DIY Paper Organizer Tips and Hacks

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For some people, working in an office involves handling endless piles of paper that require categorization and desk organization.

You might have personal files that need cataloging but don’t have the faintest idea of how to start sorting them.

While you can visit an office depot to save time, you might end up spending too much on products that seem pretty easy to craft.

Taking on a DIY paper organizer project is easy. Plus, you can relieve some work-related stress by enjoying crafting something unique.

DIY Paper Organizer Essentials

The trick to having a well-organized paper filing system is to assess how much storage space you need.

In addition, documents come in different paper sizes and require varying storage dimensions.

If you notice different paper sizes at work, you could benefit from a DIY paper organizer that can accommodate them all.

Non-movable Organizers

The easiest way to keep finding files where they should be is by using built-in office furniture.

Building furniture is probably the most tedious and most time-consuming among the DIY projects presented here.

However, unlike purchasing organizers from your nearby office warehouse, building your paper organizer from scratch gives you the freedom that you need.

Tools and Materials

All you need is a few woodworking tools to put your carpentry skills to the test.

However, you can finish in less than half the time with power tools such as a jigsaw, a nail gun, and a power drill.

Depending on how much paperwork you need to get organized, you will also have to stock up on plywood, wood glue, finishing nails.

Piles of paper can be very heavy, and you would want to use half-inch or three-quarter-inch thick plywood for a sturdier build.

Additionally, some plywood-veneer edging will also come in handy for making all your furniture edges smooth.

Since we’re talking about a built-in organizer, you will also need brackets, anchor bolts, and screws to mount the finished furniture.


Built-in paper organizers come in several forms. You can fabricate shelves, vertical slotted cabinets, and even drawers.

If you want drawers, you might also consider having a pair of drawer slides for each drawer you plan to make.

Guided Assembly

Before everything else, pay attention to the various paper sizes of your documents and decide how many partitions you need to make.

Step 1: Make a Schematic

For any DIY project, a mental picture or a simple sketch can move mountains to help you accomplish your task.

This schematic will be your primary instruction manual for building your paper organizer.

Be sure that your planned schematic fits into the space where you plan to mount the furniture.

Step 2: Cut All the Pieces

Using a tape measure and pencil, mark the plywood panels to cutting dimensions.

Check that your measurements are precise and you cut the wood right along the lines.

Step 3: Assemble

Before nailing the piece together, apply wood glue between every joint and connection.

If you cut the pieces right, you should end up with all joints at 90-degree angles.

Apply wood glue to the plywood-veneer edge banding and use it to cover all the exposed rough edges of cut plywood.

Step 4: Mount

Position the furniture in its final installation location and check if everything fits just right.

If all goes well, install the mounting brackets onto the furniture.

With the mounting brackets attached, reposition the furniture and screw the brackets onto the wall.

Check that the brackets align with the wall studs, or else the wall panels might not be sturdy enough to keep them in place.

diy paper organizers

Movable Organizers

If you do not want to mount the shelves or cabinets you just assembled, you can also use them as freestanding filing cabinets.

This way, you can reposition it to another area in your office when needed.

To make things much easier, you can add swivel-type rubber casters to the bottom of the furniture so that you can easily move it around.

Cardboard Paper Tray

You might not even have to build wooden paper organizers if you have an expansive workspace or desktop.

Instead, you can simply resort to using cardboard paper trays.

These are also available at your nearest office supplies store, but you can avoid spending by recycling stuff at home.

Here’s how you can do that:

Step 1: Gather the Materials

For this simpler project, you will need thick cardboard sheets, packing tape, a cutting board, a cutter, glue, a ruler, and a pencil.

Since paper piles can bear weight onto the cardboard, it would be best to use layers of corrugated carton panels for the partitions and base.

Step 2: Make a Schematic

Again, you will have better chances of completing the task during the first try if you prepare a rough sketch with dimensions.

Decide whether to make an organizer with vertical or horizontal partitions.

Then, using a pencil and a straight rule, mark each piece of cardboard to cutting dimensions.

Step 3: Cut All the Pieces

Lay each cardboard sheet over the cutting mat before trimming it down to size with the cutter.

Step 4: Assemble the Components

Unless you are doing vertical sections, combine up to three layers of boards to assemble the partitions, organizer walls, and the base.

Doing so ensures that your paper organizer partitions do not buckle under the weight of all the paper they are carrying.

You can also make the partitions even sturdier by gluing bamboo skewers between the panels.

For horizontal sections, mark the walls with the final position of each partition board. Otherwise, mark the base and top board for vertical sections.

With all the markings in place, glue the edges of the partitions to either mounting side.

Finally, strengthen the joints by taping the joints on both sides.

Step 5: Cover the Cardboard

You can opt to skip this step if a simple cardboard paper organizer is enough for you.

If not, cover everything with a wrapping paper of your choice.

Shoe Box File Holders

If cardboard trays aren’t enough, you might need higher-capacity organizers that can hold thicker piles of paper.

You can repurpose old sturdy shoeboxes as long as they fit the paper sizes you need to organize.

Since some shoeboxes are too narrow for unfolded documents, you can also combine two shoeboxes of the same size.

Just cut out one side face from each box and conjoin the open sides with packing tape.

Cardboard Binders and File Cases

File binders and carrying cases come in handy when combined paper trays and large shoeboxes become too heavy to bring into meetings.

Recycle corrugated cardboard sheets to make large file binders, and use binder clips or paper clamps to keep the files together.


While crafting your built-in or movable paper organizer, you can also add small items to your filing system for easy categorization.

Check out the following techniques for applying categories to all your paperwork.

Color-Coded Labels and Tags

Mark individual paper partitions with color-coded labels or tags to help you find things with absolute ease.

You can use colored sticker paper or mark each white tab with different colored pens.

Action Items

If you dump papers into your filing system without cataloging, you might forget which ones take more priority than others.

Assign smart categories such as clear action steps to each file partition.

Labels such as “Read,” “Send,” “Pay,” and “Expedite” are just some examples.

Sequence Categorization

While you can allocate different colors to varying categories of paperwork, you can also arrange them in chronological, alphabetical, or numerical order.

Group action items according to priority, and reorder each file using an assigned alphabetical or numerical value.

Reuse and Recycle!

Whichever DIY organizer task you take on, you will find that you get to spend less and have some creative fun.

What’s more, anything you craft will be unique, and you can tailor everything to suit your requirements.

Remember that while woodworking projects require more skill and effort, they can last much longer than cardboard crafts.

While you’re at it, you might also want to check some of our DIY desk organizer projects.

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