I'm not terribly thrilled with my laptop bag. Or the one I had before it. Or the dozen or so other ones that I've tried for varying links of time. Why, you may ask? Because I just can't be happy with anything. Well, at least that's what my friends tell me. And my mom.
But, that aside, the latest reason I've come up with why I don't care for any of the myriad bags currently decorating my office is because they don't have the enough pockets, or at least right kind of pockets that I want. So, all my junk ends up floating around in one big pocket. While the opportunities for my flash memory to make friends with a book of stamps or a spare contact lens are not lost on me (socialization is important, you know, especially for Sony products), I'd prefer a bit more control than that. And yes, I was one of those kids who didn't want any of the different foods on my plate to touch, to answer your question.
So, I decided to take the problem into my nimble, attractive hands (I'm a hand model, you know) and find a solution. That is, a solution other than buying more bags, each of them a vain struggle for laptop toting nirvana. (You know as well as I that I'll find some "serious" "flaw" with the bag about a month into use and decide I need a new one.) I decided that I needed an insert for my existing bag, which would help me lasso up all of those wily cables, adapters, Zapruder tape fragments and so forth and keep them in some kind of order so I wouldn't erupt into fits of blind rage every time I open a pocket. Plus, it would be nice if I could reconfigure it on a whim, since I'm just a whimful person like that.
And that's what I made: an insert for my laptop bag to organize my junk, and that I can rearrange when I get the urge to do so next week. It's modular, like some homes.
Step 1: Obtain Materials
A binder, one with a sturdy cover - this will for the base of our organizer. I got a reasonably sturdy one at the store just a bit ago for $0.75 since we're in the middle of a "back to school" bonanza. You'll probably want one made of a stiff backing, covered in vinyl.
A box of Velcro - Be sure to get the kind with an adhesive back so you can just put it right on the binder without any additional work. I wanted broad swaths of velcro so it wouldn't take a whole lot of effort to cover a large area, so that's what I picked up. This box cost about $5.00. I picked the kind that said "heavy duty" because:
1. It said heavy duty. 2. That must mean it's better.
A Fishing Jacket! -This is my favorite part of the project. I tried to think of something that had lots of smallish pockets that I could use as a basis for the organizer, and this sprung to mind. In addition to being convenient, this will also give you street cred in Montana.
Black Dye - The fishing jacket is tan, but the velcro and the binder are black. This cannot stand. I bought some black dye to remedy the situation.
Step 2: Cut the Binder
One of the sides of the binder will be the backing for our organizer, so we need to surgically remove it from its buddy. Using a razor blade or other sharpish instrument (don't poke your eye out) carefully cut along the seam. You can take the rest of the binder and throw it away, or at your sister. Either one.
Step 3: (Optional) Dye Job
I've since heard that one can obtain black fishing jackets, but I didn't see one of those on my late-night trip to the store. Thus, I settled for a tan one and a bottle of black dye.
I basically followed the directions on the bottle here, choosing to dye the vest in my kitchen sink rather than in my washing machine. (That method seemed like a truly horrible idea, with all kinds of painful failure scenarios.)
The pictures don't really show it too well, but the dye actually made the vest a dark chocolate brown, not black, presumably since the source material was tan. (I actually bleached it first to try to get it white, but the bleach didn't do anything to the vest.)
This looks a lot better than the tan did! I am, at this point, excited about the project is proceeding. You know, because I just did a complex step without suffering a grievous wound.
After having fun with the dye, I washed and dried the vest, per the instructions on the bottle.
Step 4: Vivisection
The vest is nice and all, but we really just want the pockets that are on it. I took a pair of sharp sewing scissors (OK, busted, it was just a pair of scissors I had lying around) and cut out all of the good parts.
Although there are only six vest fragments lying around now, all but the two smallest have more than one pocket! In the photo below, the two on the left have a large, wide pocket in the back, and three small pockets each on the front. The fragment in the top right has two tallish, narrow pockets, and the fragment in the bottom-right has a zip pocket on top, with a velcro pocket accessed from the side. Plus it has that fuzzy bit in front.
Step 5: Fun With Velcro
The Velcro now makes a late entrance into our event, and we start putting it over every surface we can find. I chose to put the "fuzzy" side of the velcro on the front of the binder, because I expected there might be small areas of binder without pockets, and the "prickly" side of the velcro could prove chafing.
I decided to cover the entire binder with velcro to give myself the maximum amount of flexibility later. I did just as you might expect--I started with a row of velcro at the top, and kept adding rows until I reached the bottom. I had to cut the last row of velcro lengthwise, but that was pretty easy. If you cut one of the rows too short, don't worry--you can cut a small sliver and add it to the end as a patch. I did this once, and it worked just fine. :-)
In the end, the binder felt quite nice--it was soft and fuzzy, and I kinda wanted to cuddle with it.
I didn't cover the entire back of the pockets, because that seemed like a pain. A well-placed stripe or two seemed like it would be enough, and indeed it was. I was worried here that the velcro wouldn't stick to the fabric very well, so I made sure to press the velcro down onto the back of the pockets with quite a bit of force, especially around the edges. It seems to have worked perfectly!
Step 6: Put It All Together
Toss the pockets on there however you like, and you're done. It's OK to change your mind later!
You might want to hold off from using it for 24 hours, because that's what the back of the velcro box said to do, and (contrary to popular belief) velcro cannot lie.
As you can see, I chose to use the tall, narrow pockets for cables (one ethernet, one USB plus adapters). I used one of the wide pockets to hold a travel wireless router (plus the AC adapter) and a USB flash reader. The small pockets on the front of that worked perfectly for a set of earbuds and some spare flash memory. I put a three-way power adapter in one of the two single pockets, and a stuffed sheep in the other one.
Hey, the sheep is cool. Get off my back.
Step 7: Wrap-up and Ideas
My plan called for only one side of the binder to be covered in velcro, and for the other side to be undecorated. This would allow that second side to sit flat against the back of my bag.
I decided after I was all done, though, that it would be worth it to get a second box of velcro to cover the back of the binder, too, because I could put something thin there, and I had two extra pockets from the jacket! I had a perfect use: I like to keep a few single doses of common medicines with me (allergy, headache, ibuprofen, etc) as well as some stain wipes, just to be prepared. Those take up very little room and fit perfectly in the wide pocket without adding much thickness. I also put a spare pair of contact lenses in one of the small pockets on the front. I haven't found a use for the fuzzy pocket on top yet.
I've considered putting a small piece of prickly velcro on the inside of my bag, just to hold the organizer in place, but this hasn't been necessary yet. I ended up attaching a small strap to the top of the organizer, using a spare piece of the vest material and some extra prickly velcro. This has helped me lift it out of the bag, when that's been necessary.
Interestingly, I've found myself noticing small bags and boxes in various stores that I could velcro-ize and attach to the organizer. A pencil box or pouch might be an interesting addition.
So, there you go. This has kept me immensely more satisfied with my bag, and, when I get completely sick of it next month, I'll have a platform to start over with.