7 File Cabinet Alternatives and Creative Ideas

Conventional filing cabinets are functional, but they lack aesthetic value. Whether you are using a filing cabinet at home or in your workplace, it should add to the aesthetic value of the space. There are more creative and unique designs to perform functionality and design purposes. Unlike ordinary file cabinets that are mass-produced and look drab, these extraordinary pieces take your office decor up a notch.

Reasons for looking for file cabinet alternatives vary. You may need more space to store items or want to spruce things up. Either way, you’ll need a decent furniture piece. Luckily, there are pieces to fit into different design themes like the bohemian, mid-century modern, and contemporary designs.

Is a filing cabinet necessary?

Organizing papers without a filing cabinet is tricky. Unless you go digital, try binders, or get a portable file box, having a file cabinet is unavoidable. Even with the world going paperless, you cannot digitalize some important documents. It is also more convenient to have hard copies of certain documents like agreements and financial records.

File cabinets are indispensable because of their unique features. There are fire-proof and lockable options to keep files safe from destruction and theft. Every office has a filing system and having cabinets helps to stay organized. You can incorporate a hanging file system to keep your papers neat and easily accessible. Even though digital file storage has its perks, file cabinets are needful.

7 best alternatives to file cabinets

Modern designs encourage creativity when it comes to storage and filing cabinets. Most filing cabinets in offices are an eye sore. They do not fit into design themes and only detract from your décor. Most items can perform both storage and design functions. You end up with a storage option that is also visually appealing.

Issues such as budget and office space have a significant role to play in deciding what to use to replace your drab-looking file cabinet. Luckily, there are cheap filing options and creative ideas for furniture pieces and items to replace the boring file cabinet.  


Dressers are an unexpected option, but they work perfectly. More often than not, you have some space left in your dresser. You can put this space to good use by storing files. It’s better to place them vertically with separators and labels for easy identification. If the dresser is deep enough, you can use hanging folders.

Dressers are great storage options if you have a limited number of files. If you have a lot of files to store, a dresser might not be the best option unless you buy a new one and use all the drawers for file storage. However, it is better to move stuff around and create room in a dresser you already have around your house.


  • Dressers are stylish, and you won’t have to purchase an extra furniture piece.


  • If you cannot place your files vertically, laying them flat makes it harder to find the file you want.

Storage trunks

Storage trunks look like treasure chests. They are quite the eye candy, and work well as storage. Storage trunks come in various shapes and sizes and are made of different materials. Unlike file cabinets, they have visual appeal and seamlessly blend in a room. Additionally, they are very affordable, considering their exquisite designs.

Most people prefer to store valuables and important documents in storage trunks. You can get a trunk that fits perfectly in the space available. Trunks eliminate the need to have a dull space-consuming file cabinet that does nothing for your space.


  • It is visually appealing and can blend into most design themes.


  • Storage trunks are difficult to move because most are heavy.
  • Finding documents in a trunk is cumbersome unless you place the files vertically.
  • Trunks need maintenance depending on the material. Metallic trunks need a lot of care and maintenance.


Shelves are easy to install. You can build as many as you need in your office space. Wooden shelves are also elegant and easy on the eye unlike file cabinets with the dull metal finish that is difficult to incorporate into your design. That is if you have a specific theme for your office. Moreover, shelves allow organized file placement that helps you find files quickly.

You may choose to buy pre-made shelves or construct your own depending on your budget and the space you’re working with.


  • Shelves look better than metal file cabinets.
  • They are easy to organize.


  • You will have to construct tall shelves if there are a lot of files to store. Tall shelves are cumbersome to reach.

Desk drawers

If your home office desk has drawers, that is an excellent place to store files. Again, this only works better than a file cabinet if you have minimal files to store. Desks with deep drawers are great because you can place your files vertically. This way, you can quickly identify the files you want and pull them out.

There are different desk options in the market, depending on your budget. You won’t have to take up space by adding a file cabinet to your office. The desk performs many functions since it has a work top too.


  • Drawers are easily accessible while you’re working.
  • You don’t need to acquire an extra furniture piece, thus saving floor space.


  • Desk drawers can get costly. Especially if you want one with several drawer compartments.
  • You might have to store files horizontally because of space constraints.

Plastic storage containers

Plastic containers are inexpensive. They’ll save you a lot if you have a tight budget. Fortunately, some containers are deep enough to allow you to place files vertically. They are also spacious enough to hold many files. Unlike other options that need setting up, storage containers are quick to put in place and start using.

Most storage containers come with a secure lid. Your documents will be safe from any liquid spills and dust. You can also label each container according to its contents to prevent time wastage while looking for documents.  


  • They are more affordable than file cabinets.   
  • You can store your files vertically for easy access and better organization.


  • Plastic containers are not stylish.
  • They are not durable, depending on how you use them.

File baskets

File baskets look better than plastic storage containers. If you find modern-looking baskets, they look great when tucked away in a closet or bookshelf. Sizes differ, and you can get larger baskets if you need to store many files. If you cannot fit these baskets inside a lockable closet, your files won’t be safe and will get dusty or wet.

File baskets have excellent organizational features. You can store files vertically, either alphabetically or numerically if you’re lucky to find deep baskets.


  • They are aesthetically pleasing than file cabinets and plastic containers.  
  • They are a cheaper storage option.


  • They provide minimal storage space.  
  • Are impractical, security-wise, if you cannot store them in a lockable closet.

File storage ottoman

The best furniture pieces are those that serve multiple purposes. An ottoman is perfect for storage and is excellent for propping your feet when not in use. Ottomans come in beautiful designs that easily fit in your home office. They are not an ordinary file storage option, but they are deep enough to carry many files.

Whether your office has a contemporary or retro theme, you’ll find the perfect ottoman to blend into the design seamlessly.


  • Ottomans are stylish and elegant.
  • They are spacious and can safely store several files.


  • Ottomans are heavy to move around depending on the size and material

File cabinets serve their storage purposes, but they are not aesthetically pleasing. Not everyone wants the industrial theme in their workplaces or home offices. The metal finish of file cabinets is dull. Thankfully, modern designs allow for more wood elements and pops of color in the office space.

The need for an alternative to file cabinets is determined by storage space and design functionality. If the traditional file cabinet does not appeal to you and time and budget allow, choose the homemade file cabinet route. You will be in charge of designing the cabinet in a way that appeals to your tastes and preferences. If you cannot do it yourself, choose from the alternatives above and revamp your office space.


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