The days are long gone where functionality was responsible for holding everything in place. This caused a massive downswing in the need for mass-produced and commercially-made filing cabinets, especially when people started valuing aesthetics as much as organization potential. This led to them looking for file cabinet alternatives that seamlessly combined function and beauty to match virtually any design style.
Originally, filing cabinets were bulky and very industrial looking. They could easily be an eyesore that keeps your office or home looking boring and uninspired. However, the good news is that you don’t have to clutter up the space to improve how they look. Instead, all you have to do is consider installing one or two of the filing cabinet alternatives we listed for you below.
Filing cabinets are very useful to help you stay organized in your office, and they’re a way to store hundreds or thousands of papers while keeping them at your fingertips. Filing Cabinet by mightymightymatze / CC BY-NC 2.0
Why Filing Cabinets are so Useful
With digital storage being invented and taking off, the ability to safely and securely store huge amounts of data in a cloud, hard drive, or flash drive have made using paper records obsolete. There were a huge range of arguments, benefits, and concerns about making the switch to digital storage from the traditional way, but it’s clear that digital is ultimately better. It’s usually more cost-effective, and it’s a huge space-saver. This has pushed businesses of every kind to jump to digital over traditional storage methods.
However, not everyone is ready to let go and make the switch. There are several advantages to hanging onto your file cabinets or trying one of these file cabinet alternatives in your office or home. We’re going to outline why you should seriously consider keeping filing cabinets around below.
Cyber breaches, leaks, and accidents happen frequently. No matter if it’s someone with malicious software who decides to hold your records hostage or an employee who accidentally dumps a cup of coffee onto your server, you could lose your data. Digital storage may be compact and have the ability to hold millions of files on a small drive, but there is a disadvantage. Destroying millions of documents in paper format would take time. Digitally, a corrupt drive, virus, or someone messing around in the system could bring it all down.
Having your critical information on paper in a traditional filing cabinet gives you a nice backup plan in these instances. A filing cabinet alternative can easily protect your information when digital copies fail. A fireproof cabinet can also withstand natural disasters and cyber criminals. Instead of trying to keep your business afloat while you scramble to recover your information, you can keep things running smoothly by having a paper backup of all of your essential records.
Different Types of Storage Opportunities
Filing cabinets usually get filled with paper files, but they’re also a very uniform, compact, secure, and stylish container that you can use for different items. For example, take office supplies. Things like pens, staplers, and coffee mugs can fit neatly into a filing cabinet to keep your office looking organized and tidy while keeping everything within close reach.
Having a well-organized workspace will help boost efficiency by removing the need to get up and hunt down your supplies when you need them, and it will boost morale as your employees feel comfortable with how clean it is. So, instead of ditching the cabinets when you go digital, save them for storage.
When all of your files are digital, they’re at an increased risk from attacks from cyber criminals like hackers. Today, these criminals will steal vital information for a range of issues, including profiting from it or just causing chaos. For any business that has personal information like passwords, bank numbers, or employee or customer information like passwords or social security numbers, losing this information can have a huge negative impact on your business.
Having physical copies of this information stored into a secure filing cabinet will allow you to avoid a cyber attack altogether. Paper may be more costly and slower to share, but it increases your overall security, creates peace of mind, and protects people.
Many businesses hold onto at least a few old-school file cabinets to have a secure place to store sensitive documents, no matter how large the business is. ABC SA, Archives Building, Filing Cabinets by Daniel Mee / CC BY 2.0
7 Filing Cabinet Alternatives
If you’re trying to get the functionality that you’d get with a filing cabinet but you want something that looks nicer, we’ve picked out seven filing cabinet alternatives for you to consider. They are as sleek and free of clutter as you need them to be, and they serve a purpose of giving you space to store your items.
1. Desk Drawers
Desk drawers work well for the home office because you should already ideally have a desk of some sort. Additionally, there tend to be fewer files in a home office. So, it’s a good idea to get a desk that has at least a few drawers for storage. You can use them just as you would a traditional filing cabinet with hanging dividers to help keep everything nicely organized. Depending on the space you have, you may have to have them horizontal.
If you decide to have drawers custom made, you can choose the materials, sizes, and dimensions of each drawer to give a unique file cabinet alternative. This a great if you have extra space on the floor or walls that you can fill with your custom drawers. However, you want to be very careful with the dimensions because making the drawers too deep will make it hard to get your papers out. Additionally, the more you put in the drawers, the heavier the desk is, and the harder they are to move.
If you have drawers in your dresser that you’re not currently using, you can easily turn this into a filing cabinet alternative. It’s practice, convenient, and you can repurpose existing storage spaces around your house so they’re not sitting vacant. If the drawers are on the deeper side, it’s possible to add hanging files too. This won’t work if you have a mess of files though. But, if you want to replace a full cabinet, this is a sleek option. If you have a lot of files, you may need to buy a whole new dresser instead of trying to share space in an occupied one.
The top of your dresser can pull double duty as a desktop to hold your useful materials or decorations. It’s a very solid file cabinet alternative that has the potential to allow you to keep everything highly organized and ready to go. It is also a very aesthetically-pleasing option that can blend nicely into most decors, and dressers come in a huge range of sizes to fit your space.
You can store all of your papers and files vertically to pack hundreds of files into a single drawer. Putin grabs or separators with labels on each section allows you to keep everything in order and easy to grab when you have to revisit it.
Shelves are a very convenient storage solution, and it’s easy to add more as your need for storage space expands. They won’t eat up your floor space like your dresser or trunk would, and this file cabinet alternative makes it easy to pick files out when you need them. It’s a little like creating a bookshelf that you can spread out around your room on your walls as you like with a design that suits your needs. A lot of businesses went from standard filing cabinets to shelving units years ago, and it’s slowly catching on in residential homes.
You can even sort your files, hole punch them, and place them in binders so every client or person has their own binder. The shelves can start right at the floor and extend to the ceiling in your room. If you can get a safe way to access all of your shelves in place, this is a fantastic file cabinet alternative to have in your home. You can organize them numerically or alphabetically, or you can create a unique filing system. This is a great choice for larger businesses who have entire storage rooms dedicated to files.
Shelving can also be much prettier than traditional file cabinets. Metal cabinets can look very severe, dull, and lifeless while wooden shelves are elegant and warm. They also fit in your office or in your home office. You can design them in any pattern or shade you like to match your decor too. However, there are a few things you should note about using this file cabinet alternative. If you have files in different sizes that you need to group together, this could be a challenge. Additionally, you have to have something on the ends of the shelves to prevent the files from falling or slipping off and exploding when they hit the floor.
4. Storage Benches
If you need to create a space that performs double-duty in a smaller room, you can easily hide your file storage in this file cabinet alternative. As a bonus, your clients can even sit on it. All you have to do is get or build a nice bench, set it up against the wall, cover it with a host of throw pillows, and replace the main body of the bench with sliding cabinets.
This setup will give you a single row of cabinets to store your files. Depending on which niche your business is in, this could very well be all of the space you need. The cabinets function just like a traditional system would, and you can organize them the same way. Everything gets neatly tucked away and hidden until you need it. If you’re expecting clients or visitors, you can remove the files you’ll need first so you don’t have to ask them to stand up so you can pull your paperwork out.
Storage benches are a great way to get multiple uses out of one piece of furniture. You can have an area for your guests to sit, and the undercarriage will have space for your files. CWC0B_1 by Bonsoni.com / CC BY 2.0
5. Storage Containers
Storage containers, especially the ones you can buy that are made out of plastic are a very cost-effective file cabinet alternative when you’re on a tight budget. You’ll only have to buy the container itself and a few dividers to finish your set up. You can choose from a range of sizes, colors, and patterns to have them fit seamlessly into your decor, and you can have them match or stand out. However, you normally won’t get them for their aesthetic appeal, and you’ll usually focus more on the functional aspect they offer for your home office.
Some storage containers will work exactly like a traditional metal file cabinet. You can put your files vertically in these containers to store hundreds of them without running out of space. They also require no special setup, and they’re very popular for use as a garage storage idea due to how durable they are.
However, these plastic file cabinet alternatives don’t look the best, and they tend to look cheap no matter what you do. Depending on how you handle them, they won’t last as long as other options. But, if you’re on a tight budget and you need something easy to store all of your files in, this is something to seriously consider.
6. Storage Trunks
This is a slightly unorthodox file cabinet alternative, but it’s also a very popular pick in some areas of the world. This is especially true if it concerns valuables. So, if you want a space to store all of your more valuable documents like medical records or tax returns, this is something to consider. It’s a smaller solution, but it’s just enough if you only have a small amount of papers.
You can choose from a range of sizes when you buy them, and they have very visually pleasing designs to them that turn them into attractive accents in your room. Some people choose to put these trunks on display, and you’ll know that they have the information you need safely and securely stored away.
If you go with vintage chests, they can look like treasure chests, and they come in a huge range of materials that allow you to mix and match several different ones spaced around the room. They look much better than the drab traditional filing cabinet, and this file cabinet alternative is reasonably-priced. However, you do usually have to stack your papers upwards to store them, and this can make them difficult to sort. Digging around inside the trunk can get tiring too.
7. Wall File Racks
This file cabinet alternative is smaller plastic or aluminum racks that get drilled straight into your drywall or wall alternative. On the sides of this rack, you get several horizontal wires that will hold your hanging file organizers in place, and they stack virtually on top of one another. Since they’re mounted straight to the wall, these racks won’t eat up your valuable floor space. Most max out at 10-inches wide, so you can easily get several on a single shelf. If you stack the folders correctly, they can hold up to three cabinet drawers’ worth of files on a single rack. Additionally, this is a very scalable file cabinet alternative. If you do run out of space, it’s easy to add another rack right next to the first one.
You will have to be comfortable with the idea of having your files displayed or partially out in the open. File hangers are one way to hide the contents of your paperwork, but the sorting system will be open for the world to see. They are a great solution if you plan on having to go get files on a frequent basis. Also, the racks tend to be very plain. This gives you the opportunity to dress them up however you see fit. You can paint them or even get two or three different colors for your folders that contrast with the wall.
Five Ways to Hide a File Cabinet
If you already have a file cabinet or you want to get a file cabinet alternative in the near future, you’ll have to display it somewhere. If you don’t want to do this, there are several things you can do to hide it and keep it cleverly out of sight. You can transform your cabinet into a creative showpiece in your office, and the following ideas may just inspire you:
If you don’t feel like breaking out the wallpaper and covering your file cabinet alternative, you can easily turn the tired metal cabinet into a personalized art piece. You can do so by attaching newspaper or magazine clippings, pictures, maps, postcards, and more by using decoupage glue.
A nice way to hide your file cabinet alternative is to make a slipcover or create a fabric skirt that fits around the cabinet. It’s a great way to add color or texture, especially if you know your way around a sewing machine. You should make sure to add an opening in front of the skirt so you can push it aside to get to your flies when you need them.
Velcro straps or zippers are a nice way to close the skirt or slipcover when you don’t need anything from the drawers, and they help hold the fabric closed. If you don’t know how to use a sewing machine or how to sew, you can easily get a bigger piece of fabric and drape it over the whole thing.
Depending on the fabric you pick out, this can be an inexpensive way to dress up your file cabinet alternatives to make it stand out or blend into your decor. New fabric by Dutch Blythe Fashion / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
When you take everything into consideration we’ve touched on in this file cabinet alternative article, one easy way to reduce the amount of paper you have all over your office is to go paperless. A paperless office is a space where you’ve taken steps to eliminate or reduce the paper you use on a daily basis. Many times, this is done by digitization, or converting documents into a digital form.
Physical pieces of paper can be hard to keep track of. It’s easy for reams of paper to get misfiled, lost, or destroyed without anyone being the wiser. It’s also very challenging to monitor access, copying, and printing of more sensitive documents. The digitization process of all or most of your paperwork can ease the information transfer while boosting your security too.
One of the best ways to hide a filing cabinet is with paint. Applying a coat or two of paint is the easiest way you can disguise a plain-looking filing cabinet. Instead of it being the traditional black, beige, or gray, you can easily brighten it up by painting it whatever color you like, and you can add patterns or designs.
Covering a larger file cabinet alternative with wallpaper is a practical option if you don’t want to break out the paint. It can also be more manageable if you’re not confident with your sewing or painting skills. You can find wallpaper with an adhesive back or ones that require you to apply the adhesive on your own. If you pick the latter, you should get an all-in-one sealant or craft glue because they adhere to metal very well.
When it comes to the design, pick a wallpaper that has a similar color or pattern to the room to create a camouflage effect. If you have plain or solid colors on the wall, pick out a wallpaper with pleasing patterns. You don’t have to cover 100% of the cabinet with wallpaper. You can easily mix different patterns, colors, or designs, but make sure they complement one another. Make sure you cover the drawers as well to give it a complete look.
File Cabinet Alternative FAQs
This can be a larger investment, depending on which file cabinet alternative you pick out. So, knowing a few of the most frequently asked questions can help narrow down your choices.
1. Should the cabinet lock?
This really depends on what you have in the cabinet. If you have sensitive information like customer banking info or social security numbers, it should absolutely lock. If you have just general papers, you may be able to skip this security measure.
2. Which file cabinet alternative is the most durable?
Outside of the traditional file cabinet made out of metal, a solid wood cabinet is most likely going to be the most durable. They’re heavier and harder to move, and this boosts your security. They’re also harder to get into if they lock.
3. Can you make your own file cabinet?
Yes! If you’re an avid DIYer, it should be relatively easy to create custom file cabinet alternatives that fit into your space. They could have as many drawers as you want, fit any dimension, and have the drawers be as deep as you need.
We’ve outlined seven file cabinet alternatives for you to consider if you don’t want to go with the traditional metal route. You can mix and match options to see which ones will fit best for your needs. When you find them, you’ll get something that helps you stay organized and clutter-free.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.