This year, for my birthday, my daughter bought me a miniature kitchen set, complete with a pantry, table and chairs, and even little jams and donuts. I. Was. Elated. And come to find out, my reaction to my "itty bitties" is actually pretty commonplace--not only are Instagram feeds flooded with images of tiny foods and scenery, but having tiny things on work desks is a trend, too.

Why our huge obsession for the small stuff is getting bigger

Small things are really, really easy to manipulate. We can arrange them just so or even destroy them, based on whatever we feel or want. So as our lives get more and more constrained, miniature items give us the illusion that we're still in control of something. They are, we feel, manageable, even if everything else around us is noisy and ridiculous and out of our hands. They provide a relatively harmless form of escapism, letting us play and create new "realities" that usually are very different than what we're really living.

Consider, too, that even if we weren't so frantic, space is precious. It's costly to pay for a big desk and cushy office, so to save money, the current emphasis is on having only what you really need around you. At the same time, research shows that being able to customize your work area makes a difference in your mood and productivity. Miniature items let you personalize what little (pun intended) area you do have, all without making you feel cramped or setting you up for too much distraction. And in the gig economy, it's easy to pack up one or two mini things with your laptop for a little comfort and familiarity as you travel, too.

Perfect mini stuff to make your work life better

Now, everybody has different tastes. You can shop around to find the miniature pieces for your desk that speak to your personality--there's everything from fake game consoles to opera glasses and fishing poles. But if you need a few ideas to get you started, you might want to check out these nifty concepts:

  • Filing cabinets that can hold business cards, paper clips, etc.
  • Jars filled with food-oriented erasers (e.g., donuts, cookies)
  • Compact mirror that looks like a laptop (hey, how else can you check there's nothing in your teeth before that big presentation?)
  • Plastic recycling and trash bins for your pens and pencils
  • Mini Zen garden
  • Post-It dispenser that looks like a typewriter
  • USB-powered beverage fridge for a single can
  • USB-powered "vacuum" for crumbs and pencil shavings
  • "Cinder blocks" to build with
  • Mini toolbox for scissors, paper punch, etc.
  • Mini hanging message chalkboards
  • Mini greenhouse with watering can, shovel, etc.
  • Squishy stress-relief "pets" that stick to your desk or laptop
  • Superhero(ine) action figures to inspire you
  • Lego models (check out this design from a die-hard fan of NBC's comedy, The Office, or this retired set featuring Lord Business from The Lego Movie)

Companies make mini games (e.g., chess, pool, card decks), too, so you've even got interactive options for killing a few spare minutes with coworkers between calls or meetings.

Most of these items are easy to find with a bit of quick Googling, and the majority are fairly inexpensive. If you really can't find what you're looking for, though, there are also oodles of tutorials on how to create mini stuff from scratch. Better yet, get your innovation juices flowing by creating your own tiny designs. Just consider if the item you buy or make is office appropriate first (i.e., no weapons, suggestive scenes, etc.).

Mini things can be fantastic stress relief valves, according to psychology. But when life gets you down, just remember, in the grand scheme of things, most things we stress over aren't that big, anyway. It really is, as Richard Carlson writes, all small stuff.

Published on: Jul 23, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.