Your living room is nearly perfect, except for that unsightly mess of tangled wires. You know the ones- those wires that coil around the room, in front of and behind your entertainment center (and in some cases around the rest of your home). Everything has its place, so why not your cables?
Poor wire management can ruin the look and hinder the effectiveness of many work and gaming computer setups. People can trip on wires, pets can take a nibble at them, and it can make things much harder when you are trying to install a new device or make some adjustments.
As daunting as it may seem, controlling your wires is possible and easy to maintain. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from getting a few tools, setting yourself up behind your center, and telling your cables who is boss. You will want to make sure you can keep track of things in the future in the process, and as such you will also want to make labels and maybe plan for the future. This is not a one-time thing; this is creating a system.
Setting up the perfect cable management system can involve a lot of steps when you are starting from scratch. But with a little persistence, we hope the following will help you get started on cleaning up your setup:
While the guidelines, rules, and tips mentioned below will generally be helpful, you should know what you are looking to accomplish here. When rearranging your wires, you should be looking to:
If you have the time, unplug absolutely everything related to the area you are managing cables for (turn everything off first, though). Keep the wires separate if you can and note what goes where for when you plug everything back in. You might want to do so from left to right or device by device. Whatever works best for you.
By doing this, you get these benefits:
Tying wires together is the oldest and simplest way of keeping things easy for you when organizing your wires. There are Velcro-based ties, zip ties, ties of various colors, and more. Which ones are best is partially up to you, and you may be content with just going with what came in the package or what the wires were originally packed up in. Yet there are so many other options out there that will look better and will make sure that no one confuses your wires with a loaf of bread on top of the refrigerator.
You can also tie up the portions of wires not being used, looping it first and banding it together (likely with Velcro) in order to keep it from sprawling. There will still be wire to contend with and it might not be ideal, but it is much better than the alternative.
Tying things together is especially important if you are managing cables for your computer, given how many there are and how close they all need to be together. Have you ever tried to replace a mouse or keyboard and realize you aren’t even sure where it is plugged in? Internal cable management has its own requirements and best practices depending on your case, but clear labeling, utilizing cables of proper lengths, and not crossing wires when possible all help a great deal.
When tying wires together, you may wish to do so by the device it is coming from. If you only have a few devices and a few wires to go with them, you might just want to put them all together, though in a way that they do not get tangled, and likely with something easily undone (we think Velcro is great for this). You might also want to take all of the power cords together that are heading to your power outlet, or any of the smaller wires that are easily tangled and come from peripherals (sound systems are notorious for this).
One last option here is to tie your wires together and then secure them to the back of your entertainment center or other furniture via clips, some form of adhesive or adhesive clip or strip, or another method that might be best depending on your furniture. This works best for keeping certain wires out of the way when you know they’ll always have to be there and you also have a fair length before reaching the outlet or other device, necessitating a longer wire.
Speaking of longer wires, there are plenty of options available to you for cables, and you usually do not need to stick to the wire that came with the device. In fact, the wire that came with the device might fit, but that’s about it. If you want something sturdier and the perfect length, getting an additional wire is a great choice, provided the wire isn’t built into the device in the first place.
And while all the organization in the world is nice, the ultimate truth of the matter is that a smaller wire is a more easily organized wire, provided the wire is long enough to properly reach the device in the first place. Just make sure to invest and find the best brands for your device type and cable type.
Try to measure how long of a wire you will need when getting things set up. An excellent rule of thumb is to measure how long the wire will run on its intended course and add about eight inches (whatever length is closest to this and is available). And while you want to avoid wires that are too long, it is still better to get a wire with a little slack than one that is too short, potentially causing issues or becoming unusable.
You may need to order some new wires for this step (though some electronics ship with multiple wire lengths), but you can also take this as an opportunity to order some sturdier fare that will last the life of your devices and potentially beyond.
If you do not want the back of your TV to look like a bad hair dye job (which we completely understand), you can instead use small stickers or more subtle colored ties to keep the wires organized in a few categories. Do you want to keep all the wires related to the gaming console together? Just use a green sticker or tag when you bind the wires together (perhaps attached to the tie in some way), and organization will be much easier. This is just an example, and you can make whatever categories you wish.
You can also mark the wires individually with a sticker or marker in some cases, if you know you need to pick out one wire often.
You can be as subtle or as loud as you would like with this, and there are certainly ways you can mark your setup so that no one but you notices but it is easy enough to sort out when you are organizing devices. This will be just for you, so whatever you are most comfortable with is best.
Adapters are a necessary part of many people’s entertainment setups these days, for better and for worse when it comes to cable management. They can be rather bulky, ugly to look at, and make signals poorer, even if they are necessary for device usage in the first place. However, they can also save space, look fine, and be a great part of your setup depending on how you use them.
We recommend the following:
Going by all the above can sound great, but reality can get in the way where your power outlets and available space is concerned. You want to give off the appearance of a wireless room of the future, but that might not be completely possible yet. But with some tricks, you can impress yourself and others.
Some options include:
Cable management is not just a practice but it is an industry as well, with every solution you can think of being sold online at a moment’s notice. Some ties, etc. might come with your electronics or cables when you order them, but these might not be the best of the bunch and they certainly are not your only options when it comes to cable management. As mentioned, there are ties of every color and strength, shielding and insulation of various materials and types, and tons of different covers to work with.
Additionally, there may be boxes or cases that you can put all your wires into, allowing for easy organization and placement. Some might have compartments or slots you can use to organize your wires (making sure that throwing them all into a box is not just putting the problem of disorganization elsewhere, making things look nicer but not actually be any better).
In any case, we strongly recommend you investigate some of the products out there if you feel that ties and the more basic fare are not enough for your collection of wires. There is no harm in looking, and you might even get a kit with multiple options all in one nice package?
While it might seem silly to advocate for a wireless option in an article about organizing wires, sometimes the best-organized wire is one that does not exist. There is just no substitute for wireless in some circumstances, and by going wireless you might enjoy certain things more, such as with a wireless (or only occasionally wired) gaming controller or a wireless pair of headphones.
That being said, often wireless is not the best option. There are usually batteries involved, and you will need to be able to rely on your WiFi network to provide you with a good connection. If you are looking for the absolute best connection, a wire will be your default. There is always a tradeoff, and the exact tradeoff will depend on the device you are thinking about going wireless on.
Though as expected, there is no such thing as a popular wireless cable box. You need a connection and charging point somewhere. Simply minimize where you can and do not agonize over removing as many wires as possible. It can get expensive, and you can likely only support so many devices to begin with. Focus on a few important items that would bring you the most convenience.
Some cables do not take well to being bents or manipulated all that much. If you have a coaxial cable or anything that involved glass fibers or something just as potentially fragile, take care with it. While these types of wires are not as common as they used to be and they will resist bending naturally to some degree, they are still out in the world being used and if heavily bent they can break the fibers inside, ruining the wire. With such a cable, you may need to compromise the integrity of the wire with whatever management plan you are using, though getting the right length cable and carefully using tools can still help a great deal.
To some degree, this applies to any cable. Take care not to bend or twist them too much when organizing your cables. With proper management, you are far less likely to bend them all that much in the first place.
Sometimes to make your setup just right you will need to take a cable across the room somehow, or even take it down or up the ceiling to another floor of the house. This can be a lot of work, though, and can make your whole room a mess of wires or a tripping hazard if you do not have a plan.
So, what should your plan be? For organization purposes, we make the following general recommendations:
Running a cable through a ceiling, floor, or wall (and drilling a hole for it) is a bit more than a cable organization project but making your walls and ceiling tidier is a quicker and easier job than you might think. We recommend the use of wall and ceiling corners when possible in order to make wires not stand out so much. There are several options to secure a wire to the wall, including staples, special fasteners, self-adhesive clips, and others, with the type of wall you have determining which one might be best. If the wire still sticks out, you may wish to get something to cover it up, both for appearances and protection.
There is also the matter of a black cable (or anything in a contrasting color) running across the ceiling is rather unsightly. It is necessary, and in some cases completely unavoidable (think of a projector mounted on the ceiling for a home theater setup), but you can make it better. We recommend using brackets to allow for easy running of the wires, and then using strips to generally conceal the wires from sight (be sure to match the colors as best you can. Again, corners are your friend here. There are cord covering kits with everything you need, so check first before buying all the bits separately.
Most wires are well-insulated and are perfectly safe to organize, especially since you should unplug most things before the organization. That being said, we still encourage you to be safe when organizing your wires and that you check for any exposed bits if you feel that is a possibility (animals can get to wires no matter how prepared you think you are).
Similarly, consider moving furniture so you have plenty of room to get the job done (and be careful about moving furniture as well). If you feel the need, do not be afraid to ask for help, especially if you are moving things around that generally require two people to move easily, or you need something to be held while you adjust a wire or setting.
Finally, if you see an obviously faulty wire, do not try to fix it or make it work. Wires are easily replaced, and the small cost is worth your safety as well as helping to make sure that your devices work properly.
While we are mostly focused on indoor wires in this piece, we also know that there are several of you out there that might need to organize wires outside or might be taking a few things out temporarily for a backyard party or something similar. These few tips might help:
Organizing your wires is one of those projects that you are likely to keep putting off, but you will feel much better about it when it is done. Thankfully, there is not too much to it with the right equipment, and whether you are dealing with your entertainment center, your computer, or even wires outside for important equipment, most of the same principles apply. It just takes a bit of patience, so put on some nice music and get to it when you have a spare hour to go around the house.