An Office in a Drawer

You’ve seen my desk before, but today allow me to share a photo of the rest of my office:

Office in a Drawer

Whenever I can, I try to think of my experience living here in 850 sq ft and share what I’ve learned with other apartment dwellers. One of my small space solutions is paring down office clutter and keeping a streamlined system of the most useful items! I certainly don’t have a spare room to function as an office and guest room anymore, so I decluttered a lot of things I used to think were office essentials.

Items I now consider essential for my “office” are as follows:

  • Pens, Pencils, Sharpies
  • Stapler
  • Envelopes
  • Sticky notes
  • Blank paper (printer paper and lined paper)
  • Checks
  • Stamps
  • Tape (scotch tape and packing tape)
  • Ruler
  • Blank cards for all occasions
  • (Honorable mention: three hole punch. Not a necessity, I find it useful.)

I know the list will be different for many people, but even working in an actual office for a year, I still feel like this minimal list will meet the basic needs 99% of the time.

Having a dresser smack dab in the living room is something many might consider unconventional, but I am really pleased with how well it has functioned in storing all kinds of things. I highly recommend it as a storage solution for those living somewhere small. All of my dishtowels, cloth napkins, and placemats are in one drawer. Packing and shipping materials for my Etsy store live in another drawer (along with some random board games). Anyway, today I am going to focus on the top right drawer and share with you how I maximized the space to hold all of my office essentials.

Slightly messy office drawer

Every now and then, it’s good to reorganize a space like this. Even though I threw away very little, it’s a good refresher to know where everything is and to straighten up a little bit. I started by taking all of the items out of the drawer:

Items that live in my office drawer

As you can see above, my desk is made up of a wooden top and a set of two legs. There aren’t desk drawers to speak of! The crate turned on its end holds files and techy gear (charger cords, software CDs, etc). Everything else lives clear across the room (oh, the horror of getting up and walking across the room!) When I do need to make the interminable trek of about 12 feet, it’s nice knowing that everything will be exactly where I expect it to be.

So, I set about putting everything back into the drawer in a orderly manner. I even emptied out the white box, and placed things back into it thoughtfully. Seldom-used items like a box full of new checks are on the bottom layer, and frequently used items like tape and stamps are easily accessible. I condensed two of the boxes of envelopes. A few things like the swiffer and the cube with prom photos on it (!!) got moved to other places in the apartment. I do have a separate craft drawer in another room, so from there I took out this woven box of notecards for all occasions and replaced it with a ream of printer paper and some lined paper. Those are essential, but I found I don’t use access as often as I use these cards.

Everything got put back in neatly:

Office drawer organization

Office drawer organization

Don’t have a spare dresser in your living room? Go back and look at the list at the beginning of this post. All (or most) of these items would fit very easily in a milk crate, in a paper box, in an under-bed box, or even in a kitchen drawer! It’s easy to run a tight ship if you simply keep just the essentials on hand (and avoid the siren song of the school supply section of Target in the fall).

I’m certainly no expert on eliminating clutter altogether, but in this realm I think I’ve got it whipped.

Any things you consider essential that aren’t on my list? Do you have a smart way to hide boring stuff like office supplies? Please share in the comments!


Getting a Storage Unit

It’s a little-known fact that a large proportion of city dwellers have a secret spot to stash a small percentage of their junk. Okay, this statement is more true in very dense places like New York City, Singapore, or Tokyo, but for us I think it will be a good solution for our peace-of-mind.

The apartment, while spacious, doesn’t have the kind of storage we had gotten used to (a garage and a basement for crying out loud!). We did get very creative as far as solutions go–we created a DIY sofa table to hide two monstrous speakers and barstools, we organized our bedroom closet like it was a high-stakes game of tetris, and used the white dresser in ingenious ways… it became media storage, office storage, linen storage, and more.

Faking a Sofa Table

Hiding some larger items behind the sofa was one solution

All this junk tucked “in plain sight” was starting to wear on me and I thought it might be worth the peace of mind if we got some of it out of the way. That way the items that we did have up here in the apartment would have “breathing room” and the whole place would feel more peaceful. I know the obvious solution to my first-world problem would be to simply donate or trash the other items but don’t we all have some stuff that we feel like hanging onto but don’t want in plain sight? Since we hope to move to a much larger place (home, condo or townhouse) within a few years, I feel like storing some of this stuff will make sense in the “medium-run” (that’s somewhere between the short run and the long run).


  1. To rid the living room of the brown wardrobe. It was exactly what we needed at our last place, where proper closets were lacking. In this place, however, we do not lack for hanging bar storage, and the wardrobe with its one shelf did not provide the right kind of storage for us. The dark brown mass also made the living room seem artificially small and closed-in. Goal: Accomplished! Wardrobe sold for $80 on Craigslist. 
  2. To free myself of the over-the-door shoe hanger. To be honest, I do love it–but it makes it impossible to close the bedroom door. I have to sleep with the door closed at night or else I will worry that Mosey will roam the apartment leaving messes and chewed items in his wake (a bit of an unfounded fear, but tell that to me at 3AM). Goal: Under way. I’ll have to pick up an inexpensive shoe rack at Target or IKEA this week. 
  3. To make better use of the bedroom closet shelf. This ties in with #1 and #2; I would like to move essential items to the closet and ensure they are easily accessible. Other non-essential items, like holiday decoration or equipment boxes (that we like to keep for when we move) can be tucked away but be ready when we need them. Goal: Accomplished! 

storage unit

Here’s the little storage unit in all it’s glory! We left the right part free so we can stash our bikes when the weather gets warmer and we actually feel like using our balcony. Note what appears to be evidence of water there at the back. This is why we placed the durable plastic totes on the bottom–just in case our stuff gets its “feet wet.” The barstools and speakers pictured in the other photo above will make their way down here too, probably, or be moved into the bedroom closet now that a lot of space has been freed up in there. We have one more plastic tote that’s being loaded up which will go underneath the big suitcase in the foreground.

I kind of feel like a cheater since I’m trying to inspire apartment dwellers to “work with what ya got,” but this solution, made available to us through our complex, makes sense for us right now.

Overall, I know we’re probably overpaying for the amount of space we’re getting, but if it helps me feel less antsy about moving again (which we don’t really want to do when the lease is up in September) then it’s worth it. The apartment already feels larger, even if it’s kind of crazytown in here. I gave you two sneak peeks last week and we haven’t even gotten around to rearranging the furniture yet since I was knocked out by a cold this weekend. All in due time, friends!

Faking a Sofa Table

Sometimes you have awkwardly large items you need to store, and no place to do so. In our case, two large speakers and two bar stools. Where to put them? One option is to get rid of them, but I really, really love these bar-height stools and look forward to using them in a future home, once we’ve moved on from our current apartment. The speakers will be cool when hooked up to a turntable someday (unfortunately, the turntable we have does not have any output capabilities except the speakers in its unit) so we’re holding on to those for the future as well.

That said, when you’re dealing with just over 800 square feet, every space must be maximized to its full potential. There is no spare bedroom, basement, or garage to hoard items in–which is quite the learning curve for my since the last place we lived had all three of those hoarding storage solutions.

I really (really, really, really) like the console table that John built to go behind the Petersik’s sofa in the living room over on Young House Love. It has a ton of hidden storage and adds a lot of dimension to the room. I thought perhaps I could take a clue from that and come up with some kind of storage/hiding place solution in our apartment! All it took was a little brainstorming and one pre-finished shelf board at Home Depot.

I love the look that a sofa table adds to a room. It gives the space much more dimension than just having the couch shoved up against the wall and in the corner.

The finished product:

The untrained eye would never guess what is going on behind the couch! It is a fantastic place to keep some of my more attractive (and more frequently thumbed-through) design books, a few pretty tchotchkes, and a much-needed lamp. It also provides an alternative place to put snacks and drinks while watching TV, since the coffee table is simply too dog-accessible.

And a peek behind the curtain:

The cloth runner (from Target) is up there for two reasons: a) it looks pretty, and b) the shelf board is a little shorter than I like so this hides that awkward fact pretty well.

If I ever get around to it, another shelf board slid on to the lower bar stool rungs will be a great addition for a little bit more concealed storage.

And a bonus shot, with a little explanation:

I realize I never showed the world the back of the couch cushions! When we purchased the gray microsuede for our upholstery, it was a remnant and about a yard short of the needed amount to cover all the cushions. We went ahead and selected an inexpensive contrasting canvas printed with french postmark stamps (I think?) to make up the difference. So far we have been able to arrange the furniture so that it remains hidden.

Now you know our (not so dirty) little secret! Have you ever gotten creative with something like this? I bet they do a lot of creative “faking it” for furniture on TV and movie sets, don’t you?