This is where I work: on an espresso wood computer desk, overlooking a landscape of trees, in a nook in our bedroom right next to our bed.
I arrived here earlier this spring after years of in-house migration. Seriously, next to finding affordable health insurance, figuring out the best place to work is the next biggest challenge for the work-from-home-self-employed (or at least that’s true for us).
We’d bought our house several years ago, already knowing that we would be running a business from home. So we chose the house we’re in now, which has not only an extra bedroom but also a family/bonus room that is sort of sectioned off from the rest of the house. We knew that we could use one of them for our home office, and the other as a guest room. Over the last few years we have tried both.
Extra bedroom: Sunny and bright, with easy access to our then-still-little child. We often worked at night, so we liked the fact that we could hear him easily if he suddenly woke up crying. However, this room is pretty small, especially for an office for two people, and we soon wanted more space for our printer, books, files, etc.
Family room: Roomy – really, more room than we needed. Unfortunately, only after spending our days there did we realize how dark it is during waking hours. The forest of trees right outside the windows formed a fortress against the sun (as well as heat during winters), as if I needed any more reason not to report to work.
So, running out of ideas and rooms (I vetoed Max’s suggestion to create an office in the kitchen), I’m breaking all my rules of securing proper boundaries by moving my office into our bedroom. How many times have magazines warned “The bedroom is for sleep and sex only!”? Yes, in an ideal world that would be the case for all of us, wouldn’t it? But during my quest to find the best work spot I came to the conclusion that securing work/life balance is not as easy as dividing my life up into rooms. All I have to do to even think of work is to see the top of my laptop, or my iPhone. And yet, how much else of my life is in there? My family photos and videos, my Facebook and Goodreads accounts, my favorite blogs, my journal, my personal e-mails, my recipes…During any given work period I’m toggling between client documents and e-mails and Facebook and blogs. So, given our limitations, I decided that more important than finding a place for our business is finding a place for myself.
The place for myself is a spot that is drenched in sunlight and is private. It also has to be neat, which has required a lifestyle change on my part. My major accomplishment this summer had been to simply take (and keep) the clothes off of my chair and to make the surface of my desk visible. I bought a faux antique file organizer from Marshalls and I have a couple of decorative containers from Japan that currently hold my pens and sleeping pills (Nature Made sleep aids; I swear I don’t abuse these). I also have on my desk the two books that I’m currently reading, a bottle of mango scented lotion, a gargantuan bottle of Advil, a little clay dish and a gold origami crane that Fred had made for me, lip balm, my glasses, and my iPhone. None of this is for decorative effect, but I suppose it says something about what I consider essential to have at my fingertips. I don’t know what else I’d do with this space (maybe light scented candles or put up some photos?), but I will settle for clutter-free as my decor for the time being. I don’t care if I’m working with a client, writing a blog post, or shopping for shoes, as long as I feel at peace while doing it. After all, I am all of my jobs and activities – consultant, business owner, mother, friend, writer, reader – and by designating my work life to one room, I realized that I was dividing my life into Enjoyable and Not Enjoyable. I feel I need to find a way to both manage my boundaries while welcoming my work into my life as something that enriches rather drains.
My view, not that I usually even remember to look out the window (I usually have the blinds down), is lovely when I do. I’m surrounded by a landscape of trees, obstructed by nothing. Aside from my four years on a picturesque New England college campus, this view is the most serene I’ve ever had. I’ve otherwise faced my share of garbage pick ups, parking lots, and buildings.
My work days, which take place during the hours Fred is in school and occasionally at night, are quiet, interrupted occasionally by the sound of the telephone (which I virtually never answer) and brief (work-related) visits by Max (who is now working out of our extra bedroom-turned-guest room (until there is a guest)). Over the eight years that we’ve had our business, I’ve gotten happily used to the absence of office politics and overly chatty co-workers. Over the last five years since Fred has started school I’ve gotten accustomed to longer stretches of time to concentrate without needing to juggle feedings, play time and potty supervision. I’ve gotten used to toggling over to Facebook when I feel like chatting or meeting Max in the kitchen when I want a coffee break. Once in a while I schedule a lunch or breakfast with a girlfriend or two. Is this work life isolating? Sometimes. Too quiet? Occasionally. Would I change anything about it? After almost two decades of working in large cities and spending 70% of my waking hours in bustling offices, nah. The privacy and the tranquility suit the introverted person I’ve returned to, and I can finally hear myself think.
Where do you do your quiet work when you’re at home? And what constitutes an ideal work space for you?