Declutter Your Desk

How to hide all those extra computer gadgets.

by Van Mardian (van@decluttered.com)


Scroll to the bottom to see reader submissions!



My desk is now free of extra gadgets!

External burner is mounted underneath the desk.


Actually, everything is mounted underneath using MDF pegboard and some wire.


The pegboard is suspended using these shackles and small wooden dowels. You can get the shackles here (Amazon).


If I need to add or remove devices, I can remove the pegboard by removing the wooden dowels that are holding it up.


Swivel a drill back and forth to create the openings for the shackle.


I cleaned up the openings using square and round files.


Perfect fit:


Trace the openings onto the underside of the desk. Make sure the pegboard doesn't drift during this process. I pressed it up against the frame of the desk and used my other three limbs to keep it in place while I traced.


Trace the spots for the four screws and pre-drill. It's important not to drill too far or you'll go through the topside! And if you drill too short you risk cracking the wood when you put the screws in. Tricky tricky! Update: Andrew King and Tom both suggest adding a piece of tape to your drill bit to act as a marker for when to stop drilling. Great idea!


The included screws were too long so I purchased some shorter 5/8" wood screws.
Update: jamacla suggests using sheet metal screws as wood screws are only really dependable in hardwoods.
Update: If your desk is made from particle board, Tom Tucker, an Oklahoma DIYer, suggests using "...coarse threaded sheet rock screws. You have to make sure that you pre-drill (make a 1/8 inch pilot hole) otherwise you will just create sawdust and a small divot in your desk. I also tried using self tapping screws in some particle board with no luck. The best hold I ended up with was from using some quick dry J-B Weld, better than liquid nail."
Update: Frank Griswold adds: "I've been screwing things into particle board for a couple of decades now. I have about a .5% failure rate with self-tapping coarse thread screws. No pre-drilling needed. The coarse thread is the critical part... You MUST NOT over-tighten: particle board strips out with a hard look."


Finished shackles...


I used 18 gauge wire to attached all the devices. If you tighten too much then the wire will break due to metal fatigue. I recommend breaking a few to see the limits of the wire.
Update: Cable ties would have been better. Amazon sells cable ties of varying lengths: Short - Medium - Long
Keep in mind that you can daisy chain cable ties to create longer lengths. I would personally get a pack of shorts and a pack of mediums.
Update: Velcro is another option. I wouldn't rely on the adhesive type. Any heat may cause the adhesive to break down. Use a staple gun instead. I personally wouldn't use velcro because I don't anticipate modifying the layout often enough to justify the added cost.


The styrofoam was needed to offset the burner and card reader such that they would clear the frame of the desk
Update: Yes, yes, I bent the protruding wires down.


Fasten the wires too.


Creating your own ethernet cables isn't difficult. The ethernet spec calls for a minimum length of three feet between devices, but I've never had a problem with short lengths.
Update: Eric Buhrow adds that three feet is the standard minimum because of the possibility of signal problems (signal too strong?), however, most new equipment can handle shorter lengths.


Devices from left to right: router, cable modem, USB hub, CF/SD card reader, DVD burner, and an external hard drive behind the burner. Attached to the USB hub and not shown: printer, iPod dock, and mouse.


Cost of materials in CDN $:
Pegboard4.97
Shackles (5)16.45
Screws 1.99
Dowel 1.45
Styrofoam 5.27
Wire 3.29
------ ----
Total $33.42



Thanks for looking! Please send me your comments. If you decide to do this yourself, send in your pics!
van@decluttered.com








Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why not use cable ties?
You're totally right! I should have used cable ties. If you plan on doing this yourself I would recommend picking up a pack of short and a pack of medium sized cable lengths. Amazon sells cable ties of varrying lengths: Short - Medium - Long
Keep in mind that you can daisy chain cable ties to create longer lengths.

2. What about the heat dissipation?
I'm not concerned about it. The only things that feel warm are the router (which can be replaced for $20 these days) and the hard drive (which has a 5 year warranty). I don't remember them being much cooler to begin with either. Everything else is cool to the touch. If you are that concerned, you could leave an air space between the pegboard and the desk by using some extra long shackles. This will reduce the amount of room you have above your legs. You could also place a USB fan in there, nearest to the device that you are most concerned about.

3. What desk is that?
It's a "Jerker Desk" from Ikea. It cost $119 CDN excluding the drawer unit. The drawers were another $49 but I don't see it on the Ikea website so perhaps they are no longer available.

4. Aren't you concerned about a certain kind of cancer from the wireless router?
These devices output about 30 mW of energy. Your GSM mobile phone which you hold beside your brain outputs 2000 mW, which is nearly 70x greater.

5. Why don't you replace that CRT with an LCD? That would really declutter your desk.
I don't think of the CRT as clutter. It's big, yes, but that's not how I define clutter.

6. How about a wireless mouse?
I'm really attached to the industrial design of this older Microsoft mouse.




Reader Submissions


April 2, 2007: Another (very tidy) vertical implementation by Matthew Conquergood. He said it cost him $30 in materials and only took two hours.

March 30, 2007: Another vertical implementation by designer Joeri van der Mije.

March 29, 2007: Before and after photos by Steve Casey. More photos here.

March 10, 2007: Marvin De Vera used hanger bolts (double sided screws with a wood-screw thread on one end and a machine thread on the other) and wingnuts to attach the pegboard.

Feb 28, 2007: Stephen Brandon had the bright of idea of mounting his drives in the vertical position to allow for more air flow. With enough tension on the zip ties, they should sit pretty still. Some drives come with holders which will add even more stability.

Feb 26, 2007: Another Jerker desk. Chris Stroud used hanger bolts and wingnuts to attach the pegboard.

Feb 20, 2007: Same idea by Jeff Wilcox. Notice the two card readers towards the front edge.

Feb 20, 2007: Chetan M didn't have enough room under his desk so he rested the pegboard vertically between the desk and the wall.

Feb 18, 2007: Erik Buehler sent me these photos of a very similar project for his Mac Mini media player/internet box. The black box on the topside is an FM transmitter for sending music to other rooms in the house:

Feb 18, 2007. Robert W. sent in this faster approach. Attach the pegboard to the back of your desk using screws. Use a series of oversized nuts between the pegboard and desk to provide room for the hooks to hang. The downside is that the pegboard isn't (easily) removable and the clutter may still be visible.