How decorating your workspace can change your whole job

My dad used to take pride in how empty he would keep his desk space at work. He always said it was strategy—if he ever had to leave his company for one reason or another, it would be easier to pack up and go. The idea was not to get too comfortable, which made a lot of sense but was also a bit cynical.

We tend to spend so much time at our jobs that the idea of bringing in some small comforts is not a bad idea. Perhaps in the spirit of Marie Kondo, author of The Life‑Changing Magic of Tidying Up, we should not feel ashamed to have non-essential items around our work spaces, but rather we should limit the items we put out on our desks to things that spark joy in our lives. After all, after a client call goes awry or you get passed over for the promotion you wanted, what is better than being able to look at a picture of your family or laugh at a cartoon strip you cut out of the Sunday paper?

In the interest of seeing what items spark joy in my friends’ work life, I asked them to send in photos of their favorite desk/office item with a little blurb. Here are some of the responses I received:


“This is my Shelf of Junk. It gives me great joy. The mailbox is my favorite new addition. I got it from my friend for Galentine’s Day and it hides all my candy. Cause, y’know… that’s always a tried and true pick me up.”


“King Kong…because he is cute! Notable back round mention…hand cream, ice cube gum and St. Anthony.”


“Picture of me and my dog, water bottle with a doge sticker from a beloved student and music note ribbon from a Christmas gift from a coworker.”


“Never mind a giant cat poster. I’ve got the real thing on my desk. Not always, or rather, never, a motivator to work getting done efficiently. Try typing with one arm pinned down on the desk by a cat. Because that’s how he likes to sit. And therefore that’s how he is sitting. He. The name is Malcolm. Sir Malcolm.”


“POST-IT NOTES! Are the best invention. Not just handy in the office but in LIFE. I keep it around because as a person who talks to herself and has several thoughts all at once…ya gotta have something there to jot all of it down. Also the sticking function is GLORIOUS!”


“In the midst of a crazy day where I might be hating every task I have to get done, I like seeing existing art and the possibility of art side by side. It reminds me there is always an opportunity to take the time to create something, in any capacity, no matter what your day job may be. I also happen to like taking all the blank sheet music from Ace hotel rooms ;)”


“A picture of my true love, Harry Styles, as drawn by an old co-worker during a particularly trying week, a couple of cards from friends to remind me I am a BOSS, and a photo booth strip with a BFF who moved to Nashville and whom I miss dearly. Basically, all of these things remind me that my life is not my work, but the people I surround myself with–and I’ve picked some good ones.”


“Elroy, my bobble-head Corgi: Elroy brings joy to my office space because he reminds me of my family dog growing up, a corgi, who is currently living with my parents a few states away. I also love Elroy because even though he is solar-powered, the florescent lights sometimes make his head bobble!”


“Raise Your Hand if You Mustache A Question – A Handlebar, a Horseshoe, a Fu Manchu or a Salvador Dali delights all. Draw or put a stick on mustache on a photo or inanimate object and you can’t help but smile. Who knew your picture of Luke Wilson in the Wes Anderson film The Royal Tennennbaums needed tache? Better yet, our office goes Mustachastic in Novemeber for Movemeber, to raise awareness for various types of cancers. And while secretly I am always growing mine (thank you ever so much hormones) I stick one on in solidarity with the guys.”


“So, I don’t have a desk in the traditional sense of the word, but this koala sits next to me in the flight deck, AND it says ‘G’Day Mate’ on his chest! Why yes, my Australian koala friend, it IS a good day!”


“Behind my desk on my corkboard, I have a little fake flower wrapped in a green post-it note given to me by my student. A reminder to be gentle on my most challenging days – both to my students and to myself.”


“My minion friends. One serenades me when I’m feeling down, and the other one keeps me productive!”


“My inner passive aggressiveness is quelled due to posted sayings. People meander in and out of my office cubicle every day and I just know they are catching a glimpse of my funny hangings. Perhaps you will stop writing, ‘your welcome’ at the end of your letter to the board. Maybe when you get back from the gym at lunchtimes you will tame the crotch crawling shorts. Or maybe my quote from Thoreau will encourage you to find a new position at a different company. Perhaps. And that my friends brings me inner peace knowing my purchased quote gave you pause and inspiration. Ohmmmm. Ohmmmm.”


“So I’ve always been bad at taking care of plants, but it’s sort of love at first site when you can legitimately call one of your plant babies ‘donkey tail.’ I am indefinitely attached.”


“Tsotchkes equal love. I am pretty sure these little guys on my desk serve more than an example of my quirkiness; they are my ‘other’ office friends. A jaunty gnome, NSYNC’s Joey Fatone bobblehead, gangsta’ lego man all help us through good and bad days. I don ‘t know how many times Bean Bunny from the Muppets has looked up at me with his little beady eyes and expressed his admiration of my skills: typing on my cell under tables at meetings, attentiveness to webinars, or my pencil towers during brainstorming sessions. They are our own personal cheerleaders.”


“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. Blank office space compares to blank refrigerator space. Got some? Place your kid’s artwork there and wah-lah the magic of the inner workings of your child is broadcast for the world. The crayon blobs of the world express the artistic geniuses of tomorrow living amongst us. That you get to showcase their work is a blessing for anyone walking through your office.”