23. Decorating Your Office On A Dime

There’s so much to consider when you’re setting up your office. You want the space to be functional, but you also want it to reflect your personality and be a space where students enjoy spending time. And what’s often the most challenging part of decorating your office? Doing it on a budget!

In today’s episode, we’re diving into creative and budget-friendly ways to decorate your counseling office without breaking the bank. We’ll explore simple steps like decluttering and organizing your space, as well as furniture placement ideas to maximize functionality. 

We’ll also discuss replacing faded or outdated decor, using calming colors, and adding accessories like pillows, curtains, and area rugs to create a warm and positive atmosphere. Plus, I have some thrifty DIY ideas for you. 

After listening, share what your office space looks like in one of our Facebook groups! The links for these groups are listed below. 

Topics Covered:

  • The big difference that decluttering your office can make, and the positive effects that it can have on your students
  • What to consider when deciding on furniture placement and colors used in your decor
  • Examples of some things that you might want to avoid putting in your office
  • How to easily create inexpensive and eye-catching wall art 
  • Suggestions for what to include in your ‘calm down corner’
  • A hack for defining specific areas in your office

Links Mentioned:

Facebook Groups:



Carol: You're listening to the Counselor Chat Podcast, a show for school counselors looking for easy to implement strategies, how to tips, collaboration, and a little spark of joy. I'm Carol Miller, your host. I'm a full time school counselor and the face behind counseling essentials. I'm all about creating simplified systems, data driven practices, and using creative approaches to age students. If you're looking for a little inspiration to help you make a big impact.

Carol: On student growth and success, you're in the right place.

Carol: Because we're better together. Ready to chat? Let's dive in.

Carol: Everyone, and welcome to today's episode. I'm Carol, and today we are going to really explore creative and budget friendly ways to decorate your counseling office without breaking the bank. So let's dive right in. Now, I know that counselors often have limited budgets, but they also want a welcoming and a comfortable space for their students. Face it, we already spend a lot of our money on things related to our job, whether it's books or lessons, games, food. But we do have limited budgets, and so we can create a welcoming and comfortable space for our students as well as ourselves, since we spend so much time at school with some pretty low cost ideas. So decorating on a dime doesn't mean you have to compromise your style. One idea is to start by really just decluttering your office. That means removing anything that's unnecessary and organizing your space. This simple step can instantly make your room feel more open and inviting. If you've been a counselor a while, you might have this accumulation of stuff. So really take a look around. Is it too busy? Do you have too much stuff? Do you need to get rid of some of it? Because we want our space to not only be functionable, but we don't want to overwhelm our kids when they're coming to us, especially when they're dysregulated and they see a lot of busyness. We want to create a space that's warm, inviting, and pretty darn calm. So really take a look around and declutter you also really want to take a look around and see what you can do to make the furniture placement maybe a little bit more conducive to what you're doing. If your space is narrow and long, would a rectangular table be better than a round one? Maybe you have a weird corner that could be an excellent calm down space. And then I know a lot of counselors have said that they want to get rid of their desk, but you have to ask yourself, if you get rid of your desk, do you really want to do that? If you use your computer a lot, you might want to ask yourself, what storage do I need? Or what storage do I already have? And check with your custodians before buying anything, because you never know what gems they have hiding. You can also send an email to staff asking if anyone has what you need. So if you're looking for I know for us, we are looking for a rectangular table versus a square one because our room is kind of long and narrow and the round one is a little weird to get around. So we keep thinking if we had a long rectangular one that was a little bit narrower, our space would be more functional. So send an email out to your staff asking if anyone has what you need, because they may be looking to get rid of something that's not working for them as well. You never know, you could make a great trade. And as you are decluttering, you also want to think about what's dated, faded, or just plain ugly. I mean, if it's faded, replace it. I had sure of my kids when they were little on my desk. They were cute. They were, I don't know, toddlers at the time, and it's probably my favorite picture of my twins and I love it, but I've had to look at it from time to time thinking, oh, it's getting a little faded. And since everything is digital these days, I just go back to the original file and I print out another copy. It's easy to do and I don't have to look at that faded picture even though it's my favorite. So if it's faded, replace. If it's ugly or dated, ask yourself, can I repurpose it? And if you can, keep it if you can't, get rid of it. Because you want to create a warm and positive atmosphere. You also want to consider using colors that really evoke a sense of calmness and positivity, such as soft blues or maybe even warm earth tones. Now, you can achieve this really easily just by adding accessories like pillows, curtains, or maybe even area rugs. Just be aware that as you're decorating, though, to keep it a safe space. Now, I know I said you want this space to not only be a place for your kids to feel welcome, but you as well. But here's the thing, and I know I've seen this a lot in the Facebook groups. I wouldn't add any religious elements like a cross to my desk unless I worked at a religious school. Because while these items might be part of your identity, they might not make our students feel welcomed. And that's really the opposite message than what we're going for. So really be aware of what you're putting on the walls as well. Now, pillows, curtains, and area rugs, they can really make our space have a homey feel, but don't feel like you have to go out and get these all at once. And you can always check your local thrift stores first. Some of them have really great finds. But for pillows, I know that I have turned old conference t shirts into pillows. I just cut a square from the main part of the shirt and I stuff it. And you can also take college shirts and stretch them over those little art canvas things that they have. They're only a couple of dollars and turn them into some really cool wall art. It's simple, it's easy, and cheap. In fact, you can also purchase some affordable fabric in patterns or colors that maybe match your office theme and do the same thing. Just stretch and staple the fabric over the canvas panels to create some really inexpensive and eye catching wall art. Now, I've also done this stretching of material over bulletin boards. Last year, I purchased some felt from Walmart, and I stretched it over this really ugly bulletin board for the background. Now, felt is great because it doesn't fade right away, and if you change your bulletin board design, it doesn't show holes like paper does. So it's a great way for something to have a fresh new look and yet be durable and last for a while. Now, while we're on the subject of bulletin boards, you can also do something similar with old chalkboards. I had one that was, well, really old, and it still had bits of old pieces of masking tape that was stuck to it, and they're hung right in the middle of my room. It wasn't the vibe that I was going for at all. In fact, it was really kind of ugly. What I did was I ended up sanding the board to get those little tape remains off. And then I also saw that there were some cracks in that board. So what I did was I got some wood putty that I had at home, and I filled all those little cracks in and I did another quick little sand over it. Then I went out and I painted it with black chalkboard paint. It was originally like that greenish color, but I painted it with black chalkboard paint. Actually, for a while, I let the kids write on it, but this was when I was in middle school, and sometimes they wrote things in code that they shouldn't be writing. So I ended up I washed it down and I just hung posters I had made on it. And the black paint made for a really nice background. And a little paint can really go a long way. I was never allowed to paint my office walls, but I did paint other furniture as well. I had a small thrift store table that I painted black, and then I used masking tape to make a stencil, and I painted kind of like a blue stripe around the outside. It turned an old piece of furniture into a repurposed, functional, yet pretty piece of furniture in my room. Other things I have painted included those four drawer filing cabinets. I painted mine a nice neutral color, and I added them to a corner of my room. I actually spaced the filing cabinets a few feet apart, and then I ended up getting one of those tension rods, and I placed it between the two file cabinets and I turned it into kind of a safe space for kids. I put some of my pillows that I paid on the floor with a basket of fidgets for the kids to use. And then on the tension rod that I had between them, I hung a piece of fabric that I had actually turned into a curtain inside when you were sitting inside of it. On the walls of my calm down area, I added some calm down posters that I had made. I can actually link to these posters in the show notes, but the kids loved this space. The custodians also added a piece of wood to the top of it for me so that I could use it as a shelf. So now not only did I have a great space for my kids, but it was valuable storage for me and it actually looked kind of nice. So these are just a few examples, but I made a list of ways to really get the most out of your space when you're decorating on a dime. The first is DIY artwork. You can create your own artwork to hang on the walls. You don't have to be a professional artist. In fact, if you use canva nowadays, you can get a ton of posters basically pre made for you. You just have to kind of look through the templates that they have. You can do this with designs or maybe inspirational quotes, or maybe you are an artist and you can maybe hand draw some illustrations and add your own personal or unique touch. Once again, those fabric panels. Those fabric panels are really cheap and easy way to create eye catching wall art. Repurpose your furniture. An old bookshelf can become a really stylish storage and display unit, and a fresh coat of paint really can make a huge difference. Thrift store finds are probably the ultimate way to find different ways to decorate or even stock up your office. I know I've used thrift store finds for games and books and well, furniture as well, but you can find some really cool vintage frames or mirrors or trays. And with a little creativity, you can really turn these items into functional and aesthetic decor. String Lights I don't have string lights in my office, but I have watched those Facebook pages for a lot of years and I could tell you I love the offices that have the little string lights just hanging around. It really seems to add kind of a cozy and also a whimsical ambience. And I know that you can find these in battery operated lights, so you can just decorate with some cute little string lights. And plants. Plants can really be a great way to add a touch of nature into your office space. Now, I must admit, I really like plants, but I don't have good luck in keeping them. So I have a lot of succulents in my office and they're all fake. But I also have gotten them all off the clearance section of like Michael's for 90% off. So I just wait until they're really cheap and then I buy what I like and occasionally I will update them and change them around because maybe I don't like now the little pot that they're potted in or maybe it's not quite up to date, so I'll change it from time to time. And you also want to make sure if they're fake like mine are, that every once in a while you wash them off because they can get dusty. Curtain dividers are also a really great way to define areas. Like I used a curtain for a calm area. You can also use a curtain divider to define your group area from maybe if you're in a classroom, your lesson area, or maybe you want to section off where your desk is. But curtain dividers can really create a sense of coziness and separation. You can also transform your old books or magazines into art by really tearing out pages. This is also great for your thrift art or your thrift store finds. I know I have bought in books that I already have because I simply love them from the thrift store. And maybe I spend $0.25 for the book, but I'll rip the COVID off and I'll use the COVID and I'll put it in a nice frame that I found, becomes a really great piece of art on my wall. And also don't forget about storage because storage is so important. But you can make DIY storage solutions just by recycling containers or Mason jars for organizing your office supplies. I have actually taken cans that I've painted and turned them into some upcycle supply holders. So the little tuna can has become my it's now purple and it has become my place for my paperclips. And maybe the soup can size hold some markers or pens and I've kind of glued them all together and it looks quite cute. But there's lots of things that you can do. Floating shelves are another great way. Floating shelves are pretty inexpensive and you can hang them really quickly and easily. Your custodians can either drill holes in the wall or if you get the 50 pound tabs, little picture tabs, they work really well, they hold up a lot. And so you can use those floating shelves and it can be another way to organize your storage. Those Mason jars or your artworks or maybe a place to put your stuffed animals up and out of the way for kids. But floating shelves are another great way. I talked about repainting an old chalkboard, but you can also create a chalkboard wall. My one office mate that I had, she actually painted her door. It was really cool. She painted her door with black chalkboard paint and the kids would come in and they would just leave her little messages. And on the outside of her door. She would say, I'm at, and she would tell the people where she was at, and kids would leave a message. I came down to see you. Can you get me? And then they put their name. So the chalkboard door was really kind of cool, but you can do that for a door or a wall. Or like I said, you can recover an old chalkboard that you had and then DIY. Throw pillows are awesome. Like I said, I have turned old conference t shirts into pillows. But I mean, you can basically do anything. You can customize a plain, throw pillows with fabric, paint, stencils, iron on transfers, anything. You can buy some of that mermaid material fabric and create mermaid pillows. I have even seen people take different types of these fabrics or pillow covers and put them into picture frames and put them on the wall. So maybe one will be something that's kind of spiky. One has a different kind of texture to it. One might be astroturf and they'll have like a sensory wall. So there's lots of ways that with a little creativity and really not a lot of money, that you can decorate your office on a dime. So think about some of these ideas and what you can use to really create a personalized and inviting space that not only reflects your personality, but that your kids will love. Anyway, my friends, I hope that this episode was helpful. If you have more ideas, I would truly love to hear about them. So drop me a line on Facebook or Instagram or maybe show me your space in one of our Facebook groups, and I'll put the links to all of those in the Show Notes as well. Anyway, until next time, have a great week.

Carol: Thanks for listening to today's episode of Counselor Chat. All of the links I talked about can be found in the Show Notes and@counselingessentials.org Forward slash Podcasts. Be sure to hit follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind.

Carol: To leave a review, I'd really appreciate it. Want to connect?

Carol: Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials. Until next time. Can't wait till we chat. Bye for now.