Starting Fresh

Happy Tuesday from PJ. Well, the party’s over and it’s time to get back to work. I love the blank slate of a new year. It’s time for a cleansing fast after all that rich holiday food and drink, and time to re-organize my office for maximum efficiency. The truth is I haven’t been actually working out of an office. Instead the space I’ve called an office has been a landing zone for stacks of paperwork, non-essential files, and the supplies that didn’t fit the décor of my living room, which is where I’ve really been working from for the past few years.

I know, I know…me, the ergonomics queen and healthy lifestyle guru…working from a laptop on a lap desk sitting on a couch with pillows around me to offer support. My poor husband has tried everything to create a viable workspace for me in the living room, but nothing has felt quite right. Why the living room, you ask?

I wasn’t sure of the answer to this question myself until recently when I read someone’s blog about how they felt as if they were still part of the family interaction if they worked from the living room. I also realized that having the TV on is a way of feeling like I’m being entertained as I work. Because I now spend 6-10 hours a day at my authorly duties, I have the sense that I am working ALL THE TIME. Being able to take a few minutes to tune into something else once in a while helps me to feel like I’m still connected to what else is going on in the world. If I had to stare at a wall all day or sit in a tiny cubicle, I’m certain I would grow to hate writing.  It seems that my creative productivity is largely dependent on having a sense of belonging and connection. Working from my upstairs office space felt like I’d been exiled to Siberia.

It took me five years to figure this all out? And some of you thought I was a smarty pants. So now that I’ve suffered sufficiently, evidenced by an alarming number of orthopedic issues such as neck pain and tendonitis, my husband, the hero, finally came to my rescue and turned our living room into an office for me. He stuck one of our couches out on the front porch, rearranged the furniture, and brought all of my desk and office supplies down from upstairs, and had it all set up for me when I came home from work last Thursday. What a gift! He even connected my laptop to a remote keyboard and added a second monitor to work in tandem so I can keep my e-mail open on one and work from another. How cool is that?

So now that I’m all hooked up and getting organized, I can dive into 2012 with a new work space and a healthier environment from which to create. Yes, that’s me sitting on my big physioball. Now all I need to do is to convince my husband that 62 degrees in our house still feels like Siberia.

What about you? Any changes you can make to your work space to improve your productivity? Let us in on your secrets.


31 thoughts on “Starting Fresh”

  1. Congratulations on your new space, lucky lady. Your hero sure likes you a little. How about an ergonomic chair by Herman Miller or Steelcase. There are other, but a good chair is like a good pair of shoes. In order to keep your body healthy you need more than two monitors. You need a sitting instrument that you can tune to your body. And to make the environment warm install a wood or pellet stove. The install cost is made up the first year. Oil, electricity and gas heat have gotten out of control, so the stove is a great answer. We have a wood stove, manufactured by Lopi , the “Answer” is our small model and it heats the whole living level. They also make other sizes like the “Freedom.” That is where I am sitting right now. It is toasty warm. We are in love with our wood stove. It is so romantic. Imagine being in front of your fireplace all day and all night long. I end up with my MacBook Air on my lap b/c I love being in front of the fireplace. but I have a wonderful office/studio adjacent to this space. That’s where I paint, write and Tom, my hero, works as well. Both spaces have TV and music, but this one has the stove that warms the main living and working space. If I can give you any ideas, please feel free to ask away. I think there is a link called spine-com. I will review and send it to you.

    1. Thank you Gail! I’ll definitely check out the chairs you mentioned. I’m currently sitting on a physioball, but it really isn’t the best solution. You are right about the importance of finding a good chair. I’ve never found one that totally suits my persnickety back.

      There are three modes of heat in my house. Oil and electric, as you said have gotten expensive and we are both pretty economical, so we only use the electric heat for warming individual rooms as needed and we only use about a tank and ahalf of oil per year. We have a pellet stove and when turned up, it adequately heats the first floor, but I live in a drafty old farm house and my husband is a polar bear who finds the cool most inviting. I, on the other hand, have a constant battle with cold hands and feet (and a very warm heart), so I don’t argue. Let me just say that once he goes back to work, the temp will go up!

  2. I find your work station interesting. I had to carve out a work space for myself. I have my own office on the main floor of the house. I can close the doors and close myself off, or I can open the doors. When I work, I prefer the doors closed. I really needed to do that or else everyone would be interrupting me every 3 minutes and I’d never get anything done. It works out pretty well and I feel like I have my own space and sanctuary.

    1. Welcome, Jen! I remember the days when even a closed bathroom door didn’t stop my crew from pounding to ask “where are my socks?”

      These days, I have the luxury of a very quiet house and NO interuptions! My husband is remarkably self sufficient and rarely interupts me when I’m working. Except of course to ask what I would like for dinner or if I would like a cup of tea. I really did hit the jackpot. If it weren’t for him, I would likely live on Ramen noodles and PBJ’s with my current work schedule, LOL.

      Cheers to a productive and interuption-free new year!

  3. Wow, what a great-looking space! And what a sweetheart of a husband!

    I work in the family computer room, which is supposed to be a bedroom. (When we moved in, we built a wall down the center of the living room and turned it into two bedrooms; turned the dining room into the living room; and turned the smaller of the two original bedrooms into the computer room. It was a two-bedroom apartment that we needed to make into three bedrooms because my two daughters can’t share a room without trying to kill each other.) My husband has his computer set-up on the opposite wall from mine; my younger daughter’s computer is on along another wall. My older daughter has a laptop and a folding tray/table in the living room where she works, though I keep having to tell her not to type while she’s lying down…

    The computer room opens off the living room, so as long as I have the door open I’m involved with the family stuff. And if I need to concentrate on something, I can close the door (unless hubby’s in here and distracting me). It isn’t ideal; I could easily use this entire room for my desk and all my writing stuff, but at least I have a space. And I have the best window in the apartment beside my desk.

    1. It’s a wonder you get anything done, Jo. That’s a lot of shared space. You must be a master at tuning out the world when you are working. I’m always amazed at how adaptable we are and how we manage to make things work. It sounds like you’ve made a space for yourself that works for you and your family. When you finally convince your daughter not to use her computer while she’s lying down, let me know how you did it. My hubby is famous for that. He lays on his stomach in bed and falls asleep on the computer. He wonders why his back hurts in the morning, LOL. For his birthday, I bought him a lapdesk and one of those chair pillows for the bed, hoping he would get used to at least sitting up to puruse the web at night, but so far, it’s hit or miss. I still find him face down on the keyboard when I go up to bed…

  4. Nice office! I happen to be a fan of the stability ball chair (a circular frame with rollers on the bottom., like this:

    The chair lengthens my lower back, but I do catch myself slouching a bit. I have to do that “chicken wing” stretch periodically to expand my chest. Still, my general posture while standing and walking has improved, I’ve noticed, but that could have been from the weekly yoga classes, too.

    1. Go Rhonda! I like the ball for a little while, but i really need something more stable and adjustable. I’m researching chairs now and will checkout the ones Gail recommended.

      Yoga, even once a week will definitely improve your posture and make you feel taller. Not to mention the million other health benefits. Way to take care of yourself!

  5. Very timely post for me, PJ. I’m on vacation this week (just back last night from visiting my family in New York State over the weekend) and I have a giant to-do list of things I want to accomplish this week — all writing-related except for recommitting to my walking routine! One of the things on the list is to create a new writing space. For the last year or so I’ve been working at the dining room table, and I want to reclaim that space for, well, dining. I have an unused corner in my living room, and that’s where I’m planning to park my butt in 2012. I’ve also discovered Evernote ( and I think that may be the answer to getting rid of a lot of paper clutter. I’ll do a post about my Evernote experiment soon. Good luck finding a chair, PJ. And maybe you can find an adult-sized blanket sleeper for those polar bear days of winter! Stay warm! I’m off for my walk, then to the library for a writing session with J Monkeys.

    1. Thanks, Jane! I’m jealous and wish I was meeting with you at the library. I miss you guys! Enjoy your walk and bundle up. I’ll do the same.

  6. Hi Paula!

    Your husband is so sweet! Great looking office. I’m jealous of your clean desktop! Mine is pile-zilla. I’m currently trying to put together an ad-hoc dining room table experience. I’m doing a lot of scanning for my part time job. So I figure I can eek out a few words while the files scan if I get it set up correctly. 😀 — Jamie

    1. Yes, he is a sweetie! I’m sure before long, my clean desk top will be swallowed up with the minutia of doing business. Good luck with the multi-tasking.

  7. Hi Paula,
    Your new office is very nice. I have an office upstairs, but I never go there. I tend to grab the laptop and sit in the recliner with the pugs. The love to cuddle up, especially in the winter months, and I have to admit, I love it too. I do most of my writing there. One of my resolutions, however, is to get the piles of research I have scattered here and there and move it all up to the office. One of these days, I will actually do it. Best wishes for much inspiration in your new office, but I don’t know about 62 degrees …

    1. The pugs seem like a lovely solution to the chilly weather. Not so sure about working from a recliner. It sounds to good to be good for you, LOL.

      It was 55 degrees in the house when I got up this morning. Jumped into sweats and layers and headed for the thermostat, which we turn to 50 degrees at night. Cranked the pellet stove and I am up to a balmy 64. That’s in the pellet stove room though, so I suspect I’m still hovering around the 62 mark here in the living room. I keep telling myself I’ve gotten used to it, but my hands are quite chilly even as we speak. I think I need to invest in a pair of gloves with open fingers.

  8. No office for me. When I take the plunge and buy my own place I will make sure there is room in the house for a office. You really do have a great hubby. Do they even make men like him any more?

    1. I actually have a room dedicated to be an office, but it was upstairs and away from the action and I ended up using it only for storing all of my office junk. When you get your own place, definitely consider where you want to be doing all your work and in what atmosphere you will be most creative.

      Hubby is definitely one of a kind. I often thank my mother-in-law for raising such a great guy. His parents were both from Holland and he was raised with impeccable manners and taught to repect women. I think that is part of his charm.

  9. Good for you, PJ. I really like your new space. I had considered converting our extra room upstairs into an office, but I enjoy being in the middle of things. I work either at the kitchen table or in the den, depending on my mood. My husband bought me a laptop for Christmas and I’m so excited to be able to have freedom to take it everywhere. I look forward to warmer weather and being able to work outside too!

    Have fun; be prolific!!

  10. Thanks, Jolyse. Yeah, I just couldn’t get used to being stuck in a cubby. The nice thing is that my laptop is still easily portable. I often work on my front porch when the weather is nice. I’m looking forward to that as well. I did quite a bit on my revisions for SAVAGE CINDERELLA today, so I guess the mojo of the new space is working! Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Love the workspace, PJ. I say this as I sit on my couch using my laptop. I have to sit at my dining room table to write my books, but for fun stuff, I sit on the couche.

    Your hubby is such a sweetie! Want me to knit you a pair of fingerless gloves? Just say the word…

    1. I wouldn’t have complained about the couch office, but I’ve been plagued with elbow tendonitis and neck issues the past year or two and with doing a dozen or so massages a week, I figured I’d better do something about it. The fingerless gloves would be awesome. You know I don’t knit:-)

  12. What a wonderful writing space, PJ! I too, feel exiled when I write in my own space in the back of the house. So half the time I end up out here, where I am now, in the kitchen. When I need to have super laser concentration though, it’s nice to have the back room available and to close the door.
    Answer to the cold? Keep a teapot and hot tea nearby!

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I’m heading to the kitchen now for a cup of green tea and i placed a small heater in my space to keep my feet toasty:-)

      Thanks for stopping by.

  13. I love your writing space. I admire you for being able to get *anything* done in the living room. My husband means well, but he sure makes it hard for me to actually work.

    My writing space is one of our three bedrooms. I have it set up with some antique office furniture. My dog stays back here with me, and we get a lot done. He’s great at helping me brainstorm ideas. LOL I really want to get some sort of cushion for my 80 year old office chair. It is surprisingly comfortable other than being very hard.

    Good luck in the New Year with your productivity. 😀

  14. You too, Catie. My dog Zak is also quite the muse therapy for me. Whenever I’m stuck on a scene or looking for the right word, I talk it through out loud to him and he telepathically gives me the answer. At least that’s what he’d like me to believe. He keeps looking at me like I owe him a treat for something.

  15. Wow, what a nice guy you have. 🙂 My husband hates when I close myself off all day. He bought me an airdesk, so I could work from the livingroom too. Although, after a few months of not being able to concentrate with three kids running around, I picked up my desk and rocking chior and moved into my bedroom. At least I tried.

    1. You gotta do what you gotta do. I would never be able to work from the living room if I had kids in the house. Kudos to you for working it out.

  16. Love the new work space! I’m impressed with your hubby for doing that for you. I bet he got some lovin’ for that one (smart guy). My work space is in an extra bedroom. For a while, the desk faced the wall, until I realized that I needed it to face the window. That way, I can see that there is world outside with trees and sunshine when I’m stuck in a scene. My husband just moved his computer in, and we’ll see how that goes. It should be fine. Most of the time that I write, no one else is even home. Except for the cats — and I don’t think my cats are as helpful as your dogs. Their idea of helpfulness is to walk across the keyboard, like they have their own novel to write.

  17. Hi Julie. Having a desk facing the wall has got to be the worst. Debt Shiite aside, it really stifled creativity. Glad you are enjoying the new set up. And I bet cats do have a story to tell.

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