Do you have a box of cables that you don’t know what they are or what they belong to?  Do the cords around your tv or entertainment center look like a mass of spaghetti? Do you have cables attached to power strips that are not attached to any device? Maybe they are attached to devices but you can’t figure out which device goes to which plug?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a cable organization dilemma!  First let me say that you are not alone.  So many of my client’s homes have this same issue. They aren’t tech savvy so the thought of pulling a plug from, well, anything makes them nervous.

The list below shows the majority of the types of cords most of us would have in our homes.  The intent is so that you can identify the types of cables you have.  Power supplies are tricky because most of them have no identifiers on them.  If they get separated from their device, it’s anyone’s guess what they belong to!

  • Power supplies – tv’s, stereo’s, dvd players, cordless phones, cell phones, gaming devices, etc., any power cord that can be unplugged from an electronic device.
  • Coax – typically used for cable television. They are round with a metal connector that has 1 pin in the center.
  • Phone cables – these are flat with little clear plastic connectors on each end where you can see multi-colored wires.
  • USB – most computers, including smart phones, use these to connect devices to the USB ports on your computer. They are round with metal rectangular connectors that have a little plastic strip on the lower end of the connector.
  • Ethernet – without getting too technical, these cables connect your computer to the internet. If you have Wi-Fi in your home you shouldn’t need multiples of this type of cable, 1 will suffice in case you need to connect directly to the internet. They come in different colors and the word Ethernet is typically printed on the cable. They have clear plastic connectors on each end that look like phone cable connectors but they are bigger.
  • HDMI – these cables are used to connect devices to a smart tv, such as a cable tv box. They are typically black and round and their connector looks similar to a USB cable connector, except the bottom side of the connector has rounded edges.
  • A/V – these are audio visual cables and connect audio visual devices to your tv, such as cable tv boxes and dvd players. The cables are typically black and round. They have 3 metal connectors with plastic covers in yellow, white and red.  The ports on your tv have the corresponding colors so you know where to connect them.

Now you should be able to identify most of the cables lurking in the nooks and crannies of your home. The other cables are likely keeping your electronic devices working as designed, more on that later.

We will start by using the steps in the organizing process, and the first step is to put like items together.  This gives you an idea of how many of each type of cables you have.  After you do that, determine how many of each type of cable you need. For example, if you have 3 tv’s, you will need 1 of each type of cable that is required for each tv.  It’s always a good idea to have 1 or 2 extra’s for backups in case a cable should become defective, and that does happen.

The next step in the organizing process is to eliminate the excess.  Discard your excess cables by taking them to an electronics recycling facility.  You can do an internet search to find nearby facilities. In Missouri the Midwest Recycling Center holds electronics recycling events throughout the year where you can take your unwanted electronics, including cables to be recycled.  If you have cables that you can’t identify, chances are that you no longer have the device it goes to, and it can be let go.

Now that you have eliminated your excess cables, it’s time to assign homes for the keepers.  You should have a significantly smaller amount than when you started this process. Typically, I recommend storing all items associated with a category in the same area.  Since ‘cables’ is a category of its own, and can be associated with different types of devices, I recommend storing all the cables together.  Where you store all of your cables will depend on the storage that you have available.

When you determine where your cables will live, the next step is to containerize and label the keepers. Clear shoebox size containers and zippered plastic bags work well for storing cables, that’s what I use.  If the amount of your cables is too large for smaller containers, you could get the 66-quart clear containers.

Use bread ties to wrap up a cable and put it in a zippered plastic bag. Label the bag with the type of cable and the device it belongs to if applicable; some cables can be used for multiple devices.  Put the plastic bags in the container or containers, and you could label the container so that you can see the contents at a glance.

As mentioned earlier in this post, you will want to do something with the nest of cables connected to your devices. It’s a very good idea to label each device plugged into the power strip for many reasons.  The number one reason is so that you can easily find the correct cable when required. Power strips, or surge protectors are those strips of outlets to plug in multiple devices.

If you don’t know which plug goes to its device, power off all the devices in the power strip, unplug a plug and follow the cable to the device.  There are many options for labeling, such as these options on Amazon.  Something as simple as the square plastic ties that come on some loaves of bread works well.  I have a label maker and stick a label on the plug itself.

You can use wire bread ties to bundle the excess cable to avoid tangles and create an organized appearance. If you label the plug and bundle the excess when you initially plug in a new device, you can avoid the spaghetti effect.

What is your strategy for dealing with your cables?