I recently acquired a vertical 4-drawer Letter-Sized hanging file cabinet. I thought it would free up so much space, seeing as I had so many bankers' boxes of files. It didn't work out that way. With file vetting, I ended up using two of the four drawers, and only partially. Furthermore, I don't have the flexibility of multiple individual bankers' boxes in optimizing my use of space, and balancing that off with the amount of surface space I want.

I can probably somewhat compensate for the now-suboptimal storage by using the remaining drawers for non-files. I would need a box that can fit inside the drawers, as the their bottoms are not flat, and has openings. I thought that exploiting file drawers for non-files would be quite standard, and that there would be ready-made bins specifically for this. However, most boxes that are close to the Letter-Sized width are for storing file themselves, whereas the solution I seek is slightly less wide so that it can fit inside drawers designed for Letter-Sized files.

I'm somewhat limited in the actual hacking that can be done, since I live in a 1-bedroom apartment in a highrise. I don't have the tools and surfaces to cobble up a solution that requires woodwork, such as can be found on youtube. I've created my own custom size boxes in the past by cutting up cardboard into a pattern for folding, but a box that's big enough to make good use of a file drawer would require quite a large piece of stiff cardboard that isn't interrupted by cut-outs at the corners and edges. My past experience with this approach has been that the tape holding the box together disintegrates over time, and flakes, making a bit of a mess.

Would anyone be able to point me in the right direction toward a solution? Maybe with luck, there is a source of boxes that are meant to fit inside file drawers. As I said, I would have thought that many people would want to use excess file drawer space like this.

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    Can you explain more why you don't have the means of making a box yourself? I frequently take larger boxes (like your bankers' boxes), make a few cuts with scissors or a box cutter, and tape them back together as a smaller size. – BrettFromLA Jul 30 at 14:24
  • I've editted the question to clarify that I don't entirely lack means, but also being more specific about my restrictions. – user2153235 Jul 31 at 0:01
  • I currently uses boxes that can fit inside, but they are considerably smaller, and hence, do not use the space efficiently. I was hoping that the wish to use use file drawers for non-files would be prevalent enough that more optimum bins would be available. Looking at external dimesional specifications of more generic bins is a risky approach because it's not clear whether the dimensions include any protrusions, e.g., handles, hinges, etc. Why is it not a life hack to fin a way to use file drawers for another purpose? – user2153235 Aug 5 at 0:01

From your question, and update, it seems as if you have discovered that your filing cabinet solution to your storage space problem was not as necessary or as effective as you originally thought. We get mixed results.

This often happens in life and love. We have to admit defeat, and move on.

All you had to do originally was to down-size your files. That's Done.

Now that you've trimmed the volume of the materials you want to keep, put your materials back into (fewer) of your storage boxes.

Get rid of the bulky filing cabinet which is unsuitable for your purposes. You don't need it and it's too much time and trouble to repurpose unused and unsuitable drawer space. Maybe "trade it in" for a two-drawer filing cabinet?

Good NEWS, you already have the storage boxes (that have flat bottoms I assume).

No lifehack is needed here. No cobbling necessary.

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    I have to correct the assumptions made in this answer. The move to a file cabinet was for security reasons, not space reasons. The suboptimal use of space is something I have to contend with and mitigate. Regardless of whether I got a 2 or 4-drawer, the footprint would be the same. It is also the assumed that I don't already eschew the acquiring of stuff if possible. I'm already living minimalistically. And I no longer have the old boxes, as continuing to use them was not an option. I'm having trouble seeing why finding a means to use a file drawer for a different purpose is not a life hack. – user2153235 Aug 5 at 0:03
  • @user2153235 This is the first time security was mentioned. Please edit your original question with restrictions (size, shape, materials, colours, cost, etc.) excluding all the extra drama. I'm having trouble seeing why finding a box to hold 'jellybeans' and 'pretzels' in close proximity with files securely needs a lifehack. You don't need to defend your mitigating circumstances. It's none of our business. You do need to list your requirements, biases, and restrictions explicitly and briefly. – Stan Aug 5 at 2:53
  • "all the extra drama" as you put it is in the made up narrative of your answer. I tried to be as diplomatic as I could in correcting this. The question remains the same regardless of whether the original impetus was security related. I think you're trying too hard to advise on my life in general. Really, I'd rather not diffuse the question in this way. I'd like to keep it pointed, and the mitigating circumstances were added in response to comments (which should be clear by reading the comments). – user2153235 Aug 8 at 2:49
  • @user2153235 I'm a plain talker, not given to overly flowery and oblique diplomatic parlance so prevalent in your discourse. It aroused a skeptical tenor and impatience to get to the point rather than struggle to burden me/us with your discussion of specific materials showing wear after nominal use. I mean nothing personal but your haughty and erudite entanglement with irrelevant detail frustrated my attempt at a workable answer for what I still feel doesn't need a lifehack, per se. I don't care what you do with your life but I wish you luck on your journey. – Stan Aug 8 at 3:47
  • It sounds like you're a lot of things. I'm sorry for having hurt your ego.. – user2153235 Aug 8 at 4:11

After doing some research, I see a pattern in the available office storage furniture and supplies. You are the "victim" of normal workflow. Your need is counter to the requirements of the general office furniture requirements.

There are myriad of accessories and supplies to convert general purpose filing cabinets from flat folders (and dividers) to hanging files. The bulk of filing cabinets that use hanging files have high sides, rails, or bars for supporting each side of the "hanging" file folder pocket. Alternately, low-sided drawers can be fitted with accessory rail kits.

As plain filing cabinets are more versatile, various kits are plentiful that can convert them for using hanging files. None that I could find go in the reverse direction—getting a special-purpose hanging file cabinet and trying to "dismantle and remove" the specific feature it was designed to accommodate.

What to do depends on what you want to store. You never said. Without modification, for example, you could probably put twenty or thirty collapsible music stands in one drawer. A number of different drawer organizers are available made from different materials from plastic, metal, cloth over a metal frame, fibreglass, or even baskets. They are all available in different sizes in hardware stores, apartment decor, or housewares specialty stores such as Ikea or StrucTube. There are organizers for art supplies which come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are chemically resistant. Last, but not least, office supply stores have containers suitable for vertical or horizontal storage of stuff. You can mix-n-match.

Do be aware that stationery and office supplies have their own "standard" sizes and formats. You, by going your own way trying to repurpose existing equipment, are "violating" an established standard for another which usually involves a hassle. You're discovering that.

There are components such as corners and sides that can be cut from thin wood and "clipped" together to form containers and other things for housing instruments, too, such as Playwood Connectors from places like "Lee Valley" for wood workers among others. (I don't know your budget limitations.) As well, most any shipping company can make or provide a container to fit your exact size requirements.

It's entirely possible there's an exact size to meet your needs under a different category from office filing system. You never mentioned the size you need or the number of containers. Be sure that when you do specify that metric as a "Do not exceed" measurement.

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