Read our Inexpensive ways to tidy up your charger clutter and organize cable chaos, as we review neat solutions and the best cable and dongle cases and bags.
In the supposed Age of Wireless our desks, TVs, living rooms and whole houses remain a viper’s nest of trailing, tangled, tense cables. Nowhere are these wires more massed than where you heap your device chargers for phone, tablet, camera, power banks, and even other chargers. There’s probably a knotty pair of old earbuds in there, too.
In our house this is a drawer in the kitchen (pictured above) once reserved for handy items such as corkscrews (yes, things to take out actual real corks) and foil cutters, non-standard cutlery and cocktail sticks. What days they were.
Now when said drawer is opened it’s like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Arc when Indy is thrown down into the Well Of Souls, writhing with snakes. Fighting through the knotty cables to the corkscrew requires a rolled up sleeve and several minutes of fighting through Lightning, Micro USB, Mini USB, 30-pin, and proprietary charging cables. Sometimes I even come across a FireWire 400 cable, which is then hastily pushed to the back of the drawer again.
Manufacturers hardly help. Fitbit, for example, has a different charging cable for each and every one of its activity trackers. And all of them are non-standard and proprietary.
Apple is consolidating on Lightning but owners of older iPhones or iPads still have to fish out a 30-pin charger every now and again. And don't mention the dongle hell of owners of the new MacBook Pro, which has USB-C slots that connect to nothing but dongle adapters so you can keep functioning– see Best USB-C cables and adapters.
Mercifully many non-Apple products rely on the universal Micro USB cable, which means you can charge most devices with just a couple of these tucked away neatly. That said, we hate Micro USB for its non-reversible form that means you have to squint to see which way round it has to go. For brilliant solutions to fiddly Micro USB and other cable annoyances, read our round up of the best charging cables money can buy, and a couple we pick out for you below.
So how do you tame this pit of charger cables?
Less cables, less clutter
First, reduce the numbers. Throw out any chargers or cables no longer attributed to anything useful in the house. That BlackBerry charger, for instance.
Then ask yourself if you really need seven Micro USB cables? Two Lightning should be enough for most iPhone houses… and one 30-pin for the old iPad. Consign the others to landfill, or that bag of cables in the eaves of the loft that you dig through every five years when a neighbour pops round wondering if you have a power brick that would fit his old Sky DigiBox.
Now invest in some charger cables that feature more than one charging end. This could halve the number of cables to tame.
Tylt has a neat charger cable called the Tylt Flyp-Duo Reversible, a 2-in-1 cable solution for charging and syncing data to smartphones and tablets. It’s equipped with both micro-USB and Apple Lightning connectors – great for Android or other Micro USB and Apple Lightning devices. Micro USB is on almost everything not made by Apple: battery cases, power banks, cameras, etc, so this is a great choice if you have at least one Apple device. What's also great about the Tylt is the main USB end is reversible, so you don't have to worry about which way it goes in – which saves a lot of fiddling. The tangle-free Flyp-Duo is available in four colours (black, blue, green and red) and lengths from 30cm to 1 metre. They cost about £11 from Amazon UK or US$24.99 on Amazon.com.
We also love the Just Mobile Aluminium Cable Lightning Cable, with both Micro USB and Lightning connectors in a very handy coiled cable. It's £27 from Amazon UK or US$24.95 from Amazon.com. This may look expensive but it's small and super useful, plus fully approved by Apple.
Or check out the MicFlip - a fully reversible Micro USB cable that you'll never have to growl at.
For most purposes a short cable is fine and will reduce clutter. Even 1ft is too unwieldy for me. As long as it reaches from the wall socket to the surface I’m happy. You can find 4-inch and 6-inch Micro USB and Lightning cables on Amazon.
Another neat way to kill cables is to move to the best Bluetooth headphones and best Bluetooth speakers, and free up desk space with a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse, although these require charging (usually via Micro USB) so you'll need those cables listed above.
Reduce cable clutter: Lose the plugs, too
Unless you’re charging straight from a computer you’ll need a plug adaptor for all those cables.
You can but a plug with more than one USB port. The £7 Foxnovo Portable 5V/2A Dual USB Output UK-plug features two – bingo, one less plug required.
I’ve also changed one of my power socket wall plates to include not just the two standard plug sockets but two USB slots too. I’d be wary of buying these off eBay or even Amazon, but reputable builders merchants such as Screwfix sell them for around £20. Read our USB wall plate review.
We're also fans of compact wall chargers such as the Zendure A-Series 4-Port USB Charger (above), which features 4 USB ports and has different plug faces for travellers too. It costs £25 from Amazon UK or US$29.95 from Amazon.com.
Read our Best USB desktop chargers round up for more space-saving charger recommendations.
Reduce cable clutter: Pack cables away
Now you’ve cut back on the number and length of your charger cables, you need to tame them. We tested a bunch of cheap cable tidy organisers, and here’s our favourites.
The simple, zipped Damai Universal Cable Organiser is a case made of waterproof nylon that will fit easily in any drawer or cupboard, or just as simply in your backpack or suitcase when travelling. It features ten elastic loops to hold various cables, earbuds, and five mesh pockets for USB stick flash drives and so forth. As a bonus it comes with three reusable Velcro fastening cable ties, and zips up into a neat and tidy case you can slip out of sight.
Available from Amazon for under £10, at the time of writing.
The ButterFox Universal Cable Organizer is a smaller version that wraps up small, and so makes an even better travel companion. It uses a drawstring, rather than zip, to secure the wrap-up bag. Available from Amazon for about £8 including shipping, at the time of writing.
ButterFox also sells the equally lightweight but larger Universal Electronics Accessories Travel Organiser, a zipped carry case with handle that’s more suitable for bulkier items such as laptop chargers and power bricks. It would make a good organiser for travel plug adapters, mice, power banks and other items as well as the usual charger cables. You can see through the mesh side, and there are two internal net pockets for accessories such as memory cards, USB drives, etc. Available from Amazon for £8.99, at the time of writing.
What about you?
If you have any cable-tidy tricks let us know about them on this special forum page.