The Card Catalog File


I first saw it on Craigslist. It was solid wood, and it was vintage — a combination that’s very hard for me to resist.
I jumped with glee and called the seller right away, hoping that no one else noticed the pristine card catalog file before I did.

“What are we going to put in it?” Doug asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but it’s going to be awesome. Trust me.”

I borrowed an SUV and drove over to pick it up. It’s big and heavy, but it comes apart in 5 pieces for moving, which is important when you live in an apartment. I bought it from a librarian who acquired it when the local libraries put all the file cabinets up for auction.

It became the home for all of our little things that had no home.

drawer-ribbon drawer-paint drawer-napkins

The drawers are the perfect size for small collections.

drawer-seeds drawer-tealights drawer-wine

It’s nice to know where to look when you want to find something random.

“Where’s the tape?” Doug asks.

“It’s in the drawer labeled ‘Tape.'” I answer, every time.

drawer-desk drawer-batteries drawer-flashlights

Now we know where the flashlights and spare keys are located in case of emergency. The drawers aren’t in alphabetical order, but that would probably be easier. The lower drawers are saved for things little kids can look through, since they always want to peek in drawers when they come over.

drawer-glue drawer-keys drawer-rocks

It’s something we’re asked about quite a bit, so I thought you’d enjoy a tour of that corner of our home. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. What a fabulous find. I could fill one up rather quickly!! Happy Thanksgiving!!

    Kelli´s last post…Gingerbread Houses

  2. We have one that we also found on Craigslist, and we love it. It holds a ton. We actually still use the original alphabetical labels that came with it — so pens are under PE and candles under CA.

  3. I LOVE IT!!! I will now be scouring craigslist for one.

    Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet´s last post…I cashed in my old gold jewelry and made a fast $150.

  4. I have been jealous of that ever since you posted a picture of it months back, the solid wood design is to gorgeous!

  5. Now instead of being thankful, I’m being covetous! :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. I’m green with envy! It’s absolutely gorgeous. I’ve always wanted one of these … sigh.

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  7. coolest thing ever

  8. I have a metal pharamcy cabinet that has about 30 – 8x11x4 drawers and I LOVE it too! I keep my sewing things in it. It’s wonderful.

    Yours is amazing too!

  9. I. LOVE. IT!
    I want one, but can’t find one – yet :)

    I love that it’s a functional, decorative talking piece!

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  10. I’m really jealous, just because you have a specific drawer to put your children’s rocks in.

    Rae´s last post…Week of Thanksgiving

  11. I love it! A client of mine used a card catalog for drawer space in her small kitchen. I am hoping to get one soon myself to use for crafts and gift wrap supplies. Yours is absolutely beautiful!!!

    Tanna @ Complete Organizing Solutions´s last post…Thanksgiving Coloring Pages

  12. Oh my gosh, I want one SO BAD!!!

    Kathleen´s last post…Ten On Tuesday

  13. Oh good grief this is totally divine, I love peeping at other peoples goodies!!! And your things look so bright and yummy in there – Love it!!!

    se7en´s last post…A Rollicking Rocket in Se7en Steps…

  14. I’ve been keeping my eye open for one! Now that you’ve told the whole world about it…it will be more difficult to find! Augh! P)

    I’ve always loved card catalogues and I remember using them at the university library. They were always so massive.

    I’m a little sad that my little ones will not have the same experience of riffling through those cards. So I’ve always been a look out for one so my kids will know what a card catalogue is.

  15. That is awesome! My father is a librarian, so I grew up in a library and I still have a real soft spot for the card catalog.

    This makes me thankful that something I loved lives on. Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. Beautiful!! I would scoop one up in a second if I ever came across one!

  17. Ok…LOVE IT!! Also, I read through all of the comments no one asked so, I am going out on a limb here…how much did it cost??? I am wondering if it would ever be in my price range, should I ever spot one???!!! Your post is WONDERFUL!!!

    Thea´s last post…T’was the Night before the Class Feast…

    • I think it was $250? It’s hard to know what a reasonable price would be since they are kind of rare, and they come in different sizes and materials.

  18. What a cute idea.

    Anali´s last post…Golly my life is getting away without me.

  19. omg. i’m soooo in love with that. perfect use for it too!

  20. As a librarian, I am tickled by this. For myself, though, it would recall far too many hours spent filing those cards!

  21. This is awesome! I hope you enjoy every drawer!

  22. I’ve told my husband that one of the greatest gifts he could give me would be a vintage card catalog. No idea what I’d do with it (though I LOVE the ideas here), but I would lovelovelove to have one. They just make me happy. :)

    Jen´s last post…Aging isn’t for the young

  23. I absolutely love this! What a great place to store all those little items that never seem to find a home.

    One Frugal Girl´s last post…How Do You Find the Cheapest Rates on Car Rentals?

  24. That is a very cool piece of furniture! I just parted with mine on CL a few days ago….an antique buffet that held odds and ends.

  25. You are so lucky!!! I’d love to have a piece like that…

  26. What a great idea! That is so cool!

  27. Hi I’m new to your blog but I had to say WOW I love it!! I want one!! Although I’ve got far too much useless crap, I’m not sure a beautiful excuse to store it would be a wise decision for me :)

    Emily Jane´s last post…In the spirit of Thanksgiving…

  28. Thanks for posting about it! It’s beautiful and totally makes sense. Happy Thanksgiving.

  29. What a great find! I love how you put it to use and all the labels. :o) (love the wine one!! LOL)

    Jane Weston´s last post…Have a guess…

  30. I love it! I could fill it quickly and happily.

  31. Love it! and the wheels too. I have a old fan like yours. I will be on the lookout…maybe one day I will have one too. Was a great find for you. :o)

  32. I would loooooooooooooooooooove to have an old card catalog for the exact same purpose. What a SCORE! Good for you, mama.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…Baby Week: On Four-Month-Olds

  33. That is so cool! I want one too.

    Tara´s last post…Changes

  34. I’ve always wanted one of these. This one is particularly pretty.

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  35. SO jealous! I have been searching for one of those for some time!

    Rachel´s last post…Thursday Things I Love! (Gift from Christel)

  36. I’m sighing wistfully. Our church was getting rid of 2 of these about a year ago. I wanted one SO bad, but our haouse is absolutely too small and I didn’t have a compelling argument for convincing my husband for getting something we didn’t have room for.

  37. OMG I love this I want one too it could do alot of good in my oh so small condo!

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  38. That is so cool! I’m jealous – I love old card catalogs. You made great use of it too.

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  39. Jackie @ Lilolu says:

    I always wanted to bring one of these into my home but never new what to do with it. Thanks for the idea!

  40. Now that is perfect, isn’t it? Love it – I have something on a smaller scale for my outdoor entertaining supplies and it’s so handy!

    Sandy´s last post…It’s a Good Day!

  41. LOVE IT

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  42. Want to know something funny! My mother-in-law got one of these for their family’s dressing room. They had a lot of kiddies, and they used it to store socks and underwear. Very “practical” but she found the fact that you can push the card divider inside each drawer up to where you filled the drawer very handy.

    Have fun with your drawer! Isn’t it funny what things make our day! I can feel you grinning about it as you decided what goodies were going to go in your drawer!

    Juggling Motherhood´s last post…Fashion vs Common sense?!?!

  43. this post gave me such a smile. my mom is a retired librarian and has all sorts of library discards in their home. i don’t know why more people don’t have them. they have had theirs for awhile…now they are hard to come by.
    fabulous score, rachel!

    nicola´s last post…shop art

  44. I am among the many who LOVE this idea!!! I have always told my husband that if we ever have our own home, I want a room full of bookshelves (for my insane love of books)–and of course I’d have to have at least one of these too! And just so you know, I wouldn’t catalog all my books–I would do something similar to what you did, as I always felt overwhelmed looking thru all those cards–but I have plenty of other junk to fill 10 of these things! LOL (Okay, okay, long live the pack rats!!!)

  45. What a great idea, I love it!

    Michelle Traudt´s last post…Priorities

  46. Oh its lovely. I’ve wanted one for ages and you now have me scouring ebay for them.

  47. I want one I want one I WANT ONE!!! I didn’t love it until I saw ALL of the amazing things that you put in it. Seriously…I SO covet your fun find!!!

    Intentionally Katie´s last post…A Low-Key Black Friday

  48. So cool! I have great memories of looking through the card catalogs in school. I wonder if they still use them at schools? Probably not with internet search now available.

    If I had one, I’d probably use it as our catch all drawer when we first walked in the house. One for keys, another for batteries, coupons, stamps, etc.

    Congrats on your cool find…I’m jealous :)

    Melody @ Party Cupcake Ideas´s last post…Happy Thanksgiving: Fall Leaf Cupcakes

  49. I was just telling my husband last night that I would love to have a card catalog cabinet! Love it!

    Angie @ Many Little Blessings´s last post…Cookies, Gift Wrapping, and the Neti Pot — It’s Thanksgiving!

  50. I actually have something “similar” in concept (but not as pretty). I use one of the hardware storage thingies as a catch all for things with no homes (everything from earrings to twist-ties, etc, etc) Since I live alone, I don’t have to label it, but some drawers do get more use than others. They’re also see through, so if I can’t remember exactly what I’m looking for, I can peek.

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  51. I tried to buy one through silent auction from a library that was getting rid of them. Alas, others were willing to pay more!

  52. I will not covet. I will not covet. I will not covet. I will not covet. I will not covet…

    Juice´s last post…Juice and Cecilia’s Excellent Thanksgiving Adventure

  53. You are so lucky with this find. I *adore* it – I have been searching on ebay in the UK for something like this for ages.

    Anna´s last post…Festive highs and lows

  54. christina says:

    that is sooooo aweseome! i want one!

  55. So beautiful… brilliant idea!

  56. This is so beautiful! I am often attracted to things with tiny drawers that are no use, but these drawers look like just the right size to fit in all those trinkets and things that are hard to find a place for elsewhere. And it’s beautiful!

    chaotic kitten´s last post…Seeing Stuff I have Dehoarded In the Shop

  57. I am a library geek, and I have been since elementary school. This catalog brings back many fond memories. What a find!!!!!

  58. that is really neat. Great idea.

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  59. Em Bee Cee says:

    Just saw your post about your card catalog. I have one in my kitchen, too, and am delighted to report that many of my tiny drawers have the exact same labels as yours: tape, glue, paint, keys. BEST JUNK DRAWER SYSTEM ever.


  60. I am on the hunt (hence, the reason I found this post) – I cannot WAIT until I find the perfect one. I am totally reclaiming that “junk” drawer in my kitchen.

    BTW, I am so envious of your find. it’s truly lovely, and the price is quite fair.

    McKenzie´s last post…I love you so much…

  61. Amazing! So envious!

  62. Love what you did with your card file! I have one too and never tire of it. I also recently inherited 3 amazing post office cubbies my Dad bought in the late 1950s-early 1960s. . I can keep two but want to sell the other one. No more room! Will have to post it on Craig’s List when I get around to it and see if there’s any interest.

  63. I love this and would love one for my study.

  64. This is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen all day.