Skip to main content

ToughJobs may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How to organize a file cabinet

One of the keys to being a smart and successful business owner is organization. Knowing how to organize a file cabinet in the workplace is something to make a top priority. The best way to organize a file cabinet is to ensure you have key files in a central location for those who need to access it and that it’s in an orderly manner. Let’s take a look at some helpful tips to get you on your way to file organization.

Person looking at papers in filing cabinet
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Get the right file cabinet

Depending on what your office looks like and how long you’ve been there, you may or may not have a filing cabinet in place. Your cabinet of choice needs protection from unapproved access, fire, and water damage. If the file cabinet is for sensitive papers, keep it in an area only you and anyone with permission can access. You can use a standard key lock or one with a code to gain entry.

Your file cabinet should hold worthwhile documents only, not items you could toss. That’s why it makes sense to go through all your paperwork now and decide what you want to keep in a new cabinet. Odds are, there will be some documents to throw out. Shred such documents before throwing them away, just in case any contain sensitive information.

Paperwork to file should include those documents relevant now to daily operations and those you plan to archive. Current paperwork should get the priority. That means placing these papers ready to file in the top drawer and in folders that go from most recent to older. Also, consider having a two-tier tray setup on your desk. One tray can be for paperwork you’re currently working on and the other for papers to go in the back of the file cabinet. An example is unpaid invoices versus those already paid and waiting to be filed.

Color-coded files in the workplace

Differentiate folders for easier filing and access

Set aside folders in the filing cabinet to differentiate various aspects of your business. For instance, you have files that contain important details about your employees. These can go in the human resources section of your cabinet. You also have paperwork related to sales and revenue, so these papers can go under finances. Since you have to pay taxes at least on an annual basis, create a section for current and past tax paperwork.

Be cognizant when filing documents, so certain papers don’t end up in the wrong folders. One way to avoid this is to label each folder tab and create labels for the filing cabinet drawers. Another way to differentiate paperwork is to use color-coded files, organize files, or organize files

Color-coded files make it easier to segment each topic, and alphabetizing is helpful when you’re filing papers that involve customer and employee names. Using a numerical system works well when you need to file invoices with payment dates.

Do periodic cleaning to avoid clutter

To make your office a clutter-free zone, think about what paperwork you no longer need and can shred and throw out. It’s wise for you or employees with permission to go through a filing cabinet from time to time and clean it out.

For example, if you’ve run the same business for many years, there’s probably no reason to keep tax forms from a decade ago. If you have people no longer with the company, you should consider getting rid of their workplace information. You could create a database of all the employees who’ve worked for you over the years, instead, and dispose of the paperwork.

Decide if it’s time to move important docs to the cloud

Depending on the type of business you run, you may be inclined to transfer some or many paper files to the cloud. Having files available to you and others in the company can cut down on endless paper trails. It also allows different employees to access relevant information in or out of the office.

In the event you move to a new office, transferring your key paper files to a hard drive or the cloud can make sense. This helps you better protect important company data, should some of it in paper form get lost or damaged in the move. Such electronic platforms to consider transitioning to include Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Google Drive.

Editors' Recommendations

Former Digital Trends Contributor
How to set up water in your food truck
Food truck as the sun sets

Every food truck needs specific equipment to operate. No matter what you sell, whether it's drinks, desserts, or full entrees, you'll need a sink, refrigeration, a prep space, and more. If you're using a sink and drain, you need to understand how to set up a food truck water system, and you need to consider:

Fresh or potable water: Dishwashing, handwashing, food prep
Hot running water: Sanitization and/or food prep
Greywater tank: Storing wastewater from dishes and prep work runoff
Sink specs: What fits inside your truck layout, size, and health codes

Read more
7 types of construction site accidents and how to avoid them
Construction worker falling from ladder

Construction site accidents are unavoidable. Hard physical labor mixed with heavy machinery and hazardous materials all combine to dramatically increase workplace risks. However, if you're in the construction industry, you were well aware of these risks when you signed up. Workplace hazards come with skilled trades that you don't have if you sit behind a desk. 

Over the past few decades, accidents in construction have become less frequent thanks to safety regulations and systems put in place by OSHA. Also, construction personal protective equipment has improved as technology has advanced.

Read more
5 best desk organizers for a tidy office
Minimalist desktop organization

If you work at home, in a shared office space, in a private studio, or in a prominent corner office, you likely use a desk. And desks are a vital place for productivity, strategizing, and brainstorming. But if your desk is full of clutter, you may not get anything done.
The usable space impacts your productivity and effectiveness on your desk. Even if you can work in a messy space, your mindset may have a negative impact from the disarray. Crowded desk space can increase stress and anxiety surrounding your sense of accomplishment.
Fortunately, there are desktop organizers to help you sort any mess. You can find a tabletop organizer for documents, devices, portability, and more. Read on the discover the best desktop organizers for your needs.

Best for document organization
Easily the most common thing on any desktop is paperwork, bills, and other documents. And paper takes up a lot of space. Plus, it's a mess that can stack up. The best tabletop organizer for you might be a document tray. The Simple Houseware Stackable Desk File Document Letter Tray Organizer is the key to your paperwork issue.

Read more