I procraftinated today.
Yesterday I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how to organize the paper drawer in our living room. We use this one drawer to store four or five different kinds of paper: GOOS (Good On One Side), lined 3-hole looseleaf, graph, and plain printer paper. Up until now we’ve just piled the different papers on top of each other and sifted through them every time we needed something that wasn’t at the top of the pile.
I thought about plastic paper trays. I tried a few that I had in the house; didn’t work. I have a three-tiered IKEA mail sorter, but it was too tall for the drawer and doesn’t have enough sections for what we want to store. I searched online and found a wall-mount magazine file that could probably just be laid flat inside the drawer… for $100. Nope.
So I started thinking about how I could make something like that magazine file by myself. Thin plywood seemed to be the obvious answer, but I would want to use my miter saw which is still in a box in my parents’ house. After a few more failed ideas (corrugated cardboard held on a slant by thick cardboard wedges? Hanging files?) I decided to try using wire hangers, cardboard, and some fabric to make a slanted paper organizer.
(In case you didn’t know, I love wire hangers. They’re a cheap source of wire that’s strong but easily shaped with pliers and a good strong wire cutter. I used them for my violin and viola hanging rack that we’re still using. I’d use wire hangers more often, but we don’t use the dry cleaners often enough to have a big stash of them. I had to raid my kids’ closets just to come up with four hangers.)
Once I started working on it, I realized this plan could also be used to make a drawer organizer to hold cookie sheets and muffin pans, or anything else flat.
Here’s how to do it:
First, cut your dividers. I used corrugated cardboard for strength and rigidity. Make sure that the corrugation lines are going to be vertical in the drawer instead of horizontal; this will keep your tray from sagging under the weight of the paper.
You’ll have to do some trial-and-error here to find the right shape and size for your drawer. My drawers have slightly rounded sides, so I had to figure out the right shape. If your drawers are square, you can just cut a rectangle. Either way, your dividers should be the width of your drawer by 11 inches high. If you don’t already have a fold in your cardboard, you’ll need to score it 2 inches from one side. If you have cardboard with a fold, make sure you cut it so that you have 2 inches above the fold and 9 inches below.
Second, decide whether you want them to look nicer than plain old cardboard. I decided to cover mine in fabric, which I think is better than paint in this case because it won’t rub off on the paper. Fabric also provides friction so the paper doesn’t slide around.
Cut the fabric to the exact size and shape of the cardboard divider. Then brush ModPodge or clear school glue mixed with water all over the front (the side that will be facing up). Smooth the fabric over the glue and then brush another layer of glue on top of the fabric. Set it aside to let it dry. I moved mine to the front porch so they could dry more quickly.
While the dividers are drying, make the wire rods that will support the dividers. Use pliers to straighten out the wire hangers and wire cutters to cut them to the width of the drawer plus 4 inches.
Create a 90-degree angle 2 inches from one end of the hanger. Rest that corner on top of one of the drawer sides and pull it tight. Mark where the bend should be on the other side, then bend it into a 90-degree angle. My drawer sides are actually square rods, so I was able to wrap the ends of my wires around underneath as well. Do your best to keep the wires in place (if your drawer sides are wood, a staple gun could be useful here.)
Here’s how I determined the spacing for the dividers: I took one divider and held it so that the bottom of the divider was touching the back bottom corner of the drawer, and the fold of the divider was flush with the top of the drawer sides. That gave me the position of the first wire (closest to the back of the drawer.)
Then, measure the distance between the first wire and the front of the drawer. Divide it so that your wires (however many you want) are evenly spaced. Alternately, decide on the spacing you want between the first and second dividers, and then mark that same distance along the drawer sides for all of the rest.
In order to get a sense of how wide the gaps between the dividers, I hung pocket folders from the wires. I chose to have 3 inches between dividers.
To keep the wires in place I used what I had: clear silicone bumpers, the kind you might put just inside your cabinet doors so they don’t slam too loudly. I placed one bumper on either side of each wire and tested to make sure the wire wouldn’t jump out of place when the drawer is opened or closed.
With all of the wires in place, I brought the now-dry dividers inside and installed them. First I hung each one by the fold on its own wire. Next, I used double-sided mounting tape to stick the folded portion to the back of the main part of the divider. When necessary, I used my pliers to bend the wire so that it would fit between the two layers of cardboard.
That’s pretty much it. Some of the dividers look a bit bubbly or wrinkled, but I figure that once they have paper in them I won’t see it anyway. Another minor detail: see how the second divider from the top looks a lot less neat across the fold? That’s the only one where I used an existing fold in the cardboard. All of the other ones I scored and folded myself, and they look a lot cleaner.
I think it looks pretty great when it’s filled with paper. Most importantly, the days of a massive jumble of different papers are over!