Home Office On Any Budget

Whether you work from home or just manage bills and other household finances, setting up a dedicated workstation is a great way to stay organized. Resist the temptation to use a corner of the kitchen table as your office area. Unless you’re extremely diligent about putting things away, clutter can build up quickly.

Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to have a spare room that can be used as a workspace. If you don’t have this luxury, don’t despair. Whatever your budget or the square footage of your home, this guide can help you create a dedicated home office area that’s not only functional, but stylish and inviting too.

Home Office Essentials No Matter Your Budget

◦ Flat surface such as a desk or table

◦ Comfortable chair

◦ Office supplies such as a stapler, label maker, pens, scissors, paper clips, envelopes, stamps and notepaper

◦ Drawer or storage box for storing supplies

◦ File drawer, file box or stand-alone filing cabinet

◦ Hanging folders with labels

◦ One inbox

◦ Magazine file boxes — recommended for storing paper collected when managing a large project. Typically, brochures and other paperwork from large projects won’t fit in a hanging file.

Basic Solutions

Setting up a home office doesn’t have to be costly. If your budget is limited, consider repurposing a small table or desk from another part of your home or buying one used. Thrift stores or charity stores sell inexpensive furniture. Consignment stores are often more costly.

If you don’t have space or budget for a small file cabinet, I recommend using an inexpensive plastic file box, a fabric-covered file box, a basket designed for hanging files or a bankers box. Consider storing only active files in your office. Remove files that aren’t current, such as old tax returns or old bills and financial statements. Consider shredding anything not necessary. Store necessary documents that are no longer active in a bankers box at the top of a closet or another out-of-the-way place.


If you don’t have an extra room, set up a dedicated workstation away from the household hangout area. Choose a place where your supplies won’t be disturbed — perhaps a bedroom, an infrequently used dining room or a corner of the living room.


Another option is repurposing a closet as a home office. The easiest approach is to remove the closet’s doors and add a freestanding desk or table, a file cabinet and shelving. You might also consider installing bifold doors that you can close so your belongings can be housed out of sight.

You might want to install wall-mounted shelves to create a small and functional desk.


If you’re coming up short in terms of where to put your dedicated home office, tour your house to see if there are any wide hallways, nooks or crannies that might fit a small desk and some shelves.

Do keep in mind that you’ll need a power source for your electronics and you may need to install lighting. Hiring an electrician will add to the overall cost.


Midrange Solutions

Many furniture stores sell office furniture in a variety of price range. Steer clear of low-cost new office furniture if possible, the drawers often do not pull out smoothly and pieces can break in a few years.

If you’re not in a rush and like to shop, consignment stores can be a good source for high-quality used office furniture.

Stock cabinets might be an alternative to freestanding furniture if the available sizes fit your space.

In some homes it’s possible to remove the wall under the stairs to create a small space for a home office. Do not attempt if this will affect your home’s structural integrity. Check to see if permits are required in your area and proceed only if you’re working with an experienced professional. Remember to factor in the cost of hiring an electrician to install an electrical outlet and lighting.


Deluxe Solutions

Custom cabinets designed to fit the exact dimensions of your room create storage customized to your specific needs. You’ll be able to choose from many attractive design and finish options that are perfectly suited to your space. These types of cabinets are generally quite expensive.

Not all custom cabinetry is created equal, research the options and reading reviews carefully. A product might look great when new but may not hold up over time. Some manufacturers use inexpensive hardware, which means the drawers won’t roll smoothly. That said, there are many reliable companies and craftspeople who provide high-quality products that will stand the test of time.

Custom cabinetry can provide you with many features, including larger file cabinets.


For those who don’t like visual clutter, built-ins can be designed to hide office equipment such as printers and shredders.

Home offices can double as guest rooms. If the room is small and you would prefer not to have a bed crowding your workspace, you might opt to install a fold-down bed as part of your custom cabinetry build.


High-end freestanding office furniture is also available in the luxury price range. Contact a designer or furniture maker to find appropriate pieces to fit your style and needs.


Final Notes

Take measurements carefully before purchasing or acquiring any new office furniture. Be sure to measure the space and also get the measurements on the furniture itself to make sure it will fit.

It is important to establish a dedicated personal office space in your home. This space should be off-limits to other household members. Some of my clients do not work outside the home and spend their time parenting young children. Many are frazzled by the clutter in their homes but never thought about making space for themselves. Managing household business on the kitchen table littered with toys and cracker crumbs can be stressful. Everyone deserves their own personal space, even if it’s only a small cubby.


Home Improvements For Function

“Will it affect resale value?” is a common question asked when discussing a remodeling project. But unless you are flipping that property immediately or anticipate selling it within five years, the answer is, “It doesn’t matter.” Tastes change and so do materials. No matter what decisions you make, a new buyer 10 or 20 years down the line will probably want to make their own changes to suit their lifestyle. Therefore, focus on designs that work best for you and your family.

However, this is not to say that all renovations are equal. Colors, styles and materials might change over time, but the need for function is timeless. Here are some home improvements for those looking to add style and function to their house.

Built-In Cabinetry

Having enough storage space to keep clutter at bay is a common design dilemma for many homeowners. Adding built-in furniture-style cabinets is a great way to gain storage space while creating architectural interest in a home.

For example, a built-in bookshelves provide display space for art and accessories that add character to a space.

Banquette Seating

Breakfast nooks with banquette seating are a perfect space-saving choice for small alcoves or corners of your kitchen. Many families like to have an informal place to eat, do homework or have morning coffee.

Another option is a booth-style banquette, it’s like having breakfast at your favorite diner. When remodeling, consider all the ways you can add storage to your planned modifications.


Curbless Showers

A curbless shower is a great feature for giving your bathroom a sleek, streamlined look, but its benefits go beyond appearances. You’ve likely heard the term “aging in place.” It means designing ways for homeowners to stay in their homes as long as possible. One of the ways to do that is to remove barriers that might cause trips and falls as our mobility decreases.

A bench that, when paired with a handheld shower head, allows for showering while sitting down. Add support behind the shower wall so grab bars can be added later, even if they don’t need them now. It’s much easier to do during construction than after the fact.


Mudrooms And Drop Zones

Mudrooms are a great remodeling addition, particularly if your home is in an area with inclement weather.

A well-executed mudroom can be easily cleaned with lots of cubbies, hooks, baskets and bins to contain clutter and keep wet clothing and shoes out of the main part of the home.

Add a drop zone for mail and a bulletin board for family calendars and commitments. You could even add USB outlets in the drawers to charge devices.

Home Offices

The pandemic has certainly changed our views on the need for real office space in our homes. And now that many companies are likely to make working from anywhere a permanent change, your remodeling plans should definitely include carving out space for this purpose.

You don’t have to devote an entire room to creating an office; instead, you can earmark part of a hallway or an alcove. A home office is a great place to invest in function-packed design. 


How To Keep Pets Safe In An Emergency

With all the fires we are having in BC make sure you have a plan and a checklist ready in case you ever need to evacuate with your pets. Whether for a wildfire, flood or other disaster, pets are a top priority when it comes to evacuating. But if you’re not prepared, it can make a difficult situation much harder. In an ideal world, our pets would be forever by our side. But for situations where this isn’t possible or safe, or when you and your pet need to leave home in a hurry, what should you do to be pet-ready in an emergency.

Of course, the key to any emergency is to be prepared. We’ve all heard the message about the importance of having a plan for floods and fires. And those plans need to include pets. So, what can you do to be ready in case you need to get your pets out in a hurry?

Wildfires and floods might be top of mind right now, but there are other reasons you should have an emergency plan for your pet. What if you’re taken away in an ambulance, or you have to travel suddenly for work or a family crisis?

And what will happen to little Maks or Waffles if you’re delayed in getting home because your car broke down in the middle of nowhere and it’ll take days to get the parts and the pet-sitter?

More often than not, pet-sitting services get very short-notice from people in a panic. Someone’s ended up in hospital and they’ve got a dog and a cat at home and a budgie and they think, ‘Oh my goodness, who’s going to feed my pets?’”

The good news is that there’s plenty you can do in advance to make sure your pet will be OK.

The most important thing is to sort out a pet-friendly emergency contact — a neighbor, friend or family member or, failing that, a pet-sitting service. If your pet can’t stay home, it’s much easier to have an accommodation option worked out for them in advance.

The other important task that you can do right now is to jot down a packing list for your pet. In an emergency, you or someone else can pull it all together in flash. When you’re worried and trying to think of what to pack for yourself and your kids and whatever else, there’s just a basic list of necessities that your pet would need if it’s going with you or going somewhere else to stay.

If your pet hasn’t left your house before, you may not have a carrier in which to transport them safely and conveniently. If that’s the case, get one.

For example, if you have birds in an aviary, you should have a smaller cage for them. Keep it in the shed. Or if you have free-roaming rabbits, they’ll need a carrier.

And because you may be on the road for a while, or doing a lot of waiting, you’re going to need a large container to store enough water for an indeterminate length of time, as well as a smaller one that your pet can drink from.

Finally, even if your pet doesn’t normally wear a collar, it’s very helpful if they have one with a tag and your phone number, in case they run away in fright. This, increases the chances that you’ll be reunited sooner. Even if they are microchipped, it’s really easy if you look at their collar and you can see the number and call it rather than having to take them to a vet.

When it comes to floods and wildfires, there’s often a bit of time between the initial warning and the final order to evacuate. If you can, get your pet out as early as possible.

Ask a friend or family member if they are able to take care of your pet until the all clear has been given. This means that you have nothing to worry about to start with.

Here is a list of items to put together in a pet evacuation kit. A pet evacuation kit has all the critical items and information that is required for you to take care of your pet if you are temporarily displaced. Place all the following items in a large tub and have it in or near the car.

Transportation equipment: leads and harnesses, car harness, cat or dog carriers.

Food and water for at least a week: water bowl and several gallons of water, pet food that can be stored without refrigeration.

Current medications and a pet first-aid kit: Place these along with instructions in a small box.

Miscellaneous items: waste bags, blankets and toys.

Other items in the kit are not so obvious. Emergencies are stressful for pets, and when they’re afraid, they sometimes run away. Include things in your evacuation kit that will make it easier to find them, like a recent photo, phone numbers for local shelters, the local phone number for lost pets and contact details of after-hours vets.

And don’t forget to pack your pet’s medical records. If they can’t stay with you or a friend, they may have to board at a kennel and they’ll need proof of vaccination.

Keeping stress to a minimum is easier said than done, but anything you do to keep your pet as calm as possible in an emergency will go a long way to making the situation easier for everybody and reduce the chance of them fleeing in a panic.

Here are a few tips for keeping your animals as calm as possible.

  • Don’t punish your pet for being afraid. It can lead to worse behavior. Offer comfort and use distraction as a method to calm them down.
  • While still at home, create a quiet space for them to go to. If they have a place they like to hide, let them go there. Follow their lead. 
  • You can use music to mitigate stressful new environments and unfamiliar noises. 
  • Distract your pet with their favorite toys and treats on the way.

Reasons Not To Clean Up Your Fall Garden

Before you pluck and rake, consider wildlife, the health of your plants and your own right to relax. Here are some reasons to leave your fall garden standing.

Why Work When It’s Cold?

We are all tired, so leave the garden alone. Plus it’s getting cold out. Do you really want to be outside working? Isn’t there a football game on or some pumpkin-spice latte to savor? Let the garden be for your own health and sanity.

Wildlife is Hibernating

Lots and lots of insects and frogs, and who knows what else, are out there in your garden overwintering in leaf litter, on twigs, even in the top layer of soil. What happens when you “clean up” the leaves and chop down the plants? You might be tossing out a black swallowtail chrysalis or a mantis egg case, or stepping on a mourning cloak butterfly.

Protect Your Plants

Leaving the perennials standing will help them gather snow. That snow in turn will insulate the roots when it gets really cold and also add moisture to the soil. That’s a double win for low-maintenance gardening. Viva snow!

Discover a New Dimension

You won’t want to miss frosty mornings when every leaf, stem and seed head is accented with fascinating patterns of silvery shadows — halos of ice and snow that make the garden exquisite. And did you know that a snowflake is a fractal — a mathematical equation — just like coastlines, mountain ranges, trees, sunflowers and even the human circulatory system?

Everything in nature can be mapped out with math, and nowhere is that more obvious than with a winter frost. Take your kids outside and expose them to — math and nature.

Enjoy New Neighbors

Leaving up your plants welcomes all sorts of wildlife you’d never see, even though they’re quite common. What a cure for seasonal affective disorder.

Robin Will Stop by and Surprise You

Did you know there are robins around in winter? They tend to roost in groups, going about only when thirsty or hungry. A heated birdbath is great, but so are all of those fermenting berries on shrubs and trees. Lots of other songbirds will also be enjoying seeds from standing perennial cover, too.

Gardens Thrive in All Four Seasons

When the first spring blooms arise, you won’t feel like you missed them, because so much was going on in your garden all winter long — leaving the plants up makes winter seem shorter. Those first spring flowers won’t seem as much like a relief as a confirmation that a garden never really sleeps, and you’ll be seeing that firsthand in all four seasons.

“Winter interest” is a landscape term that means there’s something beautiful to look at during the cold season. Usually, that means grasses or dogwoods, but any old perennial will do. Winter interest isn’t just for us, though; it’s for birds, butterflies, frogs and soil microbes munching on leaves and making the garden healthier for summer. A lot will be going on if you leave the garden up until a spring cut-down — get out there and enjoy it this winter!

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