The Office, Week Four: Joy and Need

Note: This is a draft, the post was never finished and yet SOMEHOW I scheduled it to post. I’ll get the progress photo up shortly. ARGH.

One great thing about getting everything out of a space so you can paint the floor is that when you go to put things back in, you can get rid of a lot of stuff. It’s one part Marie Kondo’s “What gives me joy?” and one part Julie Morgenstern’s “What do I need?”

So part of the process is deciding the Needs, such as I don’t need every research book I own, just the ones that I need for the WiPs. The rest can go in labeled boxes in the garage until I’m ready to pull the out (or clean the garage, which is slated for warm weather in the spring). But it’s also about determining what “need” that I reallyl don’t.

For example, I’ve been keeping my office supplies in an old circular wine rack that I love a lot. But it’s big and it’s not particularly handy. What would be handy would be putting a narrow ledge along the window behind my computer table for all the pencils/pens/markers/scissors/knives/etc that I really do reach for daily. That’s not going to be as much fun as the wine rack, but it’ll be infinitely handier. They don’t make those so I’ll have to build one. Then there are the two storage units that used to sit on the table top; they’re utilitarian, but they hold a lot, so I can put them on the bookcase in front of the windows and use them to store the bulky stuff–tape, glue, stapler, post-its, envelopes, etc.–and free up more table space. I can sort and pack the various electronics cords and cables into boxes/pouches/whatever so that I know what I’ve got and where they are. I keep buying things I already have because I can’t find them (I must have three dozen erasers, no exaggeration). That’s dumb. So building the pencil/whatever rack and filling up the bookcase units went on my list.

But as Kondo says, you also need Joy. I love Mexican folk art and I want to see it every day, so that’s going in here, just up on higher shelves where it won’t get in the way. I love my two colorful catchphrases, so one goes up above a shelf where I can see it from the kitchen and the other goes on the back door where I can see it as I look down the hallway or come into the office. I love brightly colored post-it notes, so they’re everywhere. I love the cat dispenser for pop-up Post-Its, so that’s going on my desk. I love my now ancient Medea poster; that goes on the wall behind the TV that’s too inaccessible to use for a storage unit. These things are as necessary to me as pens and paper, and I love the way they look in my work space. Add in a lot of white with splashes of chartreuse, teal, blue, and yellow, and there’s a lot of fun in looking around in there.

But like the wine rack, some stuff I really love has to go, like the artwork that goes with the stories. I have my mechanical fish from the Fairy Tale Lies book that will probably never get written now. I have Jane from the Zo White stories, and really no place to put her. And the collages . . . oy. The real drawback in this office is that it’s all windows–across the back and on one side and then windows into the pantry and the kitchen on the third, with bookcases and an opening into the bedroom on the fourth. I have almost no wall space, which is hell for somebody who loves art as much as I do. I did back the bookcase interiors with cork, and I’m leaving a big space in the middle of each one for tacking up pictures, but it’s the only real drawback to this space. (Well, that, and that it’s only 7.5 feet wide; that’s a drag.)

So at this point, it’s down to the stuff like finishing the bookcases that divide the room from the bedroom, and putting up shelves over the windows, and hooking up printers, and figuring out why the whole keychain thing is turning my desktop into a nightmare, and touching up the floor where I did patchwork after I painted. But overall, I’m very happy with everything. And I love working in this space again. I really think it’ll be finished by this time next week. Except for the ceiling. Argh.

Oh, and pictures. Here’s how it looked when I bought the house:


Then Krissie’s husband Richie drove down from Vermont and covered over the stairs for me making the center of the space usable. I blocked off the last ten feet of the porch for my bedroom so the layout looked like this:


Unfortunately, three years later I realized that I’d put the desk and the bookcase on the wrong side, so I had to switch them, but otherwise the layout is about the same. Here’s how it looked before I started cleaning a couple of weeks ago:

Jenny'sOffice 1

And here’s how it looks now:

2016-03-24 11.36.17 copy

Still much, much work to do but definite progress. I got the desk and the bookcase switched around, the miscellaneous furniture out, a new drawing board in, all my supplies sorted into various wall things that still have to go up, the kids’ drawings framed and up, and above all, the floor painted. It needs another coat because I had to go back through and patch, but it’s already a huge improvements. So if I clear out the rest of that end and repaint the floor . . . I’ll be half done. You haven’t seen the other half of the office yet.

It’s gonna take months.

35 thoughts on “The Office, Week Four: Joy and Need

  1. Frustration! I’ve reloaded the page, but still can’t see the ‘after’ picture.

    Don’t you need to do the ceiling before putting stuff back?

    I’m sure it’ll be an amazing space to work in.

  2. No ‘after’picture for me, either. Do you need that window on the right, next to the door, or could you put up something against it to get more wall space? That’s what we did in our 1910 house: we closed a double wide glass door that opened into the hallway. On the hallway side, we put in mirrors so there is still a lot of light reflected from the hall window (and our visitors have a huge mirror to see themselves in when they put on their coats). On the other side, we covered it with wallpaper so we could set up the TV there.

    1. I need it. The kitchen and the pantry are in the middle of the house and therefore have no windows, so if I want daylight in there I need those windows. Also I like them.

  3. If you are considering getting rid of your collages etc..(as opposed to putting them in storage) you might consider selling them. I bet a lot of Crusie fans would be interested.
    And I am glad to hear I am not the only one who looks askance at Windows because they take up art space!h

    1. Pam Regis gets my collages at McDaniel College.
      The ones I have now are for Books in Progress.

  4. As long as it’s not the Emperor’s New Office, we’re good.

    Today is the start of my massive clean up. I’m giving myself the weekend and then 2 hours a day till Friday. Sell, give, donate, trash and FILE.

    Yes, I have paperwork problems. I shan’t be scanning yet. I’m still at the stage where I need to touch each item. Also, my Mac needs a software upgrade but when I try to run a backup at home it’s not working. So I’m not scanning docs only to lose them later.

    I love your wall shelf idea. I’m going to adapt it for work.

    1. Actually, I’ve been sick as a dog–changes of seasons cold, I think–and I haven’t gotten anything done. But it was stupid of me to have set that to post. Major brain melt there. Plus that text needs revised, too, but that’s not happening now. Argh.

      1. I’m so sorry you’re sick, Jenny, and I’m a heartless thing. As soon as I posted, I figured, Oh, there’s a good reason and I shouldn’t be such a heartless thing.

        Changes of seasons… if NJ is anything like southern Ontario (which is likely) you’ve been swinging between winter and spring every 4-5 days. Weird. Unsettling.

        1. That’s us. Bitter cold this weekend, in the sixties next weekend. It just finally brought me down.

  5. Oh, hope you feel better – we can all imagine the space for now.

    I know you’ve built shelves and you know about Ana White, but just in case–her “Ten Dollar Ledges” plans are incredibly flexible. The one in my office is the first thing I ever built, and it gives me great joy.

  6. I’m forever sending attachments to people via email that I forget to attach. My brain simply cannot remember that I need to click the little paperclip icon before I hit send.

    It’s a very impressive quirk to have in a work environment, as you can imagine.

  7. No fair. This is a cliffhanger ending! I want to see the after-photo. I’m going to have keep checking back obsessively during the day, wondering how it all ended! I love to see pictures of writers’ working spaces – loathe the sterile, neat, perfectly matched ones (might as well be interred in a corporate cubicle)!

  8. Did you check out Pottery Barn? They have lots of wall organization things with different shelves and such and at the very least, ideas!

    I admire your tenacity. I’m learning how to live in smaller spaces again, but it’s still hard because I still don’t much like the house. However, we did paint the bedroom which didn’t turn out too bad considering the color I wanted and the paint base he wanted were two different things so my gray walls look blue during the day (and wow! How many words in that sentence??) I was afraid that would happen and it did so after two weeks of arguing, we bought MY color in the same base for the living room and it’s actually gray!

    And we’re still putting stone on the front of the fireplace. I don’t care what anyone tells you, do it all alone or hire it out. This may be the cause of my moving to my daughter’s…

    1. I firmly believe my husband and I are still married because we have chosen never to wallpaper.

      1. Sound practice, MJ. When I was married, I made sure I wallpapered only when the hubby was working a double shift.

        We are no longer married, but not because of wallpaper.

  9. I am in a corporate cubicle and it sucks. Love the original pic of the space. Wonderful office potential.
    Maybe you could consider today’s post fake it til you make it.

  10. Sorry you’ve been ill. I hope you’re feeling better soon. The idea that you’ve been painting and such even though sick impresses the hell out of me. Actually, the idea that you’ve painted a floor and managed to keep the doggies off of it impresses me even more!

  11. Not a recommendation, this seems like it might encourage “keep all the things” but as fantasy–

    My favorite thing about my last apartment was the substantial picture rail, painted bright red against rental white walls. It was perhaps two inches wide, perfect for random “I love it but it gets buried” on our limited, ever crowded flat surfaces. I’d build them everywhere if this wasn’t also a rental. It would be above the cat path, which would be above the extra bookshelf most rooms need. We have high ceilings.

    We also have a huge blank wall that gets too much sun for most art that would be glorious as a living green wall. I am tired of renting, I want build into my space.

    I love these posts of where you started and what you are doing with it, thank you. living vicariously and
    making notes, just in case.

  12. Wow, You have now inspired me to tidy. Do like the 2 pictures though, you can see the potential of the space in the before picture. And the one before you started to clean, I can tell from the creative chaos you really know how to live.

  13. Have you got room to install any drop down ceiling storage? I guess it wouldn’t be the most convenient type to access, but since you’ve got so many windows, and are able to build things, it might be worth a thought. Our not, too.

    Something like this might work with your ceiling:

    1. It’s full of insulation, but beyond that, I really don’t want more storage, I want less stuff. I’m an absolute pack rat, and it’s gotten ridiculous. This stuff has to go.
      There were a lot of great ideas at that link. Thank you!

  14. I love painted wood floors! That paint looks so nice and glossy. Congratulations on all the hard work… it is a process, I know. My basement is still in process, but at least now I can walk around in it, and I know that I will finish clearing out all the stuff we don’t need or use. The real trick is not getting any new things, I think.


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