Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why I'm giving up my home office

...even though I plan to continue working full time from home.

Here is the roughly 10 x 10 office I've been writing from for the last nine years. 

It doubles as a guest room -- the futon folds down into a full-size mattress when my mother-in-law is in town. But other than that, the space is all mine.

(Except the closet. The closets in our house are pretty tiny, so my man has been keeping his clothes in here and mine are in the closet in the larger bedroom.)

Moving the office into the larger bedroom will mean that all three of us -- my man, my girl, and I -- will have our desks in the same room.

"Are you nervous about giving up your own space?" My man asked me as I was packing up office stuff into banana boxes.

Well, yes, a little bit. I've been a freelancer and worked from home almost my entire career, but especially since my girl was born seven years ago having an office has been important to me, psychologically perhaps even more than practically.

I said above that I work full-time, but really I work during the hours between school bus pickup and drop-off, which amounts to about 30-33 hours per week, plus at 4:30 am when necessary (which is often). I wouldn't change this arrangement for anything, and yet when you're trying to combine a freelance career with being the go-to for kid-related logistics, it's easy to feel like you're not giving either endeavor the attention it really requires.

It's just like Virginia Woolf said: having my own office space ratifies the importance of my job.

Then why am I saying goodbye to my Room of One's Own?

Well, it's like this. Yes, the office was all mine as long as I was alone in it. But as soon as someone else -- my girl, that is -- entered the room, it wasn't my space at all. Sometimes I'd be trying to answer a quick email in my office, and my girl wanted to be near me, which was lovely, but there was nothing for her to do in the office, so she would end up jumping on the futon or messing with my work papers and 20 minutes later neither of us had gotten what we wanted. So my hope is that by making my own work space a little friendlier to her, we can be together in the space more happily.

In addition, the old office tended to become a dumping ground. If someone -- okay, now I am talking about my man -- stashed something there "temporarily" it was easy for him to forget about it, and there it would remain, cluttering up my workspace for months. By the same token, since the space was only mine, I tended to put it last on the priority list in terms of cleaning and tidying. A shared workspace might end up better cared-for -- not least of all by me.

Finally, because of its small size, the office became merely a storeroom for my creative aspirations. Oh look, a whole bookcase full of fabric -- but no space to actually DO anything with it. When I was lobbying for this project, I mostly emphasized the fact that we would gain storage space. And that's significant. But more and more I've realized that what I'm aiming for is not just space to put things but space to use things.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We have no bananas

But we do have banana boxes. A LOT of them. Over two dozen at last count (that photo up above is just a fraction of them). At this point, the produce guys at my local supermarket cower in fear when they see me approaching.

Are we moving house? No, just the back third of it.

Here's my scheme: swap the functions of the two adjacent rooms pictured above. The tiny (9.5' x 11') office becomes the master bedroom. The slightly less tiny (~10' x 13') master bedroom becomes what I am (a bit preciously, I know) calling the atelier, an office and creative space for all three of us.

We'll paint both rooms in the process and gain THREE WHOLE BOOKCASES worth of storage, which in our tiny house is, well, huge.

We're in the thick of it now; I'm hoping to start painting today. And I'm trying to figure out the best way to organize my thoughts in this (blog) space about why I wanted to do this and what I'm aiming for. Rather than a big monster explanation I'm going to try to write a short post every day or two (knock wood) and hopefully things will become clear.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Is this thing on?

And by "this thing" I mean both this Internet-based mic of sorts that I dropped (albeit not really intentionally) four months ago, and also my latest scheme.

In the case of the former the answer, of course, is yes, because that's what's so awesome about the Internet -- the mic is always on when you want it.

In the case of the latter the answer, I'm astonished to say, is also yes.

My man thinks I am

But hey, what else is new? And he's game to go along for the ride, so that's something.

I'll have updates on this developing situation shortly.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring infinity scarf

Now that we're on the subject of clothes, let's talk big-girl (i.e., for me) clothing for a few minutes.

Lately I have been pondering a bit the idea of a "spring wardrobe." This is a new one for me, in the past I've basically thought of my closet as 10 months of cold-weather clothing and 2 months of warm-weather clothing. It will probably be somewhat chilly and wet here in Seattle until late June and I run cold, so I will continue to need two layers of long sleeves and wool sweaters on most days until true summer weather arrives. I've thought in the past that it is difficult in this climate to dress appropriately for the weather and for the season at the same time. But this year I'd like to do something about it.

Looking at my closet, I see a LOT of black and gray, stuff that feels cozy and subtle in January but looks dreary to me now. I don't see a lot of items that look "springy." One thought I had was that a little more pink might be in order. (Now there is a sentence that has never before been typed by the mother of a six-year-old girl.)

So, last weekend, I made myself a scarf.

The outer print fabric is from Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks voile collection, and the inner fabric is a crinkled cotton gauze that I've had in my stash for a while. (I'm a little embarrassed to say that making this scarf did not actually require a trip to the fabric store.)

The pattern is this free tutorial from Pink Chalk Fabrics (PDF link). Most other tutorials for infinity scarves simply have you make a continuous loop of fabric, but this method introduces a twist in the loop so that the scarf actually resembles an infinity symbol -- my not-so-inner nerd was instantly sold.

The tutorial has you cut two pieces of 54"-wide fabric from selvage to selvage. That was the width of my voile but the crinkle cotton was only 42-44" wide, so I cut two strips along my yardage and pieced them together to match the length of the voile. (I cut along the length of the yardage so that the crinkles in the cotton would run the long way along the scarf.)

I found the instructions very clear and reliable, and I got a good result on the first try without any missteps. The whole thing took about an hour and a half total, from pressing the fabric all the way through the little bit of hand sewing required to stitch the opening closed. I'm a slow sewist (say that three times fast), so I consider that a pretty quick project.

Here are a few ways I'm looking forward to wearing my new scarf:

With coral cords, an ivory long-sleeve tee, tweedy olive-green cardi, and tan/black ballet flats.

With gray jeans, a Breton-stripe tee, ivory Aran cardi, and Navy blue clogs.

With mustard cords, a gray tunic sweater, and Wellies.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How to build a wardrobe of secondhand kids' clothing that works

I don't mind admitting that ever since she was an infant my girl has worn mostly secondhand clothes. She gets hand-me-downs from her cousin, who is a year and a half older, and I buy from thrift stores, children's consignment stores, and eBay. Generally I shop about one size ahead and toss items as I buy them here and there into a bin in the attic.

The problem with this strategy is that it is all too easy to wind up with too many clothes, duplicates (two plain black long-sleeve tees for a kid who rarely wears plain tees), and clothes that don't mix and match (adorable pair of printed leggings that go with zero dresses in the closet).

For a while I was keeping a tally of pants, shirts, etc. in each size on an index card that I slipped into my wallet. This helped a bit to keep from overbuying in any given category, but because I was just keeping track of numbers I still wound up with too many similar clothes, "missing" basics, and items that didn't go with anything else.

I have a new approach I have been trying out that seems very promising so I thought I would share.

The first step was to decide how big I wanted my girl's wardrobe to be overall. I decided on two weeks' worth of clothing -- about 14 bottoms and 14 tops for each season (cold weather and warm weather). This is substantially less minimal than the suggestions I found when I googled "how much clothing does a child need?" Most other sources recommend around one week's worth of clothing. I decided two weeks' worth is better for us because I do laundry once a week and especially in mud season (which around here lasts roughly forever) it's not unusual for her to go through two or even three outfits a day.  
Next I tried to be honest about what kinds of clothing my girl actually likes to wear. For example she only likes "soft pants" so that brand-new, tags still attached pair of corduroy pants at the Goodwill is frankly a $4.99 waste. She doesn't like tights so there is no point in accumulating a drawerful of skirts to wear with them, no matter how adorable and inexpensive. Mostly she wears knit dress + leggings or knit pants + long-sleeve tee, so I planned around those outfit formulas (for cold-weather clothing, that is).

I realize, of course, that her preferences could change on a dime and a lot of this effort will have been wasted. But, my girl doesn't happen to care much about clothes in a fashiony sense, her main concern is comfort, and her preferences have been pretty stable over time, so I think this kind of planning is worth the risk in her case. And I think some of the ideas I'm sharing here could still be adapted for kids who have more definite and specific opinions about what they wear.

Step three was to come up with a rough strategy about colors etc. to buy in each category. Basically, for leggings and pants I'm looking for darker colors (practical, don't you think?) and solids. Dresses and tops get brighter colors and prints, patterns, or some kind of appliqué or embellishment. She's down with flowers, stripes, polka dots, and animals but (tragically) hates plaid. Purple, blues, and pinks are the most loved colors.

Then, I made a little chart with a square for each piece of clothing needed. When I buy something I fill in a square with the color(s) of the item. This way, I can purchase things gradually as I find them, but make sure my girl ends up with a mix of clothes that works together well.

The final step is to STOP BUYING THINGS. (The all caps are because I'm shouting at myself, not you.) I admit that sometimes a few extra, especially adorable items have snuck in but I think I've been about 90 percent disciplined in sticking to the plan. You can see I've got her pretty well kitted out for the summer to come, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all works out.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

WIP Wednesday*

*(Is this still a thing? Anyway, carrying on...)

I recently finished up a needlework piece (can't show you yet, it's a gift and I haven't gotten it sent off to intended recipient) so I am starting another. Fidelity, to one thing or another, is a work in progress for us all, isn't it?