Time to refresh my cube.
March 3, 2010 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting sick of my cubicle and need to do something about it. I'd like to spice it up a little bit, but have a couple of qualifications that I'd like to carefully balance:

It's your typical grey/beige cube farm setting, fabric-covered cubicle walls, little privacy, lots of noise, little personal space. I have a couple of knick-knacks, including a growing collection of "historical" technical books ("Soon, we may see several of these new 'transistors' included in circuits!"). I've sort of been realizing that I don't have much in the way of personalization, and I've gotten comfortable enough here that I'd like to show a bit more personality.

There are some qualifications, though, because I would like to show off parts that need to be done in a subtle or tactful manner:

-I'm the youngest in the office by over twenty years. Most people here have kids older than me. Something that says "young and quirky" is good, but not "young and inexperienced".
-Token liberal in a sea of conservatives. Gently poking fun at "the other side" or bureaucracy in general is ok, but nothing overtly political (we're forbidden from displaying campaign material during election years, for example). (I'd really love to have some really snarky and sarcastic posters up ripping apart their Drudge and Fox News-fuelled rants, but that's probably impractical.)
-I am collocated with our customer, so most of the people around me are either employees of the customer or other contractors.
-Electronic gizmos are fine, but our networking setup prevents me from giving anything internet access (i.e., Chumby isn't going to be useful).

I like the idea of plants or fish, but I often travel for several weeks at a time and would rather not have to ask someone to take care of my office pet.

Basically, I need something that can help remind me that I'm not going to become like the bitter, grizzled drones that are sitting all around me.
posted by backseatpilot to Work & Money (27 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would go for lighting to start with. Office fluorescents are a slow death. Consider starting with a wallpaper of sorts; whatever color or style you want. Wrapping paper might be a nice alternative, especially if you can get something matte. Cacti and succulents will give your cube some life without requiring attention. Photos are always good, especially with small frames.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:19 PM on March 3, 2010

1) Things you _make_ are pretty cool. Posters, labels, model cars, giant lego sculptures. Reminds you that life != work.

2) I've got a favorite giant 3x5' state flag hanging up in my office. Quirky, yet a little more serious than "Go Tar Heels."
posted by pmed at 12:30 PM on March 3, 2010

The Amazing Desktop Dinosaur Plant is none too pretty, but handles not being watered very well. Though Cacti may be a better idea.

My desk area is decorated... with papers, papers & more papers. I've hung a few of them on the wall too - some comic strips people from the office gave me.

A nice hanging white board may be nice. A coffee mug. Some photos. An art print.

Basically, I need something that can help remind me that I'm not going to become like the bitter, grizzled drones that are sitting all around me.

... a lobotomy ...
posted by MesoFilter at 12:34 PM on March 3, 2010

Did you get any postcards from the MeFi postcard exchange? Kind of old-skool but colorful, good conversation-starters, and reminds you of cool friends in cool places. Plus it's an excuse to talk about Metafilter, if you really want to score quirky points.
posted by Quietgal at 12:34 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of plants or fish...
(My English teacher in high school had one of those fish ones; it was the best, and took serious looking to determine if they were alive.)
posted by whatzit at 12:40 PM on March 3, 2010

Best answer: Running with the "antique" tech books concept, how about: An obsolete world globe? Pictures of 1950s-era scientists with lab coats, crew cuts, big black glasses and computers the size of a backhoe?

Running with the youngster-hip-to-irony concept, how about merch from The Office (the US TV show)? OTOH "toys" like a bobblehead might say "young and inexperienced" to the others.

Quirk: Carnivorous plant! I think that with a little planning, a Venus's flytrap could survive a few weeks without regular feeding. Just don't expect to store the mealworms in the break room fridge.
posted by scratch at 12:49 PM on March 3, 2010

Buy some inexpensive fabric from IKEA (or old wherever you want to get lightweight inexpensive fabric from) and pin it to your cube as wallpaper.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:00 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my cubelet, I have room for very few things. But the things I do have cheer me up.

1. Do you use hot sauce at all? I do, and I have a couple of bottles sitting at my desk. They literally add color to both my desk and my food.

2. I don't have a window, nor am I near a window. So, I have an abstract watercolor I painted of a sunset over the ocean. Again - it adds color, and let's me pretend I have a view of something that's more organic than a glass wall.

3. Doctor Who figurines. (If you're familiar with the series, I have Thomas Kincaid Brannigan and Novice Hame).

None of these things are 'edgy' or 'political' in any way, yet they cheer me up. And my coworkers come by to borrow (with my blessings) the hot sauce - so it's team building to boot.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:05 PM on March 3, 2010

You could mock being the youngest in the office by hanging a Juvenile Delinquent pennant.
posted by onhazier at 1:09 PM on March 3, 2010

I hung up a string of small multi-colored lights for Xmas and ended up leaving them up because they're kinda cheerful.
posted by greensalsa at 1:23 PM on March 3, 2010

I have a large office, muhhahhaa. But if I had a cubicle, I would go tiki. Since I am as old as the old folks you work with, I can tell you us old folks would think this was great.
posted by fifilaru at 1:50 PM on March 3, 2010

For example, in my windowless, concrete-walled office: A Ratbert plush sitting on my monitor; one of those wind-up chattering teeth toys; a little plastic figure of some evil guy from City of Villains; my framed minister ordination "diploma" from the Universal Life Church, a tin of Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty for stress relief, and a small framed picture of a nice-looking family that came with the frame. That one makes me laugh all the time. You gotta bring some of what keeps you sane with you to work.

If you want to get cerebrally snarky, try putting up Cat and Girl strips where people have to see them and see if they understand. It's okay if you dont, just nod knowingly.
posted by elendil71 at 1:54 PM on March 3, 2010

I have a glass dinosaur that lives on my windowsill next to me, some old hockey pennants and a bunch of little things I've accumulated over my time here: post-its, postcards, pictures I've taken and printed, notes from the boyfriend, etc.

Also, I bought the dinosaur desktop plant for my boyfriend, and it's pretty cool. I also got him a red stapler when he started his new job.
posted by alynnk at 2:23 PM on March 3, 2010

I just got sea monkeys for my office and I love them and so do my coworkers. Asking someone to take care of them isn't a big deal because they just need a little scoop of their powdery food perhaps twice a week.

For even lower-maintenance pets, you could get an ant farm where all the food and water required is in the gel the ants burrow in.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:43 PM on March 3, 2010

I like watching my lava lamp.
posted by jgirl at 3:28 PM on March 3, 2010

I have a magnet with this image on my credenza. It amuses me. It amuses older and more conservative co-workers (I think) equally. We may be different, but we all drink coffee and do stupid things faster and with more energy as a result.
posted by Kurichina at 3:33 PM on March 3, 2010

I like pictures of the outdoors to remind me there is life outside the office :).
posted by elmay at 3:46 PM on March 3, 2010

Succulent plants are easy to maintain and don't need watering very often, they might be worth looking into.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:51 PM on March 3, 2010

If you want a "plant" that doesn't require any care, there are different varieties of this solar-powered toy that are cute and unobtrusive and add a bit of life. I have one in my window and even the oldsters have found it neat. However, it does require some light to reach it so if your cube is far from any windows it won't flip and flap as advertised.

I also have a globe which is fun for daydreaming about travel plans, and I treat myself to cut flowers quite frequently. If you change the water every couple days they'll easily brighten your office all week, which is pretty good for five bucks.
posted by Pomo at 5:27 PM on March 3, 2010

My favorite way to decorate is to haunt thrift shops for offbeat art and knicknacks. Dirt cheap and you can find some really bizarre and unusual items to create a unique space for yourself. And then add more personality with comic strips, magnets, postcards & other ephemera that expresses your sense of humor.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:35 PM on March 3, 2010

re-cover the fabric walls - go to fabric store and find a pattern/colour/texture you like, get a few yards and attach it to the walls with pins. be sure to stretch it nice and flat to prevent sagging.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:44 PM on March 3, 2010

I second the Succulents. I have some Burro's Tails hanging out, and they love to spread.

Aside from that I have a wall covered in concert tickets and a few coasters from some bars that i went to years ago, it helps the memories stay alive :)
posted by zombieApoc at 6:03 PM on March 3, 2010

posted by Anything at 10:03 PM on March 3, 2010

very affordable limited edition art from 20x200.
posted by judith at 11:58 PM on March 3, 2010

Not quite decoration, but replace your chair with an exercise ball. Your body will thank you in time and it might convince the older people to have a healthier sitting arrangement.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 9:45 AM on March 4, 2010

What I did was go to Ikea, pick-up a couple of unframed pictures I liked, then post-pinned them to the cube walls.

Also, you could get a pet rock, they're all over the place. A dipping dish works well for food, such as gravel.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:51 AM on March 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm going to start looking in the local "vintage" stores for a lamp. Unfortunately, I just found out I have to move my desk so I'm going to hold off making any extreme design decisions (there's going to be hell to pay if they take my red stapler...).

In the meantime, I bought a small cactus for some greenery. I also brought in some old equipment from home - some sort of time-clock that I picked up from a surplus store in Los Alamos, my great uncle's slide rule, and my Ricohmatic TLR camera.

And Lego. Because every workspace needs some Lego.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:33 AM on March 15, 2010

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