long hours at the computer. And speaking of working such long hours, we have talked about cutting back on mood board clients for a few weeks after the baby comes just to catch our breath, but I’m lucky that John is taking a very generous paternity leave so he’ll be here to help me out full time for a while (which could definitely allow us to continue offering weekly mood boards depending on what kind of a baby we get- fingers crossed for an easygoing sleepy one!) Either way we’ll let people know what’s up by altering our note on the Design Advice page when the time comes.

      xo,
      s

  9. says

    Along the lines of Dusty’s comment, a really good tape for such situations is called gaffer tape. Or gaff. Something like that. It’s the kind they use on stage to tape down microphone cords, etc. It’s really strong but will not harm the surface. It’s expensive, but it might be worth it to protect your furniture.

  10. Carol N. says

    I was thinking of hiding modem/etc. in one of those open top cloth bins and just cutting a small hole in the back for the cord to come out of. But I like your box idea and will have to see what I can come up with that will solve that problem. I hate cords showing!