For the past few years, I've been trying to figure out how to organize my dissertation material. I've made forays into various sample vertical filing systems, but none of them worked for me. I didn't want to punch holes in my articles, not all of which were photocopied with that in mind, and transparent binder sleeves are frequently too narrow for filing articles. My articles lay around in piles in my study, each pile representing a chapter, or a topic common to multiple chapters. They got in the way, and they took up floor space. I couldn't pile the piles on top of each other, for it was too easy to loose track of an underlying pile.
Recently I realized it was foolish to try to fight my own organizational instincts. If I need my articles to be organized in horizontal piles by chapter, then that's how I should organize them. And so I bought a very specialized cardboard box yesterday, one which comes in lots of bits and pieces and folds up into a sturdy set of mailbox-like slots, ideal for storing lots of piles, each in their own niche. For the first time in months, my desk is mostly clear and there's plenty of floor space in the study.
This still doesn't feel like a long-term solution though. I need more slots than the eight it came with, although one more unit of about the same size should deal with the rest of my current piles. I went for the cardboard solution both for cheapness and disposability, so it won't matter that I'm moving within six months or so. Also, I'm still bothered that my piles are not further refined by alphabetical order or topic within themselves. When my dissertation is done and I no longer need these piles in their current clusters, I should try yet again to figure out a filing system that'll work for me.