Organized mess: An annotated guide to my office

Office diagram

I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated home office. This was by design – it’s been a requirement for every space I’ve lived in during grad school, at the expense of living spaces that were cheaper, or more private, or in more interesting areas near people I knew. But just because my office belongs to me doesn’t mean it’s not full of all kinds of weird shit that probably shouldn’t be in there.

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There are some amazingly wonderful things about my space, beyond the fact that it even exists. I have a huge desk. I saved up for this desk, after a ridiculous debacle trying to move a free desk from my brother’s ex-roommate all the way across Boston. This huge desk allows me to accumulate all sorts of things that don’t belong on it, but it also allows me to spread out and work comfortably. I also have a couch. This is one of my strange requirements for my workspace. I don’t like working at my desk all the time. Sometimes I sit on the floor, sometimes I sit on the couch. Maybe it depends on what I’m doing (reading vs. writing), or maybe it’s just how I feel. I have a large bookcase with glass doors in an interesting color that is securely bolted to the wall and holds all the books I can’t bear to keep in storage. I used to keep my books in a pile under my desk, in boxes, or stacked on the coffee table. This is a marked improvement, even if it’s not equipped with a library ladder. I have a ton of natural light, but also privacy from the outside world. It’s great to have a work space that doesn’t feel like a dungeon, but that isn’t completely exposed either. Plus, when the blinds are open I sometimes see a bunch of neighborhood cats running around outside.

But there are also some things about my space that are not great, and aren’t going to change any time soon. The room my office occupies is an odd half-room – it’s closed off from the rest of the floor by a door on one side, but has an open staircase to the second floor on the other side. This means that when I’m working, people can just walk through my office (and often have to), and I hear my kids playing, screaming, and sleeping throughout the day. My office is the only space I have for anything, so I have to use it for everything. I mentioned recently that I’ve gotten back into crafting, and that’s been a positive change in my life. But I don’t have a ton of space to store my supplies, modest though they are. So my sewing machine lives on my desk, and all my art supplies live either in a bin under it or a pencil cup on top of it. These space limitations also mean that all important papers, and any other supplies also have to live on my desk, even if they’re not strictly “mine”. I don’t have anywhere else to put my large work supplies like my printer and book stand (which is pretty much essential when you’re writing a dissertation, because it’s just about impossible to hold a book open while typing), so they have to live on top of my desk and make it hard to keep the space clean. The space limitations also apply to stuff that’s not mine at all. This room is just about the only space in the house for books of any kind, so there are two more bookcases in the room that hold all kinds of tchotchkes and sci-fi books that my husband insists on keeping. I’m completely out of space in my own bookcase, so I can’t get any new books, and some essentials have to live on my desk.

Linen Orianna Sofa - #anthrofave

Improvements can be made, though. Some little items just don’t belong on my desk and need to go. I love my little Grecian lady and Viking, but they should live somewhere else. Papers need a file cabinet, which I’ve been dragging my feet on getting for two years now. Old notecards need some kind of organizational system, but I certainly don’t need to see them all the time. And baby socks just clearly have a different home. Eventually, I can move some things out and into other parts of the house. We’ve already got a space picked out for my husband’s desk and his various gaming equipment (which, because he works in the video game industry, straddles the line between work and hobby), but it needs some major fixing up to be useable, some of which we can’t afford right now. When we do, though, all of his books and plenty of nonessential items can move there. My office couch, which is too big for the space, will hopefully also leave and I can finally get the small green velvet couch of my Pinterest dreams. Maybe then I can even get a second small table for crafting so my sewing machine doesn’t have to live on my desk. And of course, at some point, seriously need to get a new office chair. This thing has survived so much longer than Ikea could ever have intended, with a decorative pillow as a cushion that is barely holding itself together. But there are always more important things to spend money on, and I still like the shape of the chair with its back and arm support.

I have big dreams for my office, and maybe some of them are attainable. I used to have my office in what was supposed to be the breakfast nook in the kitchen of a past apartment. It had horrible light, but it was wonderfully tucked out of the way, and it was close to both food and tea, which are both writing fuel. I’m hoping to eventually have a little tea station in my office again, maybe even with a mini fridge where I can keep some milk. I also have a vision for my kind of weird, naturalist art all over the walls. Right now it’s a botanical poster of mushrooms on one side and a Hokusai print on the other, but I have some of my own work that I’m itching to hang up too, should some wall space free up where there are currently bookshelves. If I ever get that magical green couch, I’ll flip the whole room and put the couch in front of the window, so that the furniture isn’t almost blocking both entrances anymore and I can really get the most out of that natural light. But the biggest and most complicated change I’d like to make involves finding a way to close off the room to foot traffic and noise. This is an old house (built in 1925) and there are a lot of projects we want to take on in the distant future. So maybe if we ever get to our big renovations, I’ll get a little more privacy.