When you’re working from home, you absolutely need a designated office space. You may think that setting up a “work zone” at your kitchen table or at a desk in your bedroom will cut it, but unless you have a superhuman power of concentration, you’ll find yourself getting distracted and quickly lose your motivation to be productive. You may be working one minute but then suddenly find yourself doing multiple loads of laundry without knowing what’s just happened.
Your home office doesn’t have to be ornately decorated or expansive, but it does need to give you some separation from the rest of your home. In order to improve your productivity, you may also want to purchase certain office items like filing cabinets and bookshelves. Buying office supplies and new home office furniture can quickly add up, but luckily there are plenty of ways you can get the things you need at a discounted price. Here are a few tips to put together a great home office without taking a financial hit.
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Use partitions or bookshelves to create an office. If you don’t have an extra room to convert into a home office in your house or apartment, you don’t need to pay the cost of constructing a new room. Look for an unused space or nook and set up bookshelves or other partitions to create a sense of separation from the rest of the house.
Try shelves instead of a desk. If your budget for your home office is really tight or your space is limited, you might not want to invest in a full-sized desk. Instead, try installing sturdy shelves that can serve the same purpose as a desk.
Check thrift stores. Thrift stores, like Goodwill and Salvation Army, aren’t just for clothes—many of them have a good selection of lightly used furniture as well. You may need to check a few locations to find the right furniture for your space, but searching thrift stores can be a great way to furnish a home office on a very small budget. Remember, if you find something like a desk or bookshelf that doesn’t look great but is structurally sound, you can easily spruce it up with a new coat of paint.
Keep an eye on classified ads sites. While print newspaper ads have become less popular over the years, online classified ads have taken off, and sites like LocalMart’s local classifieds and Cort Clearance Furniture can help connect you to gently used furniture that’s selling for a fraction of the price you’d pay in a store. These sites are updated regularly, so if you find a good deal, act quickly before someone else does.
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If you live in a college town, pay attention when students move out. A lot of college students who move out at the end of the semester aren’t able to take furniture with them and don’t have the time to sell it, and in many college towns it’s a common practice for these students to leave items out on the curb so that anyone who wants them can claim them. This is another situation where you need to act fast, because free furniture goes fast. Consider grabbing a friend with a truck and driving around campus on move out day.
Pay attention when professional offices are renovating or moving. If you happen to hear that a friend or family member’s office is moving or undergoing major renovations, ask them if they’re getting rid of any furniture or office supplies. If they’re planning on upgrading, chances are they’ll be happy to get rid of some of their old items.
Repurpose items you already have. You might be surprised by how you can reuse items in your home if you think outside of the box. For example, if you have an old armoire with shelves at the right height, you may be able to turn it into a small desk that contains essentials like your computer, light, and important documents.
Putting together a great looking home office doesn’t require deep pockets or even extensive DIY experience. With a little ingenuity, you can put together a professional, organized space that will help you stay on task when you’ve got to buckle down and get work done at home.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler is a freelance writer and mom who co-owns the business Weiss-Roessler Writing with her husband. She frequently writes about how to minimize your impact on the environment.