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I like a workflow that flows and I like things to be as uncomplicated as I can make them. That includes visually. So, I was forced into a task that I'd been dreading for a long time.
Have you ever taken a really good look at that birds nest? You know the one I mean, the one lurking under your computer station. The birds nest of cables that you can tangle your feet in. The birds nest that could probably start a small fire. The birds nest that you dread going into when, heaven forbid, you have to unplug a device.
The reason you tuck and shove your cables up under your station is because you don’t want to see them. It’s an unrelenting organizational mess. Like hangers in your closet, cables multiply. So you hide them to not have to deal with the mess. You know, out of sight out of mind. Well that worked for me for awhile, but the day came when I had to go in. I had to go under there and unplug a device.
Unplugging the end connected to the printer was easy, but following the cable behind the station, under the desk, and around to the power outlets, into the nest of other cables and tugging on it to ascertain the correct end, well, that took a minute. Or three.
It seems that it took me longer to find the correct end of the cable than it did to purchase the item, have it shipped to me, unpack it and plug it in.
So, enough is enough.
I determined that I’d had enough of that experience, so I stopped my world. I stopped doing everything I was doing to at least get some sanity into this situation. The question really was how do I help myself? “This won’t be the last time I’ll come in contact with a multitude of cables” I thought as I looked over my shoulder at the entertainment cabinet behind me. There’s just as much of a harder to reach cable mess behind there.
My solution came two-fold. I had a pack of no longer available Label Once erasable jewel case spine labels that I’d come across at the local Micro Center years ago. I’d only used a few of them for, you guessed it, labeling the spines of DVD jewel cases. But sometime after that purchase I started using the ultra-slim jewel cases. So, without a need for them any longer, into ‘the drawer’ they went. You know that drawer. You have one in your home. I won’t call it the junk drawer, because there’s some really valuable stuff in there. But, it’s the drawer were perfectly good stuff goes to sit for a long time, forever or until it’s discarded.
Well, now I had a use for the labels in the drawer. And they worked perfectly. I could write the name of the device on the erasable label and with the label being long and thin with an adhesive backing, I could easily double the label over to fold and wrap around the cable like a sash. This gave the label a little stiffness, so the labels actually stood up, making them easier to read at a glance.
I took the time to write the name of the device on two labels each and placed a label at each end of the devices cable. Whether it was a power cable, a USB cable or a Firewire cable, it got a labeled.
The second part of my solution came by going to the local Meijer’s and purchasing an industrial size roll of Velcro “One Wrap Straps”. And for the next few hours I labeled and coiled every computer and electronics cable I owned so that it did not drag the floor or pile up under the desk.
Now when I need to unplug an item, I know which item I am unplugging without having to trace the cable from start to end. I can just read the label.
So, what happened to those labels? Well, with the popularity of the ultra-slim jewel cases, the manufacturer discontinued the erasable spine labels. This was a bummer to me because the labels gave ample room for me to write in big enough letters to see the names of the devices as I crawled around in the dimly lit spaces under the desk. You see, small writing is no longer an option. Enough said.
I still have some erasable labels left, but as I looked around the web, the only thing that came close to the solution I created was Kableflags Cable indentification Tags, available from various stores online.
Maybe in the future there will something with big letters. 🙂