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!
Sunny's Life in Rehab says
Love the IKEA boxes as hardware hiders. I wonder if I can talk the hubster into that…
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.
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.
I like that idea, too. Our modem, etc. gets so dusty. Boxes would help with that, too!
We turned a dresser into a custom TV stand where we then could put the cords in the drawers, hidden away from everything!
Jessica @ How Sweet says
I didn’t ever think to hide it with those boxes. We have cords everywhere and it drives me crazy!
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!
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?
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.
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!
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.
Ashley @ Mutschler Family, Dallas Edition says
I copied your exact idea with the Ikea boxes and an ottoman. They hide all of the bad cords!
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!
Heather S. says
I hide my modem behind a potted plant and small fan on my desk. It works great since you really can’t see it!
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for the tip Amanda!
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!
For some reason all of our outlets are under windows or places that aren’t conducive to placing furniture there so we always seem to have cords running along the baseboard a few feet to the desk or the table. It doesn’t seem worth moving the outlet, but are there any tips for making the cord less noticable as it snakes along the baseboard? Maybe paint them to match the trim?
Oh yeah I’ve totally done that with a big black cable cord that used to run all the way across my apartment. A bit of white paint helped it blend right in with the trim!
PVC pipe is your friend. I hate cord clutter too. My desk is one of those Container Store elfa desktops on the white metal round legs. The legs look almost exactly like PVC pipe. I had Home Depot cut a piece of PVC pipe the same height as one of the legs — drilled a hole very near the back edge of the desktop — popped the PVC pipe under the hole and fed all the cords down through it. Oh, I forgot — you have to drill a large hole at the back/bottom of the PVC pipe to feed the cords out of at the bottom. Voila! It just looks like an extra leg on your desk, and is pretty much invisible because it’s at the back anyway. I felt terribly “klevvver” when I came up with this.
So smart! Love it. Thanks for sharing!
Kate @ Domesticating Kate says
Great question, and great response!! I had NO IDEA you were hiding all those ugly computer accessories in those boxes. About how big are the holes you punched? Pencil-width?
The hubs is a total geek, and we have so many wires in our office, it’s ridiculous. I’ve been stalling on figuring out how to address that room, but this post just gave me some motivation. Thanks again!
Yup, we used an exacto knife to cut rectangular “dashes” that sort of look like the yellow lines on the highway (these go all the way around all four sides of the box and also across the top and bottom of the box). Of course pencil width circles (like that of a hole puncher would work too) but since our boxes were already assembled, and no longer flat-packed, it was hard to get a hole-punch to work. Hope it helps!
I have just recently discovered your blog and have devoured your archives. What strikes me most about your house is the lightness of every room. I love the cheerfulness of your home. My problem is that I am afraid of color and cannot bring myself to adequately incorporate it to my furnishings. My walls are light browns and mid creams. I have a lot of light streaming through huge windows. Yet, my rooms are gloomy. I have black bookshelves, a black leather couch, a black, glass and steel media center and five steel and black granite tables. The only color comes from the wine bottles on our rack. I absolutely love modern, contemporary and sleek, but I fail to make it look inviting. It’s like I’m living in a Bachelor pad and I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. Do you have any advice for those of us who are scared of color?
Here’s a post about incorporating a cohesive whole-house-color-palette into your space. And here’s a post about our favorite paint hues in every color of the rainbow. Oh and here’s a post about bringing in color with accessories (which are oh so easy to change, so they’re hardly a commitment at all). Hope it helps!
Kristi W. @ Life at the Chateau Whitman says
We hide our modem and router in a cute basket. It has a lid, and we just set the basket on the floor next to the wall plugs. So a tiny bit of cord shows (only an inch or two) sticking out under the lid of the basket. But we like it a lot more than our previous mess of cords and modems.
wait, is this an old post? either i’m having deja vu or i’ve read this before?
I’ve answered this question a number of times in the comment section of various posts. That’s probably what you’re thinking! We also touched on the ottoman trick to hide cords in this post, but never explained the modem box idea (other than in the comments from time to time). Hope it helps!
Jane @ The Borrowed Abode says
I’m totally addicted to the family of Command adhesive hooks – thanks to them, the huge computer cord was hidden neatly behind my desk. I shared my cord solutions midway through this post here http://theborrowedabode.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/rental-remedy-hooked-on-command/
But I must say – I too love the Ikea box idea. I hate, hate, hate the sight of the modem and wireless internet boxes!
I just finally wrangled our TV/DVD player, etc. cords the other day! I used those velcro strips with the adhesive on the back to attach the surge protector to the back of our entertainment cabinet. It’s working well so far! It keeps the cords up off the floor underneath the entertainment cabinet, and makes vaccuuming under there SO much easier! :o)
Caitlin in MD says
Itss funny that you blogged about this today, because Design Mom did, as well:
I’d love to see photos of the boxes with their hles just to get a clear picture.
We used an exacto knife to cut rectangular “dashes” that sort of look like the yellow lines on the highway (these go all the way around all four sides of the box and also across the top and bottom of the box). Of course pencil width circles (like that of a hole puncher would work too) but since our boxes were already assembled, and no longer flat-packed, it was hard to get a hole-punch to work. As long as you’re getting nice ventilation it should work. Hope it helps!
Home Depot sells paintable cord covers that stick to the wall to wrangle cords. I use one for my picture lights that hang on the wall whose cords snake down to the outlet. You just paint the cover, cut to length, and stick it on the wall. They cost around $5. It’s not invisible, but it blends with the wall and keeps the cord in a nice, straight line.
Yet another great tip. Thanks for sharing Jen!
Michelle "Chaos Caretaker" says
I had to giggle at this post. You are not alone in your cord psychosis. I also have creative storage options for an external hard drive, printer, and the various cords, cables, bells and whistles that come from my husband’s love for all things electronic. In addition to the items that are attached to the computer, one of my biggest frustrations was with all of the usb cords that came with our connecting equipment that we don’t use everyday like cameras, photoframes, webcams, microphones, etc. I did a post on some cord storage that I found on sale at Target here http://www.containchaos.com/?p=315 . I love your ikea box idea…priceless!
I hate cords! Great ideas here all. By the way, Ikea sells a slightly larger box then the one on your desk. It’s shoebox size but a little wider, I think it would fit a router nicely with some room to spare.
Sarah Sarniak says
Crazy? No, that’s genius! I absolutely love this idea so much that I want to go out and find some boxes asap for my own modem and router. Love it!
Meredith K A says
Our big Ikea computer desk, which would look out of place in a living room but is great in our office, block out a lot of the wall, so we have our modem mounted to the wall (it is the Fios modem, and it came with a bracket to hang it). Our surge protector plug strips also had holes on the back meant to hang somewhere, so my husband actually attached that sucker right to the desk in the back – you have to crawl under the desk to get to it, but once everything is hooked up, it’s nice and out of the way.
Another cord-minimizing solution if you’re willing to really commit to the current layout of a room is to install panels in the walls (or the floor, as you mentioned in a comment) and run everything through the walls and under the floor. My hubby is good enough with electrical work that he was able to do this himself, so our entire entertainment system (including xBox, stereo, DVD player, and internet-ready TV) is all plugged right into the wall behind our small entertainment center, including an ethernet port and everything for the sound system. He also installed another ethernet port behind my desk so that I can use a hard connection when I’m working from home, since it’s faster than the wireless connection.
The only problem with all that, and why I don’t think I’d go the route of putting an outlet right in the floor, is that I can’t rearrange my livingroom now. In the office, I want to move my desk from the wall beside the closet to under the window, which I can still do, but then the ethernet port Paul installed won’t be hidden behind my desk; and in the livingroom, I would consider moving the TV (and everything else) to the other side of the room, but the huge panel of plugs and ports behind the entertainment center now would then need to be completely re-done, and the old one plastered over. I think we have the best arrangement now anyway, but it does limit your options to play around with the room’s layout.
Lindsey T says
Another super easy way to control cords is to use paper towel and/or TP rolls. I did a post about it on my blog a few months back. It’s a quick way to keep cords organized and out of sight, check out the post here with a photo too: http://everydayoriginals.com/2010/01/11/258/
So many of you have such great ideas! Thanks for sharing everyone!
Two things I’ve seen that are to take a piece of rigid foam board or the like and attach it to the back legs of your desk and the cords hang behind it and no one can see. My desk is solid down both sides with drawers so I haven’t tried anything other than using ties to keep the cords neat since no one sees them.
Also, if you have a desk with an edge that overhangs, you can clip binder clips to the edge and then bring the cords up through the silver handle part. Then when you unplug it will keep it right there for next time.
DE – J
Not sure if this was mentioned already but Apartment Therapy linked to a great way to organize cord clutter using none other than…rain gutters!
Here’s a link to anyone who wants to check it out: http://www.unplggd.com/unplggd/organizing/use-rain-gutters-to-wrangle-underdesk-wires-088121
Thanks for the link Lauren! Off to check it out…
Dana @ House*Tweaking says
Oh Sherry, I live on Planet Hide Your Cords too! My desk is actually a console…so it easily stores and hides all my computer necessities. I don’t even miss putting my legs under a desk; I just turn my chair sideways a bit and adjust the monitor/keyboard likewise. Plus, with it being a console, I don’t always need a chair there so it can be repurposed at the pedestal table in the same room. I used the glass/fabric topper idea mentioned in a comment earlier. I recently blogged about my desk here…
And with the pending arrival of lil’ feet in your house, I’ve also posted about how I hide all the wires and electronics associated with our Wii here…
I love the little details of how you make your home look uncluttered – always my favorite topic!!
Sherry, what happened to the white recharger/cord box that you purchased at some outlet store on your road trip? I remember it from your video. you said you were going to put it on your washing machine in the den?
Yup, it’s on the counter in our laundry room (it’s in the top right corner so you can’t see it in this shot). Works like a charm though. Hope it helps!
Mrs S says
Wire clutter is my long-time foe. My husband and I finally beat it with a combination of cord management products.
We used the IKEA fabric Signum Cable organizer – only $5 – behind our media center…love love it – no more snakes of wires on the floor. Then we hid our cable box and wires by using IKEA Kassett magazine boxes – cut out a hole or two behind for the cords to go through. Finally, we hid the wires running on the floor to the surround speakers with floor cord covers (same color as our floor) to avoid tripping and unsightly look.
Let me be the eleventy-hundreth person to say BRILLIANT! Love, love, love the box idea. For some ridiculous, wiring related reason, our wireless modem has to be in the kid’s playroom.
Yeah. Bad idea. It’s constantly getting stepped on, turned off and generally messed-around with. I’m thinking in-a-box-on-a-shelf might remove some of the temptation. Thanks!
Although not a cheap-o solution for our media center we got this belkin power strip
It is white and really blends with the base boards. Our TV area just had too many of those power supplies with transformers inside of them to tuck something under or behind it.
Our internet stuff (wireless router, modem) is also in the play room. We have a desk in there, so we drilled holes in the bottom of the desk and a drawer and have the cable cord and power strip going up into the drawer, where inside we have everything plugged into the power strip. The drawer also has child locks on it, so no little hands can get in. No issues with overheating either. Plus everything is out of sight!
Great post! I’m new-ish to YHL and I saw just a snippet of your TV stand in one of these photos. It looks just like what I’m looking for – where did you find it?
It’s from Target. Oh and you can find out where we got nearly every item in our house by clicking the tab that says “House Tour” under our blog header and then following the first link that says “Room By Room Source List.” Hope it helps!
The Virginia House says
Great post! I can never think of good ways to hide them so this is perfect.
K (BarkingBabyMama) says
I never see any outlets in your house? Do you strategically place furniture to cover your outlets?
Nope, it’s an old house so we actually don’t have that many outlets to begin with (and the ones that we do have are located on expanses of the wall where furniture is usually placed (like the corner where our desk is). Thankfully there aren’t any under windows or in other places that we like to leave clear. We actually got lucky in that regard… except for the fact that both of our bathrooms had zero outlets when we moved in (!) so of course we hired someone to pop one into our full bathroom for guests who want to dry their hair.
Ok – so now I feel guilty for having outlets put under mostly all of my windows during renovation (still have a few windows without) to plug in my window candles. :)
DE – J
Ooh those would come in handy though! We always go for the battery operated candles around the holidays, but they never have the same glow.
Then you’ll probably dig this. This Ikea hack is my favourite.. Amazing when you think of boring computer stuff with tons of cords all around the room…All gone.
So smart! Gotta love all that built-in ventilation!
We have those weird hose things that IKEA sells in their home office area. We use those in open spaces, like behind the glass entertainment unit. For other places, we just use either zip ties or if we’re in a crunch the twist ties from bread. I’m glad that you posted this today… I’m getting more ideas from everyone!
Well, I leave my little candles up all year, but do you know they actually sell hard wired low voltage candle systems for houses?? I’m not going that far yet, but I do hate having to invent ways to keep them in the window which that would solve. My living room is nearing before and after picture phase, shall I just send it to your email when it’s ready so you can see?
DE – J
I am shocked that you didn’t name this post “Making Things Cordial.” I just love it when you guys make use of double entendres!
I splurged on my first piece of “real” furniture and I could NOT be happier with it. Everything is totally organized! Space for my computer, printer, office supplies, and files all in one space that doens’t even look like a desk!
Love the box idea! Check out this post by The Sassy Kathy… not my personal style, but VERY creative and outside the box!
Oh yeah, someone shared that link with us a while back and we couldn’t believe how intricate that cord project was. Insanely cool!
we installed white cable channels along the baseboard under our desks (which are 3,5m long!) to hide most cables. The monitor, keyboard etc. cables ending up on the top of the desks are taped to the table legs. For the modem router, power strip etc. we mounted them to a wooden panel and mounted this to the wall under one of the desks so that we can easily add or modify things without drilling another hole into the wall.
However, we are constantly trying to improve as we own a lot tech stuff that wants to be wired :)