Why Getting Rid Of My Desk Was A Major Productivity And Mental Health Hack
When my partner and I first moved to our house, I knew I wanted to have an office I could truly call my own. A room I wouldn’t have to share with a litter box, or piles of storage. Our second bedroom, as grateful as I was for it, had always been the room that inevitably became a storage locker because housing in Los Angeles isn’t known for its storage space (something you just come to terms with when you decide to live in the city, I guess). Moving to East LA, on the other hand, gave us space we could actually afford. Now, equipped with a garage and a very large closet in the bedroom (yay!) I could finally cobble together a functional workspace. As a bittersweet bonus, I didn’t have to share an office with the cats’ bathroom anymore because they decided they liked the backyard better than the house. I discovered this when they snuck out one day as I was taking out the trash, and decided they didn’t want to come back inside, except for food.
Yet, I didn’t really put a lot of effort into the office — not until a full year after we had moved into the house. As soon as we moved to our current home, I bought a cheap desk that I thought would help me focus, but I stopped using it when I figured out working from my bed was way more comfortable. When I wasn’t working in my bed or on the couch, I had a ‘WeWork’ I could go to that my company offered, so creating my dream at-home office wasn’t quite at the forefront of my mind. Honestly, I didn’t think I really needed it.
And then the pandemic happened and I lost my job.
I ended up freelancing full-time before I was offered a salaried job three months later. I decided to accept the job and continue to freelance, which meant I was working from eight in the morning until about 10-11 p.m, depending on the day and deadlines. My decision to secure as much work as possible stemmed from my husband losing his job on top of everything — which meant I was going to constantly be plugged into work. I was stressed, frustrated, scared of what was happening in our country, scared for the health of my parents, and scared for our finances. As a result, I spent a lot of time in bed working (and also panic-crying). My bed became my perma-office; it meant I never had to change out of my sweatpants or throw a bra on. But while comforting in some ways, it also made things worse.
I started to develop insomnia, probably due to a combination of staying up late, staring at a bright screen all hours of the day, generalized anxiety and also working where I was supposed to be sleeping. My body was clearly not differentiating between work and sleep time, and I realized I had to pull myself out of this cycle and black hole I’d crawled into since the start of the lockdown in March. I knew I could just go work in the office, but the thought of sitting so rigidly in an old chair the cats scratched up, and in a room that was stark and forgotten, filled me with another serving of dread and anxiety.
When it became very clear that a) COVID wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and b) I’d probably be working from home indefinitely, I decided to invest some money and time into making my at-home office into the creative space I’d always envisioned for myself. Instead of buying another desk I knew I wouldn’t use, I got a sectional couch that was stiff enough to provide back support, but still provides cushion and warmth. In order to ensure that the desk wouldn’t go to waste, it was disassembled and transformed into fence for the backyard garden, so that the dog couldn’t go digging up the cilantro anymore. Ultimately, it was a win/win solution (well, a “win” for my husband and myself, not so much the dog.)
After ordering a gray sectional couch within my budget, I went to Home Depot and bought a bucket of paint the color of a cartoon watermelon, and gave the room an accent wall. It instantly became brighter, happier, and more inviting. I then bought a tray table I could use as a desk for video calls (the one I bought is sold out, but this one is similar), a rug to tie all the pieces together, and I shuffled the lamps around the house and moved the one from the living room we never used, into the office. Prior to that, the lamp mainly serves for ornamental purposes, since the ceiling fan in the living room provided the space enough light.
In the end, my remote workspace finally felt warm and optimistic, and I found myself working in my office for hours at a time, getting more done than I ever had before.
Check out the transformation below.
Here’s the before:
And the after:
The couch ended up being bigger than I had expected, so the pre-existing filing cabinet and printer were tucked away into the closet. I still plan on adding frames to the wall the lamp is in front of, but I want to print out some photos from pre-pandemic life to remind me there really is a light at the end of the tunnel (and life outside of the pandemic). Altogether, the revamp set me back about $1,000, but considering the room is finally getting enthusiastically utilized and has drastically improved my mental health, it was worth every penny.
Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Image via Pexels