A Stupid GTD Trick

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A while back, I mentioned off-hand that I'd devised, "a really clever way to convert a hanging file drawer to one that can hold manila folders properly." Unfortunately, we hadn't finished that final, annoying ten percent of our post-move unpacking that always seems to take forever, and we'd misplaced our camera somewhere within that ten percent.

Reader Bill wrote in that day, subject line, "Publish It!" He wrote in twice, in fact, saying that he'd tried to do just that, and failed. I promised him I'd post it as soon as we found the camera, so here it is. My explanation follows the images.

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As you may recall, I was looking forward to finally completing the integration of all our home filing into one system, largely inspired by the one David Allen recommends in Getting Things Done. I had just over a full drawer's worth of manilla folders I wanted to store, but no suitable place for them.
  1. Starting with the upper left image, we have your typical modern file drawer, which is designed to hold hanging file folders, but not the manila folders David Allen recommends. (I use both types, having found that hanging folders are better-suited for some of my purposes. I converted just two of the four drawers in this cabinet.)
  2. Moving over to the upper right, we have a large steel bookend and a metal space saver that had lived in a kitchen cabinet in our Houston house. It and another just like it were sitting, unused, in a box, and probably destined for the trash. I'd tried a bookend (alone) for this, but it slid any time you opened or shut the drawer. I knew I needed a way to hold it firmly in place, and yet be able to adjust it as the number and size of the folders in the drawer changed. One evening, I saw one of the space savers from the corner of my eye. "That's what I need on the bottom of the drawer!" I decided to see whether it would fit into the drawer.
  3. As you can see at the lower left, it fit exactly! I imagine you could also just cut a similar space saver to size with heavy-duty wire cutters or, perhaps a small hacksaw. (I'd be careful to file the ends down afterwards.) You want your "ladder" to be almost exactly the same length as the bottom of your drawer to prevent it from slipping out of place. Now that I think of it, you want it to be metal, too.
  4. And finally, at the lower right, is the drawer in use!
We got the majority of our non-paper clutter taken care of this weekend. Unsurprisingly, it thumbed its nose at me in the process by yielding (spawning?) some new paper clutter. But at least I'm ready for it.

Now, all I have to do is pare down the contents of these drawers and add some as yet unorganized items, and I'll finally be as well-organized as I set out to be a couple of years ago when I first learned about GTD.

Perhaps I didn't look hard enough, or didn't come up with the right search terms, but I could not find a converter kit on the market to do this. Perhaps, for lack of demand, there aren't any. If you do know of any, feel free to leave a comment, preferably with a URL to the supplier. Otherwise, I hope you find this idea useful. And if so, let me know whether you come up with any improvements.

-- CAV


: Several minor edits.


Bill said...


Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks! I hope this works out for you.

Rational Education said...


Patent the idea and maybe some good money selling the design to some organization products company, perhaps ?!


Gus Van Horn said...

It's a clever idea (and I appreciate the suggestion), but I think it would likely get rejected on grounds of obviousness. It too closely resembles the way adjustable holders in old file drawers (aka, the prior art) work.

Rational Education said...

...you know what they say about better mouse traps, etc! Many a times it is how well an idea is marketed(though it may be ancient and dusty on the shelf) is all that matters. Some ribbing there too, on my part! Your point is well understood, though!!

Gus Van Horn said...

Good point, and this reminds me of another thing. Patents are expensive to get and to maintain! You've got to be ready to do something profitable with one if you're going to file for one and protect it.