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DIY Home Office

Is the setup of your workspace contributing to blocks to creativity?

I have worked everywhere from corporate, academic, ministry, to Mom + Pop home offices. From those experiences and now working from home for more than seven years, I understand what is needed for optimal working conditions.

There are many blocks to creativity, but there are active steps we can take to protect the creative.”

Ed Catmull, Pixar Co-Founder

As a creative and an entrepreneur, I want my environment to foster the building blocks of innovation, artistry, inspiration, vision, enterprise, and resourcefulness. After years of trial and error, these are my best hacks, tips, and tricks for setting up a creative and organized home office, links to some of my favorite items, with “Command Central” crescendo.

To start planning (or remodeling) your space, we’ll begin with some fundamental questions to help you determine what quintessential pieces to incorporate. Knowing what feeds and what inhibits workflows and inspiration gave me the foundational pieces to set up an efficient and effective workspace. I’m including my answers here as a sample, and so that while viewing the photos, you’ll notice how these elements manifested in my home office decor and layout.

What do you love? What are things that inspire you, that are meaningful, that are important, that keep you motivated.
A few of my loves: My Catholic Faith, family, books, writing, art, design, innovators, the outdoors.

What do you need to stay organized? Examples: Papers, supplies, tools, reports, technology.
Some things that keep me organized: Labeled files, binders, filing cabinets separated by personal & work, a receipt system, mail system, two computer screens, whiteboard, dry-erase weekly menu planner and monthly calendar, corkboard, clipboard, sticky notes, index cards, separate colored notebooks for my journal, business, and writing.

On my laptop, tablet + phone: Evernote app for note-taking, organizing, task lists, and archiving; Freshbooks Cloud Accounting.

How do you experience peace and comfort through your five senses?
My five senses find peace and comfort through calming color palettes, soft lighting, music, aromatherapy, candles, recliner chair, adjustable desk + chair, cool design, art, quotes, photos – especially of loved ones.

Let’s tour my office! My pics and descriptions include links to some of my favorite items.

To your right, as you walk through the door, is my mail system. And my remote for the overhead light and fan. The 3 metal envelopes provide easy-access for me or my Hubby, and easily separates mail that is

  1. Personal; 2) Business; 3) Nonprofit.

On one visit to Magnolia Market, I was excited that she had also carried these cute galvanized tin envelopes because I love Joanna’s style!

MAIL SYSTEM

Right around the corner is a cozy and useful multi-functional space.

reading corner

My reclining chair with a side pocket provides a stylish spot to pray, read, relax, think, as well as visitor seating. It sits upon a 4×6 grey Arizona Rug, set on the diagonal. I love the Edison bulb in my brushed metal lamp, as the innovator, Thomas Edison, is one of my heroes. 

edison bulb lamp

The espresso file cabinet looks nicer than a metal one but doesn’t hold a whole lot of files – so I’ve had to get file boxes to begin purging files to keep archive records. More compact and visually interesting, I love my spine bookcase!

I carefully chose my artwork for that wall: 1) (Top left) Photo after a private Mass in the Vatican with another of my heroes, St. Pope John Paul II, that I attended in 1997 with a few Franciscan University alumni; 2) (Bottom Left) A Stylistic Survey of Graphic Design 1820 – present, found at a shop in Fredericksburg, TX; 3) Lighthouse artwork, paying homage to the lighthouse in my business logo, illuvint. That was a $50+ Hobby Lobby piece I snagged at my local Thriftshop for about $2.50.

On the adjacent wall, I needed a tool to inspire and layout my book writing.

I was tired of my clunky corkboard. I’m loving the aesthetic of these hex cork tiles, which were a Pinterest win thanks to HGTV! I hand-cut these hexagons from cork tiles (you can buy them already cut for about 4x as much), painter-taped off half of them and brushed them with my office colors and attached them to my wall with double-sided adhesive mounting tape. The “faith” sign was something I picked up for around $10 at Burkes Outlet.

How do I use the hex board? As my storyboard! I’ve been jotting down the key components on index cards for the book that I’m writing. Using trusty pushpins, I’ll be able to keep my outline here, unlike my whiteboard, to stay organized and motivated throughout my writing process.

Below my geometric storyboard is a small table that I thrifted, refinished, and distressed to match my office colors.

The aromatherapy diffuser is a sensory piece that sits atop that table, which was a thoughtful birthday gift from my brother. There are a number of essential oils that I can blend depending on what is needed in the given moment – focus, calm, energy, etc. It glows with a variety of colored lights too.

These two options for your electrical outlets are handy hacks. They both offer “ports” for charging and electrical outlets, to keep your phone/tablet chargers plugged in while still keeping outlets free. The left one is my fav, offering high energy surge protection and 4 pivoting outlets for plugs, adapters and USB cables. This isn’t the same brand as mine (I think it’s discontinued!), but HERE is the same style of a pivoting outlet surge protector that also gets 4.5 stars on Amazon.

TIP: Check the “gadgets section” of your local discount stores (i.e. Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Ross) for these, as I purchased both of mine there.

If you don’t have a longer charging cord for your devices, do yourself a favor – spend a little for big convenience. These are not the ones they include with the phone, but longer length cords.

TIP: I do NOT recommend getting knock-off cords on the cheap online – I’ve done it, and although they’ve worked for a while (or not, I’ve had them fray at the connection point in less than 2 weeks), mine always eventually start to rapid-flicker on & off while plugged in. Inevitably I’ll get a “this device is not supported by Apple” message. I have a 2-meter lightning cable from Apple, and it’s been a life-saver. I’ve used it in all sorts of rooms, from my office to the hospital, and it allows me to charge my iPad while using it at a comfortable length from the outlet.

Next is the wall that sits directly across from the door, my primary workstation.

My adjustable rolling office chair and a curved desk may not be prettiest picks, but they do provide proper back & neck support. I’ve lowered my desk to the right ergonomic height for me, and my chair to place my feet flat on the floor while I can set both my forearms on my curved desk surface. This supports better posture, which improves my chronic pain and headaches.

My metallic luminary lamp is functional and stylish. The small desktop drawers serve as a desk-supply holder sitting atop it. My printer sits on another file cabinet that my Dad I shopped for at Office Depot when he needed it.

Having a tabletop desk has pros and cons. Cons – no shelves. Pros, lots of space for more than just your feet. Underneath my desk, I store a large paper shredder, mesh cans for trash and recycling, and my metal Elfa rolling file cart.

I had been pining for floating shelves. More thrift store finds (the middle one was another Hobby Lobby $50 original piece at Goodwill for a few bucks), I painted the top and bottom shelves black and then got hardware from Lowes for them. Over time, the floating shelves needed additional support, so we picked up these antique black ornamental shelf brackets.

I have a devotion to Our Lady, particularly Guadalupe. I purchased a Willard Clark woodblock print of Guadalupe at a local shop and framed it. Each of the other items – photos, religious articles, books, knick-knacks – all hold special significance and serve as an inspiration and/or motivation for my “why.”

I love having a closet in my office. I store things like paper, art supplies, crochet supplies, envelopes, equipment, jackets, files, stationery, bags, etc.

Command Central serves as the organizational center for the different hats that I wear. Here is an overview of my organizational system below:

The whiteboard was custom built by my Hubby, out of this 4′ x 6′ adhesive dry-erase surface mounted on Home Depot whiteboard. Below it, Ikea kitchen rail + utensil holders house my dry-erase supplies. Clipboards are always handy, but I’d like to outline a weekly cleaning routine and keep it there. That will help me spend less Saturday clean-a-thons.

I use color-coded poly file jackets to separate my receipts between business, nonprofit, personal, and when I was caring for my Dad. I have last year’s folders at the top as I prepare my taxes for my accountant and the current at the bottom with tax paperwork as well. From there, I can place necessary biz or charity receipts in the appropriate binders with plastic sheet protectors by month for expense tracking.

The bright dry-erase calendar is a good at-a-glance for the month, with a bit of room on the side for notes if needed.

After years of on-the-spot-what’s-in-my-fridge cooking, I decided it was time for a weekly menu planner dry-erase board. It’s cute and will make adding my grocery list items to our shopping list app less frantic.

The file folder holders on the bottom right are an old magazine rack from Ikea. There’s also a rolling stool that I snagged at Home Goods, which is perfect for when I’m doing extensive white-boarding work.

I’ve gained these office tricks, tips, and hacks over decades of working in many different offices. I’d love to hear – what works best for you in your office?

About Author

Creative, Entrepreneur & Silly-Heart. Christ has called her to bring the broken to His Sacred Heart. Calls Austin home with her mountain-man husband, Mike, who she loves to travel through life with as well as around the world.

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