with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
When I first started freelancing—eight years ago, now—I had a state-of-the-art Sony Vaio laptop that weighed about seven pounds. (It’s okay, you can laugh. I don’t mind. It is pretty hilarious to think about, now.) I did most of my work on that laptop, in the beginning, and most often while sitting in my bed, late at night, after my kids had gone down for the night.
As time went on and it became clear that I was actually going to make a go of this freelancing thing, I moved to a desk in the corner of the family room. The kids could play and I could keep an eye on them and continue to work. Sort of. And once they were both in school I could work at the desk in blessed silence.
When I moved to Georgia five and a half years ago, I was excited to finally have a proper office. Oh, sure, my from-a-kit desk didn’t fare too well on the move—the hutch bowed in the center and was never quite right again—and I was sharing the space with my new husband, but still. An office! Like a grown-up! This was the start of a new chapter for me, both personally and professionally, and I felt rather heady with the possibilities.
And then, of course, life set back in.
In very short order, my wonderful new office looked a lot like my corner of the family room back in the old house. Stuff piled up. I often had to move stacks of detritus just to use the mouse properly. I had things to do, which meant I had no time to clean up, but I often felt claustrophobic in my desk chair, and would instead take my laptop to a different room to get things done.
The first renovation of sorts was totally my husband’s doing; he decided we should each have our own office space, and he moved upstairs. I was sad, at first. I like having him around. But as he so often reminded me, it wasn’t like he’d moved to a different country, or anything. And now I had all of this space to get myself organized! Hmmmm.
It took a few weeks (and some significant nudging), but finally I purchase a new, larger desk. And a filing cabinet. We brought in the new furniture and removed the old and I changed things around and realized it was a pretty cool office space I had here. I put the new desk by the window so that I only needed to turn my head slightly to watch the birds and squirrels. I hung motivational things on the walls. (Hey, for me, my “Thou Shall Not Whine” sign is motivational.) I organized my bookshelves and began storing things in the now-vacated closet.
All was well for a long time. And then… the dreaded creep. You know what I’m talking about. Stuff. Books to review, samples from PR agencies, papers that needed to be filed… you name it, suddenly (it seemed) my spacious desk was buried under it. And I knew I needed to clean it up, but I didn’t. Because I had excuses. Tons of excuses! There was no time, I was working less, anyway, and if I had time for work things I should be doing actual work, not cleaning out my space, sheesh. The closet began to overflow and the stacks grew higher, and a few weeks ago I realized I was taking my laptop to other parts of the house, again, to do my work.
My space had become hostile. Every time I sat down to work in my office I felt trapped and slovenly and incapable—hardly the ideal professional or creative environment.
So, once again (and again with some prodding from my patient spouse), I tackled the mess one weekend. We cleaned out the closet, and the husband built me some new shelves, and I organized the things I put back and tossed a lot of stuff I no longer needed. I unearthed my desk. I filed papers and tossed papers and donated a ton of items I no longer needed. I dusted and vacuumed and even cleaned the carpet. I only realized after taking down the stacks of junk between me and the window how much I’d missed my sightline out to the yard.
I feel better when I sit down in this tidy space. True, I’m probably spending a little more time gazing out the window than I should, but you know what? I know exactly where I’m going to hang a hummingbird feeder in the spring. I can hardly wait to have more to watch. And in-between my moments of spacing out, I’m actually getting work done.
There are some people who probably don’t need a dedicated work space, or who don’t mind a mess. I am not one of those people. Order is soothing to me. I need my office to feel like The Place where I come to Do Things That Matter. Do I sometimes work on my laptop from a doctor’s waiting room or while I’m waiting to pick up a kid at school? Absolutely! That flexibility, to be able to do that, is nice, of course. But I require a home base of All Things Work, and I like that space to be clean and uncluttered. I can’t swear that I’m getting more done in my tidy office, but it certainly feels like I am. And that’s a good feeling.
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