File cabinet organization – 6 steps process to organize filings + smart tips to make it EASY

So, file cabinet organization. . .

It has to one of the most boring and tedious tasks on planet Earth. At least for me, even though I LOVE organizing in general.

Grab my favorite quotes on organization here. They keep me inspired!

I know why you are here today… you need help organizing a filing cabinate in your home office (or at your office).

Often times, we all wonder –

How should we store all of our files and documents?

How to organize filing cabinet in a way which is not time-consuming and still make things easier to look for?

Guess what?

Organizing a filing cabinet is, in fact, a simple organization project.

In this post, we will simplify the process of orgainizing a filing cabinet for you.

So, if your filing cabinet is a complete mess and it makes finding any document, paper work, bill etc impossible, then this post on how to organize a filing cabinet is DEFINITELY for you.

I offer several tips and pointers to make organizing a filing cabinet for your needs in this post.

In fact, these tips and the process of file cabinet organization can help you create an organized system to store documents and minimise any extra time spent on looking for files.

Do follow these easy steps to create your organized filing system. It will give you a solid framework when it comes to organizing your cabinet.

Note: You can use these tips and processes of organizing filing for a home office filing cabinet, a work filing cabinet, small business filing cabinet or any filing cabinet you like.


Let’s get started with how to organize a filing cabinet.

1. Create a filing system.

The first and the foremost step in organizing a filing cabinet properly is to create a filing system.

Without an effective filing system, you will not be able to keep up with the organization for a long time.

For those of you who do not know what a filing system is – it is basically the method by which you will file and store your papers and documents.

If you do not want to spend too much time on a filing system, just pick up something plain and simple. It is not necessary to adopt a complicated and lenghty filing systems to organize your files.

In fact, I prefer making it as simple as possible.

Just create a system that works for YOU. You know yourself the best and you know what you are capable of following when it comes to organization.

Remember, the whole point of organizing your filing cabinet is to find the relevant documents without wasting time and ransacking the entire office space.

I recommend pickin up the alphabetic system to organise a filing cabinet. It is the most commonly adopted mechanism for organising files in an office space and it is the EASIEST to set and find.

It also does not require you to spend too much time and brains on it. Brainless is good when it comes to organizing your filing cabinets!

If you are creative and always excited about taking on organization projects, you can pick up (or even create) any filing system you like.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you construct your filing system:

  • What kind of an organizer are you? What am I comfortable with?
  • Would a simple filing system suit your needs in the longer run?
  • What types of files will I store in my filing cabinet?
  • Who else will be using the filing cabinet?
  • How many files and folders do I have to arrange?

II. Make a list of files.

Now, comes the actual work of organizing filing cabinets.

The first step to start with the organization of your filing cabinet is to create a list of files that will be stored within the cabinet.

Take a pen and paper and start making the list of names of the files (you can also use an excel sheet or a simple word file if you like).

While there is no need to be perfect, you need to make sure everything is recorded properly. You do not want to miss out on anything that becomes a cause of confusion.

Example 1 – If you are organizing a filing cabinet for household bills, your list will include – Cable Bill, Gas Bill, Electric Bill, Telephone Bill, Water Bill, and so on.

Example 2: If you were organizing a filing cabinet based by client, you list will include the names (or just last names of the clients): Astor, Brown, Jones, Smith, Thompson, and so on.

III. Create clear and concise file names.

In the next step of your organization journey, you need to work on creating clear names for the file.

A file name helps you know what is inside of the files. You should be able to see the file and know immediately what is in it – without having to take it out or think about it too much!

Just keep it simple. Something you can (and others in your office) can remember for a long time.

Example 1: If you are organizing files related to utility bills (like cable bills, phone bills etc), then in this stage, the file name would be the actual company name. In case of cable bill, it become ABC cable company and in case of phone bill, it can be AT&T bills.

Note: The list is used to broadly categorize the files.

Try your best to name all the times and avoid using duplicate names or misc file folders. They are confusing and you cannot remember what is inside of them.

Instead, take each of the paperwork inside them and create a separate folder. It will, in the longer run, make things much easier for you.

IV. Purchase or gather filing cabinet components.

The next step in organizing your filing cabinet is to purchase or get all the components you’ll need for your filing cabinet.

A few things would be

  • A filing cabinet
  • Hanging folders
  • stationary
  • label maker
  • post its

V. Prepare file folders and hanging files.

It is to prepare your file folders and hanging file.

You will need to clean your filing cabinet first if you are not using a new one.

If you are using older cabinet, take out all the files from it and emply them. Keep all the paperwork aside.

You will now have files and folders to start labeling.

If you are using a new filing cabinet and new files, get them out now.

Start by labeling them according to the plan. You can label the files using a pencil, colored pen, or with a label maker – whatever is convenient for you.

Do not hurry while preparing your file folders. You do not want to create duplicate files or mislabel them by mistake.

Do one at a time and keep it aside.

You can also match it with the list of categories and file names besides you as a final check.

VI. Place papers into file folders.

The next step is to work on your filing cabinet.

So get those labeled files and folders and start by putting the relevant paper work into them.

When you are putting paperwork into the files and folders, remember to do it chronologically or in the reverse chronological order. This will make things easier for you to find.

For example, put them from Jan – Dec or Dec – Jan. Depends on what you like to see on the top – the latest bill or the oldest bills.

You should also spend some time sorting through the paper work and arranging it properly.

Set up a system for filing success – Tips for file cabinet organization

Here are some top tips for file cabinet organization.

  • If you have too much paperwork, I recommend using a basket, container etc to store your paperwork temporarily. You may also designate a drawer in the filing cabinet just for this purpose.
  • You should also install a bin or a shredder near the space. It help you throw away any unimportant document that you have. It will declutter the place and will not allow a pile of useless documents.
  • At the end of week, sort out the paperwork and put them in the relevant files. Do not let them pile up.
  • Be consistent.
  • Always have plenty of folders and labels on hand.
  • Set a recurring time to review your files and keep them up to date.
  • Simple is the best – Follow the KISS Principle. Keep it simple, Sweetheart. This applies to a filing system and the entire process/method of organization a filing cabinet.
  • Go paperless – If you are tired of handling and storing documents, think about going paperless. You can scan expense receipts and store them in your paperless office. Use cloud based softwares to manage your files easily. It will help you search for documents much more easily.

There you go.

Comment below and let us know what you find most difficult thing about file cabinet organization?

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!

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