Today I will be talking about getting all the cables, gadgets or technology, organized on your desk. Specifically, your desk at home. Desk organization is a bit like housework; it’s a necessary inconvenience. Once you have finished, however, it feels damn good and almost therapeutic. Sadly, getting all your cables and technology organized on your desk is not as easy as vacuuming, it’s more comparable to cleaning your refrigerator. You will need to plan when and how you will do it and set aside enough time to complete the job. But remember, it will feel absolutely amazing once you have finished!
THE PROBLEM: HOW DO I GET ALL MY CABLES ON AND AROUND MY DESK ORGANIZED IN MY HOME OFFICE?
“My “office” is a space at home that never expected to be an office, and I have to sit there 8+ hours a day with a stack of electronic devices. Even dusting is now a pain as the cables are everywhere. How do I manage all the cables in a Covid office?” Jen, from Brussels, in Belgium
Thanks for reaching out to me, Jen. You are not alone with this problem, that’s for sure. Many companies, like yours, are keeping their staff working from home for the time being. Whether we like it or not, working from home is here to stay for a while. Thus, your home office could be your only office for the foreseeable future, so it must be done right. Like you as well, Jen, many employees do not have home offices; they have a “desk”, which could be the dining table, a coffee table, or as in your case, a small desk in their bedroom. It’s not ideal.
So, in essence, you have two issues. The first is how to adapt your current desk for a full working “office” experience that is comfortable to work at and doesn’t look an eyesore with all the cables and technology. The other issue is that your desk is a temporary solution. I can tell from your photographs that it is an antique. So, modifying it to your modern 20th century needs is not an option. You will eventually return to an office, and your desk will eventually return to its former glory. However, for now, your home office setup is the only office setup you have, so let’s work with what we’ve got and make the most of it.
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STEP 1. START FROM SCRATCH
Clear Your Desk
I am going to ask you to clear everything that is currently on your desk. I know this can be a very anxious moment for all us mortals who are terrified we will never be able to put it all back together. With a little planning first, however, you can do this easily. I will get to the “how” of clearing the technology on the desk, but first I want to explain why.
You have too much stuff on and in your desk at the moment. You also don’t have enough “space” on your desk for all you do on it. Everything fits there (you have done an amazing job getting 2 monitors et al. on it), but it’s a squeeze, and we want to maximize the useable space on the desk. I want you to create an efficient, organized workstation and to achieve this, I am going to have you repurpose some of the prime realty on the desk.
There are some great, clever solutions to hiding all those unsightly computer desk cords and cables. They are all pretty simple to implement and transform your “office” into a functional and organized workspace. Before you can start clearing your desk, however, you will need to make sure you have labelled all the technology and cables on your desk.
Label the Cable!
I want you to label EVERYTHING that is electronic and plugs in somewhere! Go crazy. The simplest way to label is with masking tape. Colour coding the labels is also a good idea. In other words, everything associated with your laptop will be in Blue, everything connected to your main computer will be in green, everything audio (speakers, headphones) another colour. Labelling your power strip or individual cords helps you easily identify them and prevents you from accidentally turning off the Wi-Fi when you just meant to unplug your laptop.
- Label each cable, charger, and cord at both ends, where it connects to the technology and connects at the other end to the power outlet.
- Label each connection point with what goes in there.
- Photograph the labels and cables attached to the technology.
What you label the cable with will depend on whether this is a permanent solution or not. I personally think you should label them properly so that you will always know where which cable belongs. Washi Tape is great for using sticking on the technology itself as well as cables. These Waterproof Plastic Labels are a great solution, as are these Wire Labels that are hardier and equally as effective. It’s a personal choice.
Now that you have labelled every piece of technology, all the cables associated with them, and where they plugin, you can begin the work of clearing your desk.
Before going further, let’s look at what the optimal layout of your desk should be.
STEP 2. DESK LAYOUT
I want to show you the layout of a desk – it has room for your technology and “white space” which is for note-taking and documentation review. You have almost no white space on your desk currently, and your keyboard is either on the desk (and too high ergonomically) or on a table you positioned in front of your desk. Your desk is also shallow because its back is for storage, which means the monitors are taking up all the prime realty on the desk. Ultimately, no one system works for everyone; desks vary in size and design, work demands vary, and everyone has their own definition of what’s organized. In your case Jen, we want to create some white space and a better solution for your keyboard.
Back of Your Desk
There’s a lot of “stuff” back there, and space could be used more productively. The top of the rear shelf can be used as it is currently – for pens, supplies etc. In the bottom part, I am going to ask you to clear out and leave it empty. You can store your smaller pieces of technology there. On a purely aesthetic level, clearing out the bottom of the back shelf unit on the desk will create a calmer vibe once cleared out.
Top Left Drawer
Empty this. Nothing will go back in this drawer. I want you to reinsert it upside down. This will be used for white space.
My home office desk is a beautiful midcentury piece that I would never alter, like you. I have repurposed two drawers so that I have my white space and room for my keyboard. I found a gaming mouse pad that fits the upside-down drawer perfectly so that your mouse and keyboard are on an even, smooth surface.
STEP 3. STORAGE
The blue shelf unit beside your desk on the right side is not being optimized for storage. I notice you have shoes stored on the bottom shelf. Would it be possible to get an under-bed storage bin for your shoes? Here’s a link to a post of mine about under-bed storage.
I have in mind that you can move everything that is currently on the middle shelf to the bottom shelf and use the middle shelf for storing your technology that is not required on the desk. For instance, your laptop; the monitors are connected to it, but the actual laptop does not need to be on the desk; it can be on the shelf on the right. It is also a safer place to keep it. You might also have extra headphones, laptop, mobile phones etc., that need to be kept close to the desk but not on it. Use the middle shelf for storing your connected devices and also your extra technology.
STEP 4. POSITIONING YOUR POWER
A key element of desk cable management is the position of your power bar. The natural tendency is to plug it into the closest power outlet and start plugging things in. This can create a big mass of cables on the floor around your desk. Positioning your surge protector strategically will not only make it easier to manage, but it will also look much better. Generally speaking, there are a few ways surge protectors can be stored for optimum desk and cable management.
- The underside of the desk (not possible for you as your desk is an antique)
- On the floor (not working out for you)
- In a box
For you, Jen, I am going to suggest you get 2 power bars and 2 boxes. I use these boxes myself, and they are a wonderful solution and worth the investment. I am suggesting 2 power bars because I want you to use one power bar for technology that doesn’t move around, that you never unplug. The second power bar will be for technology that you are regularly unplugging (could be your laptop). This way, the power bar that is rarely, if ever used, can be neatly stored on the floor under your desk. You will store the second box with the technology you tend to unplug on the middle shelf of the unit on the right side of your desk which will be easily accessible.
STEP 5. CABLE MANAGEMENT
Now that you know where you are going to store your technology and the power bars for it, we will look at how to manage all the cables. There’s a lot out there in the market for tying up cables, but I have found the Velcro One Wraps to be the most practical, affordable, and durable, not to mention they are easy to use. You can also get them in different colours if colour coding works best for you.
You will use these to bind cables together that are coming out of the cable box. Use them to keep charging cables neat or to tie in excess cord length hanging behind your monitors or laptop. If you buy extra-long Velcro wraps, you can secure your wires around the leg of a desk to keep them firmly in place.
Cable Management Trays
These are compartment trays that attach to your desk’s back or underside to guide and hide cables. They work well but, in your case, because your desk is an antique, I would not suggest you use one. However, if you are interested, I like the J Channel as it hides the cables and is easy to access the wires inside if you need to add or remove anything.
USB Cable Management Hubs
You have one on your desk. The only issue I have with it is that it takes up a lot of room for the number of cables it can charge. You might consider one that lies flat and is black so that it can be stored at the back of your desk. I think this Aukey USB charger might be a better fit for your needs.
STEP 6: ROUTE YOUR CABLES
You can now begin the work of putting it all back together! Don’t rush this part; take your time. All your cables are labelled, you have cable ties, cable boxes, and a photograph of how everything was originally connected.
Because your power bars are hidden, your cables labelled and tied together; everything should look pretty good. Let me know how you get on Jen, and if you have any questions or need to tweak some of the options, we can do that.
You can find more tips and suggestions for cable management on my Pinterest Board.
Free Professional Organizing Advice for you!
We could all use something to look forward to right now. I want to do something that will add value to your life to help you during these confusing and challenging times of lockdowns and working from home. When you are organized, there is less chaos, less overwhelm. An organized home and work environment can bring you a sense of calm, ground you, and help you feel more in control. It is one of the things that we can influence and control despite what’s happening in other areas of our lives or communities.
I am offering a “mini organizing consult” for free, share it with your co-workers, family, or friends. Let everyone know because I want to give back and help you. Now is when people really need it.
All you need to do is complete this FORM, attach a photo of 1 area in your home or office that you need organizing help with. Every month I am going to choose at least one person to work with. Here are a couple of readers I have helped already:
- How to organize a home business stockroom for peak efficiency
- How to organize my students planning notes and supplies while teaching online
Cable Management When You Are Working From Home