What To Do With Old File Cabinets? 11 Creative Ideas

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As more and more of our filing and document storage moves online into the cloud, the needs of our work and home offices continue to evolve. If you are not producing as many hard copy documents as you once were, the demand for physical storage space decreases. The question is what to do with old file cabinets. 

Increased digital storage is not the only reason why this might be a concern. On the contrary, you may need new larger capacity file cabinets because the old ones can no longer accommodate your needs. Or, you may simply want to go a different route because you are redecorating your office space.

Staying true to the old adage of “Waste Not, Want Not,” we believe that there are creative and useful things to do with old file cabinets. After all, just because they do not meet your changing needs or reflect your current style does not mean that your old file cabinets cannot be repurposed with a new lease on life.

Here, we are going to look at some of the original and outside-the-box things to do with old file cabinets. On the one hand, it is a great way to be ecologically responsible because we should all reuse, repurpose, and recycle whenever possible. But it also shows respect to office furniture that served you faithfully for years.

Creative Ideas on What To Do With Old File Cabinets

1. Turn Your Old File Cabinets Into a New Desk

This is an easy project if you have a couple of smaller two-drawer filing cabinets. All you have to do is sand them down, repaint them, and attach them at either end of an appropriately-sized wooden top, and -- voila! -- you have a brand-new stylish desk. This works well with both metal and wooden small file cabinets.

2. Take a Look at a Book Nook

In a similar way, take two taller 4-drawer file cabinets, sand them, and paint them bright kid-friendly colors. Attach a board across the tops, as you did in the previous project, leaving plenty of room in between. Add curtains and a few fluffy throw pillows, and you have an adorable book nook for a young child.

3. Really Go Green

Old file cabinets can become useful pots for plants!

If you take the drawers out of a 4-drawer file cabinet and turn it on its back, you have just instantly made a planter box for your garden or flower beds. All you have to do is paint the cabinet a fresh springtime color, punch some drainage holes, add soil and fertilizer, and you are ready to plant your favorite flowers.

4. Create a One-Stop Crafting Station

If you have one of those older multi-drawer filing cabinets that were typically used to store 3 x 5 or 5 x 7 cards, then you also have the ideal storage and organizing system for all of your craft supplies and tools. The small drawers are perfect for the buttons and beads and brushes that you use in your upcoming crafting projects.

5. Do You Need More Counter Space in Your Kitchen?

With some modifications, a two-drawer file cabinet on wheels becomes the indispensable kitchen aide that you have always wanted. First, paint or stain the file cabinet to match your kitchen cabinets. Then attach a piece of countertop or butcher block on top. Add a towel rack on the side, and your island is complete.

6. Positively Pamper Your Pets

With a little bit of creativity, old file cabinets can become the ultimate pet feeding station!

This is a great project for single-drawer file cabinets. After repainting the cabinet in your choice of colors, cut two holes in the top large enough to accommodate food and water bowls. Place a large plastic tote inside the drawer to act as a liner, and fill the tote with pet food and a scoop. Now your pet has a feeding station.

7. Creating a Cheerful Child’s Room

Old metal four-drawer cabinets are perfect for a young child’s bedroom or playroom. This is also a great project you can do together. All you have to do is repaint them in bright child-pleasing colors and label or color-code the drawers. Decorate the sides, and now your child has the coolest dresser or toybox in town.

8. Organize Your Family’s Sports Equipment

Do you have an active family who loves to play sports? With this super-easy project, remove the drawers from a four-drawer file cabinet and place the box on its back. Now you have a place for all the bats, balls, rackets, hockey sticks, cleats, skates, and pads that your family uses. Repaint the box to support your favorite team.

9. Transform a Table and Turn Heads

Old file cabinets can become a cheap, but useful table.

Antique wooden multi-drawer card filing cabinets can easily be repurposed to become a one-of-a-kind occasional or coffee table for your office lobby, living room, or hallway. Paint the boxes and drawers, polish the hardware, and then attach the cabinet to a small plain table, and you have a real conversation piece.

10. Educational Assistance for Homeschoolers

If you home-school your young child, this project is for you! First, remove the cabinet’s drawers and repaint them in the primary colors. Cover one side of the box with chalkboard paint, and attach a cut-to-fit magnetic whiteboard to the other. After reassembly, you have the perfect place to store your kids' school supplies.

11. Do the Right Thing: DONATE!

No matter how tired you are of looking at your old office furniture, there is always a new business that would love to have them. If they are in good shape, one of the best things to do with old file cabinets is to donate them to a reputable local charity that will sell them or even just give them to new small businesses.

Giving Your Old File Cabinets New Life

Those are just a few examples of what to do with old file cabinets. There is absolutely no limit to the creative ways you can repurpose them if you simply try to think outside the box, no pun intended. At the end of the day, you can feel satisfied knowing that your effort made a positive difference to the environment.