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How to organize and declutter the cords around your home

Aug 12, 2023

Whether crumpled in a messy pile by your nightstand or climbing up the wall to the TV, a tangle of electrical cords is an eyesore. For those who work remotely, the home office brings even more electrical clutter (as well as more time to gaze at it in quiet irritation).

There is one upside to the fact that this is such a common annoyance: Many people have devised clever solutions. Here are strategies from DIY pros and organization experts for corralling and concealing the cords you need, and responsibly getting rid of those you don't.

If you have cords dangling from lamps or other devices atop a desk or table, get them out of sight by affixing them to the backs of the furniture's legs. To pull this off, Karen Sloan, the blogger behind interior design site Decor Hint, recommends using Command light clips (which are typically meant for hanging string lights). Attach several of the sticky-backed clips along the legs, then string the electrical cord through. You can often find the clips at major retailers, such as Amazon, Target and Home Depot, for less than $1 apiece.

Phone and laptop chargers — which easily slide off desks and nightstands when not in use — are another irritation. Professional organizer Kate Pawlowski, co-founder of Done & Done Home in Montclair, N.J., recommends adhesive cord holders that — similar to the Command clips — stick to furniture surfaces. You just string the chargers through, so they’ll stay in place.

If your tangle of cords is too bulky to be reined in by clips, you can try installing a wire rack designed specifically to hide power strips or many cords at once under the surface of your desk. Ashlynne Eaton, a digital content creator and DIY-er, says she chose one that had to be screwed into place because it's extra sturdy. But other options don't require any drilling and instead get secured with clamps.

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Power strips are a functional way to charge multiple appliances, but the cluster of cords around them is like a plastic snake pit. Why not give the snakes their own tiny house? Pawlowski recommends plopping your power strip in a sleek cable management box, which typically costs less than $30 and sits unobtrusively on your floor or tabletop. There are plenty of options, comprising varying dimensions and materials, including versions made of bamboo, for those who want to avoid plastic.

When it comes to hiding the thick black wires that accompany wall-mounted televisions, there are a range of solutions. Some homeowners drill holes in their walls to thread the cables through. Sloan took a simpler approach and attached a "cable raceway" to her wall to cover the cords. Before mounting it, she painted it the same color as the wall, so it blends in more seamlessly.

Some desks and nightstands come equipped with features that conceal cords, but Pawlowski says you can alter a piece you already own to achieve the same result. She wanted to house a power strip in the drawer of her nightstand, so her husband drilled a hole in the back of the furniture using a power drill and a hole saw (which makes cutting in a clean circle easier). Then, he drilled a hole in the back of the drawer so that it aligned with the first hole, and ran a power strip through both openings. Now, Pawlowski charges her phone and other tech products inside the drawer, using heavy-duty tape to keep the power strip in place.

The most effective way to reduce cord-clutter? Get rid of the cords. Pawlowski says many of her clients have a hard time parting with their old tech and all the accompanying cables. "People's cord bins are often enormous," she says.

She advises taking all of them out and trying to find a match for each one. If you can't easily pair a cord or charger, toss it into a giveaway bag. If you really feel the need to hold onto it, coil it into a neat roll and label it clearly to indicate its use (such as "Charger for old iPhone").

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The cords you don't choose to keep can be easily recycled and the copper inside them can be used to create new wiring for houses or device chargers, or included in circuit boards for new electronics, explains Ray Zielke, vice president of sales and marketing at Universal Recycling Technologies.

"For most of the metals that we recycle — steel, aluminum, copper — there's no degradation to the properties of the metal if you recycle it one hundred times," Zielke says.

Responsibly disposing of cords may be as simple as putting them into your regular recycling. "Most of the time you can recycle those in your household recycle bin with your cardboard and plastic," Zielke says. If you’re not sure, check with your local recycling service to confirm.

Otherwise, you can take cords and other e-waste directly to a materials recovery facility or company that specializes in recycling electronics, such as Zielke's. To learn more about e-waste options in your area, check the database Call2Recycle or the Environmental Protection Agency's website. Best Buy also has an e-waste program that allows people to either recycle or trade in their old tech products.

Annie Midori Atherton is a writer in Seattle who covers culture, lifestyle, business and parenting.