Laptop bags are not only the purveyors of all our tech when we’re out and about, they also contain some dark secrets. For example, chuck a cable – any cable – into a laptop bag and it’ll emerge tangled, with at least one knot. Or dump any one of your accessories in a bag and you’ll spend the next four years trying to find it again.

Thankfully, there are some basic measures that can be taken to help keep tangled cables and lost peripherals to a minimum. With a collective 50 years of lugging around and unpacking laptop bags, the htxt.africa team has assembled three great tips (and one life-saving product) for keeping frustration to a minimum. Not only will these pack hacks keep things organised, you’ll also end up with a bit more free space. You know, for stashing even more junk.

1) Packing pouches

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First thing’s first: all those loose items, like memory sticks, USB drives, connectors and cleaning cloths need to get stashed. Since they’re too small to have just floating around, get little bags for each of them. Even if you have a laptop bag with several compartments (like the Crumpler laptop bags) you’ll still want to keep these little bits and bobs in a self-contained pouch. We’ve used some accessory pouches that were liberated from cleaning kits and – gasp – make up sets. Hey, don’t judge. They do the job. Alternatively, get some resealable bags that are big or small enough to accommodate all the oddly-shaped things floating around in your backpack.

2) Tidy tins

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“Haha, this is silly, why don’t you just chuck all those cables in the same bags you suggested before!” I don’t hear you say. Well Sherlock McInternet, that’s because – as you’ll well know – cables take on a life of their own and start having a USB orgy when sharing a communal space.

To prevent that you want every cable in its own compartment – we’ve repurposed some tins used for storing pellets as well as mint containers. Another alternative would be pill bottles. These serve three purposes. Firstly, it keeps them from mingling and getting out of hand. Secondly, you can conveniently remove a mint tin from your bag without the cable snagging on everything else you’ve stored. Lastly, those dock and USB connectors remain safe and out of harm’s way.

3) Tie ’em up

cables

Right after duct tape, cable ties are (handy)man’s best friend. Seriously, those twist ties you hastily remove from all your new gadgets have more uses than littering the floor and choking your pets. Keep them (maybe stash all of those you collect in a spare mint tin – see above) and reuse them for all the bigger cables that don’t fit in smaller containers. Laptop chargers and power cables are bulky, but can be tamed with twist ties or even cable ties. If you want to get real fancy, hardware stores sell special velcro cable ties that can be cut to size and adjusted to fit almost anything.

4) Get a grid

grid

If you still have more stuff than can be contained by the measures above, our favourite bit of organisation tech is Cocoon’s Grid-IT system. These are metal frames with a number of interwoven fabric elastic bands, designed to hold your tech in place. The vertical and horizontal bands can be used to keep chargers, cables, cameras, phones – heck, we’ve not found any reasonable bit of tech that these won’t keep in place. They’re available in various sizes too, so if you have a big backpack or a small messenger bag, you’ll still be able to get the convenience of a grid organiser.

Result? Far less clutter than before.

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Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.