A recurring theme here over the last couple of weeks has been watching me desperately trying to dig myself out from under a mountain of unorganized papers, which pretty much describes the regular chaos of my life. (You can see some of my other attempts to get it under control here and here.)
Hello contents of my filing cabinet. Nice to see you heaped into a pile on the floor.
I had one more project up my sleeve to help get things organized. I wanted an easy, portable way to file papers that looked good enough to leave out in the open. (So basically not those plastic filing cases that get stacked in the closet, I’ve got plenty of those.)
I was inspired by these wine-crate-esq filing boxes from Ballard Designs, but 1.) They don’t make them anymore, and 2.) when they did make them, I’m pretty sure they were more than $50 each.
First I searched online for some wine crates I could turn into my own file boxes, and then I realized all of the time I was spending on the computer could actually be better spent playing with my power tools. Duh. So, I got my butt out of the chair, went out to the garage, and built myself these out of a couple of old pallets.
Step 1: The Epic Dismantling of Pallets
I started with a rough plan and some tools (nail pullers and hammer) to help me dismantle the pallets.
Let’s just say, they resisted the dismantling.
However with the assistance of even more tools (pry bar, jig saw, rage) I finally won.
Step 2: Reassembling the Pieces
I built the “short ends” of the crates first, using 2 6″ boards (approximately 14″ long) and some small pieces of wood left over from my rustic wood wall art. Everything was attached with 3/4″ staples.
Here they are all put together and looking pretty.
Then I used 3″ pieces (approximately 15″ wide) to attach to two end pieces together. Again, more staples.
It was all pretty easy. Soon enough I had some bottom-less crates.
It occurred to me that I didn’t actually need a bottom to the crates because they’re for hanging files, and I didn’t want to add a lot of weight to them with a big solid board on the bottom. In the end I compromised with myself (yes, there was an actual out-loud conversation involved) and added a couple of ledgers inside the crate…
And then stapled some furring strips to them.
There are a lot of ways I could have added a bottom to these–some 1/4″ chip board, more pallet wood, 1/8″ luan. But I went with the quick, easy, and within-reach method this time, and it worked great. You’ll never really see the bottoms of the crates anyway.
This is any easy way to turn any crate or box into a hanging file. I used a couple of aluminum strips (which can be easily cut down to size with some tin snips)…
And my Rockwell Sonicrafter to put some 1/8″ channels in the crates, which I then slid the aluminum strips into.
And now they’re ready for hanging things.
It was super easy. I ended up spray-painting the hanging rods with black paint and calling it a day.
Step 4: Labeling With a Blender Pen
The crates were ready to go, but I thought they could use a little “fancying up” with some faded labels.
I read about this technique when I was debating about what to put on my rustic wood wall art panels, and you could totally use it for something like that as well. All you need is a “blender pen” (clear marker you can get at craft stores) and a photocopy (not a laser printed copy, but an actual copy machine copy) of the image you want to transfer.
First, I created my fake label in Illustrator (but you could do it in word as well) and then I reversed the text so it was a mirror image of how I wanted it to look.
Then I printed it out, took it to a photocopier, and made several paper copies. (I made sure to throw the printed versions away so I didn’t get confused later.)
To transfer the image to the crate, I taped it ink side down onto the wood.
Then I used the blender pen to “wet” the back of the paper. The pen contains a chemical that releases the ink from the paper. (And gives off some fumes, so if you don’t like getting high from markers, definitely work in a well ventilated space.)
I worked in small sections, wetting with the blender pen and then rubbing the letters with the back of a spoon (don’t be afraid to press hard.)
After I removed the paper I was left with this, a perfect faded label.
The blender pen I used was a Chartpak Woodcrafter’s Marker (I also had Prismacolor version that did not work at all, so I think the type of pen you use will really make a difference here.)
Step 5: Organize Your Life
With these two crates I basically doubled the amount of paper storage I had in my expensive wood filing cabinet.
First of all, this thing is heavy. There will be no moving the filing cabinet in front of the TV so you can sort papers and watch Die Hard at the same time, thank you. Also, it was always a little awkward to fit in a space with the desk. (Does it sit next to the desk, under the desk, across the room? The mental anguish was indescribable.)
And then of course there was this…
Which, thanks to some gray hanging files from Office Max, now looks like this:
I actually have way more paper storage than I need at the moment, which is a totally awesome feeling. I also know where my passport is now, in case I need to leave the country in a hurry. (One never knows.)
Eventually I’ll have an office with some shelving in it that will hold these babies, but they’re so pretty I don’t mind if they just sit in the middle of the floor for a while longer. And the best part? The total spend for this project was under $5. Can’t beat that for some organization.
This project is linked up to my favorite party, The Lettered Cottage’s How-To’s Day: