Illustrated By: Max Lu

Bulky hard-plastic binders, chunky zip-up cloth binders, and flimsy binders that yearn to slice your hand open have a lot in common. They are a waste of space, they never fit in your bag when you need them to, and they leave both your lifetime’s work and sanity hanging by a few half-centimeters of seriously frail material.

Binders are for binding paper in the most “versatile” and “user friendly” way. Yet their versatility merely ranges from providing a fine layout for viewing documents during business conferences and group presentations, to… nothing else [1]. Besides this, user manuals that utilize binders and are created for frequent references are designed to be rummaged and generally have stronger paper & other features. They can also just be called books. For all it’s worth, my student experience has taught me that no soul has the effort to bind every single sheet of paper with plastic just to pierce it with metal rings and bind it all with heftier plastic. We want to study, not create some literary artifact.

“User friendly” is quite a stretch. As students who delve into class material through long, sleepless nights and galvanizing, meteoric days, every snap of the irking metal clamps harmonizes with the snapping of a cranial nerve, and every shut commences the shutting down of something in our own bodies. Every widening hole in our pitiful paper is an irremediable hole in our dignity and routine. Every provoking (not ASMR) ripping sound rips away at our spirit.

The 21st century is nothing short of an innovation-filled technological revolution. Binders, on the other hand, are nothing short of an insult to our evolution. In the year 1854, patents for loose-leaf paper preceded those for 2- and 3-ringed binders, and since then, the only development seen has been the addition of pockets and the increasing environmental issue of disposing of vinyl [2]. Speaking of which, vinyl, like binders, is a relatively ‘ancient’ creation, but unlike binders, we appreciate its continued flourishment in the market, as it adds value in a nostalgic manner.

The worst part is, binders are made to join and secure, but they ultimately constrain and confine. They give us no choice to carry them around, regardless of the amount of paper being bound. They force us to use hole punchers, which are also neither pleasant nor sleek office utensils. Do you carry a binder for each subject? Jam-pack them all into one? What if you don’t want to carry all the material with you? No problem! Flip through, thrust open the clamps, remove the stuff no longer needed, buy another binder, stick those papers in, shove it in your closet. We are being hustled by the retailers, and we pretend this invasive species helps us with organization and productivity.

At this point, you are probably asking, “Then what do you use?!?!?!?!” 

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce some simple, underrated, and surprisingly effective office supplies that you, as a student, can put to use. 1) Paper clips: sit down for a moment and evaluate the amount of material you carry to and from the hellhole day after day – the amount of material you actually need is probably a whole lot less than the entire course (see? binders are a bad influence on you). Select the material required for the near future, and sort them if necessary. Use small paper clips for small piles, and large paper clips for the stuff you no longer need. Store the necessary materials in… 2) folders! and store the unnecessary materials in 3) file holders at home!

This is just one of likely countless organizational methods that are superior to the physically and mentally ravaging binders. 

In short, as students, binders are responsible for nothing but utter deception and the tearing apart of everything.

We can do better.