Figuring out how to accommodate all the cords that supply your arsenal of electrical gadgets may be the definition of a First World problem, but it's really just part of everyday life in the 21st century. And until solar-powered cellphones and the like (not available in Seattle or London) become mainstream, the problem's not going away. I started looking for solutions when I got an iPod for my birthday and realized I had to keep my desktop computer running just to charge something that's no bigger than a Triscuit. If you're looking to consolidate your chargers, I found six products to help you:
Staples Dual USB Wall Charger: There are dozens and dozens of simple plug-in adapters for charging phones, MP3 players, tablets, etc. The Dual USB Wall Charger from Staples has — you guessed it — two USB ports. Very basic; gets the job done.
U-Socket: One of several hard-wired electrical receptacle devices that combines standard 125-volt plug outlets with low-voltage USB ports. Yes, you can power your USB devices with a plug-in adapter like the one mentioned above, but a dedicated outlet has an sleek, space-age Jetsons appeal. And if it seems outdated in five or 10 years, who cares? It's still a perfectly useful outlet for conventional plugs, which may never go out of style. The U-Socket is installed just like a regular 15-amp receptacle. (Tip: If you install one in your kitchen or bathroom, make sure the circuit is GFCI-protected, or just wire it to a GFCI receptacle using "multiple-location" configuration.)
Duracell Pocket Inverter 175: Power inverters are adapters that plug into your car's power socket (the thing that used to contain a cigarette lighter, before the auto industry decided that smoking is worse for your health than texting at the wheel). Duracell's DRINVP175 includes a three-prong outlet for standard power cords (for charging or powering most things that normally plug into a wall outlet) plus a USB port for charging delicate little devices like iPods and smart phones. I have an older version of this inverter, and it's darned handy. If you get one with a cooling fan, just make sure the unit is lying on a hard surface (not carpet) and isn't getting suffocated by candy wrappers or, worse, cigarette packages.
The Bedford Smart Technology Large Recharge Station: A trim little cabinet that (fortunately) looks much more attractive than it sounds, Pottery Barn's Bedford Recharge Station is a charger and Katie Brown-esque storage solution in one. The cabinet's cavity conceals a 6-outlet power strip (that's the "smart technology" feature) and all the ugliness of tangled cords, while two shelf surfaces on top smartly display your devices whilst they juice up. There's also a storage drawer below for miscellaneous accessories and doodads.
The Sanctuary: A truly elegant charging and storage station from BlueLounge, The Sanctuary is a sleek tray designed to rest on a bedside table, office desk or kitchen counter. A faux-leather panel lifts to reveal a universal charging module that's compatible with 1,500 devices and includes a USB port for your own cord. Where the Bedford Recharge Station (above) is for fans of traditional décor, The Sanctuary is the appropriate piece for the design-conscious, right down to its smallish capacity and largish price tag.
Kikkerland Grass Charging Station: Same function (or, I should say, functionality) as most other desktop charging valets, but this one from Kikkerland Design comes with fake grass.
Carl Seville originally wrote this for Networx.com. It is reprinted with permission.