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I Keep My Brain in My Office

I am very tired today and I have learned an important thing about myself; I store parts of my brain function in the organizational structure of my house. Once I got the correct desk installed in my office and set up my computer on it, much of my inability to prioritize vanished. This effect increased as I moved my books and projects into their new places in my office. I depend upon visual reminders to help me keep track of what I need to do during the day. I post school notes on the kitchen bulletin board and on my fridge. My old computer hutch was papered with post-it notes. A business card sitting at the foot of my monitor would remind me of an email to send. With all of that stuff packed away in boxes I carried a level of stress and internal confusion. My written to do list has all of those reminders as well, but apparently my back brain requires spacial orientation to the tasks. It is fascinating. I may get more analytical about why this works for me at some other time. For now I am very tired.

In the last two weeks I’ve been to IKEA four times (Howard once), Home Depot six times, Lowe’s twice, and I think there was a Walmart run in there as well. Each time I was making expensive purchasing decisions or returning the results of last trip’s bad decisions. I helped three kids keep track of their work so they could get it done. I kept in touch with my parents (Grandma is better, moved back into the physical rehabilitation facility). The prom dress was altered, not perfectly, but well enough. Kiki was sent off smiling to prom. Gleek is into the middle of her time swap. All of this week’s critical tasks are done all of it despite multiple nights of insomnia followed by mornings where I had to get up early. Next week has a new list of critical tasks, I am not going to think about them tonight. Instead I’m going to show you pictures of my remodeled office, because it is pretty.

This is my office before.

It was kind of a mess. My new office will probably enjoy similar states of mess, but it will never again feature that horrid grey carpet, nor will I have to use a portable sewing table as part of my work surfaces.

Here is my new workspace:

It sits where the white cubes were sitting in the before photo. It is stocked up and ready for work on Monday. There will be a bulletin board on the wall next to the chair so that I have a place to pin all those post-it notes. I’m going to embrace the “store my brain in my office” approach. The walls above the desk will probably have more sorters, storage, or perhaps a pretty picture. For now they are yellow. They are not quite as yellow in real life as they show in the photo. I’m too tired to figure out how to color correct. You can also see the crafting desk, which currently contains a sewing project. Also flowers. My office has space for a vase of flowers, a small happiness.

Across from my workspace is the newly created library:

It has a couch! It is probably silly how pleased I am to have a couch, but there it is. It hides a sofa bed, so I have a place to put guests. The walls above the couch will contain bookshelves, but first I have to find some more money. Sadly, this couch is too young to have sprouted money under its cushions.

Here is a close up of the entry with a much more accurate color balance.

Through the doorway you can see our storage/shipping room, or at least a small sliver of it. It is a mess worse than the one in the office before picture. It is also unfinished concrete. I’ll be hanging a curtain so that it is hidden from view. Pay no attention to what will be behind a curtain. Look at the pretty wood flooring instead. I’ve loved this flooring for years, I loved it every time I passed it in Home Depot. Now it is lovely inside my house. Note the trim around the door frame and along the top of the wall. I love the trim. It was this project’s serendipitous discovery. Once I saw it, I knew it belonged in my office. The dark colors on that trim are hand-painted with wood stain.


Yes, painting the trim took a lot of time, but it let me own the remodel project in a way that was important to me. It also gave me a simple task during the period of time when my brain was dismantled and boxed.

The remainder of these photos show the remodel from start to finish showing the wall we removed and the eventual creation of a space with a couch.




Gleek is standing there because she is drawing something inside the wall space. You can also see some graffiti on the concrete floor. It was a fun family thing, all invisible now.


And there it is. I have an office.

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3 comments to I Keep My Brain in My Office

  • Matthew Bowman

    Delightful. :)

    I’ve mentioned to Howard (but on Facebook and in hindsight regarding his own office arrangement, so it’s not something that would have stuck) about the economy of custom bookshelves.

    “Custom” sounds like “expensive,” but it’s not. Go to the wood section the next time you’re in Home Depot and take a look at the looooooong planks of wood. They have “AxBx?” planks of various wood species, where the ? stands for “random length” and helps make things nice and cheap. You can get the planks, the fasteners, and the backing for far less than something pre-packaged, even after getting paint (if you want it painted). All it really takes is some minor know-how, or a friend with a tablesaw who knows how to swing a hammer or run a drill.

    If your Home Depot is like mine, you might not even need to paint it. Granted, I like the look of natural grain, but my Home Depot stocks red oak planks for “OMG cheap” and chances are that yours will too. (If not, ask why. They might order some for you.) I can’t tell for certain from a photograph, but I think red oak might match your flooring. If it’s too light, some clear stain ought to darken it to match.

    I took some notes for a bookcase I’m currently procrastinating for, so these are the prices at my Home Depot. The variable length is about seven to sometimes ten feet — I wasn’t kidding about these being cheap.

    1×8: $4.52. The minimum needed for hardcovers, but it’ll look crowded.
    1×10: $5.98. A good depth. I recommend this unless you want to display things alongside the books.
    1×12: $7.45. I’m planning on this depth because I want to display things.
    (For shorthand, imagine if Howard had a bookcase where his miniatures “guarded” his novels).

    The backing is trickier, since they don’t have wide, thin slats of red oak lying around. My Home Depot stocks something with almost the same coloring, though, and when books are blocking the view and the back is in shadow, it’ll look close enough. (Again, light staining will help.) It’s labeled “5mm 4×4 Tri-Ply Underlayment.” Obviously, it’s not intended for this job, but it’s surprisingly attractive for its intended purpose. That’s $7.42 per plank.

    Exactly what I spend for my own bookcase project will depend on which variable-length planks I select; the longest ones aren’t always the best. In the end, though, I plan on twin seven-shelf bookcases (because a single one of the size I want would be awkward if and when I move), each 24″ wide. That’ll run me about $90, give or take.

    The same amount of shelf space would easily cost twice as much at Ikea, if not more; and it wouldn’t have the custom-fit that I can provide with a tape measure, a saw, and a little bit of my time. “Custom” does not mean “expensive.

  • Janci

    It’s so pretty! I’m glad the desk is working.

  • Matthew Bowman

    By the way, my recommended design would actually NOT be for wall-mounted shelves. I’d strongly advise a design that would have its base completely covered by the couch. This way you could have a storage space for items that you don’t normally need on an everyday basis, like sweaters or tax statements.

    The number of shelves behind the couch would depend on what you wanted to hide there, of course. You’d want some (at least one, possibly two depending on the height of the bookcase) simply for stability. (Also, on the subject of stability, you’d probably want L-brackets for this design. Don’t go with just nails or even screws by themselves.)

    Now, I’m assuming that couch is light enough to swivel out by yourself, it being on hardwood floors and all. Good cloth pads under the couch would help. Wheels on the couch would simply mark up the floor. I’m also assuming some rarely-access storage space would be a help, but then I like hideaway storage spaces as long as I don’t forget what’s in them.

    Even if you didn’t want a hideaway space, going with a floor-standing bookcase would probably be better than anything wall-mounted, which is what you seemed to suggest you might do; those bookcases in your pre-makeover office had a lot of books, so I’d be concerned about the weight.

    Oh, and I should mention that if your Home Depot stocks the red oak, there should be some thin slats that can serve as trim — should you want to give your bookcase(s) the same deal you gave your Wizard of Oz door. ;)