Let’s be honest: it would be nice if our offices looked like the Beast’s library, a Pottery Barn catalog, or had a bay window overlooking the mountains/ocean/Paris, but that’s not happening anytime soon.

In my experience, there are easier (and cheaper) ways to make your work environment just a little bit brighter and more stimulating. I’ve shared a few of them below!

On a sidenote: There are millions of studies explaining how to get a productive workspace, why standing desks are awesome, the correct temperature to work in, etc. Instead, I’ve just let you know what works for me.

1. Post your kids’ (or niece’s or your friend’s kids’) artwork

Why not Picasso? Because a child’s art a) will make you smile, b) will inspire you -- there’s nothing like the uninhibited creativity of a child to remind you what true invention means, and c) thinking of our loved ones makes us more creative!

Cost: $0...or priceless

**Credit: **Gabriel Newman, Age 4

2. Different color pens & a notebook

Yes, we all mostly on our computers. But I’ve found that looking down at a notebook and jotting down random ideas or notes before I start a project, but in colored pens and markers, makes the brainstorming/planning part of my work process so much more fun & productive than writing it out in a Word doc or in Evernote.

Cost: $3.99 for Crayola fine line markers, $1 notebook.

My real live notebook. I'm not that good at color matching.

3. Something that makes you laugh

You probably have heard that laughter makes you happier and more creative. I personally just like looking at funny cats. Of course, a live funny cat or pet is even better.

Cost: $10 for this piece of cat genius.

Actual cat calendar in my office.

4. Put something on your desk that you like to play with

Stress balls work for a lot of people. I have a friend that plays with scissors (NOT recommended). Shoving food in my mouth requires some coordination, but it less than ideal in other ways. I find that doing something that requires fine motor skills really kicks off something in my brain. So whenever I feel stressed, I make this thing below. Looks complicated and like I’m super talented right? (Work with me.) This is actually easy to do! But the point is not to make a paper Dahlia, but to do something that is a break, takes less than a minute, requires you to concentrate, and then looks pretty after.

Cost: $0 - scrap paper, scissors

My paper dahlias.

5. Books that give you good feels

No, not the books you want other people to see that you’ve read, but the books you read and really touched your heart or mind. Even seeing those physical books again can remind you of the feelings you got when you read them. My collection:

Cost: Variable, but I like used books I find for 25 cents at the library.

6. Maps!

When your view looks onto the top of crummy buildings like mine, you may need to work on expanding your horizons. I’ve always loved maps because they let you imagine far-away places and also see the “big picture” -- two things that help my mind wander, invent, and create beyond my immediate environment or my easy, half-baked ideas.

Cost: $10 for basic antique, or if you want to splurge for this awesome one.

Freelancers, what do you like to have at your desk?