In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, patriarch Gus is convinced Windex can solve any problem. I think bookcases are my own private Windex. We own three of Ikea’s five-by-five bookcases, and I take up half of that real estate with my books, crafts, yarn, and fabric supplies.
My husband would probably tell you that I use up more than half of the family bookshelf space. Since this isn’t his blog, we’re going with my story. Ha!
I love the way big bookshelves section off spaces. As Maya Middlemiss so aptly said in her excerpt from her bookFinding Your Edge, “There have to be edges, where the workplace stops and the home begins.”
And I find myself needing those edges as I transition from a private office with a door to an open space in my new living room. My enormous bookshelf is a “wall” that separates me from the dining area. Soon I’ll set up small shelves for my office plants and hang up my calendar. There may not be actual walls, but my office will be visually distinct from the living room, and that’s all I need for now. We’ll see what happens in a month after I’ve lived with my office for a bit. A new place is an opportunity to try new ways of working and I’m going to take full advantage of it.
What’s That Douglas Up To?
Mostly recovering from moving during the Pacific Northwest heat dome. Vancouver normally has only a couple of weeks of true heat, so most homes lack air conditioning. Heck, some businesses don’t have air conditioning. There were blackouts and fires, and people died in their overheated homes.
On a more personal level, the temps were almost high enough to kill our pet rats. I spent a lot of time keeping them cool with a constant supply of ice and cold fruit. And our movers almost didn’t come because some of them fainted from the heat the day before. I am incredibly grateful they felt up to moving our stuff for the few hours they could give us. I’m also grateful for my friends who came over and helped us get everything out of our house, so the movers only had to load the truck from our yard.
That’s how you know your friends really like you. When they’re willing to come out in the heat during COVID to schlep your stuff.
On a more writerly note, I had a piece of literary flash fiction show up in National Flash Flood Journal on June 26th, entitled A Command Performance for the Only audience that Matters. What I wouldn’t do for an unexpected sprinkler to run through right now. The heat dome is off plaguing other people but it’s still hot for Vancouver.
I might settle for a margarita slushy machine. Do you think I can find one that comes with a fainting couch? I’ll let you know if I figure it out.
Note from Teresa: Today is my moving day! Fellow remote work advocate MayaMiddlemiss has graciously agreed to step in this week with an excerpt from her newest book ‘Finding Your Edge: Establishing and Maintaining Your Boundaries When You Work From Home.’ I think you’re going to enjoy it.
While most people end up working in one particular space or location, part of the joy of working from home is that you can be a lot more flexible, and indeed I urge you to think about the space you have around you more creatively than you might be able to in somebody else’s building.
Perhaps there are different parts of your working day, or different activities, which lend themselves to different locations? Reading and research can be done just as well from a sofa, standing meetings at a bookcase or a kitchen counter, to switch up the energy and vary your working day.
A word of caution on the boundaries front, though. While this can work very well, particularly for highly integrated homeworkers, you might want to keep a few hard edges here.
I go out of my way to consider different needs and avoid being prescriptive, and I often find myself in a quirky blend of irritated and amused by the various ‘Rules for working from home’ articles you find, which are frequently written by columnists who never do so regularly. I believe that when it’s your home, no real rules apply other than your own.
I do encourage you to think through your rules though, and at the very least have a couple of red lines you will not cross, where work cannot be permitted into your personal life, time, and space.
The Rules type listicles will say ‘Never work from your bed’ – which you might want to consider. Perhaps you have to work from your bed though, because you’re sick and you’re on a deadline, or your central heating is broken and it’s the warmest spot. Perhaps instead there’s one favourite armchair where you love to read magazines and watch TV, and instead THAT is the boundary you will impose, and you’d rather sit on the floor than ever work from that spot. This is really important, so protect that space, ensuring that it will always signify home/not-work whenever you sink gracefully into its familiar upholstery.
Or you may have a favourite view out of the window which common sense might suggest is a good location for your desk, but actually, this aspect is so personal and relaxing to you that you’d prefer to turn your desk to the wall and save that vista for non-work appreciation.
There have to be edges, where the workplace stops and the home begins.
The Rules also say never work in pyjamas, or even wear full-on business dress to ‘go to work’ from home. This one has never worked for me in any way. I regard clothing as highly functional, and the function of clothes for working from home is to be comfortable and appropriate to the ambient temperature, plus whatever else I might be doing that day. This could mean a slightly smart top if I have an important call, or it might mean swimwear or yoga pants or whatever other healthy thing I think I might be more inclined to do later on. It might even mean both.
For me, it will never involve a suit or anything similar, but if it helps you to go to work in formal wear, then go for it. Just like you might be more confident in that online meeting if you wear full makeup, or a perfume that no video-conferencing platform can yet convey the effect of, even if you download the latest version, if helps YOU feel more confident or professional or beautiful, then have at it. Wear a ballgown or fancy dress, or yes, even your PJs if they are comfortable the rest of the time, because it’s YOUR home, your work, your mood, your boundaries, and that’s all that matters. You can always pretend you left a filter on Zoom by mistake, if you accidently show up to a work meeting in your Monsters Inc onesie.
Alternatively, change into your PJs to signal to yourself that the work is at an end and the day is done, if that helps.
Here are some ideas for creating boundary conditions. They won’t always make it into an odd-numbered clickbait listicle of ‘rules’ on popular websites, but you might want to think about instigating the following:
· No TV or radio on in ‘the office’/during office hours, in shared areas. Anything which creates distraction will just make the working day longer and less productive anyway.
· No eating at your desk – take a proper break for meals, even if it’s a few feet away. I observe this one as strictly as I can, but obviously coffee is an exception and can be mainlined at any time.
· Stay off work-related messaging and social media during the evenings at home (or at the very least, during mealtimes).
· No work apps on the front page of the home screen of your phone (see tech and boundaries, below).
· No removal of chargers, cables, post-it notes, highlighters, or ANY OF MY STUFF from my desk, at any time. Not even when you’re just borrowing it and I wasn’t there to ask and you really need it right now and anyway… “You weren’t even using it Mum!” Anyone with teenagers in the house, can you relate to this?