How To Choose A Filing Cabinet

If you constantly find yourself inundated with a pile of paperwork on your desk, it's time to put some thought into how to choose filing cabinets to clear up the mess.

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Not only can a good set of filing cabinets help clear up the clutter, but they can make you more organized and effective at your job, too. Whether you're wondering how to choose filing cabinets for your home or for your office, you've come to the right place.

What Types of Filing Cabinets Are There?

Consider these common types of filing cabinets as you begin your quest for a new set.


Lateral filing cabinets are most often used in office settings, as they contain multiple drawers and are designed to hold lots of paperwork. They generally have anti-tip features so that they won't fall on you when the drawer is pulled out all the way. These filing cabinets get their name from how you do the filing - side-to-side rather than from up above. They can handle both legal - and letter-size hanging folders.

White Classic Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet
Gray Traditional Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet
Black Classic Manufactured Wood Lateral Filing Cabinet
Black Simple Manufactured Wood 2 Drawer Filing Cabinet
White Classic Solid Wood Lateral Filing Cabinet
Brown Elegant Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet


A vertical filing cabinet is similar to a lateral filing cabinet but is a better choice for home offices or other small workspaces. Often, these have just as many drawers as lateral files but they tend to be narrower and are sorted in a front-to-back order.

Brown Simple Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet
White Modern Manufactured Wood Vertical Filing Cabinet
Pink Modern Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet
White Elegant Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet
Brown Simple Manufactured Wood Vertical Cabinet


Mobile filing cabinets are best for workers on the move. They can be rolled wherever you need them to go and can usually fit underneath a desk for more convenience.

Gray Modern Manufactured Wood Mobile Filing Cabinet
White Modern Metal Mobile Filing Cabinet
White Traditional Steel Vertical Cabinet
Gray Modern Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet
Black Modern Steel Mobile Filing Cabinet
Black Stylish Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet

Open shelf

Open shelf files look like bookcases, and have open fronts that are designed to be filled with folders arranged side-by-side. They may not be the best choice for confidential documents, but add visual interest to a modern office when filled with books or colored file folders.


A flat filing cabinet is one that consists of multiple flat, shallow drawers that contain large or oddly-shaped items, like blueprints, securely. These can usually be stacked on top of each other.

What Size Should a Filing Cabinet Be?

Without a doubt, size is the most important factor to consider when you are shopping for a new filing cabinet. They usually are sold in letter or legal size. While letter-sized drawers contain documents that are a typical 8 ½"x 11", legal-sized drawers can hold documents that are 8 ½"x 14".

Choosing your filing cabinet size in this regard will depend on what kinds of documents you are filing. You will also need to choose how tall and wide your filing cabinets are. A vertical cabinet usually has between two and five drawers, while a horizontal filing cabinet may only contain one or two.

What Materials Should I Choose for My Filing Cabinet?

Filing cabinets can be found in all kinds of styles and colors, but are normally made out of metal or wood. While wood filing cabinets can be quite attractive, metal ones tend to be safer and more durable.

Brown Traditional Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet
White Modern Manufactured Wood Filing Cabinet
Gray Classic Metal Lateral Filing Cabinet
Black Traditional Metal Vertical Filing Cabinet
Blue Modern Metal Mobile Filing Cabinet

What Other Features Should I Consider When Buying a Filing Cabinet?

  • One of the most important features to consider when choosing a filing cabinet is whether you want it to be fireproof. If you work with valuable or sensitive paperwork, this is a must-have feature. Although fireproof filing cabinets are a bit more expensive, the benefit is that they also tend to be resistant to water damage and theft, too.

  • Something that goes hand-in-hand with that kind of security is whether you want your filing cabinet **to lock. **You might not realize this, but not all filing cabinets lock. It can be worth the extra investment.

  • A filing cabinet with counterweights is important, too, especially if you have small children or others that could be seriously injured by the weight of a falling filing cabinet. Counterweights prevent cabinets from tipping, which is important if you tend to pack your cabinets as full as they can get.

  • Some filing cabinets have features like follower blocks and hanging bars, too. Follower blocks are metal dividers that can help you keep your files more organized. Otherwise, a filing cabinet with hanging bars should do the trick to help you stay organized.

No matter what kind of filing cabinet you select, make sure you choose one that has good reviews and safety ratings. Otherwise, knowing how to choose filing cabinets that match your existing decor will be an easy-peasy process.