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Is Your Work Cubicle the New Tiny House?

Topics: Work Culture
tiny house

If you’ve been watching a lot of home improvement reality shows — no judgments here — you’ve probably exclaimed more than once, “I’d never have a tiny house!” But consider this: if you work in an office, you sort of have one already.

Your cubicle is like a tiny house, and you sit in it eight hours a day, five days a week. It makes those miniature log cabins and gingerbread houses look like McMansions in comparison.

So, how can you use your tiny space smartly and not let it start to creep in on you?

1. You don’t need more “stuff” to be happy.

You have one bag: fill it with everything you’ll take with you. You might be tempted to bring in lots of items to make your cubicle more “homey,” but you don’t need that junk to get a kick out of work.

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Think about what you’re after: a good work space that makes sense. Don’t use extra document trays or file holders if you’re not actually going to get any use out of them. Those four coffee mugs you always have on your desk because they were birthday presents from your kids? Pick your favorite one and use that (the kids aren’t around to judge you either).

Other examples:

  • Try a short file cabinet that’s also a portable, rolling stool for a guest.
  • Use a magnet or cork board to get papers up off your desk while you’re working with them.
  • Don’t be tempted to bring in a “bulk” amount of anything. You can get by with a week’s supply of personal snacks or drinks.

2. Let the light in!

We all need light to survive, OK? Even if your desk is down in the basement, you need to have a plan to ease your eyes and feed your brain. If you can, use natural light-providing bulbs in a desk lamp or two. Use a SAD-battling blue light first thing in the morning in the winter. You might even find your mood improves and you get to sleep better at night. Bonus!

3. Go green.

Plants aren’t only a good idea for some color and texture in your cube, they also can work hard to scrub the air you breathe.

At Live Science, Elizabeth Palermo explains:

…scientists studying the air-purification capacities of indoor plants have found that plants can absorb many other gases in addition to carbon dioxide, including a long list of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Benzene (found in some plastics, fabrics, pesticides and cigarette smoke) and formaldehyde (found in some cosmetics, dish detergent, fabric softener and carpet cleaner)  are examples of common indoor VOCs that plants help eliminate.

Not sure you can grow anything? Cactuses and succulents, like aloe, can survive with only the bare minimum of watering. The air-cleaning foliage of a peace lily or spider plant is a perk, while the plants themselves are hard to kill, even for those of us with the blackest of thumbs.

Like they point out at, “a plant doesn’t have to have a big footprint to make a big impact.” Try a tiny “air fern,” which survives without soil, in a small cup or class dish to add a dash of green, without any watering or even dirt to get messy!

4. Listen … do you smell something?

Keeping your cubicle-house smelling fresh requires some effort. Instead of layering on some high-test perfumes, which may annoy or even get harsh medical reactions from your neighbors, try a more innocuous, but helpful scent. Keep a dish or small vase with some of your favorite scents, like:

  • coffee beans
  • cedar shavings
  • an unused dryer sheet

5. Get personal.

What makes you happy? We can’t all work at this tiny desk in the woods, but if a view makes you smile, go for it! If you lack a window at work, try adding a poster or photo of a favorite vacation spot to your cube wall. Go big and you can have a “window” to your next escape from the 13th floor.

Want to see your kids or friends? Try a photo, but keep the frames at home — they just take up space on flat desks. Use the insides of drawers or closets for spaces to put happy reminders of things you love, like your dog or favorite ferret. Give yourself a smile here and there where you least expect it.


What do you put in your “tiny house” at work? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

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