Introduction: Ultimate Parts Storage

Picture of Ultimate Parts Storage

If you like making things, you probably have hundreds or even thousands of little parts - nuts, bolts, screws, electronic parts, etc. This is one of the cheapest, most compact, flexible, portable and simple ways of storing them - in folders you can put on a bookshelf! This is an embarrassingly simple instructable, but one that has revolutionised the organisation of my parts - read on to find out how I did it.

Over the years, I have struggled to find sensible ways of storing my collection of thousands of small parts in an organised way. If you are like me, you have a huge collection of boxes, parts drawers and plastic containers to store your parts in. Not only are they quite expensive, but they suffer from other problems - parts drawers can tip over and either lose or mix up components, and plastic divider boxes are no better - both of these take up a lot of space as well and as soon as you add a few new components when you have filled up all dividers in the box, or trays in the component bin, you have to work out how to resort your entire collection again!

This method uses ordinary ring binders, zip wallets, and grip-seal bags and allows you to create a hierarchical storage system, where you can easily add or remove new categories (folders), sub-categories (zip wallets), and components (grip seal bags).

Step 1: Collect the Bits!

Picture of Collect the Bits!

There are three items you will need for this filing system. Firstly you need a ring binder - usually A4 size in Europe, and Letter in the US. I tend to buy a lot on ebay, so would suggest trying that first for the best price. Better to have a 3 or 4 ring version - in Europe, the 4 ring 'D' shape is great, as it holds pages very securely. I also like the ones with clear plastic pockets all around, as you can then customise the spine and front cover (and back as well if you like). The ones I bought were 1.65 pounds each (US $3.34). In Europe, here is an option from ebay, and here is one from viking direct. In the USA, these people have a good price (US $2.13), if you are happy to buy boxes of 12.

The pages I use in the files are a "Zip Punched Pocket" from Rexel - again, I got these on ebay from here as they worked out at only 16 pence (US $0.33) each. In the US, try something like this.

The final item is a pile of 'zip lock' or 'grip seal' bags - again ebay was where I got mine from, but they are also available from packaging stores, like this one in the US. The 3 inch by 2.25 inch size I find great for small parts, as it is the perfect size for electronic items like strips of resistors, but you might also want some larger ones as well.

If you shop around, you can buy a handful of folders, 50 punched pockets, and 1000 zip lock bags for under 25 pounds (US $50.00) - this will be enough to completely organise thousands of small parts!

Step 2: Customise the Folders

Picture of Customise the Folders

With a few minutes on a word processor, and a quick image search on Google, you can easily find and print out a customised front page and spine - helps to keep things looking smart and easy to find. You can even put some technical information on the front which is relevant to the parts inside - sizing tables, for example, for screws, or a colour code lookup for resistors.

Step 3: Organise Everything!

Picture of Organise Everything!

After choosing main 'categories' for your folders, the next step is to setup 'subcategories' using the zip pockets. Label by hand or on the computer, and then put your individual parts inside the small grip seal bags, which then go inside the pockets.

One big advantage is now obvious - you can add and remove the zip pockets in the folder whenever you want, and you can also add or remove the little grip seal bags in the same way. With everything zipped up, you can also literally shake your parts system about, and nothing will fall out. Even if one of the little bags was left open, the worst you will have to do is unzip the pocket, collect the bits, and put them back in the little bag.

Step 4: All Done!

Picture of All Done!

Put all of the zip pockets in the folders, close up, and you are all done! I have now organised over 1000 different types of components in eight folders (less than a quarter of the volume all of my boxes took up!), including all my electronic parts, and all of my miscellaneous small hardware such as nuts, bolts and screws. The largest parts I have also organised in a similar way with "zip bags within zip bags", and then I have stored the collection of bags in some larger plastic drawers.

I have finally got everything organised, for less than 25 pounds (US $50) - it is cheap, flexible, extremely compact, reorganisable, safe (handles the shake test), and portable - perhaps the ultimate small parts storage system!


benm3 (author)2016-10-29

BTW, I ended up using zip lock bags and tucked them in dvd/cd organizer sleeves.

benm3 (author)2016-10-29

Outstanding and really professional looking. You can jam a lot of stuff in boxes and such but your folders allow for notes and pictures as well. I think it is brilliant!


ChristopherJames (author)2016-02-23

I don't think you will have much capacity in a little album like that, but I think it's a pretty good idea for safe storage for wires and things that aren't too bulky. It's definitely a nice nugget of handy packing tips if there aren't any other alternatives in any case! Haha! And I'll surely save money getting a little plastic file put together than going to build a whole cabinet or drawer to hold everything in comparison!

UdyRegan (author)2015-10-15

I think that if you like making things, You're going to need a lot more storage space than plastic Ziploc bags!

robo1968 (author)2015-09-22

And 7 years later it's still a great idea! Thanks for the tips and links! I'm already at it trying! :)

mbear (author)2015-07-10

This is freaking brilliant. Perfect not only for electronics parts, but for the small parts used by miniature wargaming figures. Going to post that in the relevant forum right now.

ChristopherJames (author)2015-04-15

Do not be embarrassed for sharing such a useful idea! I have this plastic organiser pocket book as well but I use it to store almost every tiny little thing that I could find lying around the house. The knick-knacks include keys, Lego pieces, buttons, and even coins. I then hang it neatly inside the coats closet so anyone who lost something small, could look through the lost-and-found pocket book.

wittzo (author)2007-12-12

Our very un-PC instructor taught us "Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls, But Violet Gives Willingly", even the chicks dig it! :) I can't remember the phrase that our other instructor tried to teach us, he was a Sunday School teacher and didn't approve of the wording...

DraakUSA (author)wittzo2015-01-06

My instructor had the same one (Bad Boys Rape ...), but added on Get Some Now, which stand for Gold, Silver, and None (the tolerance bands). He also had a more PC one, which I could never remember.

iatimlee (author)wittzo2010-09-27

...Haven't seen this one posted yet...

Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts, But Vodka Goes Well

static (author)wittzo2010-09-19

Predictably the ribald limerick is going to stick in memory the best. :)

merseyless (author)wittzo2008-11-14

you are a genius! finally something i can remember!

UdyRegan (author)2014-10-26

Wow, this has to be the most neat and systematic organizing technique I have seen all day. Tiny things like accessories and spare parts are the most difficult things to handle because of their mere sizes. They tend to get lost easily and cause so much inconvenience later on. Therefore, having this card case storage book is really useful and handy indeed.

petereggington (author)2012-12-28

Found this to be great idea. Have just finifhed doing my resistor file. I also found some really good labels for each of the bags. I take no responsibility for creating them, just thought they may be useful for someone else.

person% (author)2012-05-21

nice instructable!

that was a good idea. I use a two layer box with only 18 compartments but it is hard to get things out without tweezers. here's my instructable -

kz1 (author)2012-04-21

Great idea. I have so many ones and twos of bits and pieces this will work great for. But what to do with all these bloody little plastic storage thingies?? This is a pack-rat's dream. Spreadsheet with binder & pocket number annotated with description, even quanity...oh my! Organized hoarding...what a concept! :>)

solomonhorses (author)2012-01-22

awesome!Im gonna use that in my new electronics lab!

Peg162 (author)2012-01-07


Botanikas (author)2011-09-29

Organising is awesome :) You should put in one picture of how ur parts storage looked before :)

Aaronius (author)2011-09-29

Brilliant in its simplicity.

Aud1073cH (author)2011-07-27

An excellent idea!

I would move to this system myself, but my quantity of parts is just too large. I would have a whole bookshelf of 5 and 6 inch binders!

eh9 (author)2011-04-14

Uline is stocking ziplock antistatic bags that would address the ESD issue. I'm sure there are other suppliers.

MostlyCarbon (author)2011-02-05

I was going to do this after I saw it here. But when I went to "Staples" to look for the binder inserts I got a better/cheaper idea.

Envelopes. I get 50 for $1. Lots of space to write. then you can put your little zip/static bags inside. if you *really* need to see inside you can get envelopes with BIG windows on them :D

An added bonus is that it's easy to store LOTS of them in a perfectly sized plastic container with a lid and a desiccant inside to keep them from oxidizing over time.

SolomonsJim (author)2011-01-24

Absolutely brilliant. THANK YOU!

Solderguy (author)2010-12-31

WOW. This will organize my stuff so much. THANK YOU.

beeler54321 (author)2010-10-05

wow thats the best idea i have ever seen but one question to the author what was your main 'categories' is the 3 binders in pics the only binders u made (resistors,connectors,capacitor,????) thank you b4 hand

tomward (author)beeler543212010-10-05

Also had one for 'Semiconductors' - these four folders are then the main ones for my electronic stuff but have also made a couple of others for hardware - 'Nuts/Bolts', etc.

SiliconFarmer (author)2010-09-22 no longer carries the zip lock pockets. They did ship the rest of my order without notifying me of the shortage, so I would not recommend them as a vendor in general.

Plenty of other online vendors carry the zipper pockets. Google "viny ring binder zipper pockets" or "Sparco SPR01607" specifically.

For bulky items such as connectors and through hole parts, the zipper pockets with zip-locks are a nice method. My current method is sorting the bags the parts are shipped in into card-file drawers or plastic shoe boxes. That may or may not be better than a bundle of zip-locks in a zipper bag.

For surface mount parts, vendors sell binders full of samples in small pockets open at the top. They do not slip out, but if the binder should fall to the floor at the wrong angle, it could be a mess. Binder pages for coin collecting will work nicely for surface mount parts that come on "cut tape", like resistors, caps, diodes, and LEDs.

I'd pencil the values onto the cut tape in any case. 10 SMT caps look just like 10 SMT resistors, whether they get mixed in an accidental drop, or while laid out carefully on your workbench during assembly.

coopgrl88 (author)2010-09-21


archerj (author)2010-09-21

co2h2o said it! I make jewelry, and getting the right findings for a piece means opening up several boxes. The the same thing for the beads or other parts. This looks like the perfect solution--thanks for sharing.

marcgoovaerts (author)2010-09-20

Looks great and practical. Also for small parts for modelling and eg painted figures in N-scale, so they don't loose their paint rumbling around in boxes.
But I have to see if I can find pockets with a zip-closure here in Belgium. Didn't pay attention untill now. Will be hunting them from today.
To avoid a mess (and added thickness when they collect at the bottom), it would indeed be advisable to store them horizontally, but a pile of these binders could also damage the items through the weight pressing on them.

wjcarpenter (author)2010-09-19

I'm just guessing -- from similar misadventures of my own -- that the little zip-lock bags inside one of the zipper pouches will tend to clump at the bottom when you put these binders upright on a bookshelf.

Have you found that to not be a problem, or have you found a way to work around it?

tomward (author)wjcarpenter2010-09-20

With the zipper pounches I use the plastic is more rigid than some so they don't shift around an enormous amount but it does happen to some extent. I also stack the folders horizontally on a shelf rather than vertically.

normalicy (author)2010-09-19

Love this. Especially for resistors & small capacitors. Gotta try it.

hailster (author)2010-09-19

I would advise trying to find a source for ESD safe bags. Most of the normal bags you will find at office stores create quite a bit of static.

UltraMagnus (author)2010-06-16

does anyone have a UK source for the pockets? the link in the article is dead.

StingzLD (author)2010-01-05

Okay, so I found the best priced zip pockets here. They are the Sparco 8x10 for a whole $0.64 cents each! That is by far the best price I could find. If you find a place that you like that has a better shipping deal, just call them to order and ask for price match. Every place I have called to do price match in the past has done it hands down as long as the site I found was certified, and this one sure is!!!

StingzLD (author)StingzLD2010-01-05

Also, if you are concerned about ESD, you can look here as they have a wide variety of very reasonably priced anti-static and shielding bags. You can also buy them in variety sized packs. For an example on price, you can buy a 100 pack of the 2x3 Static Shielding bags for $5.55. Or you a little more get the 100 pack of 3x5 for $5.99. Or get a variety sized 100 pack for $12.99... Catch my drift?

CrLz (author)2010-01-03
I've been using smaller pocket pages for special items.  I've found photo-slide pages really great for unique, ~individual items.  For larger items, binder pages for photographs work well (4 inch X 5 inch pockets, for example).

Even though these pages do not have closures, I just tape the pocket shut.  For items that are unique, that may you not use for a long time, or strange things you just scavenged and wanted to keep, taped closures are not a problem.  You won't go in/out of the pocket enough to warrant a zip closure.

Nunavutnewsrules asked if baseball card holders would work (previous posting).  I'd say yes, but not for high-traffic components (resistors ...) A huge advantage of little pockets is the organization that the page adds to the whole system.

mentioned the ESD hazard and I agree with Grey_Wolfe's response- keep sensitive parts in original packaging.  When I buy a special IC for a future project, I just keep the part in the bubble pack.  Photo-sleeve pages work great for storing these IC's.  Plus, you want the card back's schematics for the IC anyway, so the packaging is important.
Lastly, my binders tend to get bloated after filling up. Once I filled more than a few binders, using binder archive sleeves really helps keep the whole collection tidy. I’ve made most of mine from spare cardboard.
os_sanches (author)2009-09-19

great idea congratulation

biloyp (author)2009-07-09

Bad Booze Rots Our Young Guts But Vodka Goes Well (Get Some Now) (Tolerance Band)

Nunavutnewsrules (author)2009-01-15

Could you use baseball card holders instead, because you can get those a lot cheaper?

Unfortunately, those don't work - they are too slippery inside, and don't have a closed top. Things fall out, especially lumpy things like gaming figures. Fortunately I found his out before I trod on anything important.

kissiltur (author)2009-05-19

Aha! At last a reasonable solution to transporting my gaming figures! Many thanks.

jamwaffles (author)2009-03-04

Nice to see your using Rapid Electronics - they really are Rapid and Excellent! nice 'ible

co2h2o (author)2009-02-19

OK, I have a girlie, low tech use for this, but for any of you transistor heads here who secretly have a passion for making jewelry and doing other types of beading, this is a brilliant solution for keeping lots of the smaller stuff contained and within view. It really beats my current system which consists of dozens of 'drug dealer' baggies of tiny beads stuffed in to a flowery tackle box. Having it organized might even motivate me to pick up stray beads on the floor and put them in their place versus feeding them to the vacuum. THANK YOU!

mickduc (author)2007-12-28

Has anyone found a good US source for the zip punched pockets?

tomward (author)mickduc2007-12-28

Have you tried the link in the instructable? It looks like they come in a packet of 24, which would be very cheap - you might want to verify this. They seem to have several different types at this site.

Keso (author)tomward2008-02-22

I've just ordered 15 of the zipper at (the store linked above as a US supplier). Like you I thought that I was buying 15 packs of 24 pockets but it turns out that this is not the case. What I received was 15 pockets, that's it.

Furthermore, the pockets are smaller than I expected. They fit the 3-ring binders I have but they're rather shallow. The dimensions say "6 inches" but that includes the zipper and the part that fits in the binder, leaving you with less than 5 inches of usable space behind the zipper. These are not like the ones the author used in the instructable and are pictured above.

I've not yet found a comparable vendor for similar pockets in the US.

kittycat1369 (author)Keso2009-01-10

You can often get them (all sizes) CHEAP just before school starts, and usually 2 or 3 for $1 at most Dollar Stores.

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