Over the years my home-entertainment system has grown from a turntable, amp, and a pair of speakers to a multi-component home-theater system with surround speakers all around the room. That means a lot more wires and cables. To say it's a challenge to keep all of that neat and organized is an understatement. But it's also not impossible. Here's what to do.
Organize and minimize
Even tucked into or behind a cabinet, excess wiring gets in the way when you're working on your system. You can coil digital cables to get rid of excess slack, but coiling analog cables and power cords isn't the best idea as it can give rise to hum and noise transfer. So make your wires and cables reasonably short, with only enough slack to let you pull components out to replace them or to change connections.
Planning ahead can help as well. If you expect to eventually connect more gear to your TV, amp, or receiver, attach cables for that now and tuck them out of sight. That way, you won't have to pull those components out and fish for a vacant jack later.
For neatness, bundle signal cables with reclosable cable ties. Don't use the paper-covered, pliable-wire ties that come with plastic bags -- if their covering comes off, they can cut into your cables. And to avoid hum and noise, never bundle power cables with signal cables. For wall-mounted TVs, consider running all your signal sources to a switch box or home-theater receiver in a cabinet, so you'll only need to run one signal cable up the wall.
Your room probably has too few AC outlets for all your home-theater gear; power strips can deal with that. Look for models whose outlets are spaced widely enough to accommodate plug-in power supplies ("wall warts"), and that are rated to handle the total wattage or amperage of all the gear plugged into them. While you're at it, spring for a model with good surge suppression to protect your gear against damage from voltage spikes on the power line. If you need multiple power strips, plug each into a separate outlet -- don't daisy-chain.
With lots of cables, it's easy to lose track of which is which, especially if they're bundled. When my system started getting complicated, I began tagging my wires and cables -- originally with masking tape, later with the neater cable tags available from Cyberguys.com, CableOrganizer.com, and others. Avoid big tags -- they clutter things.
In most home-theater systems, your wires are hidden behind the components you're connecting --except, that is, for speakers and wall-mounted TVs. Unless you can bury their cables in the wall (a job I prefer leaving to professional installers), look for cable raceways at electrical-supply and hardware stores that can be painted to match your walls.
You can just fasten your wires down and paint them. There are plenty of adhesive and nail-down wire holders in hardware, electrical, and other stores. Just be sure they're made for the types of cable (round or flat) they'll hold, and that they are capable of holding the wires in place without crushing them. Don't fasten cables with staple guns unless you use a wiring stapler that takes hoop-shaped staples, or a flat-staple gun with a wiring guide that keeps the staple from sinking in so far it can cut into or crush wires.
If you hide your wiring under a rug, use flat cables made for the purpose to avoid unsightly bulges, and route them where furniture or foot traffic won't crush them or wear away their insulation. Never, ever, run power wires under rugs -- it's a fire hazard.