How do you store sheets of paper?

There are many different ways to store sheets of paper, depending on your needs. The main considerations when deciding how to store paper include keeping it flat to prevent curling, protected from dust and moisture, organized and accessible, and in a way that prevents damage. Popular storage solutions include filing cabinets, banker’s boxes, accordion folders, magazine files, and archival boxes.

Filing Cabinets

Filing cabinets are a classic way to store sheets of paper and documents. They allow you to keep papers organized into different folders or categories within the drawers. Pros of using filing cabinets include:

  • Keep papers neat and tidy inside folders
  • Can store large quantities of paper
  • Pages stay flat in the drawers
  • Easy to label folders for organization
  • Can get models with locks for security

Potential downsides are that filing cabinets take up more space than boxes, they can be heavy to move around, and pages may still get dusty sitting out in the open air. Models with drawers that slide out sideways take up less space than vertical drawers when open. Lateral file cabinets are a great choice for storing legal sized documents as well.


Metal filing cabinets are the most durable option. Go for a model with smooth, full extension drawers on steel ball bearings for easy access. Choose at least 3-4 drawers for adequate storage. Label the drawers and folders clearly for organization. If needed, get a fireproof filing cabinet for sensitive documents. Place cabinets in a clean, dry area away from direct sunlight to prevent moisture damage.

Banker’s Boxes

Banker’s boxes are square cardboard boxes used for storing files and paper. They are designed to fit standard filing folders. Pros are:

  • Inexpensive storage solution
  • Lightweight and easy to move
  • Offer protection against dust and dirt
  • Can stack to conserve space
  • Come in standard sizes like 10”x12”x15”

Potential cons are they can deteriorate over time, get crushed if other boxes are stacked too high, and do not have the most professional appearance.


Choose banker’s boxes made with acid-free and lignin-free cardboard for longest life. Avoid boxes with cutouts as they have less structural integrity when stacked. Write labels clearly on the end of the box to identify contents. Store boxes on shelves or in a dedicated record storage room. Keep away from moisture and inspect regularly for damage. Empty out boxes before they get too heavy to move safely.

Accordion Folders

Accordion folders have expandable sleeves to hold documents and dividers for organization. Pros are:

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Pages are covered and hidden from view
  • Allow grouping papers into categories
  • Offer protection from dust and dirt
  • More professional look than boxes

Potential cons are capacity is more limited than cabinets or boxes, pages may still curl if folder gets overstuffed, and they take up more space when open.


Choose accordion folders made from acid-free materials. Use multiple folders if needed to prevent overfilling. Store folders upright like books on a shelf rather than flat. Write labels clearly on the tabs and spine. Keep away from direct sunlight and moisture. Remove papers when no longer needed so folders don’t stretch out.

Magazine Files

Magazine files are designed to hold magazines upright like books on a shelf. They can also be used for storing documents, drawings, posters, and other flat paper items. Pros are:

  • Keep papers neatly upright and separated
  • Allow papers to be organized into groups
  • Prevent curling and creasing from stacking
  • Easy to add, remove, or reorganize contents
  • Professional looking on shelves

Potential cons are they do not provide full protection from dust, light, or moisture and capacity is more limited than boxes or cabinets.


Choose magazine files made with solid construction and acid-free materials. Make sure the size offers adequate room for contents without cramming. Label the file tabs clearly for organization. Store on shelves in a clean, dry area out of direct light. Rotate stock by removing older papers so files don’t overfill.

Archival Boxes

Archival boxes are specially designed for long term storage and preservation of important documents like photographs. They are made from high quality acid-free and lignin-free materials. Pros are:

  • Provide protection from light, dust, pollutants, and moisture
  • Materials are chemically stable for preservation
  • Offer protection from accidental damage
  • Often have lids or closures to contain contents
  • Good for storing items for decades

Potential cons are they have a higher cost than regular storage boxes and lower capacity than basic banker’s boxes.


Choose archival boxes sized appropriately for contents. Documents boxes have folders for organization. Photograph boxes have dividers and slots for neat stacking. Write labels clearly to identify contents. Store boxes on shelves or inacid-free drawer units. Keep in consistent cool, dry conditions around 65 F and 45% RH. Wear cotton gloves when handling contents to prevent oils from hands causing damage.

How Much Paper Storage is Needed?

Determining how much storage you need depends on the quantity of paper and plans for future usage. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Current volume – Measure how many linear feet of shelving current papers occupy. This helps estimate required capacity.
  • Future needs – Add expected capacity needed for future growth and acquisitions. Aim for at least 25% extra room.
  • Access frequency – Papers that are accessed more often need to be more readily available.
  • Retention time – Storage space can be reclaimed by shredding and recycling papers no longer needed.
  • Filing systems – Well organized systems require less space than loose, disorganized papers.

It’s best to allocate more storage than the bare minimum needed. Having room to grow prevents constantly buying new supplies and shifting things around when space gets tight. But too much wasted space is inefficient. Strike a balance based on your expected paper needs.

Choosing Storage Locations

Where you store paper documents and files is almost as important as the storage supplies you use. Here are guidelines on choosing the best locations:

  • Dry areas – Prevent mold and moisture damage by avoiding basements, attics, garages, or anywhere prone to leaks and high humidity.
  • Clean environments – Excess dust and dirt can accumulate on papers over time, so store in clean, enclosed areas.
  • Secure rooms – If containing confidential files, store papers in a locked room not accessible to unauthorized people.
  • Fireproof areas – For extremely sensitive documents, use fireproof cabinets, rooms with sprinklers, or commercial vaults.
  • Climate controlled spaces – Maintaining consistent cool temperature and relative humidity is ideal for preservation.
  • Low traffic areas – High traffic zones increase risk of accidental damage, spills, or misplacement of files.
  • Interior spaces – Avoid exterior walls where papers are more vulnerable to sunlight, bugs, and extreme temperatures.

Ideally choose an indoor room like a storage closet or records room. Place cabinets and shelves away from vents, radiators, windows, and exterior walls. Make sure the space is kept clean and organized for efficiency.

Organizing Your Paper Storage

Using an organized filing system makes finding and accessing your stored paper documents easy. Here are some tips:

  • Categorize – Group related papers into logical categories like invoices, contracts, personnel files.
  • Use a standard indexing system – Alphabetical, numerical, chronological, or geographical groupings.
  • Be consistent – Stick to the indexing method across all your storage. Don’t mix systems.
  • Label clearly – Use descriptive labels, include dates ranges, and write neatly.
  • Allow room to grow categories – Leave open file drawers, empty shelves, and unused boxes.
  • Purge obsolete papers – Dispose of what you no longer need to free up space.
  • Track checked-out files – Requiring sign out sheets prevents lost documents.
  • Log locations – Keep a map noting what is stored where.

Standardizing your filing and organization makes retrieval efficient. It also makes the transition easier if someone else ever needs to take over managing the records.

Protecting Archived Paper from Damage

Papers stored long term need protection from potential threats like moisture, pests, light, contaminants, and physical damage:

  • Moisture – Use storage rooms and containers that maintain cool, dry conditions. Monitor humidity and watch for leaks.
  • Pests – Inspect regularly for any signs of insects or rodents. Freeze paper to kill beetle eggs and larvae if needed.
  • Light – Keep papers away from windows and direct sunlight. Use shades, dark storage boxes, or paint walls with low reflective paint.
  • Pollutants – Avoid storing paper in garages and basements where it’s exposed to fumes and contaminants.
  • Handling damage – Use gentle handling practices and cotton gloves when accessing fragile papers.
  • Fire – Have a fire suppression system with extinguishers and sprinklers. Keep flammable products isolated.
  • Floods – Store papers above ground level when possible. Have an emergency plan to move files to higher elevations.
  • Structural failures – Ensure shelving and cabinets are properly assembled and attached to the walls/floor.

Catching damage early makes problems much easier to remedy. Do regular inspections and immediately address any issues spotted.

Digital Archiving Alternatives

While paper storage is still common, digital archiving of documents offers some advantages:

  • Takes up no physical space beyond hardware used for storing data
  • Makes documents accessible from any location via networked drives and cloud platforms
  • Can implement backups to prevent data loss from damage or disasters
  • Allows simultaneously accessing records by multiple staff
  • Enables quick keyword searches to precisely find needed documents
  • Offers options to restrict permissions for confidential data

Potential downsides of digital archiving can include:

  • Requires upfront scanning hardware costs and services
  • Ongoing charges for cloud hosting services and IT staff
  • Hardware failures or deleted files can still destroy data if backups aren’t maintained
  • May need IT expertise and specialized software for managing systems
  • Can be time consuming to implement with large existing paper archives

Both paper and digital archiving have pros and cons. Many organizations use an approach combining both for redundancy and operational flexibility.

Key Takeaways on Storing Paper

Here are some key tips for proper paper storage:

– Use archival quality storage supplies whenever possible. Acid-free materials last for decades.

– Organize using a standardized classification system and consistent labeling. This makes retrieving files easy.

– Eliminate papers no longer needed. Less volume makes storage more efficient.

– Protect papers from moisture, contaminants, pests, light, and physical damage. Catch issues early.

– Choose enclosed, clean, climate controlled spaces in secure interior rooms for storage. Avoid attics, basements, garages.

– Store frequently accessed current records separately from older archived papers.

– Include room for expansion when acquiring boxes, cabinets, and shelving. Crowded spaces are problematic.

– Implement both paper storage and digital archiving for redundancy. Use dual approaches appropriate for each document type.

– Make sure staff are trained on proper handling, filing, and retrieval protocols to maintain order.

Following professional practices for storing paper sheets and documents ensures they remain undamaged, accessible, and usable for as long as they are needed. Develop consistent systems tailored for your specific storage needs and volume of records.

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