One project I was excited to work on this summer was helping a woman with her home office in a closet. Having a home office in a closet can be a GREAT use of space! She’d set it up for herself some time ago, but it really wasn’t working for her any more. It needed to be revisited, both for its function and its appearance, so that she could really embrace it and use it for all it is worth, once again.

First, we did a “Twenty Minute Attack,” set the timer for 20 minutes to see what we could accomplish in a laser-focused way. We we went through and tried to grab everything that we knew she no longer needed:  trash, recycling, etc.  We took a little longer than 20 minutes, because we were on a roll, and could see the end in our sights.  We gathered up a bag of each, and then set back to decide what the space REALLY needed, now that the distraction of the trash was gone.

A few observations I made led to some big discussions:

  • There’s a desktop computer on the desk. She doesn’t use it for work, yet it lives in her home office because it is the only place there is an internet wiring connection in the house.  We talked through what use it still had (which might motivate the client to have a new internet connection installed in a different location), but the best we could come up with in terms of current-day usage was that her kids will use it to play a video game, or they may use it for some creative projects.  They each have other devices, and so this isn’t really core to the computing of their house.  Sometimes, we look at something and assume it is useful, and we accommodate it in our space, without really taking a step back and figuring out if it is REALLY useful, and if it is worth taking up valuable real estate in our homes. This was a great example of that exercise.

  • Business Files and Home Files.  The client had a number of important files related to customers she has with her business that we agreed needed an upgrade in terms of order and security.  They really should be in a container that was safe (from damage or security concerns). She had them in a bankers box, which she felt could allow for easy transfer to her actual office space if she needed it, but upon discussion, we realized that wasn’t a likely scenario. I suggested breaking out the business files from some of the home-management files she had (that she wanted to keep in this space) and making the right investment for the business files, without over-investing in the home files.  A secure, lockable filing cabinet would be best for her customer files, but a basic filing cabinet would work for her home files.

  • Appearance and overall calmness to the space is really important to her. She’d already had some beautiful boxes in the space that worked for her, but the visual chaos of other aspects of the office were really distracting. There were holes in the wall from where the previous owner had put wiring in the wall (one was covered by the tapestry, and the other wasn’t covered at all).  There were a lot of items on the desk (not just the computer) that were things that weren’t needed on a regular basis, and could be put away. We talked about each and justified what should be out in plain sight vs. what should be in a convenient space for retrieval.  In the end, almost NOTHING is on her desktop. It’s a beautifully streamlined space.

  • The wall space needed to be really functional AND attractive.  This client really responds to what she can see, both in terms of “I can find it, because I can see it” and “I want to feel calm and productive in this space”.  The addition of some bulletin boards allow for display of readily needed information and reminders, and also covered up a hole in the wall.  Finally, during our purging of boxes, we came across  a memento frame that had been signed by all of her friends from a past birthday. She loved it, and I suggested it get displayed in a place of honor, that will remind her of her friends and family that love and support her, and make her smile, whenever she sees it. We found a great spot for it on the inside wall of the closet, right below the handy birthday calendar she’d never quite figured out how to make work in there.  All that and a fresh coat of paint makes it such a great space!

Here are a few photos (the “Before” photos are really “During” photos… they were taken after the Twenty Minute Attack) of how the transformation came about):

files under desk

before and after desk

before and after full closet

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