My Little Garden

My office has no windows.

When I go into my classroom to teach and find it flooded with natural light from real windows, I breathe a sigh of relief.

Windowless rooms are seriously the worst. My main career goal right now is to eventually move my office to the other side of the hallway where the rooms have huge windows and are drenched in sunlight.

But that is probably a few years out…

Until then, I have a lovely spacious office with no natural light and TONS of shelves. When I first moved in, there were FIVE full-size bookshelves in my office. I actually had the facilities team remove two of them, because I found them daunting. The empty shelves were making me anxious.

So now I am down to three huge bookshelves. For most professors, especially an English professor, it would be easy to fill these shelves with books, books, and more books, but I am not your average professor. I am a minimalist professor who sells books every chance I get. I only keep textbooks for classes currently in my teaching rotation. I only keep scholarly books I will likely consult in the future. I only keep fiction or non-fiction books if I actually plan to read them with the next year. When I finish a book for fun, I instantly sell it on Amazon, unless I honestly think I will re-read it in the future. There are so many books in the world I want to read, I only keep a tiny collection of texts to read twice.

So that makes filling three huge bookshelves a daunting task. I probably have 50-ish books in my office and at least ten of them are posted for sale on Amazon and could be shipped off any day now.

So what does one use to fill those looming shelves?

Plants, of course.

I see all you ladies on Instagram, filling your houses with fiddle fig trees and ferns and ivy and succulents and air plants. They look clean and healthy and beautiful.

But remember my crucial problem… no natural light in my office. And even if I had one of the sunlight-drenched rooms across the corridor, I would probably still kill any real plants in my care, because I have the blackest thumb in the universe. I have killed more succulents than you can imagine. Yes, those hearty plants that need little water or care. I can decimate them in just a few weeks. The only plant I have ever kept alive is a Christmas Cactus from my second grade science project. That thing lasted for over 20 years, but a room full of Christmas cacti is not the aesthetic I’m going for.

A botanist told me I might be able to get a snake plant to survive in my window-less office, but that still wouldn’t be enough to fill my looming, empty shelves. By the end of fall semester, I was getting slightly embarrassed about the state of my office. I had a few meetings with other staff and faculty there, and they would eye my mostly empty shelves skeptically. Who was this professor with a few measly books, a pile of papers, and a cardboard box sitting on her gorgeous mahogany shelves? One day the dean walked in and exclaimed, “Wow! You really are a minimalist!”

At that point, I quickly added “decorate office shelves” to my list of goals for 2017. I got started right away in January, because I wanted my office, windows or no windows, to be a pleasant place for students or faculty who visit it.

I saw this Instagram picture, which led me to this blog post, and I decided I could use these three steps to make my office shelves look good, despite not wanting to keep tons of books on them.

Plants were essential for the look I was going for, so I started scouring the internet for the most attractive faux plants I could find. I bought a few sets and figured I would divide them up, putting some of them in the equally dark and minimalist writing center.

Here’s what I found and loved…

White ceramic potted succulents (very small, but super cute)…

Succulents in round glass vases (these ones are slightly bigger and I really like them)

Amazing faux succulents from Nordstrom (these are even bigger)

Another set in cement pots (I haven’t see them in person yet, but they look awesome!)

And of course, Ikea plants for good measure…

With all my fake foliage, my office is no longer an utter embarrassment. I still have a few shelves to fill though, so my next step is to buy some fun new artwork.

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