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.


  1. I came back to read more! :-)

    I think your reasoning makes a lot of sense. As your girl begins to have more homework, she can work alongside you in the afternoons instead of being in another room.

    In my comment on your bedroom post, I mentioned a family living in the typical 3-bedroom ranch (that really was the only kind of house in our square mile, with minor variations)--another family I knew had 2 daughters close in age who shared a bedroom, so they used their smallest bedroom as the "study" for the whole family, with 4 desks and some bookcases. The father had to bring work home regularly, and the mother was always writing letters to her relatives in Philippines, so while the girls were doing their homework they had their parents handy in case of questions. It seemed very cozy.

    1. So glad you came back, Becca! I love your story about the family "study," I get a cozy feeling just reading about it and hope I can capture some of that same feeling in our space.

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