Setting Up a Creative & Organized Home Office

I’ve worked everywhere from corporate space to Mom + Pop’s home offices, and now I have been at home for 5+ years. I’ve got a firm grasp on 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

One action item that I’ve been working on to remove blocks to creativity is to be intentional in the form and function of my office space. As a creative and an Entrepreneur, the more that my environment fosters things like innovation, artistry, inspiration, vision, enterprise, and resourcefulness, the better. Knowing what feeds and what inhibits my workflows and inspiration gave me the foundational pieces to set up a creative and organized home office.

Here are the best tips and tricks for setting up a creative and organized home office. This is packed with hacks for an inspiring and productive workspace — even with links to some of my favorite items — ending with “Command Central”, so don’t miss out on that!

ENTREPRENEUR'S ADVICE (1)

The best way to start planning your space is to answer some fundamental questions that determine what quintessential pieces to incorporate into your space. I list mine here so that when you look at the pictures, you’ll see how the elements manifested in my home office decor and layout.

What do you love – 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, i.e. the papers, supplies, tools, and technology essential to keeping things efficient and orderly.
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, cork board, 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, tasks 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.

Finally, it’s time to tour my office! With my pics and descriptions, I’ve even included 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) Personel; 2) Business; 3) Concerning my Dad. I was excited to also see these cute galvanized tin envelopes also at Magnolia Market because I love Joanna’s style!

metal wall envelope

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

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My reclining chair with a side pocket provides a nice spot to pray, read, relax, think, as well as seating for a visitor. 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. IMG_4459.jpgThe 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 taken during the private Mass 6 of us Franciscan University Students attended with St. Pope John Paul II; 2) (Bottom Left) A Stylistic Survey of Graphic Design 1820 – Present. Found this poster at a shop in Fredericksburg, TX; 3) Lighthouse artwork. This piece that pays homage to the lighthouse in my business logo, illuvint, was a $50+ Hobby Lobby piece that 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.

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I was tired of my clunky cork board. 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 + 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 plan to use the hex board? As my storyboard! I’ve been writing out the key components on index cards for the book that I’m writing. Using trusty push-pins, I’ll be able to keep my outline here, unlike my whiteboard, to stay organized and motivated throughout my writing process.

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

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The aromatherapy diffuser is a sensory piece that sits atop that table, which was a thoughtful birthday gift. 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.

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UPDATED: 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 top 1 is my new 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.

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UPDATE: Also, 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 while they’ve worked for awhile (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 the 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.

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My adjustable rolling office chair and a curved desk aren’t the prettiest Pinterest 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.

I love my metallic luminary lamp (not lit in this shot) sitting next to my small desktop drawers with a desk-supply holder sitting atop it. My printer sits on another file cabinet that I refinished – spray painted black and drawers covered in Isaac Mizrahi floral Self Adhesive Shelf Liner. 

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 rolling file cart (not pictured here).

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I’ve 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 got hardware from Lowes for them. I originally wanted the shelves for my books but found that aesthetically and structurally it was better to shelve lighter and more sentimental pieces.

If you haven’t noticed, I have a devotion to Our Lady, particularly Guadalupe. I purchased the print locally and that is the second frame I got for it, as the glass shattered in the first. Each of the other items – photos, religious articles, books, and the air plant – all hold special significance and serve as inspiration and/or motivation for my “why.”

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Next to my desk is my chock full o’ goodies closet. Here I store things like paper, art supplies, crochet supplies, envelopes, equipment, jackets, files, stationery, bags, etc.

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Command Central serves as the organizational center for the different hats that I wear. Check out my organizational system below:

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The whiteboard was custom built by my handy 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 my Dad. I have 2017 at the top as I prepare my taxes for my accountant and 2018 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. The stool I snagged at Home Goods and is perfect for when I’m doing extensive white-boarding work.

BONUS {UPDATED}:  After years of drawing, I’ve been trying my hand at watercolors, and would like to expand into acrylic painting. For Christmas, I wanted an easel but wanted something that could be compact and mobile. I got my wishlist French wooden Easel Sketch Box, and am looking forward to working with it!

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?

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