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How to Set Up a File Cabinet

by Barbara Cedillo Alvarez

File cabinet

You have a pile of personal paperwork that needs to be organized. You also want to keep important paperwork, such as tax records, pay stubs, W-2s and pay stubs, safely and securely filed away. It's time to look to a file cabinet for help. Take a look below to learn how to set up a file cabinet as a part of your office furniture.

Setting Up a File Cabinet:

  1. Sort through the papers that you need to file. Organize them by category: finances, income taxes, personal, property and projects. Then subdivide a category into subcategories, such as bills, credit cards, retirement and investment accounts, insurance and bank accounts. Do the same for each category.

  2. Label filing folders. Label the filing folders and manila folders with the categories you created when you sorted by category and subcategory. Decide if you will file them by category, date or frequency of use in your office furniture.

  3. Store the folders. Store your file folders in your file cabinet. As you're placing folders in the file cabinet, look at the label on each file and manila folder to make sure it will work for your organization system and filing cabinet

  4. File each subcategory of papers in its correct manila folder. Decide ahead of time if you're going to file in chronological or reverse-date order. With chronological order, your most recent paperwork is at the back of the manila folder; with reverse-date order, it will be placed at the front.

  5. Ensure correct order. Make sure you have each category and subcategory in the correct order. Buy colored hanging files and manila files to help you with this. Once you have a filing system you are comfortable with, stick with it. Keeping your filing cabinet organized will alleviate stress and allow you to focus on the more important aspects of your work.


  1. Use colored dots to help you distinguish which files are for which category of paperwork.

  2. Shred sensitive financial and personal papers as soon as you don't need them. Keep a personal shredder close at hand for this purpose.

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