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23 Cheap Ways to Decorate Your Office at Work (Fun Cubicle Ideas)

Fun cubicle ideas and cheap ways to decorate your office at work to escape cubicle fever (and even help you be successful).

young woman at office working, text overlay "23 cheap ways to decorate your office at work"

Do you live work in a cubicle?

It can get pretty boring…and drab.

Before we dive into some pretty killer and cheap ways to decorate your office at work (yes, this article is for you even if your “office” is really a 4′ X 4′ gray cube), let me talk to you about the inspiration behind this article.

I bought The Dilbert Principle for $5 while shopping with my friend at a thrift store over 6 years ago.

And after spending 7 years in a cubicle? I can tell you it's absolutely hilarious.

I would not have been able to relate to the cubicle-fever-humor fresh out of college when I had yet to experience a bloated middle management tier, had yet to try and figure out business jargon, or had yet to understand how a mission statement meant anything to my day-to-day cubicle life.

Hilarious author Scott Adams covers part of these when he clarifies the role of presentations as,

“transfer[ring] resources away from accomplishing objectives and concentrate[ing] them on explaining how well you’re doing.”

Or when he says that if you wish to talk like a manager, you have to turn saying something like “I used my fork to eat a potato” into,

“…I utilized a multitined tool to process a starch resource.”

I mean, hilarious, right? Especially for us cubicle people.

Alright, alright, I'll move on. But I'm convinced that if I ever find myself in a cubicle again (I've been working for myself now since February 2013), then I'll bring a copy of this book to adorn my shelf.

The book is actually a lot more about management fads, employee morale at the expense of employees, “workplace affliction”, messing with your managers, and other funny business topics than about inhabiting a gray, drab cube for 40+ hours of your week.

And reading it has inspired me to write about frugal ways to add color, a little bit of fun, and comfort to your cubicle.

So, let's talk about cheap ways to decorate your office at work, and how to decorate your cubicle for success.

Note: Each company is different so be sure to check with your company policy, discuss with your manager, or make a judgment call as to whether your corporate culture would accept the following ideas or not.

How to Decorate Your Cubicle for Success

So, you want to decorate your cubicle for success? Fortunately for you, there's been tons of research done on what makes a worker successful and more productive (which, generally leads to being more successful).

And guess what? Your environment (i.e. that gray cubicle you were given) definitely plays a role in your success. In fact, symptoms like feeling a mood imbalance, lacking creativity, losing productivity, and low energy can be a direct result of the environment you spend 8+ hours in.

Time to re-decorate your cubicle to increase your success level.

Decorate Tip #1: Create an Office Landscape for Higher Productivity

Studies show that humans are hardwired for the outdoors, and being around natural things like plants helps relax us and build up our morale…yet we're spending more and more time indoors. Another huge plus of plants? They introduce more oxygen into a working space and soak up some of the volatile chemicals (like VOCs) that modern furniture gives off.

Bromeliads, or “Air Plantsmake great, cheap cubicle plants, and are very low-maintenance. They don't require soil to grow, only need moderate light (indirect is fine), and once a week you need to give them a good soaking with water. You can do that, right?

A second idea is succulents, which can survive in harsh environments (ha! Does that describe your workspace?). Here's a list of some of the best LIVE plants for your cubicle.

Also great for productivity? This seriously cute, Rainbow Pomodoro timer. Set it for 25 minutes of work, then a 5-minute break. Rings an alarm at the end, or you can silence it to not distube your cube mates.

rainbow pomodoro timer in front of turquoise lamp

Now that's what I call functional cuteness:).

Decorate Tip #2: Decorate Away the Gray with Mood and Behavior-Enhancing Colors

Color deeply affects your mood and productivity levels. This article is an interesting read on the whole thing, and the main takeaway is this: nowhere does it say “gray” will make you productive.

So, you have to start to ask yourself, why are almost all cubicles the color of gray?

Gray can be very drab and uninspiring, especially when you are drenched in it. I worked in a cubicle jungle, two cubes away from natural light (so not too bad).

Something that I noticed others do is to cheaply decorate part of the gray drab away by using fabric.

What a genius idea!

Fabric comes in all kinds of patterns, textures, and colors. You can use a 40% off coupon at Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, Hobby Lobby, or any other craft store near you.

In our office, we each have an overhead shelf with a sliding door where it is easy to tack on fabric that can be easily removed later.

Another way to introduce a chunk of color into your cube is by covering a bulletin board with fabric.

Or…with wallpaper.

I gently took the frame off of an old bulletin board of mine and painted it a metallic gold color. Then, I bought this gold heart wallpaper to put over it. I created my very own productivity Kanban board that looks personalized and makes me smile every time! Here's the stack of small Post-It notes I used in a vase.

vertical bulletin board with gold hearts wallpaper on it, and small post it notes saying "Write 1 Hour" on each, next to vase filled with small post-it notes

Hint: Sarra Cannon is the queen of Kanban boards – learn how to set up your own for better productivity on projects and quarters, here, or watch a newer video of hers below.

Decoration Tip #3: Create a Grateful Basket

There are lots of benefits to showing gratitude, and since you're in your cubicle or office for a long period of time…why not start your own gratitude practice there?

I have such a fun idea for this, and it uses one of those 365 one-a-day calendars that you tear the pages off of.

In my old cubicle, I had a little basket hanging from the wall that held those torn-off calendar pages. Several days a week, when I rip the old page off, turn it over, and write down five things I am thankful for in my life.

Then it goes in the basket.

Below is actually my exact gratitude hanging basket, using a 365-day Planet Earth calendar I had gotten for Christmas. I've kept it all these years and all these moves because I consider it like a journal, a snapshot of a period of my life. It's invaluable to me.

newspaper container with area to clip to cubicle wall, containing a year's worth of 365 calendar pages with 5 things I'm thankful for written on each
same newspaper basket with the backside of each calendar page showing the written gratitude lists on maple desk

This simple act added so much happiness to my life (and if you're happy? You're more likely to be successful). It has also been a pleasure to read back through some of the things I was thankful for a year or two ago and remember where I have been in my life. If you don’t have a calendar, use the back of unusable print jobs (you can chop them up into smaller sheets of paper).

Decorate Tip #4: Keep Organized to Show You're Serious and Reliable

Not only does coming to a desk each day that's in chaos lower morale, but your boss wants to see an organized workspace when they pop in. In their minds, an organized workspace means an organized employee…and doesn't everyone want to work with someone who is organized?

I've got a few fun and super-helpful organization decoration tips for your office.

Do you have to refer to the same several pieces of paper over and over again? I used to work in regulations for the state of Texas, and there were like 4 to 5 sheets of paper I had to refer to all the time. I found this nifty Monitor clip to keep them right next to your monitor for easy reference. Love that!

Hang things on your cubicle gray fabric-wall-thing (you know what I'm talking about, right? It's not exactly a wall…and not exactly fabric) using cubicle clips.

You can use those clips to hang something like this hanging basket (similar to the one I used to hang in my own cube for the gratitude journaling I talked about above).

Up your folder coolness with these Kate Spade, golden-dotted folders (hint: if you're going to splurge on fantastic folders, like these, then you want them to act as your main filing system that you a) display, and b) use over and over again and clean out periodically).

Turn that ugly gray filing cabinet around by either turning it into a whiteboard to write on or using these jeweled magnetic push-pins.

Repurpose this cute, little tea organizer for any number of things in your cubicle area.

Cool Cubicle Ideas – Ideas for Decorating Your Office at Work

Need a work office makeover (on a budget)? You've gotta check out these cool cubicle ideas for decorating your office at work.

Pssst: a few of them are just to make your work day better overall…which is kind of the whole point, right? 

Idea #1: Cover Your Desk with Black Contact Paper

Wanna make your cubicle pop (and get rid of that drab gray)? Cover your desk surface in removable, black chalkboard paper, and get a set of pens where you can write on it.

How fun!

Pssst: feeling a little squeamish about blacking out your desk? You can also just get black Post-It Notes to write on, or use the black contact paper to create a black bulletin board.

Idea #2: Tower of Colorful Post-It Notes

Two towers of post-it notes, one larger sized, and one smaller sized in a large glass vase

Sounds dorky, but a great way to add a punch of color to a cube (on a tiny budget) is to create one of those Post-it Note towers. And if you have access to the supplies room? You can just snag a bunch from there and use them.

Bonus for being a really useful decoration!

Idea #3: Use Mason Jars + Chalkboard Labels for Storage

three mason jars with circle chalkboard sticker, with pens, highlighters, and markers in front of turquoise lamp and post-it notes stack

Bring a little modern-homey feel into your cubicle and office by getting a set of mason jars and putting a set of chalkboard labels on them. Use them to organize pens, pencils, and markers, and use the smaller ones for paper clips/tacks, etc.

Idea #4: Introduce Innovative Play to Your Office

Aaron's Thinking Putty canister next to liquid motion office toy

I used to work for a market research company that had an awesome innovation department. Innovation was where my heart was, so periodically, they let me tag along on their projects and innovation sessions.

One thing I learned? You need to keep some toys and stimulating objects around you.

I am not suggesting stuff to take time away from work, but rather stuff that will actually help your work because you'll come up with better ideas.

If there is a problem you are working on and can’t seem to get past, try taking it out on a squeeze toy (Play-Doh works well, and you can purchase small containers at the dollar store, or try out a can of Crazy Aaron's Putty). Purchase one of those liquid motion toys that you flip over, or introduce a puzzle into your workspace that you pick up periodically and try to unravel like the Rubik’s Cube.

A few of my favorites that I keep around (and yes, I kept these at my desk when I was an Environmental Investigator for the State of Texas! I've picked out a few new ones, as well):

In innovation, I learned the importance of taking a breather during the workday.

Idea #5: Assemble a Survival Kit from Freebies

I've got the perfect reason for you to send away for free samples like deodorants, toothpaste, snacks, lotions, detergent, etc.: it's to assemble a work survival kit for your office!

Keep everything in an accessible, (private) location, so that the next time you forget something you don’t need to fret.

You might also want to keep vending machine money in case you are stuck and craving something in the afternoon. Think about things you have needed while at the office (medicines, tissues, stamps, etc.), and include them in this kit.

The container can be an old lunch box, a cereal box you decorated from above, a plastic container, or anything else you already own.

Idea #6: Create a Make-Shift Vertical Work Station

I don’t think it is healthy to sit all day long, commute home, and then sit again.

It seems like our bodies were built for more movement.

One of the ways a few people have alleviated this in our office is by creating a vertical working station in their cube where they can stand and work on their computers throughout the day.

If your IT department and manager are okay with this, you can create this (depending on your height) using a filing cabinet. Open a drawer at a level where your wrists can rest on a keyboard at a normal angle, and place a piece of wood over it for the keyboard and mouse (I have seen people use a removable shelf from a bookcase for the wood).

Then, put the monitor on top of the cabinet (making sure it is at eye level). I have not created one yet, but am looking forward to doing so for a break from sitting.

Idea #7: Adjust the Lighting

I loathe fluorescent lighting. It just doesn’t feel good in my eyes.

If you are allowed, bring in a small desk lamp or a standing lamp from home to introduce warmer lighting into your cube.

I got the one in the photo at Target, and you can find a similar one here.

turquoise colored base lamp with square shade, on maple wood desk

I also have an overhead light cover to dilute some of the fluorescent light, and it has really made a difference.

Idea #8: Introduce Something Living

Many of us (including myself) have no natural light in our cubicles. This doesn’t mean we can’t have living things to share our day with!

We already discussed plants…but, did you ever consider bringing beta fish (with thought to weekend care and possible fluctuating temperatures), and even sea monkeys into your cubicle? I've seen it before!

This beta fish tank uses a micro USB cord for the light, or you can use batteries.

Idea #9: Build Ergonomic Exercises into Your Day

printed paper showing various stretches to do while at desk, next to turquoise lamp

If you are stuck sitting all day (like most of us are), it’s a good idea to do a few exercises. You can do these sitting down or standing up in your cube, typically not attracting too much attention to yourself. Here are some exercise ideas and here's a free printable chart you can download, print out, and hang near you as a reminder.

Pssst: You'll definitely want to check out my article on how to host a biggest loser competition at work.

How do you get over cubicle fever? I would love to hear your ideas and experiences from working in a cubicle. 

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.

Julie @ Freedom 48

Tuesday 17th of July 2012

While I too am stuck in a cubicle all day, I am very grateful to be beside a window. I've got a plant, some family photos, a white board and some fun push pins to decorate my cube. I like the fabric idea though!... and I'm totally putting a 365 day inspirational calender on my Christmas wish list.


Tuesday 17th of July 2012

I have a great tip, drink lots of water during the day as you get to walk to the farthest bathroom if you wish every couple of hours. A decent exercise!

Lance @ Money Life and More

Monday 16th of July 2012

Lighting is huge! My whole office is stuck with always on florescent lights and sometimes I wish I could turn them off and bring in some lamps with warm light from home. Unfortunately we're moving to CFL's and the warm lights will be harder to find.

Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

Monday 16th of July 2012

Amanda, I'm so glad to see a post like this. There are a few exercise balls in our office. Sometimes it's nice to sit on one of those and keep my back straight, which kind of exercises my core.

I love bicycles, so I tear out pictures from my favorite bicycle magazines and hang them up. My cubicle is actually a big rectangle I share with a few others, so I encouraged them to hang up anything that expresses their interests and hobbies. The neutral colors are a bore.

Thanks for sharing your cubicle fever remedies!

-Christian L.

Amanda L Grossman

Monday 16th of July 2012

Hi Christian!

I am so happy you enjoyed my article.

I enjoy riding a bicycle, and truly do not do it enough. You've inspired me to take a ride this week:).