Life comes with inevitable detritus. While more and more of modern life is going digital, there are still bills, birth certificates, warranties, tax records and returns, the deed to your house, etc., that need some secure storage space. The key to keeping your important documents organized and easy to find—to stopping them from taking over your living space—is to find the filing system for your particular needs.
The great news is, unlike the austere rectangles of yore, the best file cabinets can be super stylish, so they amp up your interior decor instead of detracting from it. And even if they’re more concentrated on function than form, filing cabinets are more a boon than a burden. While it may sound counterintuitive, dedicating this space can help free up space, so check out our selections for the home office furniture that can make it easier to establish a system of organization from A to Zen.
- Best metal file cabinets: Lorell 14341 18-Deep Two-Drawer File Cabinet
- Best wooden file cabinets: DEVAISE Three-Drawer Mobile File Cabinet with Lock
- Best rolling file cabinets: INTERGREAT Locking Three-Drawer Filing Cabinet
- Best desk with file cabinets: COASTER Brennan 3-Drawer Reversible Office Deck
- Best fireproof file cabinets: Fireking Turtle Fireproof File Cabinet
- Best cheap file cabinets: Aesthetic File Organizer Box
What to look for in the best file cabinets for you
Most of us think of office cabinets as pieces that belong at, well, the office. But with more and more people working from home, and the traditional workday moving from eight hours to reachable-all-the-time, having dedicated home office furniture for your work documents can add a real peace of mind—and allow you to distinctly delineate your work-life balance (even when they’re technically in the same place).
At their root, all filing cabinets do the same thing: file. But finding the best file cabinets for you has everything to do with your particular needs and preferences. Do you want something on wheels that can be moved from room to room? What about something fireproof for incredibly important, sensitive documents? Do you need an option that locks? Do you like the austere, all-business look of a metal filing system, or would you prefer something a bit warmer, like wood? Do you like the classic straight-up-and-down vertical filing system, or do you prefer lateral file cabinets, which feature drawers on the wide side? Perhaps even instead of searching for one that fits your desk, you want to purchase a cabinet that comes with a desk!
If you’re looking for some serious office organization, start here, with the best file cabinets you can find.
I just like standard, old-school metal file cabinets
There’s a reason metal filers have been around for so long. First and foremost, they’re sturdy and durable, and they can also be lighter than some other materials, such as wood. What you sacrifice is style: For the most part, metal file cabinets look like, well, metal file cabinets. But if aesthetics aren’t your main concern and you just want a safe place to organize important papers, you really can’t go wrong with a steel style.
Best metal file cabinets: Lorell 14341 18-Deep Two-Drawer File Cabinet
At 24 inches, this cabinet features two drawers in a stack that glide open and close easily, and their 18-inch depth fits most papers and folders. Weighing 19 pounds and without wheels, you’ll want to place this somewhere you plan to keep it.
I prefer the look of wood to steel.
Say no more! If aesthetics are important to you and you’re turned off by the austere look of metal, there are plenty of other options. Wood pieces have the look of regular furniture, so they blend seamlessly with the rest of your furnishings and don’t scream “filing cabinet.” The only downside is that you may have to pay a bit more to get the look, and they get heavy quickly.
Best wooden file cabinets: DEVAISE Three-Drawer Mobile File Cabinet with Lock
Five anti-tipping, swiveling, lock-in-place casters make this one easy to move from room to room but stable enough to stay put wherever it lands. Metal handles have a modern look, and the drawers—two stationery drawers and one filing drawers that fit letter-size hanging folders—hold up to 55 pounds each, open and shut easily on ball bearings. Plus, one lock secures all three drawers.
I change my office layout a lot—what’s the best file cabinet on wheels?
If movement is important to you, be sure to pick a style that has 360-degree wheels for maximum ease. They move in every direction and on most surfaces, so whether you’ve got hardwood floors or wall-to-wall carpeting, you should be all set. The good news is, many cabinet models—in loads of styles—feature casters, so it’s not hard to find a pick that’s right for you and also rolls with it, baby.
Best rolling file cabinets: INTERGREAT Locking 3-Drawer Filing Cabinet
The bottom third drawer of this cabinet features an adjustable hanger that’s perfect for folders, and inset handles and ball bearings make it easy to open and close. The entire unit can hold up to 330 pounds, making it pretty but tough.
I don’t just need a file cabinet—I need a desk too.
The greatest part about buying a minimalist all-in-one desk with a file cabinet is that you get the best of both worlds: a work surface plus a place to store your important papers without the cumbersome design of a solid desk with multiple drawers. Plus, you know all the pieces will match, and you won’t have to worry about measuring to make sure the cabinet clears the desk. It’s by far the easiest way to incorporate a filing system into your desk.
Best desk with file cabinets: COASTER Brennan 3-Drawer Reversible Office Deck
Coaster Home Furnishings
This simple setup, with silver steel frame, is the perfect combination of form and function at a relatively reasonable price point. It comes in three different neutral colors to go with any color scheme and includes two storage drawers and one file cabinet with Euro glides (it can hold letter/legal/A4 files).
I need something reliably fireproof. What features should I look for?
A combination of fireproof insulation and metal is what makes a file cabinet resistant to flames and smoke. Look for a cabinet with a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) rating that corresponds with what you need to protect: 350 for paper, 150 for tapes and film, 125 for floppy disks (the numbers correspond to the heat resistance the cabinet can provide; e.g., a UL Class 350 can withstand 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour). These are not cheap, but if what you’re storing is priceless (or at least extremely difficult to replace), shelling out now for a cabinet that will protect you later is a worthwhile investment.
Best fireproof file cabinets: Fireking Turtle Fireproof File Cabinet
All four letter/legal-size drawers of this tower are deep enough and equipped to hang folders (no extra accessories required). A key lock stores everything inside securely, and a scratch-resistant finish keeps the outside free of damage too.
I just need a cheap place to store my papers
For less than 22 bucks, you can be on your way to a more organized life. Perhaps you won’t get something as heavy-duty as an old-school filer, but you can certainly create your own system using lots of freestanding file boxes. In fact, a filing system comprised of affordable separate boxes gives you flexibility: You can store some boxes in one room, others in another, hide some away in a closet…they’re actually a great option for anyone looking for a little more latitude in the way they store.
Best budget file cabinets: Aesthetic File Organizer Box
The best part of these space-saving linen cabinets is that when you’re not using them, they collapse down to nothing for easy storability. Built-in handles make them easy to move around, and a card slot allows you to label each box so you can easily find what you’re looking for. Note that when hanging files are present, you won’t be able to use the lid.
Q: Are steel file cabinets fireproof?
No, steel file cabinets are not necessarily fireproof. Only cabinets that are insulated specifically to stop fire from getting in and have a suitable UL rating for whatever you’re storing are considered fireproof. The absolute most important thing to check for is proper insulation, which slows down the fire’s encroachment on the inside of the cabinet.
Q: Do lateral file cabinets hold more?
The drawers of a lateral file cabinet extend from the long horizontal side, meaning that they can hold more than traditional vertical pieces. The tradeoff is that they also take up more room and aren’t designed to fit under a desk. They’re perfect for anyone with room to spare and/or lots of free wall space.
Q: What is the difference between legal- and letter-size file cabinets?
Letter-size paper is 8.5 by 11 inches; legal is 8.5 by 14 inches. Most cabinets can accommodate letter-size paper (it’s the most common size, similar to A4). If you use mostly legal-size paper or you’re not sure, be on the safe side and invest in office organization that will fit both.
The final word on shopping for the best file cabinets
The best news about being ready to buy any filing system is that it means you’re on your way to a less cluttered life. Once you’ve committed to office organization, you just need to figure out the features you want and need in your filing cabinets—wheels, sleek design, versatility, lateral drawers—and get shopping for the home office furniture that suits your space.