How to Organize a Filing Cabinet

posted in: Organizing | 4

Image of a manila folder and the phrase, How to Organize a Filing Cabinet Do you have a filing cabinet in your home or office?

Wondering how to set up all of your files and documents?

In this post, I offer a few helpful pointers to help you organize a filing cabinet for your needs.

Organizing a filing cabinet seems easy, you just put some paper into a manila folder, get a hanging file, and drop the lot into a drawer in your cabinet, right?

Actually, there’s a lot more to organizing a filing cabinet than you think.

Here’s a few tips to help you organize things and keep them under control.

Want a FREE household file worksheet? Click here to get access to my organization resource library, filled with eBooks, worksheets, checklists, and more! 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate.

Create a filing system.

First things first, you need to create a filing system.

This is the method by which you will store and file your papers and documents.

Filing systems can be as general or as detailed as you’d like; the whole point is to be able to find what you need easily and conveniently.

Keep in mind, whenever you set out to create a filing system, or a file, you are creating it for your future self.

That is, your future self should be able to find what you need without any problem.

Do you want to organize items alphabetically, numerically, by name, company, client/customer, project, or due date?

You may find it helpful to take a few moments to organize your thoughts, so you know exactly which types of files you’ll create.

Make a list of files.

Now that you’ve created a filing system, it’s time to make a working list of files you’ll place into your system.

All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. Keeping in mind the filing system you’ve just created, think about the names of files that will go into this system, and start making a list. 

If you were organizing a filing cabinet based by client, you might create a with the following clients: Astor, Brown, Jones, Smith, Thompson, and so on.

If you were organizing a filing cabinet for household bills, you might create a list with the following: Cable Bill, Gas Bill, Electric Bill, Telephone Bill, Water Bill, and so on.

Avoid miscellaneous folders.

It may be tempting to throw out all those takeout menus, electronic warranties, instruction manuals, and treasured birthday cards into a single, massive miscellaneous folder. You’ll have what you need in one folder, right?

Unfortunately, a miscellaneous folder can do more harm than good, especially when it comes to retrieving information quickly and easily. Instead, get focused about the item in question and find a better filing solution.

The Ultimate Office Supply Checklist
Out of file folders? Stock up your workspace with this office supply checklist.

Personalize your cabinets and files.

Who says filing cabinets or files have to be dull and boring?

If you’re going to reference your files, why not make the experience a pleasant one? You can make things visually appealing!

These days, you can find all different types of office furniture and office supplies in a variety of shapes, colors, and patterns.

From colorful filing cabinets, to bright portable file folders, to intricate and sassy manila folders, there’s something for every taste and budget.

Take a look at any, or all, of these office supply websites for some inspiration: Poppin, Knock Knock, and See Jane Work.

Prepare folders and hanging files.

Grab a bunch of manila folders and hanging folders and start labeling them according to the list(s) you prepared above.

Label items using whatever method you see fit: labeling with a pencil makes it easy to change or edit items, while using a label maker can make things look more unified.

Clean out a drawer (or two) in your filing cabinet.

It’s easiest to start with a clean slate; in this case, a clean filing cabinet. Remove the contents of the filing cabinet and place them onto a clean, flat surface.

Drop in all of your pre-labeled hanging files and folders, and you’re ready to…

Replace and/or file items.

Now it’s time to place all of your papers and documents into the appropriate folders.

You may have to spend some time sorting through papers, materials, and documents to match like items with like, but the essential structure of your files is already there.

Refer back to your filing system and file list as needed to remind yourself as to what goes where.

How to Organize a Notebook for Work
Keep track of those notes! Learn how to organize a notebook for work with these tips.

Make it easy to file and dispose of documents.

Have a stack of papers that need to be filed? Keep a basket, box, or container near your filing cabinet to temporarily hold everything. You can then file a bunch of items at once, instead of piecemeal.

Avoid letting your filing pile up; it’s far easier to file five pieces of paper in one sitting than five hundred!

Get into the habit of filing papers at the end of the day, or any time of the day you so choose, such as before lunch, or when you need to take a break from your desk.

You may also want to set up a recycling bin or shredder nearby to make it easy to properly dispose of old, or outdated papers.

Want a FREE household file worksheet? Click here to get access to my organization resource library, filled with eBooks, worksheets, checklists, and more! 

How about you? What do you find is the most difficult thing about keeping a filing cabinet organized? Let’s see if we can’t help you out. Join in the conversation and leave a comment below!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate.

4 Responses

  1. Marcy

    My biggest challenge is letting my “to file” pile grow to large before tackling. I also like to purge utility bill receipts each year. I once discovered I had up to five years of statements filed. However, I now get so many e-statements that I don’t have the paper bulk. That leads to a new filing challenge of creating the folders on my desktop computer to file at each email notification.

    • Rashelle

      Yes, tackling that “to file” pile can be quite a challenge. Keep things light and manageable on the paper end by setting a small goal to file 10 items each day, or as much as you can within a ten minute period. You could also set filters in your email so your statements go into the right folder; no manual filing necessary!

  2. Barbie Norris

    I have a great file cabinet, I just painted it and now I have5 drawers of folders and paper’s that I now have to go thru and put back. I’m going to try using those bigger folders and use one of the drawers for thing’s that otherwise don’t have a home, like one for artwork and a folder for the battery charger because I always have to go looking for it….do you think that would work?

    • Rashelle

      Hi Barbie, thanks for your comment. It certainly sounds like you have a organization plan for your filing cabinet! As far as using one of the drawers for storage, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work if you are short on storage space. I would suggest you clearly label items so it is clear as to which items belong where, and so that miscellaneous items don’t work their way inside the cabinet. Hope that helps!