Tuesday, February 9, 2016

20 Do it Yourself: Paper Sorting Organizer

Hello everyone!  How was your weekend?  I just returned home from a whirlwind trip to Texas to hang with my pal, Cassie.  She had a fun organizational project in the works and I couldn't miss out on the fun.  So we sorted, labeled and ate delicious Tex-Mex multiple times per day.  I can't wait to share more about her project this week; so start preparing to experience new organizational highs unlike any you have felt before...

While Cassie's closet included a lot of planning and thinking, today's project was THE BEST happy accident.  It was not at all planned; it was about as last minute as they come.  It turned out to be pure organizational gold in my eyes, so I thought I would quickly share more about the DIY paper sorting system shared in our recent charging station cabinet post.  And by "more" I mean how we made it!

This post wasn't quite planned so a few photos from the beginning of the process are missing, so I will do my best to explain things in detail.  And the reason for the unplanned post is because this project was also unplanned.  It was the result of my husband getting creative out of my desperation.

We tend to work on our projects late into the night, after our boys are tucked soundly into their beds.  Organizing the charging cabinet was no exception.  I was in the process of trying to get a plethora of things done before heading away for a few days, and as I was putting together our charging cabinet, I hit a few walls.  First, I didn't initially plan for the small shelving pocket to be created to hold the power strip and excess bulk of cords.  That added shelf impacted my initial plans to use magazine files for the boy's homework slots, they were now too tall to fit.  My next plan was to scour my personal office supplies; surely I had paper sorting trays coming out of my ears.  I was able to hunt down two of this kind... one of that kind... and even a few that were too deep for the cabinet.  None that actually stacked nicely together or truly fit the cabinet specs.  You know how it goes.

The last thing I wanted to do was spend any more money because the charging organizer was already a bit pricier than I initially thought it would be.  It was time to get creative.

Bryan always knows when something is bugging me.  He is good at reading me and knowing just the right time to swoop in with a solution.  Traveling for a few days is always extra stressful for me, and he knew I really needed to get this cabinet finished up so I would have time to photograph everything before heading to the airport the following day.  Out to the garage he went.

And wouldn't you know it, we had just enough melamine scrap pieces from previous closet shelving projects.  At the moment, our garage is a disaster from the past year of renovating and house projects, and it was time to put our jumbo scrap pile to good use. Up until this very moment I was frustrated and embarrassed of our cluttered garage and the fact we are parking outside... Suddenly I was grateful!

melamine boards | iron-on edge tape | flat head screws | flat head screw covers | escutcheon pins | label holders

Together we came up with specific cut measurements, based on the amount of space we had available in the cabinet, the thickness of the boards and the number of open slots we needed.  We also ensured the opening to the organizer was wide enough for paper to slide in at landscape orientation.

Each opening would be 12" wide, so Bryan cut four boards at 12" wide by 10" deep.  We had right around 11" of space between our cabinet shelves, so he cut two more boards for the sides of the organizer at 10 1/2" high by 10" deep.  He then measured and marked the two end boards where each interior board would evenly be located.

Up to this point, he didn't take any photos because it was about 11:30 p.m. in a dark garage and I was inside already working on another project. #typical  One tip he did have is to remember to use painter's tape when cutting the melamine to avoid splintering/chipping of the finish (white caulk can also help to fill any imperfections at the end as well).  At this point, he was mindful of the measurements in relation to the finished edges of the boards as he ran them through his table saw (doing his best to keep all nice edges in the front of the organizer).

For the following steps, we actually took it back apart a bit to show what we didn't photograph while initially making it (that is why you already see shelves lined with paper above).

Once the boards were cut and the lines were drawn and his holes were marked, Bryan pre-drilled through the side boards and interior boards to prep for the screws.  It is OK if the holes chip a bit; we have a solution for that in a minute.

After the holes were pre-drilled through the side and into the shelving, we used flat head screws to put the piece together (I believe they were just some regular drywall or wood screws).

The pencil lines easily wiped away with the help of a damp magic eraser.

If you have ever worked with white Closetmaid pieces before, you may know they always come with a baggie of little white screw caps.  We had a drawer of these on hand in our storage room, saved up from a few previous organizational projects.  If you don't have any on hand, they are easy to find at most home improvement stores.

We pressed the plugs into the flat head screw with the help of the round end of a screwdriver (a hammer would also do the trick).  These caps will clean up any drilling marks and hide those dark screw heads.

Lastly, we wanted to put the finishing touches on all of the unfinished edges of the white melamine boards.  The boards and the iron-on edge tape are both 3/4" thick/wide.

We cut the tape close to the length we needed to finish the top edges, snipping it just a bit long on both ends.

A heated iron (with no steam) only took a minute to set the adhesive portion of the tape.

While a utility knife easily sliced the excess tape for a nice and clean finish.

I like to collect label holders from local thrift and antique stores when I see them, because I know I will always have projects that require labeling.  I dug through my bin of labels and came up with some that were just the right size.  They were initially an older silver finish, so they received a little gold gilding.  A little more pre-drilling and we affixed the labels with some very small escutcheon pins.

All finished!

Just the addition of the tape and those screw plugs took the piece to a nice and polished finish.  We just love how we were able to create something at the last minute that worked better than anything else we could have purchased.  Although I usually advise against it, there are times when it is worth it to hold on to extra hardware and wood scraps.  Especially if you love to get creative and save a buck or two.

The slotted shelves were lined with decorative scrap-booking paper from a colored paper pack, and affixed with double stick tape.  I love the color it added to the cabinet and that the paper helps to visually distinguish each slot for the boys.

I can't help but feel all warm and fuzzy about these projects.  Maybe I need to sit and pout in front of cabinets and closets more often as I loved seeing Bryan get so creative in a pinch.  And although not all of these projects-on-a-whim end up with happily ever after, this one was just too good not to share.

Have you recently been creative in order to finish up a project or to save some hard earned moola?  Tell me about organizers that you have created when you are knee deep into a project and unwilling (or unable) to stop just to head to the store.


  1. Yours looks like the baby brother of my art paper sorter. Water color paper comes in a multitude of sizes and store bought storage is $$$. So I built my own when I took a shop class through adult education. The structure is the same as yours just much bigger to fit my needs, except I routed the sides of my sorter and slid thinner boards in so I could maximize storage space. Fun quick project!

  2. That is a fantastic solution to your problem! I wish I was so crafty ;)

  3. Awesome idea, I really need to try this - thanks for the inspiration. :)

  4. Great idea, useful for keeping organized! My kiddos just lay all their paperwork on my desk and sometimes they get lost in the shuffle. Thank you for this one.

  5. Love this! Those paper organizers are pricey!

    You seriously need to give us a tour of what else is in that IKEA buffet-type storage unit, too!

  6. Love this organizer and especially that you designed it yourself. So pretty and clean!

  7. I was hoping to see some more on this organizer! It is really so cute and so useful! I'm so glad you posted this DIY how to!

  8. I love that you designed this yourself! It is totally useful to your family's needs and I love that!

  9. Jen you are my blogging hero! I have been following your blog for many years and it has inspired me to recently start my own! I look to yours for inspiration and its my absolute favorite to read for hours with a cup of coffee. Congrats on all the success!

  10. So perfect! And best of all, it's easily customizable. Love it!


  11. Have you ever shopped at birchlane.com? I was on their website today and it screamed your style. They seem fairy inexpensive too! I was thinking about getting some things but wanted to know what your thoughts and experience was with them, if any.

    1. Hi Meliesa!

      Although I have yet to purchase from them, I have been interested in their products. And they are a sister company to Wayfair and Joss & Main, both which I shop from frequently. I have only heard good things about them. :) You will have to let me know what you think if you decide to make a purchase.


  12. I need this in my life. Cannot believe it was a last minute addition. It looks like a million bucks!

  13. What did you use to label each shelf? Is it paper labels inside the holders or did you use your Cameo?

  14. I have SO many of those white shelves out in the garage! I NEVER thought about cutting them down and using them for other projects. You two are so clever!

  15. Love the idea, too bad you need a table saw to do so...

    1. Actually! Consider having your wood cut down to size by the hardware store ahead of time - no table saw necessary. :)


Thank you so much for taking a moment to join in on the conversation! I read and appreciate each and every comment, however, I will remove any comment that I believe to be inappropriate, malicious, or spam-like. I would love for this comment section to be used as a place to engage in purposeful dialogue, I only ask that everyone remains constructive and considerate.

All comments will be moderated and may take a moment to appear.