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The new year is officially here, and like most of us, that time means a serious reflection on where I am in my life and where I could be improving. And I’ve realized that when it comes to my work life, I really need to get some things together. Not that it isn’t already together to a large extent, but it needs to be more together — if I’m being honest with myself, I know that it’s very easy to slip into a feeling of “good enough.” I’m a professional writer, which my past self would already consider a huge achievement, but that’s no reason to stay where I am and not push myself to be judged on the standards of Today Me, rather than Former Me.
I graduated in May of 2017, and when I did, I gave myself a bit of a six-month plan to figure out what I want to do and where I want to be. I’ve chipped away at goals, and I’m hoping to take a few big leaps in the upcoming year, but it is really hard to do everything I want to do and everything I need to do simultaneously when my life is not very organized. And by “my life,” I pretty much mean “my home.” And by “my home,” I pretty much mean “my home office.”
My home office is a lot of things. It is the place I nested my dog at night when he was a tiny squeaking puppy who couldn’t be trusted not to poop on my rugs while I slept; the place where I blow dry my hair and put on my makeup before work in the morning; the place where all of our houseguests stay on a blow-up air mattress when they visit; the place where we store everything we own that has no place in the rest of our small, humble home; and lastly, the place where Drew and I do all of the work we have to do. When I moved into my apartment, the only room I entirely neglected was this office. Seven months after moving in, the kitchen is stocked and organized, the bedroom is well-kept, the living room and dining room are cozy — but the office is like a combat zone.
It has two desks, one in each corner, a dog crate that we don’t use, a giant garbage can, two small garbage cans, bins of Drew’s hoarded belongings that he needs to go through and purge (hint hint if you’re reading this, buddy), a bookshelf that holds college textbooks neither of us need anymore, and a filing cabinet entirely full of makeup, meaning that my actual adult paperwork that should be neatly filed is just strewn about my desk (and sometimes, the floor), or stuffed into random drawers wherever I can find space. Not so good, especially if you work from home and really need to actually keep on top of all of your important documents, and have an office that is at least somewhat organized. (*Sheepishly raises hand.*)
So, before 2018 started, I knew I needed to do a bit of a home-office-overhaul. Luckily, I came into my two-day journey armed with a few essential things: a bunch of pretty copper storage bins from Walmart, a HomeGoods gift card my mom gave me for Christmas (thanks, queen!), and the Adobe Scan app, which allows me to scan my scattered paperwork to my phone and file it away to a place where it won’t be mixed with makeup in a disorganized desk drawer.
But you obviously don’t want to read about this — you want to see it. So, here are the three parts of my home office I overhauled this week, and exactly what I did to make my office into the peaceful space I needed it to be so I could really Get Shit Done in 2018 (with the embarrassing before-and-after shots to prove it).
1. The Desk.
I have a lot of paper documents. Tax papers, work papers, credit card bills, loan paperwork, bank statements, etc. The list goes on so long that my desk — as pictured — tends to be covered in an overwhelming layer of paperwork (and, um, lots of other stuff too) that I don’t feel like looking at. So, as you can imagine, this is where the big stuff happened.
I’ve never had a great at-home filing system. I shove almost all papers that I need to keep into the top drawer of my desk, next to a bunch of random crap (nail polish and a broken camera, to name a few — both pictured here). I have a few accordion folders where I keep certain documents grouped together and hidden, but even that makes them feel inaccessible, and possibly even at risk to my messy tendency to lose or accidentally throw things away. When I got wind of the Adobe Scan app (which was before I found out I’d be writing about it, even though I hadn’t yet used it myself for the first time) I actually thought it was pretty genius. And it really is easy, even for someone as dense with apps as I am: you really just snap a picture of the doc you want to scan, edit it in the app to rotate, crop, or otherwise enhance and change it, then convert it quickly and easily into an Adobe PDF.
Cue Ina Garten saying “How easy is that?”
I was able to get a lot of my crap — both personal and professional — out of my cluttered workspace and filed easily to my computer, which, for someone who lives on her phone and computer, is a true blessing.
2. The Wall
I had a mirror situation in here that was pretty uncool, wherein I slid a full-length Ikea mirror behind my desk so the top half popped up and worked as a vanity mirror. My desk in the office does and will continue to act as a vanity for me to apply my makeup at since we have a teeny tiny bathroom, but I had to take charge of the wall a little bit. I ordered a new mirror to mount to the wall and get rid of the hazardous full-length mistake, hung my bulletin board up (where I keep my to-do lists and content calendar), and put one of the pretty copper storage baskets in the corner to act as a “limbo” spot where I will toss mail/paperwork/documents that haven’t been properly filed or scanned through my Adobe Scan app yet, but don’t have another place to live during the day or two before I get around to them.
3. The Rest
Every good home office has a cozy spot for those moments you just need a break, but don’t want to kill your momentum by getting up and leaving the room, or for times you want to be a little more comfortable while working without resorting to getting in your bed with your laptop. Every good home office also has well-insulated windows or some sort of system to prevent a cold-weather draft from killing productivity.
My home office was not a good home office. With the help of my handy partner Drew, we (lol, he) insulated the windows so the office would feel like a more comfortable place to work and be productive. This is one of the biggest upgrades I could have given my office. If you don’t have a drafty office, upgrading the comfort-level in small, simple ways, like putting a record player in the corner where you can play soft music, or a drink cart where you can fix yourself something to sip during your workday without getting up to leave the room — might make a world of difference.
In overhauling the place where I do most of my work, I realized that unless you commit to the space being a clean, organized, and thoughtful one, it doesn’t matter how much you like what you’re doing. You simply won’t get as much done, because your brain is not going to be in “work mode.” I look forward to being in my office now in a way I never did before, and the feeling of actually knowing where everything I need is has been something I can’t wait to spread to the rest of the house. The makeover only took me two days, but it’s going to make my entire year so much better.