How to survive in a small space: Office edition

Wow, it's already mid-August!! How did that happen? For many people it's back-to-school season. If you're a parent reading this, maybe you're sending your kids to live in a dorm for the first time. Or maybe you're done with the student life (like me!) but you're finding yourself working from home on a more permanent basis and you have to create an office in a small space.

This blog post will outline my top 3 tips to survive working/studying in a small space.

Note: Even though the article title says "how to survive in a small space" most of the tips apply to someone who has a large working space too.

Tip 1: Have a desk and a proper chair

If you're going to be sitting for hours at a time, whether studying or working, I can't stress enough how important a desk with a proper chair is. Not only for ergonomic reasons. Having a desk area sets your mind into work mode. It allows you to easily transition from work mode to relaxing mode. One of the keys to surviving a small space is having dedicated zones for everything.

Before you invest in a desk, TAKE THE TIME to consider your needs. Do you print a lot of paper? Or are you solely a laptop worker? If you have a lot of paper, consider getting a desk that's wide enough for you to place storage solutions (like a letter tray) on the top, or that has built-in drawers. If you don't have that much paper, but have a lot of devices then maybe something with built-in USB ports is ideal.

If you're lucky enough to have an extra room where you can fit a full-size desk, I suggest investing in sit/stand desk, like these:

Skarsta (IKEA)

Electric Standing Desk (Amazon)

Adjustable Standing Desk-Babin (Wayfair)

These are just some of the various options available on the internet. They range from simple, manual adjustment (the Skarsta) to fully electric adjustable height with built-in USB ports (the Babin from Wayfair).

If you don't have a separate room large enough for a desk, here are some other ideas:

Get a loft bed that allows you to fit a desk underneath. This is great if you have a studio apartment or if you have a small second bedroom and want to maximize it's function as both a bedroom and office.

Get creative with floating shelves! Take a look at the picture below for inspiration (Source: IKEA). A mounted shelf with drawers and some floating shelves inside a nook may be all you need.

If you're tight of funds, there are plenty of creative desk options to consider. For example, I've re-purposed old tables and used them as a desk. You'll be surprised what you can do with a can of spray paint!

I'm in no way, shape or form (pun intended) an ergonomic expert. However I have worked in a traditional office long enough to know that if you're not sitting correctly, you're going to feel the pain later. Even though online shopping is amazing, I recommend actually going into a store if possible and testing out office chairs. Or find one that has a good return policy. At the start of the pandemic I used my kitchen table chair for my office area. After one week I realized it wasn't going to meet my needs longer term. So I bought a chair online, sight unseen and honestly I only picked it because it looked cute and was the right price. In hindsight (and had I known my WFH situation would be months not weeks) I would have invested in something more supportive. I'm not going to recommend any chairs in this post, because I believe this is something you have to try out for yourself.

Tip 2: Give everything a designated place

Are you even surprised I'm saying this? Once you have a desk, you'll want to try and keep it clear of any clutter. And the best way to do this is to have simple storage solutions to keep things like, pens, paper, cords, notebooks and other random office supplies nice and tidy.

In my last blog post I shared my latest office purchase - this 6-drawer rolling rack from Amazon (pictured below). It cost me less than $60 and my fave feature is the shelf on top that has built-in organizing compartments. Some other low budget (i.e. less than $50) office organization solutions for you to consider:

Raskog Utility Cart (IKEA)

Tjena Desk Organizer (IKEA)

Stackable Desk Organizers (Staples)

Clear Plastic Drawer Organizer (Staples)

If you're on a really tight budget, I suggest making a trip to Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store - they have some simple and affordable organizational solutions!

Tip 3: Maximize wall-space

This is a tip of mine for any small space! Bathroom, bedroom, living room, etc. It's even more important for an office in small apartment or a dorm room. Your wall space doesn't have to be solely for art work. There are some great peg boards that allow you to hang baskets to keep supplies close by without sacrificing any of your valuable square footage. Take a look at the picture below. All the items on the peg-board would normally be scattered on a desk or take up valuable drawer space. By using a peg-board and maximizing wall space, you have no choice but to keep things organized!

Here are some of my faves pegboards:

Skadis Pegboard (IKEA)

iDesign Plastic Hanging Pegboard (Amazon)

Wire wall-grid panel (Amazon)

You can also maximize wall space by installing floating shelves to place books, lightweight baskets or even mementos like family pics. If you're renting or in a dorm with concrete wall, don't worry! There are adhesive options like this one from Amazon that holds up to 5 pounds.

Another great option for maximizing wall space - install hooks for bags, sweaters (I always need a shawl in my office space because I get so cold) or headphones/headsets.

So those are my tips for surviving working/studying in a small space. I hope they gave you some ideas of what you can do in your own space to maximize your productivity and live your best (most organized) life!

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