Why I have been leaving home to get work done

There's way too much happening in my work space at home. This is far from unusual. The professional organizer that I work with just says I'm doing too much in too little space. Then we work together on making the best of it.

I like the space, although I sometimes express a desire to work above ground. I do have windows set high in the wall and, in summer, a view of rose bushes (or at least their bases). Neighbor cats occasionally prowl along under the shrubs and look in at me, curious. The angle from my desk to the window lets me see the sky.

In that space, I do freelance editorial work—in the past several weeks, I've edited two entire books there, and done a final review on parts of a third, and I'll be working on another starting today. The freelance projects cycle in and out. They take time. Each needs a bit of space.

I also run Nomad Press there, Nomad being a very small, independent publishing company that releases about a book a year, technology and energy and finances permitting. These books are on knitting and spinning. They require some space, too, as do all of the functions that support a publishing company—bookkeeping, shipping, promotion. I'm working on three books for Nomad right now, as well as a special pattern by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts for Sock Summit 2009.

Generally, I don't do my own writing in that office. Several times a week, I head for a coffee shop or library or other neutral territory to do that work. It's easier to shift mental gears if I change locations. The laptop makes it possible for me to use these alternate sites. I'll do things in these outside spaces like plan my classes for Sock Summit and write blog posts, as well as any personal writing I can fit in (it's been a while).

I'm also working on a rather large research and writing project, and I work on it everywhere: in the office, at the coffee shop, in bed. Twice in the past few months, I've had the opportunity to set up a base of operations for a week or so at a time in a different space entirely, and I've devoted that time to this research and writing project (and a few blog posts). It's been heavenly. I've gotten so much done.

Here's a view of the desk in my home office before I left for the second of those opportunities, a residency in Salida, Colorado, last month:


The file boxes
piled up there went with me: there are more boxes, the ones that didn't take this trip, in the hallway and in the
adjacent bathroom, as well as in the part of the office that's around the corner to the left . . . I think the project as a whole is up to around fifty of these boxes, with perhaps another twenty or thirty to go before I'm done. . . . There's a space challenge. Twelve of the boxes have gone with me on each trip out of town. That's the number that fits in the back of my car. So far, I've been able to work on seven or eight boxes' worth in each of those extended trips away.

Here's the space I worked in during the residency:


The space was heavenly! There was even a closet where I could put the items I wasn't working directly  with. When I went into the bedroom, it was amazing—there was just a bed!

Of course, if I'd had other freelance work and the publishing with me, I wouldn't have had any more space than I do at home. But the point is that those other responsibilities weren't in the away space, and so I had this lovely, productive environment—one that lets me continue to hold in my mind the idea of enough space and the possibility of working with a lack of the clutter that simply can't be avoided in my "normal" life.

More materials arrived while I was gone. Here's what my home office looked like when I got back:


The pile of plain cardboard boxes and shipping envelopes behind and under the white file boxes are new materials for this project that arrived while I was gone. Some of the white boxes that came back with me from the residency had to be stacked around the corner in front of the washing machine, which was the only available space. The new stuff needed to be logged in and processed and assigned to its own file boxes. A month later, I've almost completed that task.

The trick with the office under these circumstances is getting to the desk chair. Once I'm there, I'm okay. Sometimes it feels like I'm in the cockpit of an airplane. An underground airplane. Fortunately, all the work I do is interesting: my flights head for intriguing destinations.

But this morning, I'm heading for one of the coffee shops, taking the laptop and just one or two jobs to think about. Simplicity is a form of bliss.


4 thoughts on “Why I have been leaving home to get work done”

  1. I used to think that if I had more room, I’d have more space to work. Unfortunately, more stuff just arrives to take up the “more room” and I still don’t have room to work…

  2. Wowie. I have been complaining that my house is too full of “stuff.” I took probably a dozen bags/boxes of unwanted items to charity in the last 10 days or so, and only I can tell I’ve made any difference.

    Thank you for helping me see that it’s all a matter of perspective. What I’ve got is more than I once had, less than I had two weeks ago, and somewhere in the middle when compared to “average,” whatever that might mean.

    Just figuring out where to put things is an important subject. I finally admitted that I had more clothing than I possibly could store. Sentimental or not, I have let go of about 5-6 business suits I have not worn since 1999, a good number of other garments, shoes, purses… and the list goes on.

    Brian reminds me that we have a finite number of objects in this house. There is some comfort in that, but I told him I do NOT want to know what that number is!


  3. I’ve just moved to a house that’s 1/3 or 1/4 the size of the last place I was renting. My house is currently full of boxes and I’m wondering where everything will go. (I did get rid of a lot of things before I moved, but still…) At least my studio is, so far, an open and easy place to work. Can’t get through the living room or kitchen comfortably, though!

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