Note: Thursday and Friday posts on Argh are going to be Keeping Me Honest posts for awhile, Thursday to keep on task to clean up and reorganize my office and Friday to do the same thing for the books I’m working on. All of which is to say, the posts probably aren’t going to be valuable to anybody but me. You have been warned.
I’ve been reading Marie Kondo and Julie Morgenstern and trying to figure out the best way to organize my office, this time for good. I’ve moved since I last did the Twelve Days of the Office posts, and as in any move, I had to guess where everything should go in my office. I guessed wrong on several counts, so now it’s time to think things through.
A Place for Everything and Everything in That Place
Actually, Three Places
My first mistake was separating home office from work office and work room. It seemed like it made sense, but it just spread office supplies all over the place.
The second was thinking I could use the garage for art stuff, mainly because I don’t, I drag that all through the house, too.
So, the assumption I’m starting with is that it all goes in one room: bills, manuscripts, paint, everything in my office space.
Since my office space is about 12′ x 7.5′ and has three doors in it, plus two massive pieces of furniture that are absolutely staying, that’s going to take some planning. The office is essentially the hallway between the kitchen and my bedroom, so a lot of it has to be walkway, although I can crowd that a little since it’s not a public space like the front of the house.
I love Morgenstern’s kindergarten room approach. As she points out in Organizing from the Inside Out, a kindergarten classroom is a perfect model of organization. It’s divided into zones which means it’s easy to focus on one activity at a time (you’re in that zone), all the things you need for that activity are right there, it’s fun to put them away because they all have a clearly marked place to go, and you can see at a glance everything that’s important to that task. She has an entire section on this idea, well worth reading.
So what zones do I need?
I need a computer workstation (in this case, my long work table) with two big screens so I can put up a lot of docs at once, plus keyboards and trackpads. That workstation should also have a laser printer for text. I was thinking “and an inkjet for images,” but the truth is, I use that for collage more than anything, so it really doesn’t go in the word-processing zone. I also need paper and pens, and a corkboard and pins, and if possible a whiteboard. And at least one desk lamp, probably two, but I have those. So when I head into the office later today, I’m going to take a cardboard box in, put everything (except the computers) that belong in that zone in it, and take it out of there.
Then I need a space to create in. That is, I edit at the desktop, I organize at the desktop, but if I’m going to be making things up–stories, blog posts, whatever–I need to stretch out in a comfortable place with my laptop. In this case, it’s my favorite couch ever, which happens to be 7′ long so it fits neatly (almost too neatly, it wasn’t easy getting it in there by myself) at the end of the 12′ x 7.5′ office. There’s a shelf behind it that’s wide enough to hold my Diet Coke and my post-its, and I have narrow table on wheels I can put in front of it for books and graph paper and collages and lunch. I’ve got a small TV at one end of the couch and I replaced the cushions with a twin-size memory foam mattress so it can double as an overflow guest room, so that part’s set. The part that needs revised there is the Stuff. There’s a lot of Stuff there, but all I need is paper and pens, a post-it note dispenser, and a cord for my laptop. So again, I put the stuff I need there in a small box and take it out.
And then there’s the art section. I want my drawing board out of the garage and in here and that’s going to be difficult because the thing is huge and the space is small. If I use one side of the hall space for computing and the other side for art, I can make my desk chair do double duty with the drawing board, but the board is still mega-wide and deep. But if I swap the work table and my bookcase around (much harder than it sounds, then I’ll have the windows at my back as I draw, and I can turn the board sideways . . . . Oh, fingers crossed.
And then we get to supplies . . . Argh. Crayons, my colored pencils, my markers, my acrylics, my watercolors, my paper punches, my stamps, my drawing paper, my graph paper, my sketchbooks, my rulers and T-squares, my Xacto knives, my erasers, my tape, my glue . . . that’s gonna be a big box, but that gets packed up, too and moved out.
Which brings me to my books. I’m building in bookcases as room dividers to separate my bedroom from the office, and I have the old bookcase that was here when I moved in, but I think they’re going to have to hold supplies mostly. Which means the books get filed into labeled boxes and out in the garage when I can just pull out a box when I need it. And then once I’ve finished that project, get rid of the books. So the books get packed up and taken out to the garage.
Keep The Things That Spark Joy
Once I’ve done that, all I have to do is get rid of the ton of the stuff that’s left, which is where Marie Kondo comes in because some of that stuff is wonderful. Kondo says to look at each thing, really look at it, and decide if it gives you joy. “Useful” isn’t enough (especially since I’ve already put all the necessary stuff in boxes). Does it make me feel good to look at this thing, use this thing?
That means that my Mexican folk art stays. It means that I’m keeping the weird metal wine rack that I’m using to organize desk supplies because I love the damn thing. It means that the vase of huge and obviously fake daisies stays because they make me happy. It means that the cheapo one-eyed crow I got on clearance at Walmart stays because he’s Edwin from Monday Street, and the even older and cheaper crow on the pumpkin stays because he was in Wild Ride, and the luxurious, silky crow that Krissie gave me stays because he’s wonderful. This could be difficult. I have great stuff.
And then when I’ve done all of that, I can see about moving furniture around and painting the floor and generally getting my office back. It’s going to be wonderful, sunny and bright and organized. And damn near impossible to move in, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Next week: Pictures to keep me honest.