In search of the perfect work space…

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.

desk

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.

windowMy 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.view

Where do you do your quiet work when you’re at home? And what constitutes an ideal work space for you?

12 thoughts on “In search of the perfect work space…

  1. I love your view. I covet your view! Serene and beautiful, that’s for sure.

    I have a workspace all to myself with a desktop computer which I rarely use because a) it is in the basement level of our home, b) it faces the family room which is often littered with toys and various stages of laundry (clean, unclean, not so sure), and the laundry nook itself, always reminding me that there’s more laundry to do even after the seven loads the day before, and c) my desk has become an extension of my kids’ play area (as I write this, there’s a princess tracing tool, kids’ reading material, a Tinkerbell wing, a fake phone, and a stacking cup just randomly taking up room next to my computer).

    Thankfully, I also have a laptop upstairs so I can be more mobile, often going from the bar at the kitchen to my living room, where I sit on the couch and put my feet up on the coffee table while I work so I can ice my sore ankle after a run. (TMI?)

    Recently we made an investment to finally improve the aesthetics in our master bedroom, which included purchasing a king-sized bed with a new mattress. Having new paint color (a blue called “Serenity” :-), a comfortable bed, and light that floods the room from three big windows means I find myself gravitating towards a spot that most experts would agree is the worst place to work. And yet, here I am meeting my deadlines….

    I’m sure there’s a science to focus and productivity, but right now, my body is telling me the art of getting it just right works better for me.

    • What you described sounds exactly like what I have gone through, Justine. This is really the first time that I don’t have toys on my desk, but it took nearly 10 years to get here. I love that you have been working on your master bedroom and I can totally see how you would end up working there, because it’s the most comfortable and peaceful place.

    • Laptops are the best! I am thinking that offices may be overrated, and having the freedom to be outside, in different rooms, in a cafe, etc. depending on your mood is a great way to work.

  2. I would put my desk in our bedroom if I could, but alas, far too small. I do keep the books I’m reading next to my side of the bed, of course. I’d love it if both of us could work from home, but that’s a pipe dream for us. For now both our desks are sharing space in the dining room, along with a filing cabinet, two bookcases, and a little table that holds my sewing machine (which I haven’t used yet). But to have a small room, sunny and clean, with a door that shuts? Heaven.

    • I’d actually love to be in the dining room, but unfortunately we need to keep that clear. I guess the grass is always greener! 😉 I hope your pipe dream comes true someday…

  3. I love your view! It’s fantastic!
    I find myself working by the kitchen counter. My office is cluttered at the moment and the kitchen is sunny and I love the feel of it. 🙂
    Have a great weekend 🙂

  4. I echo the commenters here. I love your view.

    I also have my office in my bedroom. There is a little nook where I set up my desk and my bookshelves. It is my home within my home and I feel the most comfortable in that space. I think that is it – finding a space that is not only productive, but offers comfort. Like everything, it is always about finding a balance that works for you.

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