Finding a nice 3×5 file box, not so easy… until

Published February 2, 2013

So I’ve decided to buy into the whole “43 Folders” idea: Create a folder for each day of the month (31) and each month of the year (12) and use those as ticklers for your work.

If you have something you need to do next week, you write it on a card and put it in the folder for that day. It’s connected to “Getting Things Done.” But that’s not my point.

I like the idea of using 3×5 index cards. They’re convenient, have plenty of space for the notes I need, and I already have a ton. So I only need a couple of things to try out this system: 43 dividers and a box.

image The 43 dividers are easy; Amazon sells both monthly and daily ones. I just needed a box. Sorry to bury the lede, but here’s my point.

The Boy needed a 3×5 card box for school, and every one I found was cheap plastic junk, with a hinge that might last a few weeks. But I had, somewhere, a nice steel one with a sturdy hinge, so I knew they were available.

And thus began what should have been a simple search: Find a nice, not-too-pricey, index-card box.


Amazon, Staples, and Office Depot/Max all have two kinds: lots of cheap plastic ones and one or two cheap metal ones. (I was surprised at the lousy reviews the metal boxes got, but there you go.)

In every office catalog I looked through, the only options were different flavors of plastic junk.

In this day and age, why was it so hard just to find a nice box for index cards?

And then — duh! — I found them. Tons of them. How? By realizing that I didn’t want a 3×5 index card file box. I wanted a 3×5 recipe card file box.

What’s the difference? Nothing. Other than when you change “file” to “recipe” you suddenly find tons of beautiful, inexpensive choices, new and used.

There’s this one from Etsy, for example ($20):


Or this new one on Amazon (also $20):


Or this on eBay:


Or this, also on Amazon ($25):


Beautiful, solid wood, a choice of finishes, dovetail joints… and all that can hold standard 3×5 cards. (There are similar options for 4×6 cards.) I don’t quite get the logic — you would think that office folks would also like the option to get something nice for their desks, other than something plastic or flimsy metal.

Maybe it’s a marketing issue; maybe people selling recipe-card boxes don’t realize that they should also list them as “index card files” and reach a whole other audience.

Lesson learned: If you want something and can’t find what you’re looking for, try to think of how someone else might sell the thing. Soon I’ll have my filing system set up, and I won’t have to compromise to do it.

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