Papers, papers everywhere, but not the one I'm looking for.
November 5, 2013 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I need the mother of all paper organizers for 45 groups of paper. I'm open to DIY or partial DIY, but due to time constraints, I'd prefer a cheap purchased solution. Detailed requirements inside.

I need a paper organizing device, or group of devices (I think the official name is a "sorter") that meets these requirements:

- Holds 15 separate groups, each group consisting of (up to) 3 stacks of paper, each stack of paper consisting of ~50 sheets of paper.
- Does not allow the stacks of paper to mingle
- Makes the division between each group fairly visually clear
- Makes it easy to see at least the top few lines in order to identify the document in each stack of paper
- Does not allow the papers to sag much, as they will stay there for weeks at a time
- Can fit on a desk surface that is 2' x 8'
- Can be done on a budget of roughly $50.
- Bonus: Can hold 20 separate groups of paper.

To give you an idea of some solutions I've found (but don't meet all the requirements):

I could get 15 of these sorters, but I could only fit 8 of them on the desk, and it would cost $180.

Or I could get 8 incline sorters like this, and they'd fit on the desk, but I'd need to visually divide the top half from the bottom half, and it would cost me $190.
posted by Salvor Hardin to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought was a classroom paper shorter. This was the first one I found that might work on a quick search- each group gets a row, and you could stack 3 or 4 of them to get your 15 or 20 groups. I bet you could find a better price, but at that price it would be $65 or $85
posted by brainmouse at 7:49 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would buy a filing frame, and then have a single hanging file folder for each of the 15 separate groups. Within each folder, I would separate each of the 3 stacks of paper using either smaller non-hanging file folders or cardstock tabbed divider sheets.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 AM on November 5, 2013

Except for the "makes it easy to see at least the top few lines..." requirement, you've just described a classic filing system. Is there a reason why you don't want to use tabbed file folders in an appropriate container? The tabs are labeled so that you can identify what's in each folder.
posted by dinger at 7:51 AM on November 5, 2013

dinger: The reason I'd rather not use tabs to identify them is because the contents of these 15 groups will change every three weeks, and I don't want to make 45 new tabs every three weeks. I also may want to move or switch the stacks frequently, and I'd rather not have to deal with moving the tabs with them.

I'm not a naturally organized person, so increasing the energy required to maintain an organizational system even by that much will increase the likelihood that I will abandon the system. Since it seems likely that there is a solution where I can just see the papers themselves, I'd rather stick with that.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:13 AM on November 5, 2013

It's hard for me to mentally picture a stack of 50 sheets of paper, but this is an old-fashioned solution that we use here for sorting outgoing mail. The papers lie flat and you can ignore the pre-printed numbers.

It's a design that's worked for years, and if you know a crafty person they might be able to help you make your own.
posted by kimberussell at 8:24 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you considered a wall of pigeonholes? A real one, like our office mailboxes, is pricey, but here's a cardboard classroom version. That's got 30 bins, and you need 45, but I mention it as a reasonable starting point.
posted by aimedwander at 8:35 AM on November 5, 2013

Get three of these, stacked on top of each other. Use colored markers (or colored masking tape) to highlight the groups of three.
posted by barnone at 8:59 AM on November 5, 2013

I'd rather not use tabs to identify them is because the contents of these 15 groups will change every three weeks, and I don't want to make 45 new tabs every three weeks

A classic solution to this problem is to label the tabs with a color/letter/shape code system (whatever makes sense to group your segments) and then print out a single piece of paper with the index (table of contents) every few weeks when the contents change. So if you are looking for the TPS Report, you look on the index to see that it is in folder 3Pink.
posted by CathyG at 9:38 AM on November 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

the contents of these 15 groups will change every three weeks, and I don't want to make 45 new tabs every three weeks

If you go with hanging files and three manila files inside each one, the tabs can just be done once and then you use a directory to keep track of them. Label each hanging folder with a Letter (A - O)and each manila folder with a number (1-45 or 101 - 145 if you want the same # of digits). Then you make a spreadsheet or a table on a whiteboard that has the numbers in the first column and then two more columns: the letter where the number currently resides and the name of the category. Now you can just type the new category into the spreadsheet. If you move it to a different letter, make that change on the spreadsheet, too.

on non-preview: what CathyG said
posted by soelo at 9:40 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

These clear stacking trays seem to work on every front except price; maybe you can search out a cheaper version?
posted by xo at 5:40 PM on November 5, 2013

xo, I think that $4 is pretty competitive for those cheap plastic stacking trays.

I would totally use a $10 frame (or drawer in a handily-placed file cabinet) and hanging folders, usually $7 for a box of 25 with removable tabs. I have a $30 hand-held label maker that I use to label the removable tabs; each label takes about sixty seconds to think of, type in, print out, stick on. Similar labels go faster.

Don't want to make labels? Stick your finger in the folder to see the first page.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:44 PM on November 5, 2013

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