Our Filing Cabinet Downsize, Upgrade, and Makeover

posted by Andrea | 12/9/2013

our new filing cabinet

Over the past few years, I’ve been on a mission to “go paperless”. However, since I realize it’s probably impossible to “go paperless” 100%, my more do-able goal is just to use and store less paper on an ongoing basis.

Anything I can digitize; I do.

Any bills I can automate, pay online, and receive e-statements for; I do.

Any papers I don’t absolutely need; I purge.

Any documents I can store in my email, on my computer, or on my portable hard drive instead of in paper format; I do.

There are definitely still plenty of papers, files, documents, etc. that I will always feel the need to keep hard copies of (sometimes for legal reasons, sometimes just for convenience reasons) so I know I’ll most likely always have some sort of filing cabinet easily accessible.

However, I’m happy to announce that we recently switched from a MASSIVE 4 drawer, super deep, big, bulky filing cabinet, to a much smaller, shallower, 2-drawer filing cabinet… with room to spare!

huge 4 drawer filing cabinet

2 smaller drawers

I have a love/hate relationship with paper….

There are few things that give me more pleasure than an immaculately organized filing cabinet… but at the same time, I absolutely detest paper clutter and hate storing (or filing) any paper that I don’t absolutely need.


Our Filing Cabinet Downsize:

I’ve been pretty ruthless about the amount of papers I’m willing to keep in our house, simply because I know for a fact that paper is one of the WORST types of clutter — and also the most difficult to get rid of. Once you file something, it stays there for 20 years, taking up space, until you realize you really didn’t need or use it the entire time.

One piece of paper isn’t that big of a deal, but when you multiply it and add a few new papers every day, every week, every month… all of a sudden, you have a big paper problem.

And since I’m guessing most of you don’t share my over-the-top love of paper organization, let me just assure you that it’s much easier to purge your paper now than later 🙂

Our filing cabinet downsize all started a couple months ago when we decided that I really wanted to move our huge filing cabinet out of the closet under our stairs — in order to make more room for Nora to play in that closet.

I started going through a few of our personal files every night, purging anything and everything we no longer needed. It was amazing all the useless paper we had — expired warranties, old receipts, manuals for items we had already sold or trashed, etc.


I reorganized a few of the files and consolidated a few more. Then I did the same thing for all my business files (which had also gotten out of control!)

When I was finally finished, I had recycled or shredded over 60% of the paper in our filing cabinet!

Also, by consolidating many of our filing categories and sub-categories, I drastically reduced the number of files I used.

Yes, that felt good!! 

Our Filing Cabinet Upgrade:

When I started the process of purging our papers, my goal was to be able to fit everything into a 2-drawer filing cabinet — and both Dave and I really wanted a wooden filing cabinet as opposed to the metal one we had.

I honestly didn’t care what it looked like because I knew I was just going to paint it black. I just wanted it to be relatively small, 2-drawers, wood, and in fairly good condition (a.k.a sturdy).

Of course, I immediately turned to Craigslist as my shopping destination of choice — but I was a bit leery since I know wooden filing cabinets can be quite pricey.

Well, imagine my surprise when the VERY FIRST time I logged on to do a search for “wooden filing cabinet” I found a cute little 2-drawer cabinet just about 2 miles down the road from our house.

The best part — they were only asking $15!!! SCORE!

I immediately emailed the seller and went to pick it up that night.

It definitely needed a little TLC, but it was perfect for what we wanted and so much nicer than our previous metal cabinet.

Our Filing Cabinet Makeover:

Once we had the cabinet, I quickly got to work cleaning it, removing the hardware, and painting it with a fresh coat of black paint. Then I spray painted the hardware using the same stainless steel spray paint I used on Nora’s Kitchen.

I did two coats of both the black and the stainless in one day and the cabinet was fully dry and ready for papers the next day.

It fits perfectly in the corner of our office and also doubles as a cute little end table.

Definitely a massive improvement, and totally worth $15 and about 2 hours of hands-on work!

I honestly feel SO much lighter after purging all that paper — and I love that I now have a more confined space to store future papers. No more filling drawers and drawers with paper — just because we have the space.

I still have plenty of room for additional papers in this small cabinet, but at the same time, I’ll be forced to purge on a more regular basis.

Also, since I did such a huge paper purge now, I was able to spend a few minutes gathering the things we’ll eventually need for tax season (which is coming up in just a few weeks!)

My goal is to get our taxes done ASAP this year to make sure everything is squared away before Baby #2 arrives.

So this little filing project not only helped me clear our closet under the stairs, it also helped me get a jump start on our tax prep AND get my annual paper purge out of the way a few months early. Win, win win!! 

What are your biggest paper pet peeves?

Oh, and if you’re interested, here are a bunch more posts about paper clutter

Filed under: OrganizingHomePaperStoragePurgingDIY ProjectsBefore & After

Leave a comment


  1. Jenni


    Hi Andrea-
    LOVE your site and the wealth of organizing information that you provide! You inspire me – Thank you!!

    I would be interested in your folder titles that you have downsized to in your 2-drawer file cabinet.
    Are they listed somewhere or could be provided?

    Thank you!!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jenni!
    Here’s a list of some of those categories https://andreadekker.com/my-organized-files/

    That’s before we did the downsizing — but that should give you an idea of the different categories and files you could create (based on your needs of course!)


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  3. Dianna A


    I did away with paper bills a long time ago and that helped the clutter.

    I scan other items (misc papers, car repair receipts, business receipts, etc.) to SkyDrive which gives 7GB space for free which is more space than other vendors provide for free. I also like SkyDrive because it allows me to set up folders and sub-folders, etc just like Windows does. Start with “Personal” and “Business” and make as many folders and sub-folders under that categories as needed. I even use it for my photos so everything is in one place.

    Now if I could just figure out how to make junk mail hit the trash automatically like I can do on the computer! LOL!


  4. Alissa


    Thanks Andrea. I really am enjoying your site. I have a terrible paper filing system. I am intrigued by scanning items, but not sure what to buy to scan my paper items and how to organize it in my computer. I have a Mac. What type of scanner do you use? and How do you organize it in your computer. THanks so much!! Alissa


    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Alissa,
    I actually don’t use a scanner much anymore — I just sign up for ALL paperless statements, bills, receipts, etc. so everything comes to my email. However, we do have a simple scanner on our HP printer that we use if need be (but honestly not very often).

    And we don’t store ANYTHING on our computer (literally) We store it all in Dropbox, Flickr, our portable hard drive, or email. Hmmm… maybe this is good content for another post 🙂


  5. Donna


    Totally with you on the paper clutter. I’m in the process of clearing out my parents house. They were married 60 years and I think they kept every piece of paper that ever came into their house. Greeting cards, birthday cards, Christmas cards, newspaper clippings, funeral programs, wedding programs, 12 years of school papers for 5 kids, taxes, bank statements, cancelled checks, etc. It’s a nightmare!! Right now I have 10 of the 26 quart boxes stacked in my garage waiting for our police department to have their annual shred day. I have 8 boxes of stuff that can be recycled. And more still to sort through. I have to go through everything because so far I’ve found over $2,000.00 in cash among the papers. Of my personal papers, I have one file drawer in my desk, our taxes (7 years) in a box in the attic, an old metal bread box I use for a manual box on a high shelf in my laundry room and a fire safe for legal papers which I keep in our tornado hideout along with our “go bags”. Everything else is shredded, recycled or filed as soon as it comes into my house. I don’t even keep insurance policies anymore after I realized that I never really needed them. I always call my agent when there’s a problem. Now, if I could just get my husband to quit printing stuff off the internet. His version of newspaper clippings I guess.


  6. Lizanne


    Great post! I also have a love/hate relationship with paper…love looking at catalogs, magazine, articles, etc., but hate dealing with the clutter, storing, etc. I tried scaling back on the number of catalogs I receive by contacting most of them and requesting to be removed from the mailing list. That was about 3 years ago, but somehow, other catalogs have found their way to my mailbox. So, it’s an ongoing battle. Same with important paperwork. I had a system, which I recently modified after seeing your files Andrea, and I’m happy with it, but it’s also a work in progress. Since I work in an office, I often don’t feel like filing and dealing with papers when I get home, so it’s an issue of personal motivation! Seeing your uncluttered, concise files inspires me to create the same!


  7. Linda


    You always have the best ideas for organizing, Andrea! I do have three questions though.

    What will you do when Nora starts bringing home from school artwork and other school papers for Mommy and Daddy?

    What were you doing with the blue file names and then the red file names?

    What in the world am I going to do with 40 years worth of genealogy notes, folders, notebooks, scraps of paper, etc? (I think scanning might be part of your answer but I’ve always had difficulties figuring out how to scan properly and then organized it properly).



    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Linda,
    OK, so here’s my honest answer: I just would never keep any of the genealogy stuff or scraps of paper in the first place 🙂 I know how quickly paper piles up, so I just refuse to keep anything that isn’t 100% necessary to me. I don’t keep cards, notes, letters, or scrap paper. I don’t have any paper hobbies, I don’t do genealogy, I don’t do paper crafts, and I don’t print photos (I just print books that I make digitally).

    And about Nora’s future artwork — she already does quite a bit and I just hang it up for a few days and then recycle it when more comes along 🙂 I did make a littler “gallery wall” up in her new playroom (I’m sharing this on Wednesday) but that’s the only place I display it. Once she starts school and more papers come, I’ll have to re-evaluate my system… but I have a few years before I need to worry about that!


  8. Michele


    I’m guessing that you’ll probably turn around and sell the four drawer cabinet on craigslist and make a whopping profit, too. Am I right?! 😉


  9. Jennifer M


    Hello, I really enjoy reading your blogs. They are so well thought out and written as well relevant. I also love how you re-purpose items you find — you think outside-the-box! Best Christmas wishes to you and your family! Jen, Ontario, Canada.


  10. Cherie


    Thanks for the post! I am encourage to clean out my 2 drawer file cabinet before the new year!

    I am not 100% paperless but I did go 80% with the help of evernote. I was a binder girl! A binder full of recipes, home project ideas, health information, wish list binder ect…..

    I scanned all of those documents into evernote and now I just have our important family documents in the file cabinet.


    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like you have a pretty good paper management system going on — good for you!


  11. Tammy @ SkipperClan


    I need to do the exact same thing (from 4 massive drawers to 2) but after nearly 20 years of marriage, I have more documents like old tax returns with supporting business documents, etc. Would you just get file boxes and put them in an attic/basement? I really want a neatdesk but $$$


    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Tammy,
    First of all keep in mind that you usually only need to keep tax documents for 7 years — so anything older can probably be shredded. however, the tax/business stuff that you DO need to keep, I would say just put it in a box or bin in the basement (or somewhere out of the way). We do have one small box with some older tax documents on our basement shelves. We’ll most likely never need it, but we NEED to legally keep it for 7 years to cover our butts “just in case”.

    Oh, and as for the neatdesk — I’ve actually tried it and I personally didn’t like 😉


  12. Rose K


    Good morning!

    Did you have to “sand down” the cabinet before you painted it black?



    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Rose, No — I didn’t do any sanding. I just wiped down the cabinet to remove dust and dirt and then did 2 REALLY quick coats of paint. No sanding or priming, or anything fussy 🙂


  13. Patty@homemakersdaily.com


    I feel the same way about paper – love/hate. I am not good at filing. I have ADHD and filing is extremely stressful. Every time I pick up a piece of paper to file, I can think of at least 3 possible places to file it. How to choose??? They all make sense to me. But then when I want to retrieve the paper, I have to look at least 3 places because it’s nearly always in the last place I look.

    I’ve been trying to go paperless by scanning papers I need to keep but it’s a tedious process. Also, technology tends to let me down. The other day I needed to access a contract for my husband’s business. I only had it on-line. Wouldn’t you know – my email wasn’t working properly and something that should have taken one minute to retrieve took 30. When things like that happen, it makes me lean toward paper. I could have found that piece of paper a lot quicker than it took me to retrieve it on-line.

    But still, I’m SO sick of filing and paper. Maybe I should give this one more shot.


  14. Leanne


    I put this on my 2014 to do list…
    our papers are by no means a mess, but I would like to have EVERYTHING in one place!
    I love the cabinet redo!! that was such a great idea!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Leanne! I seems like “paper organization” is always on my to-do list! It’s never-ending 🙂


  15. Barbara Baker


    A very encouragine post, Andrea. I’d love to do that with our files, but it seems we need to keep so many of the papers. For example, I have a folder for each of our cars. They contain not only the original sale papers, but also the statements/receipts from each repair job. Since we keep our cars for MANY years, this adds up to quite a thick folder. Can you explain further what you mean by “consolidating many of our filing categories and sub-categories”, and give examples? Thanks! 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Barbara — one thing to think about is that some of those car and tax documents won’t every need your attention again (unless you sell the car or get audited). So you could keep them boxed up in the basement — or somewhere not in your main filing cabinet. We do have one small box of older tax documents that we legally need to keep “just in case” but most likely will never have to access. This ways, it’s out of filing cabinet, but still easily accessible.

    And as far as consolidating folders, I just had too many “sub categories” and it was unnecessary. So instead of having a sub category for Kitchen Manuals, Outside Manuals, Tool Manuals, etc. I just have one folder labeled “Manuals” and everything is in there. Make sense?


  16. Debby


    I love it. I know I have shared this before but when I googled organized files last January, your website came up. The rest is history. I have followed your blog everyday since. I too went from a massive 4 drawer unit to a 2 drawer. I have diligently tried to keep up with the filing. There is no better feeling than being able to find something when you need it. Have a great day


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Debby — so glad you found me because of my love for paper organization 🙂 It seems like we both share than trill when we open up or organized filing cabinet!