Maggie Radl

One of my biggest concerns when I took a position for teaching Kids and Teens in an online setting, was spending my days in a cubicle. I absolutely love teaching online, it provides students with a one-on-one opportunity to focus on their problem areas and get personalized experiences to enhance their learning. That being said, this style of teaching has led to one big issue; cubicles.

When I first moved into the office I would teach in my cubicle, but the second that class would end you bet I would never find myself sitting in it. I have always been an outdoor girl, the type of person who would always yell “Can we have class outside?!” to my teacher. I couldn't stand the thought of being trapped in a small indoor setting. I began to think; “How can I change this space to make myself happy enough to stay in it?” I found my answer through a simple solution: decorating my desk. Now my coworkers can almost always find me typing away happily in my cubicle. I'm here to share 6 tips and tricks to creating a better office space for yourself!

1. Wallpaper

The main thing I did to spice up my desk was simply adding some wallpaper. Bright white walls can be extremely straining to your eyes, and since my work has me on a laptop for the majority of the day, I try to avoid unnecessary eye strain when needed. Personally, I went for an underwater theme, complete with blue wallpaper, fish decals and just to be even extra, a small fish tank.

2. Personal items

There's nothing that will make a desk feel more like home than adding a personal touch. Photos of close friends and family members are a sweet reminder of home and a surefire way to make any desk feel more like yours. Nothing keeps you more motivated than glancing up from a busy session of lesson planning to be greeted by a photo of the stern, but motivating, eyes of your mom and dad. That being said, keep in mind that this is an office setting, so make sure the photos you choose are office-appropriate. If you have to stop and think “Hmm, should I use this photo of me drinking with my college friends?” the answer's probably no.

3. Plants

As I mentioned before, I'm the type of person who craves the outdoors and thinks about it nonstop. In order to combat constant daydreaming of the outside I added a few simple plants. While one didn't make it (rest in peace succulent) my other one is thriving and is always a pleasant addition to my workday (long live Mimosa Pudica!)

4. Extra lighting

Something that goes hand in hand with a plant is a little bit of extra lighting. While this might be a small change, you'll be surprised at how a simple light might change your mood. Not all desks are going to be pressed up against the window, and as such they won't have as much natural light. If you feel like this is something that might affect you, adding a small extra light is an easy fix for a big mood change simply search ”桌子灯“ on TaoBao and you can find small ones for as cheap as 20 RMB (about $2.80).

5. Utilize your space!

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking that your cubicle is just limited to the flat space you put your laptop on. Don't be afraid to build up! Shelves can be attached to hold small items to prevent avoid clutter in your desk space. These are often very cheap as well and can be found on TaoBao for less than 30 RMB (about $4.20).

6. Keep your office clean!

With all of these added touches it is more important than ever to keep your desk clean. Something I struggle with more than anything is keeping “decorated” from verging into cluttered. Every week I need to remind myself “Hey Maggie, do you need to have this set of 300 Chinese flashcards on your desk” or “Does this massive container of Tums have to be kept on top of your fish tank?” Usually, the answer is no, I declutter and then try to keep myself from falling into this loop again.

In conclusion, a little extra flair to your desk can be a great way to make it feel like yours. However, make sure to check with your DOS before transforming your desk into something extreme. Some offices have a 3 personal item rule but that just means you should focus more on quality than quantity! Whether your desk has a few photos of home or an underwater ocean theme, let it be a representation of yourself!

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