How to Organize Your Tech and Purge That Random Box of Cables

While it is an absolute privilege to lay hands on the latest tech, my home as a gadget reviewer often resembles a warehouse. Piled high with cardboard boxes and cables trailing everywhere, just getting to my desk is a battle on some days. Every surface is littered with chargers, security cameras, routers, and phones. To manage the flow of devices and preserve my sanity, I had to get organized.

I won’t lie to you. It’s not fun to purge your random cable collection, sorting stuff into labeled boxes, and letting go of old gadgets you no longer use. But you can benefit from my experience, and I promise it will make your life easier. It’s tough to start, but once you have a system, you will never return to the chaos.

Start With Your Box of Random Cables

Photograph: Simon Hill

We all have a box of random cables—a tangled mess that we lug with us on every house move and rarely, if ever, delve into. This box is the heart of your messy tech problem. It is the ultimate symbol of gadget chaos. Face the facts. You will never again use the charger for your long dead Nokia 8110. You do not need that weird printer cable from the printer you smashed in a justifiable fit of rage a decade ago. You will never need more than 10 Micro USB cables.

Start your new life here. Break the back of this box, and you are well on your way to an organized tech nirvana. Untangle and sort your cables into matching piles. Use cable ties or rubber bands to roll them up neatly. Place your cords into boxes labeled by type. I repurposed old circular plastic takeout containers, as they are the right shape for coiled up cables. We now have a row of easy to access containers bearing legends like HDMI, USB-C to USB-C, USB-A to Micro USB, and so on. Ziploc bags or even toilet roll tubes can work too.

For the weird leftover cables, my wife laid down a simple rule: If you don’t know what it is, you are not allowed to keep it. Purge those random old cables, and you should end up with a modest box of one-offs that you can grab without a frustrating search. To level up your organization, write what each cord is on a white sticky label and wrap them around the cable.

Before we move on from cables, consider organizing and hiding the ones in use with our cable management guide.

Sort Your Boxes, Manuals, and Accessories

Photograph: Simon Hill

Many gadgets come with a box that includes accessories, a manual, and maybe a setup code that you are definitely going to need later but will never be able to find. If you have the space, I highly recommend keeping the original box with all that stuff still inside. Not only does this make it easier for you to find that accessory or QR code, it also makes it easier to pass on, donate, or sell the gadget when you no longer need it. Devices with the original boxes and accessories always command higher fees, and having the original manuals and accessories makes life much easier for the next owner.

If space is tight, break down the boxes or decant the contents into smaller containers and label them. If you don’t want to keep this stuff, or worry you won’t be able to dig it up again, take a photo of the box with the product name and a pic of the QR code or any other pertinent info. If they sit together in your camera roll, it will be easier to find them later. Scanning a decent photo of the QR code works just as well as the original code, but make sure your pic is in focus.

Backup and Wipe Old Gadgets

There’s a brief window when you stop using a gadget, before it hits the junk drawer or takes up residence in the garage, when you can do a couple of things that future-you will be thankful for. Extract anything you might want and wipe the gadget. By wipe, I mean delete the data on it, but cleaning it is also a good idea. If the device has any data you might want to keep, like old files or photos, back it up now. You can start with our guide on how to back up your digital life.

If you are sure you won’t use it again, wiping a gadget before you store it can save you a world of pain. Factory reset the device and remove it from the app, because two years from now, when you dig it out to give away, you will likely have a new phone that doesn’t even have that app installed. Having to charge, power up, and reconnect an old device before you can pass it on can be daunting enough to dissuade you entirely.

Sadly, if you didn’t wipe it properly before you stowed it, you must run through this process before giving it away, or you may put your privacy at risk. We have guides on how to factory reset your phone and how to reset your computer. The saving grace is that it can be a lot of fun to find old forgotten photos or those weird short stories you forgot you wrote.

Organize Your Storage

Photograph: Simon Hill

Your chances of finding specific devices again when you want them drop dramatically if your old gadgets go into a disorganized pile of stuff. Categorize your gadgetry and sort it into rough zones in your loft or wherever you’re keeping it. Grouping similar gadgets together will save time later, and if you can pair gadgets with original boxes, accessories, and manuals, even better.

You can group small devices like phones into boxes and label them with an inventory of what’s inside. Even if you simply write it on the box lid with a Sharpie, it will make it much easier to find again. Sealable plastic tubs work best to protect the contents, and are usually stackable. There’s some work in setting this up, but you only need to do it once, and it will be far easier and faster to stow and find things in future.

Just Get Rid of It

When you hunt for gadgets to get rid of, don’t forget to check under your TV, the nightstands, and kitchen cupboards. Freeing up space in these areas can be deeply satisfying, making your home neater and making it easier to get to the things you actually do use. The simple act of decluttering can be cathartic.

During this process, you probably discovered some boxes and accessories for gadgets you don’t even own anymore. It’s time to throw them away, but before you do, take inventory and see what else you can let go of. Now that you have everything organized, ask yourself: When did you last use it?

We tend to hang on to old gadgets for too long, and they depreciate in value. Whether you want to make a few extra bucks, or simply extend the useful life of a device, the best time to sell or pass it on is today. The longer you wait, the less likely anyone will get value from it. There’s also the risk that your old gadgets get wrecked when your basement floods, and old batteries can expand and leak.

Once you have a pile of old gadgets and cables you have decided to purge, read up on how to responsibly dispose of your electronics. Many devices can be sold, refurbished, and continue to be used. Family, friends, neighbors, and charities are often grateful for donations. We also have guides on selling used tech, trading in your old iPhone, and selling smartwatches or fitness trackers.