When I landed in Tokyo with my husband six months ago, little did I know that Japan was just at the brink of a pandemic that would shut down all the borders, and being trapped indoors would be a new normal.
While we were lucky enough to find a place within the first few weeks of our stay, we had to rush up to furnish our place to make it livable to the bare minimum. However, once we settled in and started our new life here, I realized there were so many things that were incomplete about our house.
One of the most crucial missing things was a functional work desk, as I didn’t buy a desk owing to the limited space in our 2LDK apartment. However, as most of my work is done from home (I am a freelance writer and fashion blogger), I started finding it difficult to focus and finish my tasks without a dedicated workspace.
So, when Tokyo Survival Channel challenged me to upgrade my work environment, using things only from a 100-yen store, I was excited to see if I can get a comfortable and functional home office setup without breaking the bank.
Home office situation before I took the challenge
Even though we have two bedrooms in our apartment, we converted the smaller room to a guest bedroom to make space for our family and friends whenever they visit us. The main bedroom was off-limits to use as a home office, as it felt like bringing work to bed and could cause a lot of distractions (like staying up late to finish off work since your desk would always keep reminding you of the pending projects).
So, the only option viable for me was my comfy sofa in the living room. While it had its perks like I could lie down whenever I felt bored or tired of working, the cons were way too many. Not only sitting for long hours on the couch hurt my back, but I was also continually distracted by the TV and saw myself reaching out for Netflix way too often in between tasks.
When I was not taking Netflix breaks, the flooring reminded me that it needed a vacuum, or I would end up applying a face mask in the middle of the day.
The couch home office idea was deceptive and made me realize that it can never replace a proper desk. Therefore, I was more than happy to have this challenge in my hands to change my working style and environment.
DIY plan and moodboard :
While browsing the internet for DIY home office ideas, I read an article about how people were turning their dining space into a functional workspace. This made me think about how many times I had used the dining table at my place in the last six months of my stay in Tokyo, and the answer made me laugh—just twice!
So, we had this perfectly big, sturdy table that’s lying around only to be put to use when we were entertaining guests, while the rest of the time we were comfortable eating on the couch while being glued to our TV screen.
Also, as most of my work also involves reviewing products and taking pictures for my blog throughout the week, it made sense to use the extra space I get with the dining table to keep the products I am writing about within reach, while also working as a mini photo studio.
Well, this means I was one step closer to completing my challenge. Work location—check!
I went ahead to set a mood board for my work desk, and Pinterest helped me find some inspiration:
While some of these images wanted me to go all out in giving it a perfect theme and make it IG-worthy, I had to keep in my mind the heart of the challenge—using only products only from a 100-yen store.
I couldn’t go over the top. I had to keep in mind that my goal was to upcycle the dining table into a functional, clutter-free home office that also matches my personal style. I decided that the theme I wanted to go for was a minimal, muted aesthetic with vibrant accents.
Shopping at Seria
The next part of the challenge was my favorite, as I got to shop and that too at one of the classiest 100-yen stores—Seria. I went to their Venus Fort store which is the closest to where I live, and also one of their biggest locations.
As I had never been to a Seria before, I was expecting a usual 100-yen shop with endless aisles of shelves cramped up with products of all different kinds. It can feel downright overwhelming.
However, I was in for a surprise as I entered a welcoming, spacious area that looked nothing like nothing but a sophisticated department store. They have a wide array of products ranging from crockery to cosmetics, stored in an organized manner with spacious aisles giving ample room for people to move around.
Moving to their office supplies corner, I was amazed to find a mini paradise for stationery lovers with endless choices in design papers, folders, pens, and even art supplies.
Thankfully, I was ready with my checklist and a budget of 5,000 yen to make sure I didn’t get carried away shopping in this office supplies haven.
While shopping for the supplies, the biggest challenge was to find products that fit the same color scheme so as not to look messy once I put them together on the desk. I tried my best to pick the desk organizers and accessories in light tones that would add a nice contrast to my dark wood dining table.
After spending about an hour in the store, I was able to pick out a lot of things I liked under 5,000 yen. This I count as an achievement because I always end up going over budget, especially when I am buying smaller goods—they’re so hard to keep track of!
I was satisfied with what I found. However, I was bummed about not being able to find a portable lamp and a fake plant that would have brought me closer to the desk I had in my vision.
Time to put the desk together
Moving to the next and the most crucial part of the challenge—building the work desk and bringing my home office vision to life.
I didn’t know where to begin, so I started by putting away one chair from the center of the table and keeping my laptop to envision how the supplies would come together to make the best use of the available space without cluttering it.
I started by organizing the files with all the paperwork that was usually lying around in my closet, mainly a lot of invoices, article drafts, etc. I picked these quirky file folders and a file organizer that would keep these files in place.
Also, to keep the books I am currently reading within my reach, I found this cute book stand that would keep them in place without occupying too much space.
Once I had the books and files in place, it was time to start organizing the stationery that I usually need while reading, working on an article, or doing some craftwork. I picked a few highlighters, markers, and pens; and also found this set of holders (individually priced at 100 yen) that are not only useful but also added a fun statement to my desk.
Since I couldn’t buy a separate organizer for my paper supplies, I bought a small tray to stack a few things that I stored with other paper supplies like sticky notes, notepad, etc. in the drawer of my desk.
(By the way, how cute are these point markers in the shape of lipsticks? They are perfect to mark important notes in my planner as well as work as cute props along with the design papers for my Instagram layouts.)
Next, I put together these small trays I bought to keep the products I am recently writing about as well as other essentials like my power bank, charger, etc.
Lastly, since I am also always on my phone, updating my social media handles or receiving work calls; I bought this mini organizer that also doubles up as a phone stand. I also stored my anti-glare glasses in it to remind myself to wear them often.
I placed my planner and an agenda book that I got from Seria next to the laptop as I am always making some notes and bookmarking important dates or tasks—which now would be more fun with all the cute markers I purchased.
The final look
So, after some permutations and combinations (trying to change placements numerous times), here’s what my work desk finally looked like with all the things I purchased from Seria in place:
Even though it looked good and functional to me, I was still feeling that something was missing. It reminded me of my work desk in my previous jobs and how I used to personalize my work area with some lively elements like pictures or plants.
I decided to add this fake plant I already had at my place and a few cards and pictures that were reminiscent of my life in India as well as some memories I have made in Tokyo (like a polaroid of the view from my apartment and a welcome card we had received at Ritz the first day we landed here).
I wanted to put some frames or a grid board on the wall, but I realized it might damage the wallpaper which I wanted to avoid at all costs (you know how hefty the cleaning charges in Tokyo apartments can be). So, putting up my sticky notes and pictures with glue/light tape made sense and it also broke the monotony of the wall.
After putting all these things together, my work desk finally seemed more alive and helped me take my mind off of the gloomy affairs outside while creating a cheerful and productive environment.
The extra dining chairs also come handy for stacking PR packages I receive at times and also on days my husband wants to share the desk while working from home.
Does the 100 yen shop workspace make the cut?
Finally, I am pleased with what I came up with using just 100-yen products and getting a cohesive home office. I think going forward I might need to add a reading lamp as it gets difficult to work with the limited lighting in the house by evening.
Now that I have switched to working from my desk rather than from the couch, my productivity has increased as I can work without any distractions (which mainly were Netflix and getting too cozy on the couch). Also, improved posture makes me feel more active these days.
So, if you have also been sweating over how to make working from home possible without spending the big bucks, I highly recommend having a dedicated workspace—it could be your double-duty dining table like mine or even a cabinet turned into a desk. With the wide array of office supplies, you can find at Seria or other 100-yen stores, you could have a personalized work desk in the comfort of your own home.