Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Binders of Doom

Each teacher requires a certain set of things for their class. Four require binders, six require folders, five require notebooks, two require a journal, and miscellaneous writing utensils and such. It's been really difficult for the kids to keep up with, so I invented The Binders of Doom.

Remember to keep it easy.
  1. It has to meet the requirements of the teacher and class.
  2. It needs to hold everything that class needs, or as much as possible.
  3. If you can afford to, I highly recommend these for each desired subject in the front of each binder: Quick Reference Guides.
  4. It should Come With Its Own Instructions built in.
The binders the teachers require are 2". I bought 1" - I'm just a rebel. No, honestly there's two reasons for this: one, I'm not spending $12 on a binder times 8; and two, there's just not that much room in their backpack or in their lockers. The system should hold up for a semester, and then I will archive things over the winter break with binder clips or paper clips and store them in one single 2" binder per child at home (which at the end of the year will hold everything and join our Reference Library at home).

I found these at Staples on clearance for around $2 (they are more expensive online). They met my criteria: the spines have an insert for the subject name; they have a clear pocket on the front; two pockets in the interior; and they use a D-ring format. (If you don't know why to use D-rings, you will eventually find out.)

I used my handy dandy LetraTag because the refills are cheap and I use it on everything (yes really, everything...) to label the spines by subject in extra large font.

Then, the front of the binder I printed full 8.5x11 copy paper sheets I made on WordPad. These are the Built In Instructions. It tells what class it is, what materials to bring to that class, what dividers are in the binder, what to put in the folder, what to do with returned papers and handouts, and what to do with homework. At the bottom is a reminder to bring the Binder of Doom home with them every Friday.
(Every Friday we go through the binder to make sure things are filed correctly - and just because their teachers live to make my life hard (half-joking), some of the handouts aren't hole punched so we have to punch them to get them IN the binder.)

Inside the binder are 5 subject dividers, labeled to match what the Instructions say (and what the teacher requires OR if the teacher didn't provide label names, the best organization I can find for the typical papers in that class.)

In front of the dividers is a 2 pocket vertical poly folder that has holes in it to go in a binder, also from Staples (on clearance for 70 cents in store!). Vertical folders take getting used to, but they work really well; when the binder is closed, papers cannot accidentally fall out the top of the binder if it gets dropped or messed about with. The folder is also labeled with the subject in case they need to take it out and remember where it goes back.

If the subject requires a spiral - do not try to put it on the D-rings! There's a much easier way. Take the front cardboard or poly cover of the spiral, and insert it into the lefthand pocket of the binder interior. It easily opens to take notes and doesn't interfere with the D ring which can use its full 1" capacity this way. This does, however, keep the notebook within the binder, which is one of the "rules" instead of it being loose. If it covers your D ring too much and the binder won't close well, trim the outside edge of the spiral by 1/2" all the way down so it will slide in further, and this should fix your problem. I also label the spiral, like the folder, in case they do need to take it out and replace it.

You can also see that everything is color coded. The folder, spiral, and binder all match, and the same color is used on the Subject on the front of the binder. This carries over to their color coded schedule in their agendas (a post to come later) and is ALWAYS consistent. They know if they pick up something and it's green, it goes with the other green stuff - no exceptions. If the item doesn't come in a color you need, $2 will buy you a sheet of duct tape (indestructible! YES!) in any color you can imagine. I had to do this to one of our spirals as I just could not find - anywhere - a pink one, for some reason.


The Binder of Doom holds dividers, a folder, a notebook, instructions, and is color coded - and takes up 1.25" of space total when full to capacity.

Some advanced tips? If you're okay using paper (I got cases of paper super cheap before school started, and used the rewards to get printer ink) - scan in and print notes, handouts, or things you need to "shrink down" - but print them *doublesided*. Instantly, you've halved the space they need. Use the thinnest spiral notebook you can find, and remind your children that they can write on both sides of the lined paper. This goes double for that expensive graph paper *shudder*.

Thanks for checking out our system - and please post if you've made one of your own! There's always room for improvement and sharing ideas can be the best way to do it!

Posting to OrgJunkie.


  1. This is a great idea. But one of my son's teachers last year required the 2" notebook and took points off at notebook check if it wasn't 2" (she measured it!). I hope I can find this post in 2 years when my youngest goes into middle school.

  2. Do all of the Binder's of Doom come home on Friday? Also, what do you do with the miscellaneous class stuff - like Art, PE, Music, etc. Things that just require a folder & no binders. Did this with my daughter, youngest son didn't want to do this at Middle School & wanted just one large binder.... it's not workin' out so hot... but it's only been a couple of weeks to get used to something brand new.

  3. Yes, all the binders come home on Fridays. Actually, EVERYTHING is supposed to come home on Fridays (folders and spirals addressed below) until the kids have a good handle on it; then I'll scale back to less frequent checks. There is a label reminder at the bottom of each Friday's agenda page that says "bring home all binders, spirals, folders, loose papers and materials" for now.

    Since they are only 1" all 4 fit in their backpacks together. Miscellaneous (here that would be Music, Art, PE, Character Ed, and Infinity Project) mostly use just the Homework folder in terms of things from those classes coming home, but each have a spiral or folder (color coded) as required by the teachers. The binders incorporate those elements so they are just "spiral + folder PLUS Binder" and the other classes remain "spiral + folder" or whatever.

    Also, since they are not core classes, and those teachers don't do binder check grades and such, if they forget something in their locker it doesn't have the academic grade impact that the core classes do. Prioritizing is important when you're dealing with so many different classes, imo.

    I own the fact that I am a bit of a helicopter mother when it comes to keeping the kids organized. It's easy to spend a few minutes a day on it (or 30 minutes tops, on Fridays) keeping them on track. My parental hopes are that they will tell me what is and isn't working for them (or I'll be able to tell, in some cases) so we can try different solutions, and that having external organization support will help them start doing better internal organizing and remembering as they mature untul they are alone at college - hopefully with both study and organizing skills intact and helpful to them for their classes when I'll no longer be there to help them out.

  4. Wow! Those binders are pretty impressive. Very organized and your kids are learning good habits that will help them as adults.

  5. I don't mean to sound horrible, but has the parents association ever considered questioning the need for this huge mountain of office supplies? I am undoubtedly biased as my child goes to school online and my supplies consist of the occasional round of printer ink or ream of paper, but that amount of supplies seems far in excess of what is truly necessary. There must be a veritable mountain of trash created at the end of the school year when these kids throw all of these mangled binders, spirals and folders in the trash.

    Again, I'm really not trying to be horrible, it's just shocking to me that so much is required. In this economy it seems a bit irresponsible of schools to require this much expenditure.

  6. What's truly irresponsible is that we were given HUGE supply lists including reams of copy paper, but my children didn't even get their lockers assigned until the 2nd week of school and I still have bags of supplies sitting under our homework bench because now none of the teachers are accepting them? We just pulled as needed as each class syllabus came in - and there's a lot left over.

    This is our first year at this school, so next Spring I am definitely going to be relating my concerns as to the supply list. A single 5 subject spiral would take care of the majority of that need, and could go from class to class; a single 3" binder could then hold maybe 2 sets of the 8 subject dividers and work well; etc. That would also quadruple or more the weight of what they lug to each class though. I'm not sure there's a perfect solution.

    The children are given a large assortment of assignments and handouts, so the binders do work better than simple folders. I imagine with homeschooling that you can just use file folders or have some more permanent method of organization that isn't required to be portable on a daily basis (from class to locker to class to home).

  7. We use electronic files in a computer, actually. I have a paper file that I use to hold backup discs, instructions for the printer, and various letters sent from the school, but that's it. All textbooks are online, assignments are completed and submitted online, and more complex projects, etc. are stored in a thumb drive. There is virtually no paper unless it's a checklist of steps to complete, and we rarely even do that. Math classes generally have practice problems that we print, as well, and that is probably what consumes the most paper. But that's generally...oh, five sheets a week? I have a parental answer key, I check the work, and then put the paper in the scrap tray to use the back for other homework or notes or scribbles, etc. If the teacher requires us to submit it so that he or she can view the work, it's scanned in and submitted in a document file.

    Weight is definitely an issue with all of those binders, etc. as well-when you're also carrying textbooks that can really get heavy!

    I would DEFINITELY be up in arms over being expected to purchase supplies that weren't even required! That is a communication error somewhere!