- one system, one piece
- contains papers together yet separately
- limited number of papers within
- doesn’t expand with need
- isn’t conducive to flipping through the papers
One of the things I’ve found in working with people is that they haven’t always thought through the pros and cons of the “typical” organizing options. Accordion folders have been around a long time and can be quite useful. Let me say up front that I am not a fan of them personally. Yet, as I practically preach about – we each have to find our own ways, the products that work for each individual.
Accordion folders of various types are portable. If you need to move a collection of papers around or carry them somewhere, these folders can simplify that easily. The papers stay organized and can go with the person wherever they need them – even if it’s from room to room.
Due to the design and function of accordion folders, there’s little to decide about – mostly a hard or soft cover. You don’t need to decide if you want to have hanging folders with file folders or just file folders (which lean without the framework of the hanging folders). Color options are fewer, though everything’s contained and you won’t be thinking about what color signifies what. The accordion folder offers you one system – all together, in one unit.
Since part of the design is the divided sections, you have a way to organize your papers together yet separately. You can use the accordion folder for one category of papers – like financial or medical – and each section holds some distinct type of paper related to that category. Or you can make it more broad where it’s all your recurring bills – credit cards, car payments, mortgage, medical expenses, etcetera.
Depending on how it’s used, this is where its limitations can become an issue. Since it is a self-contained system, it can only contain so much. The pockets are designed for a certain amount of papers before it the folder itself gets misshapen. Although file folders also have a limit on how many papers they can hold, the accordion folders pockets can hold significantly less. (Those creases at the bottom of file folders make their expansion possible and much easier.) Once you’ve maxed out the amount of papers in the accordion folder, you have to make adjustments.
Check out the bottom of an accordion folder – the frame has creased paper going up into each section – limiting how it holds your papers. This design is part of how paper is restricted within each section. Although you can expand the sections, that creased paper goes up into the section regardless of how much paper is stored in there. This also means that papers are more prone to getting bent, if that matters to you.
If you need to peruse a section of papers, looking for a specific one that isn’t in the front or back of the pocket, the design of the accordion folder makes that more challenging. The section dividers only move so far, which means seeing inside the pocket to the words on the paper isn’t much of an option – so you’ll probably pull all the papers out of that section to find the paper you need. In my mind that means more work for the user – and papers don’t always go (back) in neatly.
It’s probably pretty clear that the limitations of accordion folders have created a bias for me. I’m not much of a fan. Yet that doesn’t mean that I haven’t used them – there is something wonderful about their portability. As well as how useful they can be – depending on how you will use them. Just like with every product and tool out there, if a product meets your needs with its limitations (and every product has drawbacks) then use it.