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What Can I Use Instead of a Filing Cabinet? 6 Ideas

File cabinets are great for storing a large number of files and documents. However, the bland and boring appearance of these file cabinets may bring down your office appeal. They can make your home office look uninspired. Because of this, many wonder how to organize papers without a file cabinet. 

What can you use instead of a filing cabinet? Other than a filing cabinet, you can use a dresser, a shelving unit, or storage trunks. Depending on the size of your office space, you can use any containers to organize paperwork. You can also consider going paperless and digitizing your office documents.

With that in mind, all you need is a little creativity to create better ways to organize your papers, whether you work at home or at the office. So, what can you use instead of a filing cabinet? Here are the most creative and unique alternatives to storing your papers without file cabinets. Let’s get started.

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What Can I Use Instead of a Filing Cabinet?

In today’s modern office scene, functionality is important, but it’s not everything. This means that commercially made file cabinets, with the main purpose of organizing your files, do little to make your office space more beautiful. To solve this issue, you have to think outside of the box, literally and figuratively.

How can I organize my papers without a file cabinet?

So, how can you organize your papers without a file cabinet? There are many furniture options that offer value in terms of aesthetics.  Let’s take a look at some of the best file cabinet alternatives. These choices should offer the same storage capacity without making your office look sorry. 

1. Dresser

Believe it or not, a dresser can easily work as a functional and versatile filing cabinet alternative. After all, they both look very similar and resemble each other. A vertical dresser works great if you don’t have a lot of space to work with, providing you with a quick and easy way to store files and folders.  

While dressers are used to store clothing, it can be used to store papers as well. A vertical dresser stand boasts a slim, lightweight design to easily fit into smaller spaces while still providing plenty of storage capacity. Just be sure to buy one with removable drawers that have an easy pull handle to make opening it simple. 

PRO TIP: If you are looking for file cabinets to accommodate smaller spaces, be sure to read our reviews of the best file cabinets for small spaces. We’ve carefully selected the best compact-sized filing cabinets that not only look beautiful but offer excellent storage capacity as well.

2. Shelving Units

A useful addition to any living space or storage area, shelving units allow you to create valuable vertical space. In the living room, a shelving unit can beautifully display books, magazines, board games, and more. In an office setting, it can help keep files, documents, and supplies neatly organized.

To provide better flexibility, you can opt to buy a shelving unit equipped with caster wheels. This allows you to place the shelving unit anywhere you want it easily. It’s easy to see why many businesses choose to use shelving units instead of file cabinets due to their contemporary good looks and conveniently adjustable design.

3. Storage Trunks

Storage trunks are often found in homes and are often used to store towels, clothes, and toys. These storage trunks come in unique designs and are shaped like a treasure chest. While you can’t store a huge number of files in these trunks, they can act as a creative file cabinet alternative at home.

Often, storage trunks can double as makeshift chairs as well. If you want to maximize the value of a storage trunk, find one that can act as an ottoman. Whether in the living room opposite the sofa or the hallway next to the wardrobe, you can beautify any living space while keeping your files organized.

4. Plastic Containers

Plastic storage containers can function as an affordable filing cabinet alternative when you are on a tight budget. If you don’t want to spend a hefty amount for a real file cabinet, then you can save a few dollars by buying a plastic storage container. Not only are they cheap, but you will be able to store many things as well.

We recommend buying a 3-drawer medium storage cart. They are an ideal storage solution for your home or office. The smoke-tinted plastic drawers enable you to see the contents inside the drawers and access them with ease. A versatile and portable plastic storage container can also be used in classrooms and dorm rooms.

PRO TIP: If you are looking for the best option for your home office, look no further and read our reviews of the best file cabinet for home office. Every product on that list is specifically designed to maximize home office space, all the while providing you with the necessary storage capacity for your needs.

5. Desk Drawers

Another great substitute for filing cabinets that you probably already have in your home or office is your desk drawers. However, they only have limited space, so allot them for your most important documents. They are one of the best file cabinet alternatives if you don’t want to add more furniture to occupy floor space.

Drawers that are deep enough are the best options because you can file your documents vertically for easy access. That said, regular desk drawers can work with a few organization hacks. For both types of drawers, file your documents in separate envelopes or an accordion or expanding folder. Don’t forget to label them so that you can quickly find what you need.

6. Wall File Racks or Trays

Save that extra floor space by installing wire file racks or trays to file documents you need quick access to on almost a daily basis. Just ensure you don’t install too many of these file cabinet alternatives as they may turn into eyesores. Many recommend installing a wire rack or tray on the wall near their office table, but you can use walls in the more secluded corners of your office.

How can I hide my filing cabinet?

You probably already have a filing cabinet or plan to purchase one despite using one or more file cabinet alternatives. If you have no choice but to display it in your office, consider hiding it away. So, how can you hide your filing cabinet?

There are many ways to transform your dull filing cabinets into creative items. This way, you can have them on display without them looking out of place and an eyesore, such as:


The best way to hide your filing cabinet is to paint it. Applying a coat of paint is arguably the easiest way to disguise a plain-looking metal filing cabinet. Instead of regular gray, beige, or black, paint allows you to choose virtually any color for your filing cabinet.

Cover With Fabric

Another great way to hide your filing cabinet is to create a slipcover or fabric skirt for your filing cabinet. It’s an ideal way to disguise it, especially if you’re handy with a sewing machine.

Just make sure you add an opening in front of the fabric skirt you made. This way, you won’t have to remove it each time you need something from the filing cabinet. Consider using zippers and Velcro straps for easy opening and closing.

If you don’t know how to sew, you can use a piece of fabric to cover the entire filing cabinet and drape it over the furniture like a tablecloth.

Decorate With Wallpaper

Covering a monstrous filing cabinet with wallpaper is a practical alternative to painting. Even better, it’s a more manageable project for those who aren’t confident with their sewing skills. You can find wallpaper products with adhesive backs and ones that require applying the adhesive yourself. If you prefer the latter, choose all-in-one craft glue or sealant, as they’re excellent for metal surfaces.

Design-wise, choose wallpaper similar to your room’s wallpaper for a camouflage effect. Meanwhile, use wallpaper with pleasing patterns if you have walls with solid or plain colors.

Remember that you don’t have to cover the entire cabinet with wallpaper. You can get creative and mix different wallpaper designs, but ensure they complement each other and won’t turn the cabinet into a center of attention. Lastly, you can cover the regular filing cabinet’s drawers for a more understated style and look.


Is wallpaper too boring for your taste and creativity skills? Turn your ugly metal filing cabinet into a personalized piece of art by attaching photos, magazine or newspaper clippings, postcards, maps, and more using decoupage glue.

Going Paperless

Taking everything into consideration, a creative way to greatly reduce the number of papers used at the office is to go paperless. A paperless office is a work environment in which the use of paper is greatly reduced or eliminated. This is done by converting documents into digital form, a process known as digitization.

Physical documents can be hard to track. Reams of paper can get lost, misfiled, or destroyed without anyone noticing. It can also be challenging to monitor the access, printing, and copying of sensitive documents. The digitization process can help boost security and ease the transfer of information as well.

With that said, you may want to go digital to take your business to greater heights in the process.

Final Words

Hopefully, this post can provide you with creative ideas to answer the question: what can I use instead of a filing cabinet? With so many options available at your disposal, choosing the best filing cabinet alternative is all about being resourceful and handy at the same time. Here’s to a wonderful day at the office. 🙂

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