Hanging Around — An After-Market Hanging File Solution That Works

Posted on: June 30th, 2015 by Julie Bestry | 6 Comments

As a professional organizer, I spend a good deal of time explaining to people that organization and productivity require two kinds of systems, physical and behavioral. Usually, I’m cautioning people not to rely too much on the physical — the shelves or the tubs or the apps or the tools. That’s because one’s behavior, one’s ability to stick to a system and to make changes only when something has been analyzed and found wanting, is the ultimate key.

You can have a seemingly ideal set-up of tubs on shelves, or digital files in a logical hierarchy, but if you always toss your craft supplies on the dining table or save every download to your computer’s desktop, no brilliant and pristine system can help you. It’s funny then, when I spend so much time downplaying the tangible resources in favor of the behavioral, that I’m talking today about organizing and productivity supplies, especially ones that don’t work.

Think about some of the physical things that slow you down:

  • Staplers that put a crimp in every staple so that only one side of it “takes” and the other fails to attach. (Do you stop to fix or replace the stapler? Do you end up using a paper clip that makes your folders lumpy or grabs up too many pieces of paper at once?)
  • Apps that auto-quit every third time you select them. (Do you research a replacement app? Do you stop get technical help? Do you just live with the annoyance?)
  • Color-coded systems that break down every time you run out of a red folder. (Do you leave piles of un-filed papers until you get around to buying the color folder you need?)
  • Cabinet shelves that are too deep to reach more than the front half, or stuck in corners where it’s too dark and tight to reach anything at all. (Do you install lazy Susans and keep items in more easily reachable open-top tubs, or do you just struggle?)

To this list, I add the after-market hanging file system. Most filing cabinets and file drawers have built-in hanging file rails for letter and/or legal sized hanging folders. But some down-market, cheaper filing cabinets and older desks have drawers with no rails at all. “Not a problem,” the vendors and garage sale purveyors promise. “You can buy after-market hanging file systems.” Well…


I will now tell you the secret truth. These never work. They can be difficult to put together. (Not IKEA-level difficult, but enough to make you contribute to the office curse jar.) They’re often uneven in height, so they wobble like a table in a bad restaurant — but you can’t fix them by wedging sugar packets underneath. They’re usually unevenly spaced across the span of the top, so that files may hang well on the front of the rails, or on the back, but rarely in the middle, and files won’t slide smoothly, tending to fall off the rails on one side or the other. And most after-market hanging rails SQUEAK! (No, not with cute stuffed animal, mouse-like squeaks, but fingernails-on-the-blackboard squeaks whenever the drawers slide or the files are moved about.)

For all these reasons, I encourage clients to make sure that when they purchase desks or filing cabinets, or have them built for new homes, that they make sure that file rails are built-in. If I’m with a client who doesn’t have filing furniture and doesn’t have the option to acquire something new, I usually recommend file crates.


They’re portable, stackable, incredibly inexpensive, generally of high enough quality to suit one’s needs, and they don’t squeak.

Sometimes, however, clients truly need a working after-market hanging file solution for inside drawers and cabinets. That’s why I was delighted to speak with our friends at Smead earlier this year at the National Association of Professional Organizers Annual Conference and Expo as they debuted their new hanging file product.


The Smead Heavy-Duty Adjustable Frame for Hanging Folders is designed to adapt to various filing situations. Paper Doll put it through a series of roughhousing tests and found that it was up to snuff. The frame is:

  • Easy to assemble and requires no tools. The plastic frame (with a metal base) snaps together easily.
  • Adjustable — a simple pull or push lets you adjust it to a variety of drawer lengths, anywhere from 16″ to 24″ in length.
  • Balanced — whether you position the frame inside a file drawer or on your desktop, there’s no wobble.
  • Portable — with most after-market hanging file systems, trying to move the files from one cabinet to another, or over to a central desk for special projects, can be a nightmare. As the photo below (with my colleague Kristin Diver and Smead representative Scott Wiegrefe) illustrates, the Smead Heavy-Duty Adjustable Frame lets you lift, carry and reposition files without an unexpected game of 52 Pick-Up.
  • Squeak-free!


Smead’s Heavy-Duty Adjustable Frame for Hanging Folders can be found at Amazon for about $23 and at traditional office supply stores.

As always, any physical system is only as good as the behavioral system you have in place. This hanging file frame won’t file your papers for you. It won’t purge files at the end of the fiscal year. And it won’t make you stop and think about whether the documents you’re saving or the nomenclature you use actually make sense, or will make sense in six months or six years. For that, you’ll want to go back to the basics of filing.

But an easy-to-assemble, squeak-free, smoothly-running filing frame will help you eliminate some of the reasons you might be procrastinating on tackling your work or home office filing system. And that’s a great place to start.

6 Responses

  1. Julie Bestry says:

    Dear Readers,

    If you’re viewing this post on a computer, everything should look fine. On mobile, the photo of Kristin and Scott may be sideways. If you post to Twitter, everything is fine, but if you click the Facebook share button, that photo may be wonky. We’re trying to figure out why, but I’m Paper Doll, not Digital Doll, so please feel free to tilt your head to enjoy Kristin’s lovely smile.

  2. Seana Turner says:

    Thanks for the product review, Julie. I agree that many are so poorly made that they cause more grief than they are worth. I had a client who had a beautiful piece of furniture into which a free standing file had been set and it NEVER worked! Another option is Shelf Genie… they put high quality filing into drawers.

  3. Julie Bestry says:

    Seana, you’re absolutely right about Shelf Genie being exceptional for creating new filing space, and that’s what I had in mind, above, when I referenced building for new homes — of course, that’s valid for remodeling, too. For most of my clients, however, construction, remodeling and build-ins are beyond the budget.

  4. My semi-antique filing cabinet (purchased at a bankruptcy auction in the early 80s) doesn’t have built-in rails. I have tried those after-market ones you describe, and they were so flimsy they couldn’t handle the weight of the files. I ended up just having regular file folders standing up, or should I say, leaning on each other, and it works well enough. If I still filed lots of paper, I would definitely be looking for this new frame from Smead, but I’m slowly purging what I have with the hopes of eventually getting rid of the old beast altogether, so I will resist the temptation.

  5. Julie Bestry says:

    Janet, you might also like the MO File Cases from Smead, if you still like them. I don’t know if my own blog will eat my attempt at putting in a link to a post at Paper Doll, but check out:


    Or look at the NAPO Expo 2012 Recap: Part 4: New Twists on Old Favorites

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