Recommended File Cabinets and Bookshelves

Post 13 in the series: Recommended Productivity Tools

File Cabinets

When it comes to file cabinets, there are two rules:

  1. Get ones that don’t screech when you open them.
  2. Get ones where the drawer comes all the way out.

This rules out the Office Depot el cheapo $30 excuses for file cabinets.

But, also at Office Depot, are the Hon 2-drawer and 4-drawer file cabinets. Hon is a decent brand, and their cabinets meet the above criteria. They are more expensive than the $30 excuses, but are the cheapest file cabinets I’ve found that don’t waste your time.

Get 2-drawer or 4-drawer, depending on your needs. Don’t get the lateral ones that go in sideways. Get the ones that go in normally. Here’s the specific one I recommend, in both 2-drawer and 4-drawer options:

Now, I also recommend having some ordinary drawers at your desk, as I went over in the second post in this series. If your desk doesn’t have those built into it, there are some good drawer units that have two ordinary drawers on top, and then one file drawer below.

If that single file drawer gives you enough room for your files, then you don’t need to get an additional 2-drawer unit. Get the 2-drawer unit (or 4-drawer) if you need additional space.


IKEA has fantastic bookshelves that look nice at a great price. I love IKEA in general for their motto “we’ll never stop making good design affordable” and for generally living up to it.

They’ve captured it well: keeping things affordable doesn’t mean getting ugly stuff. Good design can be obtained at a good price.

Here are the bookshelves that I use from IKEA:

You can also get the shorter 2-shelf unit, or some nice-looking cubed ones:


This brings us to the end of our series on recommended (physical) productivity tools. I will close the way I began: Having good tools matters.

First, because if you have good tools, you will often find yourself wanting to use them. And “one of the best tricks for enhancing your personal productivity is having tools you want to use.” Second, because bad tools get in the way. And third, because good tools in general make your workspace as a whole a place where you want to be.

Don’t be selectively strategic. Make your workspace work well for you in all respects — give it both an efficient setup and effective tools.

Posts in This Series

  1. Recommended Productivity Tools: An Introduction
  2. The Tools You Need to Have (And Where to Keep Them)
  3. Recommended In Boxes
  4. Recommended Capture Journals
  5. Recommended Pens
  6. Recommended Pencils and Paper Pads
  7. Recommended Staplers, Staple Removers, and Tape
  8. Recommended Scissors, Letter Openers, and Post-Its
  9. Recommended Paper Clips and Super Glue
  10. Not Recommended: Desktop Organizer Things
  11. Recommended Chairs and Waste Baskets
  12. Recommended Labelers and File Folders
  13. Recommended File Cabinets and Bookshelves
  • Simon

    I personally would steer clear of Ikea Billy bookcases. The small plastic brackets which hold the shelves on really aren’t particularly up to purpose, and tend to bend out of shape when they have anything near a shelf-full of books. Before long you have shelves hanging loose. Their Traby range ( is top notch on the other hand.

  • Jay C.

    Just curious – why don’t you like lateral files? I think they’d be much easier to negotiate, especially when you’re looking for the files at the end of the drawer.

  • Justin

    I agree with the first commenter on the Billy bookcases. They tend to bow if you have a full shelf, even if the books are average size.

    I find the best bookcases are the ones you build yourself. Most people have an idea of what their library will shape up to be, therefore building a set of shelves allows for custimization and expansion, should that need arise.

  • Rob

    Great posts, by the way. I’ve recently been trying to go from piles of disorganization to GTD, and it’s nice to be able to see what other people are doing.

    I use this bookcase from IKEA.

    No buckling. I have every shelf filled with books, lighter ones toward the top, of course. It’s rated at 50lbs per shelf.

    I also got the Galant desk you’re using. Still working out a comfortable height.

  • Matt


    Regarding lateral files: Since they are wider, they take up more room side-to-side than I would prefer. The normal file cabinets are deeper, but I find that to conserve space better than the wider. However, this is just a matter of personal preference.