« We're in the Tip Jar! | Main | Not going to ALA this year? »

Managing Spaghetti

If you’ve ever felt like one good bump to your desk and they’ll need Indiana Jones to find you, I can definitely relate.  I remember some of my teachers gushing how computers were going to give rise to the “paperless office” and that everyone’s clutter problems would somehow be solved.  Maybe we’ll get there some day but right now there are days I swear the only thing computers did was to make it easier to print documents and give me even more stuff to stick on/under my desk as well. 

Now, as my desk can attest to, I’m not really qualified to give people advice on dealing with lots of paper clutter.  I can, however, give advice on dealing with some of the clutter associated with the PC.

Cable ties are your friend                                                    Spoon

This is one of the simple, inexpensive* changes you can make though it might require getting a bit dusty  to get it done.  PCs and all the other equipment that’s often attached to them spawn a horde of cables of all different lengths.  Sometimes you’ve got just enough cable to get the device plugged in, other times you’ve got a couple spare feet of cable bunched up on the desk, behind the desk or under the desk waiting for you to catch your foot on it or roll the book cart over it.  Using cable ties to coil up any excess cable and to attach the cables to furniture or even just to each other can clean up a lot of the spaghetti.  Cable ties can be as simple as twist ties to color coded Velcro ones. 

Twist ties are often the cheapest of the lot, they're slim and they can be removed and reused.  They’re not the strongest though, the most common size is kind of short for binding multiple cables and they will wear out after a while.  Zip ties are strong, slim and quick and easy to install.  They’re one use only though and taking them off can be a problem.  You’ll need to be careful if you have to cut off the zip tie to make sure you don’t accidentally get the cables or, if you used the tie to attach cables to something, whatever is underneath.  Velcro ties are more expensive than the other two and can be a bit bulkier, especially if you had to wrap them around a couple of times, but they are the easiest to remove and reuse.  

No matter what you use, you’re going to want to use as few of them as possible.  While “how to organize” picture will often show really tidy cable photos where everything is neatly bound on top of the desk, to the desk every few inches and then again before it gets to the PC, I’ve found that’s only a good idea if you know you’re not going to need to take it apart anytime soon.  Remember that anything you bound together sooner or later will need to be taken apart.  Oh, and from personal experience, make sure you leave enough cord out so you can move your mouse freely. 

Label those cables

If you’ve ever tried to do the “you tug on this end and I’ll crawl under the desk and see what moves” maneuver to try and figure out just which one of that mess of cables is the one you’re looking for, you know how frustrating it can be to find the right cable to unplug.  One suggestion is to try sticking a label on the end of the cable.  If you’ve ever taken a look at the plug end of the power cords for LINK telecom equipment, you’ll notice there are tags attached to the cables to tell you which cord is which. 

The labels can be anything from short color or number coded Velcro strips wrapped around the end, a label printed from a label printer if you’ve got one or simple as a small piece of paper with a number or color dot on it taped to the end of the cord.  You don’t have to stick the label entirely on the cord either.  It may be easier to create a small “flag” and just attach one edge to the cord. 

While you may still have to crawl under the desk to get close enough to read the label, at least you won’t have to try the tug and see game.  If you do go the number/color route, you should either have a standard that everyone knows or have a way to look up which one is which.  It doesn't help you much if you crawl under the desk and then don't know which of the labels is the cable you want either.

These are a couple of simple, inexpensive projects you can do to help make your life a little easier and keep cords from where they can cause you problems as well.

*While you can buy twist ties in bulk, I was thinking more of the ones that are free off of bread, toys, etc.  Zip ties run about $4-$5 for 50, depending on whether you want a single or multi-colored ones. Velcro ties are a little more expensive.  Eight colored ones will cost around $5 but 50 black ones are only around $6.

Just for fun:  While this is a bit extreme, here are a few people who took the idea of getting their PC related clutter off their desks very seriously.  I especially like “Van Mardian’s Decluttered Computer Desk”


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Post a comment