Saturday, March 22, 2014

Docking station DIY

Hi there. Remember me? I know, it's been a while. I missed you too.

Things have been crazy since painting season ended. Hubby was shipped off to San Diego for 7 weeks, the kids and I flew out and visited him in the middle and that was an adventure and a half let me tell ya. He missed Thanksgiving but was home for Christmas and then was shipped off again in the beginning of February and missed our daughter's birthday and mine. Thankfully, he's back now and while it's been a brutally cold and snowy winter here in the northeast and spring is slow to push back the sun is finally shining again and I've had the itch to take on a project.

You know that jumble of cords from phone and tablet chargers to hand held gaming devices and ereaders everyone seems to have in some communal and often high-traffic area of the house? I have one too, right on my kitchen counter and it's really been ticking me off. I've seen lots of inventive and cute ways to deal with this on Pinterest but none seemed right for my household. The cute fabric or washi tape covered pockets that can be hung right on an outlet (here) puts all these electronic goodies in grabbing reach of my almost 3 year old (most of my outlets are near the baseboards) or couldn't hold the MANY devices that need to be plugged in at once. I do not have enough counter space to forfeit for a stand-alone unit (here) although this is an especially adorable solution. Living with the chaos was really starting to irk me though so I came up with my own idea.

My goal was to suspend a letter tray or shelf of some kind from underneath my kitchen cabinets directly above my outlet. I found an inexpensive wire mesh letter tray from Walmart for about $4 and since it didnt have anyway to suspend it I cut out some slots on the side with my Dremel.

Cheap wire letter tray: check.

"Expertly" cut slots in side: check.

The cabinets have a little plastic support piece in the middle along the wall so the letter tray couldn't mount flush against the underside like I originally wanted. I decided to use hooks which would allow it to hang an ever-so-small amount below the plastic piece while still being completely out of the way. This also allows a small space between the tray and the underside of the cabinet to run each cord up and over the back edge of the tray without pinching it (too much).

Kind of a tight squeeze but it worked.
Then I just pre-drilled some holes (after carefully marking where the screws would need to go) and screwed them in. There was very little wiggle room under there so I screwed in the back two screws and then hung the wire tray on them with the corresponding back slots I had cut. I wasn't really sure how I was going to get the last screw in the last slot since there was no more room for tipping the letter tray but I was able to rotate the screw out of the way to get the tray in the correct location and then turn the screw back towards the letter tray and pop it into the slot with my thumb. This isn't easy to describe but if you ever try to mount something that doesn't bend or flex onto 4 exact points you'll know what I mean.

You can see the plastic piece on the cabinets that threw me for a loop in this picture.

Out of the way, just like I wanted.
Once hung I dug out every charger I had and starting seeing how my electronic devices would fit. I quickly discovered that 1). I still only had 2 plugs in my outlet and about 6 devices that I wanted to plug in and 2). Cords were still everywhere. Hmm. Never one to give up, we picked up an outlet multiplier with USB plugs for our iPhones and Kindles (this bad boy right here) the next time we were in Walmart. Like most of our projects we were squeezing it in between lots of other things so once we got the multiplier plugged in we left it there, chaotic cords and all.

A few days later I finally started trying to figure out how to deal with the cords hanging between the outlet and the mounted tray. I tried wrapping and taping them into bundles but that just made lots of bundles hanging down (=ugly). Finally I got the idea to use some binder clips and thumb tacks I had already to gather the cords together and run them in an organized way up the wall and behind the mounted tray. It's not sophisticated and I'm pretty sure Nate Berkus or Martha Stewart could do a better job in their sleep but it works and it looks about 150% better than it did before. I'm calling that a win!!

That's right, I'm rocking brightly colored office supplies.

I'm sharing this project not because it's a sleek and adorable way to organize your cord chaos but because I did something that didn't require a whole lot of work and works well. More importantly it's something that those of you with no available horizontal real estate can do for a few bucks and it's a particularly good solution for people living in apartments (get your land lord's permission before drilling holes in your cabinets).

Lessons Learned:

1). It's best to plan out the whole project before you start so you don't get part way through and then realize your amazing installation doesn't completely solve your problem. But no biggie, necessity is the mother of invention and I like to fly by the seat of my pants ;)

2). Don't be afraid to experiment and try some crazy idea you may have. Functional and HELPFUL doesn't have to look perfect so don't let some mismatched office supplies stop you from trying something out. If this kind of visually mismatched solution drives you nuts (or you're looking for a more permanent and attractive solution) than those little cable clips with the the attached nail (like these) would be a great solution. I know we have some somewhere but couldn't find them so I went with the binder clip/thumb tack solution because I'm impatient and not motivated enough to dig through our storage room disaster. But I digress... The cord clips would allow you to run your cords neatly and efficiently without being so noticeable. You could even paint the clip part your wall color and run the cords behind an appliance or in the corner of two walls allowing you to hide them even better. As a matter of fact, I might do this when I find those little buggers!

Remember: functional doesn't have to be perfect and with a little thought an idea you see online or in someone's home can be adapted and changed to fit your personal needs. Good luck and go organize something!


  1. I was disappointed that you didn't install induction chargers. then you would only need 1 or two cords and you never have to fiddle with plugging in the devices as well. Get Dave one it imo.

  2. We've talked about that kind of charger before but we have too many devices that are often all plugged in at once. Between the 4 of us we have 2 iPhones, 3 Kindles, a 3DS and a Leap Pad plus the house phone. Also, we just don't have any more available counter space for that kind of charger and with the suspended tray we have space to stack devices while they are charging and still be up and out of the way. Someday when we have a big house with lots of space we'll have fancy chargers like that ;)

  3. The charger is basically a flat mat, you can put it on the bottom of the tray and have it charging everything but stuff you stack.