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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Computer Accessories

Spring cleaning: Organize your cable drawer

It's time to make peace with the fact that you probably don't need 800 Micro-USB cables.

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The three mouses in this drawer don't even work. Yet I still feel the need to hold onto them. Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Organizing the cables behind your desk is one thing, but now it's time to talk about that black hole you call your cable drawer.

If you're like me, you probably keep every single cable, charger, and adapter you come across - even if you already have six or seven or 100 of the same one -- just in case. Just in case what, though? Just in case you suddenly have 36 Micro-USB devices in desperate need of charging? Yeah, that's what I thought. Let's clean out that cable drawer:

Detangle

There's not much I can say about detangling the massive ball of cables you most likely just removed from your cable drawer, except that you should work carefully and try not to put undue stress on cords when you pull them apart. But once you have your cables separated into, well, cables, you should make an effort to keep them that way.

The easiest way to keep your cables from mingling with each other is to tie them -- wrap them loosely around your hand, twist the cord around the middle a few times, and then slip the loose end through the loop (here's an Instructables guide on how to do this). The only issue with this method is that you risk breaking wires if you wrap them too tightly. Plus, you won't always be able to wrap cables to exactly the dimensions you need for them to fit in your drawer.

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Dotz Wrap ID Cord Wrap Dotz

I like to use twist ties (for everything, really), because they're easy and usually free (they usually come with the cable). You can also use Velcro cable wraps, which are cheap and easy to remove. For smaller, slimmer cables, you can pick up some of these $10 Kikkerland Cord Wraps, or, if you need to label your cables, this $14 Dotz Wrap ID Cord Wrap. Quirky's $10 PowerCurl is a cord wrap that's specially designed for your MacBook power cord -- the adapter goes in the middle, and the cord wraps around the outside.

Purge

Once you've detangled and wrapped your cables, you'll probably notice that you have...way too many cables. You really don't need 83 Micro-USB cords, nor do you need 14 battery chargers for cameras you no longer own. One or two extra HDMI cables is practical; 27 is 25 too many.

Here's what you can do with them:

Sell them

Not all cables are worth money -- a standard USB-to-Micro-USB charging cable rakes in an average of about 99 cents (with free shipping) on eBay. But if you have cables that belong to brand-name products, such as Bose speaker cables or an Apple Lightning cable, you can probably get a few bucks' profit if you feel like putting in the work. eBay is always a good option for brand-name items, because people lose their cables and chargers and look for the name of the item rather than the generic name of the cable.

Donate them

Many charities, including Goodwill, accept cables (especially power cords and USB cables) as donations. Plus, you'll get a (small) tax write-off.

Recycle them

If you don't itemize your deductions, you may as well just recycle any unwanted cables. Your local Best Buy will take your e-waste at their customer service desk (check their recycling site to make sure), or you can find a nearby recycling center on the US Environmental Protection Agency's website.

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Organize

Needless to say, dumping your extra cables in a drawer isn't exactly the best way to keep them neatly organized. So what should you do with them?

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This drawer organizer is for socks, ties, or...cables. The Container Store

If you want to stick to your predesignated cable drawer/box, toilet paper and paper towel rolls are a great way to keep cables in their place: Loosely wrap them, stuff them in a roll, and then store them upright in the drawer. Of course, this takes a little foresight -- unless you've been planning for this, you probably don't have 60 empty toilet paper rolls on hand. Alternatively, you can pick up a drawer organizer like this $10 Real Simple Honeycomb Drawer Organizer from Bed Bath & Beyond, which can be snipped to fit any size drawer, or this $8 32-Compartment Drawer Organizer from The Container Store.

You can also reuse a compartmentalized cardboard box, such as one used for shipping glass bottles. Maybe you have one lying around (no judgment); if not, you can either purchase a case of wine or ask your local grocery store.