A little over a year ago, I moved to New York, into an apartment that might generously be described as “compact.” With no space to spare for a proper desk, here is a list of everything I keep on my nightstand:
• My phone
• My personal laptop
• My work laptop, stacked on top of my personal laptop because there isn’t enough surface area for them to sit side by side
• A hair straightener
• A glass of water, because I like to live dangerously
Because most of these devices require regular battery replenishment via charging cord, for many months the floor next to my bed resembled a snake pit, literally and metaphorically. After a rather harrowing incident in which I tripped over the tangle and nearly rendered myself and my electronics, uh, out of order, I decided it was time to embrace an organizational concept known as “cable management.”
The world of tools designed to wrangle your cables into submission is vast and varied, with options ranging from insulating mesh sleeves to stylish decorative boxes to heavy-duty under-desk racks. But I wasn’t dealing with a home-office setup or a triple-monitor gaming arrangement; I just needed to shorten some trailing cords so they wouldn’t pose such a potent safety hazard. A plastic zip tie or a strip of Velcro would have done just fine, if such fixes weren’t so lacking in the aesthetic department.
Conveniently, I found a better-looking alternative while getting a key copied at Lowe’s: I moseyed over to the “Chains, Ropes, and Tie-downs” aisle, just to survey the selection, and ended up picking up a variety 12-pack of Nite Ize gear ties. They tickled my fancy thanks to their eye-catching colors, from cobalt blue to lime green to traffic-cone orange, as well as the wide assortment of sizes ranging from three inches to 18 inches long. Similar to a paper twist tie, the gear ties are threaded with a flexible steel-wire core that holds its shape and can bend every which way, but their exteriors are sheathed in a thick, grippy rubber ensuring the ties can be reused for years to come. At the very least, I thought, some light color coordination would help minimize the time I spent pawing through the jumble in search of the right plug, so I took them home, bundled my cords into four hasty loops, secured each with a gear tie, and voilà — my issue was resolved. Now … what to do with the eight ties I had left?
I left them languishing on my trusty all-purpose nightstand for a couple weeks. But then one day, during a particularly dull Zoom call, I picked one up and started to fiddle with it, twisting and coiling the tie in my hands. As it turns out, they’re the ultimate fidget toy: far superior to any spinner, popper, or other gewgaw that’s expressly intended to keep your hands busy.
In middle school, I went through an intense friendship-bracelet phase, braiding together colorful strands of embroidery thread for all my friends, and I soon found myself slipping into the same soothing, repetitive motion with the gear ties whenever I was watching Netflix or trapped in a meeting. Since I had used all the three-inch ties for my cables, I was mostly playing with the 12- and 18-inch ones, which have a slightly thicker diameter; there’s something about the smooth, fluid motion of the wire, which has a pleasing, just-right level of resistance, and the feel of the textured rubber that makes them addictive to the touch. I would wrap them around my fingers, curl them around my wrist, or twist them into a striped candy cane before unraveling them and starting all over. Plus, since the ties are completely soundless (unlike, say, a noisy pop fidget), no one in those meetings was ever the wiser.
Eventually I discovered even more functions for the gear ties: When I ran out of chip clips, I used one to keep my half-eaten bag of salt-and-vinegar fresh and crunchy. When I couldn’t find a pants hanger to air-dry my good underwear, I bent a couple into an S-shape and hooked them over a regular hanger. When the zipper pull on my tote bag broke, a gear tie made for a fine replacement. (Plenty of outdoorsy online reviewers report that they’re also perfect for securing water bottles to backpacks and anchoring tents to stakes; as I am not someone who sleeps on the ground voluntarily, I cannot personally attest to their efficacy within these contexts, but I have no doubt they are as handy and reliable as the reviewers claim.)
If you suffer from fidgety fingers, wring your hands over tossing single-use twist ties, or suspect that the Gordian knot of cables on your floor is gaining sentience, get yourself a pack of Nite Ize gear ties at once. I promise they can tackle any and all problems you’re facing — including ones you didn’t even know you had.
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