How to declutter cables

How to declutter cables

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Guide: How to declutter cables

We all have cords around the house that we don’t use! But how do you know which ones to keep and which ones to toss? Here’s how to clear out your wire and connector clutter.

You’re not alone if you have a drawer or box stuffed with cords from equipment you no longer use. Just about a third of Britons admit to having an unneeded supply of flexes and connections that they don’t know what to do with. And, as technology evolves and gadgets are replaced, once-common ports and plugs become obsolete, so this isn’t going away anytime soon.

However, simplifying your cable collection isn’t always easy. What if you toss something out by accident and then realise you need it a few weeks or months later? If any of this resonates with you, it’s time to take stock. Use our advice to figure out which wires you should keep and which you may safely discard.

Remember that anything that has a plug can be recycled. Adaptors and cables are accepted in kerbside recycling by certain councils, and even if yours does not, local recycling centres will typically accept them alongside tiny electronics. Recycle Your Electricals can assist you in locating a local cable and lead recycling facility.

Power leads and adaptors

Old mobile chargers routinely outlive the phones they arrive with, and can’t always be used when you upgrade to a new handset. Even if the connector of an old cable does fit your new phone, you should avoid mixing and matching as the cable may supply the wrong voltage. When a gadget reaches the end of its useful life, you’re much better off disposing of both it and its charger through an electrical recycling scheme.

There are exceptions. If you have several iPhones or iPads released since 2012, hang on to your Lightning cables. Before 2012, iPods and early iPhones used cables with a wider connector (called a 30-pin dock connector), for which no new products are being made. So unless you’re still using them, these can be recycled.

These days, non-Apple smartphones and tablets often come with a USB-C cable, which has a connector shaped like a 8.5 x 2.5mm grain of rice, or one of these connectors at each end. Keep these, as they’re becoming common on laptops, too, both for charging and connecting devices like keyboards and mice. There is a move across Europe (backed by European Commission legislation) to establish USB-C as the default charging cable for smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld games consoles, and this is likely to affect devices on sale in the UK, too.

Computer cables

Many gadgets such as printers, e-readers and hard drives connect to a computer using a version of USB, so it’s worth hanging on to a handful of USE cables that redate USB-C.

To avoid amassing more cables when it’s time to upgrade your keyboard, mouse or speakers, consider cable-free Bluetooth devices. When buying a printer, look for one that connects to your wireless network to further reduce cable clutter. Don’t get rid of all of your Ethernet network cables, though: if you have a problem with your Wi-Fi.

Media cables

Televisions, DVD players, set top boxes, streaming sticks and new computers have will all have standard HDMI sockets – usually full-size Standard HDMI, with the same plug at either end, so you can easily mix and match between devices. Hang on to as many as you can – and in particular any marked High Speed, as these can be used with higher definition ‘4K’ (or better) TVs.

A raft of older cables, including VGA, Scart, S-Video and Composite video, can all be recycled unless they’re still plugged in and in use, as they’re less common on newer products.

Old-school 3.5mm audio leads are useful for connecting to some older car radios, but with most new phones lacking headphone sockets, they’re not worth hanging onto ‘just in case’. Neither are knotted-up plug-in headphones stuffed in the back of a drawer as future phones are almost certain to feature Bluetooth or other wireless technologies.


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