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 wall 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 Ark 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 consolidated on Lightning but owners of older iPhones, iPads and iPods 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 MacBooks, which have 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?
Fewer 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 iPod you still use every now and again. 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 around 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.
Buy 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 such as the iPhone and iPad. 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. Search for "2-in-1 Lightning to Micro USB" here at Amazon and you'll find a bunch for around £10 or $10.
We 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 buy a plug with more than one USB port. The £13 RavPower 30W Wall Charger features three – bingo, two fewer plugs 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.
Consolidate all your device charging with a desktop charger (read our Best USB desktop chargers roundup for more space-saving charger recommendations), such as the Tronsmart Titan Plus. The Titan is designed to sit on your desk and stay there, rather than go with you on your travels as a compact multi-charger. It features five USB ports, all of which support Quick Charge 3.0, plus there's VoltIQ intelligent device recognition for phones and tablets that do not, allowing the Titan to deliver an optimum charge to suit the device.
Rated at 90W, it can deliver a full 18W to each of its five USB ports simultaneously. This means it will be as efficient with one phone plugged in as it would with five.
If you need the newer USB-C port for charging, Satechi's Type-C 75W Travel Charger is great at home or on the road. It offers three standard USB-A (3.0) ports so you can charge your phone, tablet or other devices at the same time as your laptop (60W). And one of those ports features Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 that offers up to 38 per cent faster charging.
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 are 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 £15, 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 £6 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.
The Evri Travel Pouch (above) is designed to organize and store your electronic accessories while you're on the move. It features nine storage pockets, water-resistant zips and ballistic nylon material, an exterior zippered compartment, removable mesh pockets and carry handle. It's not just for cables but all the bulky power bricks, banks and adapters required these days just to leave your house without everything not working after a few hours. It costs £28 or US$35.
Staggling cables create messy desks and trip hazards on floors. And long cables are the worst for this.
They need to be controlled, organised, and hidden from sight where possible.
A cable tidy will do the trick, and one of our favourites - admittedly at the luxury end of the cable-tidy market - is the Clipper Leather Cable Tidy from Greenwich Design, which costs £30 or $39 for three magnetic ties (and lifetime warranty).