As seen on Lifehacker

This past week, I encountered two fantastic articles on Lifehacker I wanted to share with you.

First, the article and its corresponding image “Creatively Display Your Cables When Hiding’s Not an Option” made me gasp with delight:

I want to do this someplace in my house right now. Small, adhesive Cable Clamps would be perfect and quick for this project.

Second, “Google Navigation is a Total GPS Replacement–As Long as You’re Connected” is an extremely thorough review of Google Maps vs. a traditional GPS device. I have a Garmin Nuvi and love it with a passion, but it’s good to know that I won’t need to replace it if something happens to it. If you’re in the market for a GPS, you should definitely read the article — you may already have a decent GPS you didn’t know you had.

(Image from Maisie Maud Broadhead.)

Brilliant UK electrical plug concept saves space

I spent nearly twenty minutes wiping coffee off my computer monitor yesterday after performing a Danny Thomas spit-take while watching this amazing video of a proposed design for a United Kingdom 3-pin electrical plug for a laptop.

I really hope this product eventually makes it to the manufacturing stage, as it’s one of the best examples of space-saving industrial design that we’ve ever seen.

In pursuit of the dream docking station

090804-dockMaggie Mason’s recent post on WePC.com “If I Were In Charge: A Docking Station Wishlist” has me thinking about charging stations for electronic devices. For the most part, PC laptop docking/charging stations are unattractive and cumbersome. It’s one of the reasons that I use a second monitor with numerous USB ports instead of a traditional docking station. Maggie describes what she would like to see in these devices in her article:

… I don’t want a mass tangle of wires — there should be individual drawers with gratifying slots for all my gadgets. And like GBear’s idea for a streamlined dockbook, my dream docking station would connect to my laptop via a single, elegant plug.

Simple and clutter-free to the eye, my docking station would also have muscle, with heavy peripherals like DVD burner/player or secondary processor all built directly into the station, which means my laptop can be ultra light, petite, and purse-friendly.

I agree with her ideas and would add that I would also love a back up hard drive dock. What would you like in your dream docking/charging station? Tell us your ideas in the comments.

Control cable-clutter with a monkey braid

An excellent post on cable clutter from The Closet Entrepreneur has been making the rounds this week. It shows how to use a monkey braid (or chain sinnet) to shorten cables so they stay out of the way and don’t get tangled.

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I tried it out with a particularly annoying 25′ 13-pin MIDI cable I use frequently and it works just as advertised. Sometimes the best things in life really are free.

(via Lifehacker)

Cable clutter at Insuracare in The Incredibles

While re-watching The Incredibles this past weekend, I noticed something particularly interesting about Bob’s cubicle workspace at Insuracare, where he worked as a claims adjuster. If you look at the back of his computer monitor, you will notice about 20 different cables coming out of the back. It’s amazing how such a small detail really adds to the feeling of bleakness in his job situation.

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If you’ll remember, the film was released over a year before Disney’s 2006 acquisition of Pixar, while Steve Jobs was still the Chairman and CEO, which almost leaves me wondering if the shot was some kind of subliminal attempt to sell us on the merits of the iMac and its single power cable (at least when used with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard).

Can you think of any other scenes in movies where the disorganization of an environment is purposefully used to create a particular mood or sense of anxiety?

Cordotz clear cable confusion

Reader Tomas recently tipped me off to Cordotz, a cable organizing solution.

I really like the cord identifier straps and the cord identifier buttons for labeling and controlling the mess under your desk or behind the television. Pre-printed labels come with each package, and you can also print your own labels with their DIY sheet. A pack of 10 buttons or straps sells for $10. Oddly, to purchase the items, you need to click on the “locate” tab on the homepage.

CableBox is a box for cables

BlueLounge Design, the maker of the SpaceStation we wrote about back in March, is now selling a product called the CableBox. It’s basically just a plastic box (available in either white or black) designed to hold a power-strip inside to help contain cable clutter.

We admit this seems overpriced and ordinarily we would be tempted to find a simpler and less-expensive solution to the problem. That said, we’re hesitant to pile electrical cables inside anything not expressly designed for that intended purpose. So it’s worth considering, irrespective of the price. It’s also nice to have a more flexible alternative to the Belkin Concealed Surge Protecter, which requires you to use its own integrated power-strip.

Bluetooth keyboard with integrated trackpad eliminates wires and multiple devices

During a recent visit to Chicago, I took some time to setup a Home Theater PC for my parents, which they now use to watch Blu-ray movies and television programs streamed over the web.

Unfortunately, the effective range of their old wireless keyboard and mouse was just shy of the distance between the PC and the sofa. It was also somewhat frustrating to have to use the optical mouse either on the upholstry or a on a knee. A better solution was clearly warranted.

I was very pleased to eventually find the Logitech Cordless Mediaboard Pro. It has an integrated trackpad, so the mouse problem was eliminated. Bluetooth connectivity gives the device a range of about 30 feet, which now lets them use it from anywhere in the room.

Although this keyboard is marketed for the PlayStation 3, it works just fine with a Mac or a PC.

In addition to being a cable-free solution, it’s also better looking than most Bluetooth keyboards.

Christoph Niemann’s My Life With Cables

Artist Christoph Niemann reflected on his relationship with cables and wires on the New York Times blog Abstract City. His distain for cable clutter is right at home with Unclutterer and I’m sure many of you will enjoy it.

The whimsical art that Niemann creates incorporates actual cables with his illustrations. From the blog:

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I don’t even want to get started about the endless varieties of cables, chargers and adapters out there. My biggest frustration stems from a much simpler problem: I use a lot of extension cords with multiple sockets. Although these cords are obviously designed to power six cables, I can barely squeeze in three, since most electronic equipment nowadays seems to sport absurdly large plugs. This reminds me of some very inconsiderate folks one so often encounters on the subway.

Power Strip Liberators can help with this specific problem. For more helpful ideas on dealing with cable and wire problems, check out the posts archived in our Cable Clutter category.

Thanks to reader Emily for bringing this to our attention.

PowerShelf charging stations

If making a charging station (like we recommended earlier this morning) isn’t up your alley, then we know of a product that might interest you. One of our Twitter followers tipped us off to The Power Shelf:

I especially like one of their products that is currently in development. It’s a PowerShelf for hair appliances like curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers.

DIY charging station

I’ve been thinking a great deal about do-it-yourself projects lately (the economy has that effect on me), and wanted to share a favorite find. Blogger Zakka Life posted directions on her site for creating a cell phone charging station out of an old lotion bottle:

Simple, recycled, and space saving — a trifecta of uncluttering!

Thanks to reader Adora for the initial link.

Ask Unclutterer: Cable clutter and wall-mounted televisions

Reader John submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I am mounting a flat screen TV over my fireplace and the cable and electric receptacles are several feet away. What is the best way to eliminate the cable clutter in order to give it a clean look?

The first thing I need to say is that mounting a flat screen television above a fireplace almost always nullifies the warranty (even if you don’t use the fireplace, and even if it’s gas).

Secondly, codes in your area might require that you install a plug immediately behind your television above your fireplace. In many states, it is against code to have exposed wires above a fireplace. I know this is true in Virginia because two of my close friends learned this when they recently had their homes inspected.

Noting these two things, it is best for me to recommend that you hire a licensed electrician to: 1. Wire a new outlet above your fireplace, and 2. Wire HDMI cables (an any other cables you need) back through the wall to a nearby outlet. You might also consider hiring a professional installer to ensure that your TV is well secured to the wall.

You will still need a component console to hold your DVR, cable box, Blu-Ray player, or whatever boxes you want to connect to your TV. Set up your component station next to the HDMI wired outlet. Then, replace the damaged drywall, paint up the patches, and call it a day (or, more likely, a week).

You will have to decide if putting a TV over the fireplace is really worth it: Your TV instantly goes out of warranty, you have to pay a licensed electrician to install a new outlet that is up to code, you have to repair your wall, and you still need a console in the room to hold your components. But, for some people, the time, effort, and expense will be worth it.

Thank you, John, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.