I've always hated binders. They're excessively large, prone to breakage, and generally clunky. Every semester I try to use binders, I inevitably get lazier and lazier, and by 2 weeks in, all my papers are just shoved into my backpack alongside my binders. Meanwhile, I'm carrying a 5" thick stack of binders everywhere I go. Admittedly, binders are nice for keeping papers neat and tidy, but compared to folders, they don't really pose all that great an advantage as far as I can tell.
Folders are better, but they still generally require removal from my backpack to place papers inside. Sometimes I'll tuck papers in while the folder is still in my backpack, but usually folders require me to take them out. Again, I usually resort to shoving "miscellaneous" papers haphazardly into my backpack a couple weeks into the semester.
I wanted a better solution where I could place papers easily right into my backpack while keeping them organized by subject.
I thought about various folder-variants and eventually I decided that the accordion type folder such as the one shown to the right would be ideal. This was because it is easily accessible by default from one side and takes up only as much space as is needed by the papers. It's also separated into compartments so that I can segregate papers by class. The only drawback is that most open on the long-edge, whereas I would need one to open on the short-edge in order to use it straight from my backpack. I thought about buying one, but I didn't have the patience and I had some spare time amidst the first week of classes. I also had a bajillion spare sheet protectors that I never use (which I bought for a class for which I used only 1 the entire semester) - I figured these could be put to use for separators.
Since this would just be a trial run and would just be abused in my backpack - never to see the light of day, I didn't give much thought to the appearance and just tried my best to make it strong and usable. The only point I did consider appearance was in putting colored sheets of paper in the sheet protectors so that I could easily tell which section I was putting papers into.
The sheet protectors would provide separation. Colored sheets would add structure and clarity to the middle sheets and heavier cardstock-style paper would add strength to the front and back. I would bind them together using the 3-hole punch holes and tape as needed. I considered a simpler approach of just fastening together old folders, but I didn't happen to have any old folders and it also didn't seem as fun.
I ended up using the sheet protectors and colored paper as planned. The I had enough paper to make 5 sections such that each section was sandwiched by 2 sheets of the same color (each sheet protector had 2 colored papers). The outer 2 sections had one colored paper on one side and one thick sheet on the other. I used the outside of a small booklet as the "thick" sheets, but these didn't end up providing sufficient rigidity, so I reinforced one side with some wire shirt-hangers I had laying around. I probably could have used some old cardboard from cereal boxes, but I had a bunch of these metal coat-hangers from an old project so I figured I might as well use them. The finished product is shown in the images below.
Relatively strong and sturdy and does pretty much exactly what I expected. Unfortunately, there are a couple issues:
Of course, there are other issues and it's far from perfect, but for something which is just being stuffed in my backpack anyway, I'll say it's good enough.