Creating Space to Work at Home


What do you do if you have the opportunity to work from home, either for yourself or your employer, but you Just. Don’t. Have. The. Space?

We know how important that work/life balance is and how it is even more difficult to maintain if you are working at home (or living at work, depending on how you look at it!) Tight quarters and tight budgets make it even more difficult. We want to maintain independent and professional space for our office. We need to create space.

Creating Space

Building an addition, remodeling a basement, remodeling an attic, enclosing a garage, building a tree-house (OK, I had to include it) are all options for creating some additional space.  It would require a hefty budget.

All the rage right now are the wee backyard sheds.  They used to be a place to store the lawn mower and leaf blower but now they have been elevated to cute or sometimes gorgeous versions of everything from music and art studios, pubs, man-caves and she-sheds.  And lovely home offices!  Again, you’d need a decent budget.  Hopefully it wouldn’t cost as much as remodeling your basement but still …

“I can’t afford an addition to our house,” you say!

So next option might be a spare room?  If you can take over a room for your professional life, by all means do so.   Check out the post on Creating a Healthy and Productive Workspace for some ideas on how to create a good productive space for yourself.

“I can’t take over a room,” you say!

If space is really tight, or you live in an apartment,  you’d need to get a little more creative.  Do you have a room that doesn’t get much use?  Maybe a guest room or a formal living or dining room?  Maybe it can do double-duty?

If you only have guests every so often, maybe you could get rid of the bed and use an air mattress? Or a maybe a sofa-bed is an option?  That way the room could be your office for all the rest of the time and still be used as a guest room for the occasions that you have people staying.

If you are going to go with the double-duty option, try to find a desk or cabinet combo that are enclosed so that you can close the doors on your office and still have the room for guests!

Maybe you have a formal living room that hardly gets used because everyone hangs out in the family room, t.v. room or kitchen?  Can you get a nice cabinet that is really a desk, and use the living room for your office most of the the time?

Or maybe you have a formal dining room that never gets used?  Can you sell the table and buy a desk instead?  Or keep the table but get a desk instead of the china cabinet and work there so that it is your office most of the time but can still convert to a dining room for Thanksgiving?

“But I don’t have an extra room,” you say.

Sometimes, there are no rooms that are seldom used!  Everything is used and you need to figure out how to have one space serve multiple purposes.  I think if you are organized and plan out what the needs are for each use, you can work this out.

First, create some space within the space you already have.  De-clutter!  Go through everything that you have not used in a year and get rid of it!  Have a garage sale! Make some space for your office and money for your decorating budget!

Do this all over the house, not just the room you wish to multipurpose!  That way, you will create some space in other parts of the house for some things that have to move!

Office / Multiple Use Room

What are your “office hours?”  If you are sharing this space with others in the household, you will need to be very clear about when you are working and very focused and productive during your work hours so that the room can convert back to a family room later.

One idea would be to use a closet. Is there a closet that you can convert into your office / desk area?  That way, when work is done, you can close the door.

A nice cabinet could work for this too.  There are modular units available that you can move in many different configurations and what’s better?  They will look like expensive built-ins!

Maybe the closet is not big enough for your desk.  Could you put the printer and paper and supplies and all the other office “stuff” in there and work on your laptop on a table? That way when work is done, you could stow the laptop on a shelf and close the door!

Maybe you have the option of a desk/table that can fold down from the wall?

Use space under stairs.  Not for your office necessarily! I envision Harry Potter working on a laptop …  But for storage for the stuff that came out of the closet or china cabinet or other places necessary to make your office space.  If you have 5 bins for office stuff and 5 bins for guest room, the bins could easily swap out from under the stairs to presto-chango the room!

Using Space Efficiently

Use the space efficiently, always conscious of the multiple purposes.

  • Use bins and storage containers to keep things organized, closed and easily moved away.  File cabinets are great if you have the room but aren’t a good solution for the multi-purpose room.
  • Be sure to use other options than the bins to cut down on paper so that your office doesn’t take over the space.  Use Dropbox and Evernote and other online resources to organize files online.
  • Instead of shelves of books and drawers of PDF’s, use Kindle and load it up with all your research materials.
  • Fax? Really?  I know, it seems like a by-gone era, but people send me faxes every day.  Think double-duty again.  Instead of fax and printer and computer, can you fax from your computer etc.  Or if you are buying a fax, get a combo machine that will work as a printer, copier, scanner and fax.  Printing on these can be much cheaper than on an inkjet so that’s another plus!
  • Pens and rulers, highlighters, staplers and paperclips are all a necessary part of the office.  Not so much part of the family room!  Find a small bin/organizer for that stuff to keep on hand, on your desk by day, and stowed by night! The less office stuff you see on your off hours, the more successful you will feel!
  • Some people can’t live without their white marker board.  They have to have it to capture their brilliant ideas or to help remember deadlines.  If you are one of these folks, can you do with one that stands on easel? That way it can all be folded and stashed rather than everyone looking at your sales goals over dinner!

A final word about multiple use spaces.  In your quest to make sure that the living room does not look like an office, remember basic ergonomics and self-care.  If you are working at home, you will be at that desk for many hours at a time.  “Making do” on the end of the counter might make some real problem for your back.    Make sure you have a desk and chair that are the right size and height for you.

Everyone should learn to respect the boundaries and realize that this is your office space when they are not here.  You should not spend an hour of work time cleaning up the living room and turning it into your office.  Train everyone to put the living room away at night so in the morning, you can open the door, pull out your bin and get to work!

Working at home is a growing trend.  It can give you freedom to work as much as you want and when you want.  It gives you the freedom to go to a soccer game or a ballet recital or a dentist appointment without hassle.  It’s worth having to figure out a few logistical issues to have that freedom!

Wishing you all the best in your quest to work well at home!

Patt Timlin is a marketing expert set on sharing her expertise with other online marketers to help them achieve the dream of working online. She is secretly pleased with the surge in content marketing as revenge of the English majors! Entrepreneur, blogger, guide, helper – Patt loves the online world and loves to share it!

Patt is the author of: Patt Blogs

Patt Timlin’s Spot4 Blog

Work At Home Product Guide and Patt Timlin Online.

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