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November 28, 2012 at 4:54 PMComments: 6 Faves: 0

Life in the Office: The Complete Guide to Making Cubicle Life Nice

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

I remember when I first started working here. I was fresh out of college and geeked to have a real adult job.

“I’m in a cubicle, and everything!” I boasted to my friends.

Unfortunately, as the novelty of being in an office wears off, the tone tends to change:

In a cubicle, and everything. Vs. In a cubicle, an everything.

Kyle McCarthy recently wrote a great article on this very subject, ("Combating the Cubicle" check it out !) and it’s true what he says in it - “Not only do cubicles close off the potential for close teamwork, but they also have a tendency to leave employees feeling slightly lethargic due to the drab nature of their construction.”

Cubicles can isolate you and leave you feeling, quite literally, boxed in. That’s the bad part. The good part however, is that cubicles allow for some privacy and comfort at work. After all, whether we like it or not, for those of us that do the full 40 hour, 9 to 5 gig, our cube is probably the place we spend most of our waking time.  We might as well make it homey!

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to combat the cubicle blues and make office life nicer. Here are just few of many great ideas out there. Take some of these tips and treat yourself OR pick them up for the cube dweller in your life this holiday season!

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In Erin's Cube:

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Before and After Cubicle Makeover Picture

Cubical Decorating Tip: Get Rid of the Gray - Cover Wall in Fabric! I got the fabric in my cube froma

Get Rid of the Gray - Cover Wall in Fabric! I got the fabric in my cube from a "Really, Really Free Market" exchange. It used to be curtains which means for me, Fabric= FREE. If you're not lucky enough to have such a thing near you however, you can still snag lots of great fabric without spending a ton at a fabric store. Check out garage sales and thrift stores and open your mind. Sheets and curtains can usually be purchased for $3 or less!! I used T-pins to put it up. (You should too.)

Cubicle Decorating Tip: Display Art That Makes Your Happy: Cheapie Trick! Check out your local book store in March for deeply discounted calanders. You'll get poster-quality prints at a great price. The Mucha print here came from a callender I bought for $3. Another great way to get art- check out garage sales and thrift stores for art books! OR, you know, you can alsways just the ol' printer.

Cubical Decorating

Display Art That Makes Your Happy: Cheapie Trick! Check out your local book store in March for deeply discounted calenders. You'll get poster-quality prints at a great price. The Mucha prints here came from a calender I bought for $3. Another great way to get art - check out garage sales and thrift stores for art books! OR, you know, you can always just  use the ol' printer.

Cubical Decorating

Cubical Decorating

Cubical Decorating

Cubical Decorating

My Epic Cube Garden. It's been scientifically proven that people are happier and healthier when they can view green plants in their home, workplace and school! I used plastic storage containers for my flower beds (In the back row, the top containers are being stacked on top of upside down containers, but obviously that's not necessary..) Cube gardener tip: Choose shade-loving plants or you'll have a lot of dead foliage before long. Bright office light is not the same as sun - and it's also not the same any sort of pleasant light, so get yourself a lamp.

I like having my lava lamp both because it moves around and looks cool and because of the ritual of it. I turn it off when I leave and back on when I get back in in the morning. I feel like my day has officially started once the wax blobies start doing their thing.

Cubical Decorating

Get a Cute Container for Extra Storage. Confession: I may LOOK like a neat freak, but I'm actually just an expert mess-hider. My cubicle drawers are junk drawers chock-full of stuff, but I don't like the ugly piles out on display. Solution - a neat storage container I can push out of view. Guys - you don't need to get the cutesy flower box. There are plenty in simple neutral colors.

Cubical Decorating

Go Vertical to Make the Most of a Limited Space. I have more beautiful green going on top of my computer. It's directly behind my screen so it's prime cubical retail! (Just take them off to water so your IT guy won't kill you.)

Cubical Decorating

Cubical Decorating

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But enough about me: What do you other cube-dwellers say? What's your must-have accessory? What's in your cubicle pantry?

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Steven Howland

Steven Howland - graphic designer

  • My Must-Have Cube Accessory? A really nice pair of headphones! "I took the armrests off my chair in my cube to make it more comfortable, but also great headphones are really important. I work on the computers and not on the phone, so I know that doesn't apply to everyone, but high-end headphones make my life better everyday. If you can have them, do not go cheap! Besides that, I make digital versions of everything to keep my area clean of paper clutter. It's easier to find important documents that way any how."
  • In My Cubicle Pantry: Pretty simple - granola bars and gumI rely on the office coffee when I'm thirsty.

Laura HoggLaura Hogg - blogger for NatuREport and The Joyful Fox

  • My Must-Have Cube Accessory: My french-press! "I like to have a little bit more control over my coffee in the morning, and usually, the standard office cup isn't going to cut it. I'm not a morning person at all, so every little good thing helps - and having an amazing cup of coffee to start the day goes a long way!

  • In My Cubicle Pantry:  Tea. All the tea! Favorites: Tazo Passion tea, Stash pomegranate raspberry green tea, Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra with valerian (for stressful days) Coffee for my French press (pumpkin spice, and any dark roast from Starbucks). Big container of almonds, Bag of Cousin Mary Jane hemp seeds (heh), Sunflower seeds, Jar of peanut butter, Emergency breakfasts (oatmeal), Emergency lunches (chick pea curry, veggie burgers, Dr. McDougall's Right Foods black bean soup), Fruit (usually apples)

  • Laura's Blog on this Very Subject (Lots of great ideas here, people!): "How I Survive 9-5: a cubicle tour"

Katie MitchellKatie Mitchell - blogger for Human Textuality

  • My Must-Have Cube Accessory: Cozy comfy slippers! "Gotta have slippers - especially on cold days! They make work feel more like home."
  • In My  Cubicle Pantry: Oatmeal, whole wheat English muffins, natural peanut butter, raisins, heat-n-eat Indian food, homemade oil and vinegar dressing, bananas, maybe an apple... uuummmm... I'm hungry a lot!

I would add fruit snacks, hot cocoa and instant apple cider to that list - and mention the importance of a "cubicle medicine cabinet." You're probably not going to need anything listed  here on an every day basis, but one day you will need them, and you'll be glad you have them when you do!

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The Complete Cubicle Medicine Cabinet

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  • FOR PAIN: Your Preferred Pain Killer - Some people are passionate about Tylenol, others will only take aspirin. I'm a couldn't-care-less-just-make-me-not-hurt kind of girl, but a day with a head or backache is a miserable day without something!
  • FOR STRESS: Valerian Capsules - Miss Laura mentioned that she likes hers in a tea and that's good too, but if you're REALLY feeling stressed the capsules are the way to go. They're herbal so you won't need a prescription, but they will make you feel a little sleepy. A good comparison made by Dr. Chamberlain in his blog is that they are about like drinking a glass of wine.
  • FOR COUGHS: Honey Don't Cough - It's made from buckwheat honey (which tastes like a combo of chocolate syrup and honey) and is supposed to be the honey with the most antioxidants. Buckwheat honey is so good for you in fact, a lot of people use this stuff as an everyday supplement. Honey also has antimicrobial and antibiotic affects - and works great on a cough.
  • FOR STUFF IN YOUR TEETH: The Doctor's Brushpicks: They have these in convenient little plastic containers near the toothbrushes at my grocery store. They cost just $2 and they're better than regular toothpick because they don't splinter and they have a little bristle side that catches food that's really stuck.
  • FOR COFFEE BREATH: Mints: I like good ol' classic peppermint stuff, but I'm not a dye-hard  fan of any one brand. If you drink coffee or enjoy spicy ethnic foods, you really need to have some mints handy in the office.
  • FOR COLDS: Traditional Medicinal's Gypsy Cold Care Tea: I am in LOVE with this tea! It's not just hippie-stuff - it actually helps and tastes amazing. I regularly hand it out to people when I hear them sneezing or coughing.
  • FOR TUMMY ACHES: Ginger Tea: This is another example of something that sounds like hippie nonsense, but does actually work. In fact, I never use the nasty chalk antacids anymore. A yummy cup of ginger tea does the trick! I like Organic India's Tulsi Ginger Lemon Tea in particular because the tulsi manages the stress as well (and stress itself can actually cause stomach pain).
  • FOR IRRITATING DRY SKIN: Lotion: An extreme aversion to dry skin is a funny quirk of mine (I love making clay things and digging in the dirt, but either on my hands will drive me CRAZY!), however, I think having dry skin irritates most people. Do yourself a favor and keep some lotion on hand. I like Johnson's Body Care 24 Hour Body Lotion, just for the scent, but you know, to each their own!
  • FOR IRRITATING DRY LIPS: Chapstick
  • FOR IRRITATING RIPPED NAILS: Nail clippers
  • FOR VANITY: Comb and Small Mirror

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A Minimalist, Huh? You'll At Least Need These Bare Cubicle Necessities

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star trek mug   precsion v5 pen  red leather notebookheadphones

  • A COOL MUG: Come on. They aren't THAT expensive and styrofoam cups are horrible. They squeak when you touch them and never decompose. At least save the planet and get yourself an expressive mug to drink from!
  • A REALLY GOOD PEN: The pens they give you at work are the plastic cutlery of pens. I mean, yeah, they get the job done, but since you're spending 40 hours a week in this place, it's basically a second home. And using plastic cutlery in your home is just sad. Spend a few bucks on a nice pen that writes clean and smooth.
  • hello kitty headphonesA PAD OF PAPER: I know I just mentioned the planet and saving it, but there is just something special about putting pen to paper. For brainstorming and note-taking, it's what you really want.
  • HEADPHONES: I know people that listen to music all day. I am not one of them. When I write, I need quiet, However, when I need to do some mindless task, or I need a kick-start, or I'm feeling stressed, I let my headphones take me away. It's great and everyone should have some. (Mine look like kitty ears! :D)
  • 3 NON-WORK RELATED THINGS TO HANG UP: It's not hard or expensive to get some art in your cube. Buy an old calender, a used art book or print something off. Otherwise, people will assume you're either 1.)boring or 2.)a sociopath.

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What did I forget? What's in your cube pantry? How do you decorate your cube? What's your must-have cube item? Inquiring cube-dwellers must know!

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6 Comments

  • love the blog Erin. Dark chocolate M&M's is one of my cube pantry staples. Non food related I have to have my post-its and some nice pens!

  • Thanks, Nancy! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

  • Great article - we just moved to a new building with horrible little cubicles - I needed some ideas to make it a little less dreary.

  • Cocoa-

    Cubicles can either feel restrictive or protective depending on your comfort in them. I can't understand the cube minimalists in my office. Having a space decorated in my style, with things I like makes me feel like I'm home. Good luck in your new digs and enjoy the nesting! :)

  • do the T pins hold really well? i have a few heavier objects on my walls currently, and id be afraid of the weight pulling the fabric down.

  • Jenn- They do! I used a t-pin about every foot along the top and every 6 inches give or take down the sides. I'd worry more about the t pins holding heavy objects up than the fabric, though, given the right amount, I'd seriously trust them to hold up most things! In any account, if the t-pins currently support the heavy objects on your walls, you have nothing to fear.

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