11 Alternative Uses for Your Redundant Office Filing Cabinets

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11 Uses for Your Old Office Filing Cabinets to Give Them a New Lease of Life

We're far from interior design experts at Virtual Cabinet, but we know a thing or two about running a paperless office. With many businesses both great and small switching to digital initiatives and solutions like ours, we thought now might be the perfect time to discuss some of the ways you might want to find alternative employment for your now-redundant filing cabinets to give them a new purpose and lease of life.

alternative filing cabinet uses

Here are just a few ideas of how old filing cabinets can be upcycled, recycled, and otherwise repurposed...

1- A Garden Planter

Metal filing cabinet planter

Returning man-made goods or landscapes back to nature is sometimes referred to as rewilding on a large scale, but we see no reason why you can't make your old filing cabinet support nature in a small way like this. After all, they were once used to store mass amounts of dead trees (paper files) so what could be more fitting than now becoming more than a storage medium, but a home for live plants?

Top tip: These look super simple, and they are, but just make sure you drill or knock some holes in the bottom, or low down on the sides because, without adequate drainage, these are going to fill up with rainwater more than most plants will like in wet seasons. Also, make sure you position your planter before you fill it up with earth. it'll be pretty heavy once it's full.

There are several ways you can use a cabinet to grow plants, such as:

  • Use the drawers: If you can manage to remove the drawers, they can make great stand-alone square plant pots that can be painted, stencilled, and otherwise customised to suit your garden.
  • Raised planter: If you remove the drawers and tip the filing cabinet on its back (like this) then you can fill it with compost and then plant what you like. You can fill it with decorative flowers or due to the depth of the planter, these might make excellent vegetable beds for root veggies like carrots or potatoes.

2 - Start a Roadside Enterprise

Jeremy Clarkson showed his famous innovation when he repurposed an old filing cabinet to sell his farm's potatoes during his Amazon series Clarkson's Farm. If you're considering starting a roadside commerce venture, then why not follow his lead?

Filing cabinets are a pretty sensible storage solution for potatoes or fresh produce because they are dark and well insulated, so well done to Mr Clarkson. We applaud your upcycling initiative! And speaking of storing food...

3 - A Meat Smoker

Upright meat smoker

We love a BBQ and hardly need an excuse to fire up the grill, other than a break in the rain, but smokers aren't so well-known in Britain. Meat smokers are starting to catch on over here but in other parts of the world, they're already a common garden feature. This is a bandwagon we could happily jump on and one way you can see if meat smoking is for you without breaking the bank is to turn an old office filing cabinet into one.

From business to pleasure, this is quite a change of career path for your old metal cabinets. But we'd rather open up a filing cabinet and find a dozen crispy chicken wings than a load of P45s. How about you?

4 - Break Room Storage

Filing cabinets are really glorified drawer units right? They're storage solutions for physical files or office supplies that were so commonly seen in the pre-Millennium office space. So why not use those deep drawers to store something useful in the break room at work, like snacks? How many bags of crisps, or cereal bars would fit in those deep drawers? Quite a few, we're guessing.

Alternatively, if all the keys still work and you have them, you could easily turn them into staff lockers to keep personal items secure during their workday.

5 - A Free Library

Filing Cabinet Little Free Library

At Virtual Cabinet, we love an eBook, but we absolutely get that some people prefer to have a physical book in their hands for leisure reading. Electronic books are also harder to lend or pass on to someone else and that's the basis of our next repurposing idea: A library.

Lots of filing cabinets are weatherproof for the necessity of protecting the valuable paper documents within. On a similar note, our Virtual Cabinet is also weatherproof where all your digital and scanned documents are safe and secure, but more on that later. Some communities use old telephone boxes as community libraries where people can share books they no longer need but want others to enjoy. Why couldn't a filing cabinet do the same? You can use the different drawers to divide genres, or sort by reading ability.

Little Free Library is a non-profit organisation and network of free libraries. Their website has many resources onhow to make a community library out of redundant furniture. Little Free Library non-profit organisation appreciates people registering their libraries with them so you can become part of the global Little Free Library community.

(Image source- Credit Free Little Library)

6 - A Drinks Cabinet

The drinks are in...the filing cabinet. Well, why can't your cabinet hold pinot noir rather than payroll records? A splash of Bacardi or a bundle of business records? It's not a difficult choice. You can even make it really fancy by using the top level for bottles and the bottom level for suspended stemmed glasses. It'll hold its own as a feature piece in any home.

7 - Home Furniture

Upcycled, stylish filing cabinet

New feature piece coffee table or upcycled bedside drawer unit anyone? People have upcycled old filing cabinets in so many ways to make them look shabby chic, floral, or even industrial-style so they fit in with the interior décor of their own homes. Some people even like to use them in their home kitchens.

8 - A Kitchen Drawer Unit

Filing cabinet drawers

It's one of the marvels of life that no matter how big a kitchen you have, there will never be enough storage space, so you don't have to pitch this hard to us. More space with deep drawers that are perfect for cereal boxes and jars of spaghetti? Sold! This example has the added benefit of a bit of extra surface space too. Not an expensive addition to the kitchen setup by any means, but a very handy one if you're lacking in kitchen storage space.

Also, is anyone else thinking that the locks might come in handy if you share your kitchen with anyone or have kids? We're thinking this is where the Galaxy girl should hide her chocolate bar.

9 - Domestic Solutions

Well, this is one sturdy, yet stylish laundry solution. The removable laundry bags are an excellent idea since no one is going to want to haul the whole cabinet up and down the stairs. Forget the paper trail, eliminate the laundry trail with this domestic solution.

10 - A Remote Working Solution

What do you get if you balance a length of wood or metal on two filing cabinets? A home office of course! A cheap and functional remote-working solution. Just add a chair and get to work. The best advice we could give you on this is to make absolutely sure the two cabinets are exactly the same height, or your pens will constantly be rolling off the lower end. It'll be less of a workstation, and more of a stationary ramp.

11 - A Beehive (yes, really!)

Beehives and a beekeeper

We like to think we're pretty eco-conscious at VC since we help even the most paper-stubborn businesses go paperless and swap physical files for digital ones but even we're impressed by this upcycled beehive. What could bee a better use of your disused office filing cabinet than to house a colony of those fuzzy, flying pollinators? It's definitely some out-the-box thinking and we like that kind of creative eco-initiative.

Final Thoughts

It may surprise some but at Virtual Cabinet, we do like physical filing cabinets. We hold no grudge and have no animosity toward our retired, metallic counterparts. We think they're great, sturdy, and even stylish pieces of furniture with ample storage space. We just don't agree that they're needed to store paper in anymore.

From an ecological point of view, the paperless office is every business owner's dream to save money and reduce waste, some industries were slower than others to hop aboard the digital transformation train, but turning physical paperwork into digital files has become so easy, and so cost-effective that it can no longer be ignored.

When you phase out (or throw out) your disused filing cabinets in favour of the more practical and future-proof solutions, like Virtual Cabinet's Document Management System, it's good to know that these heavy, bulky items can keep on being useful, even after their primary purpose has long deserted them. As part of Virtual Cabinet's initiative to help businesses become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprints, we'd like to encourage innovative uses of redundant office filing cabinets.

If you use your old work filing cabinets for a more practical purpose now either at home or in the office, we'd love to see them. Send us pictures and a description of your re-purposed cabinets on our social channels, or email laura.bell@virtualcabinet.com.


What Is a Digital Filing Cabinet?

The term digital filing cabinet refers to a document storage, management, and filing solution that negates the need for physical paper documents in the office. Also referred to as a Document Management System (or DMS) these software tools help offices to reduce their paper waste as well as the cost of printing materials.

Adopting digital filing cabinets into your work processes also means that employees can collaborate on files from wherever they are without the bother of scanning or the hassle of emailing or sending paper files through the post. Infinitely more secure and practical than physical filing cabinets, digital filing cabinets have allowed many companies to increase team productivity, save time, and improve data security.

Are Virtual Filing Cabinets More Eco-Friendly?

Statistics suggest that each office worker is responsible for around a tree and a half's worth of paper in printing physical documents each year. That might not seem so alarming until you start to count up the number of employees in your company, then the paper waste number and cost of printing and postage soon adds up.

The figures are yet more alarming when you understand that 95% of filed documents never see the light of day again. Until the time when it becomes someone's happy task to go through each individual piece of filed paper and decide which is for the shredder. With a digital, virtual filing cabinet, you can automate your retention policies to comply with data protection laws and destroy certain documents after a set amount of time. This saves on the waste of paper, the costs of printing, the bother of physical filing, and the time spent on manually destroying documents.

In short, yes. Virtual cabinets are more eco-friendly than traditional filing systems because of the paper waste and space it saves. Trees are great. We love trees and we think that cutting them down to make documents that will sit in dark filing cabinets until they are eventually destroyed is not the right way to work for your businesses or the planet.

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