It is odd to think how much the world has changed since I last posted about a month ago. I’m sure many of you find yourselves in a similar position where you’ve gone from the hustle and bustle of working, commuting, dinners with friends and family, bopping around town running errands and then suddenly everything changes and working from home becomes the new norm.
I’ve never been a fan of working from home. Sure it is great/convenient when I’ve got a noon doctor’s appointment and it makes sense to put in a few hours from the kitchen table instead of driving back and forth across town, but other than those circumstances, I’m just not that into it. I like having my quiet space, ergonomic chair, but most importantly, I like having that separation from a work life and a home life. In addition to all the typical anxiety caused by a global pandemic, I got super anxious about how I was going to manage to effectively work from my two bedroom apartment. While I love our little pied-à-terre, this definitely isn’t my ideal spot to be quarantined. We live here because it is walking distance to hip Asian restaurants, Instagrammable confectionaries and a movie theatre, but in this time of mandated social distance this is the exact wrong time to live in close proximity to other people and places. Lately I’ve found myself longing for a sprawling home in the suburbs with a hot tub, craft room, and an outdoor oasis or perhaps a plot of land that feels like an all-inclusive resort--you know, the type of place where you can build a platform for your Peloton like in those ridiculous commercials. Ahh...a girl can dream.
My daydreams ended abruptly when I realized I had to have a suitable place to take my virtual meetings. I work mainly with a lovely group of ENFJs (like myself) and despite the quarantine, I’m expected to show my face and look presentable from the waist up so we can continue to feel connected. My first issue to tackle was a complete lack of a workspace. I couldn’t really work from my living room since our open concept kitchen/living room/dining room would make it impossible for my husband to make a sandwich or water the plants without making a cameo in my conference calls. I started to panic about where I was going to take video calls from and my guest bedroom was in a crazy state since I’ve got all our inventory there in addition to my entire wardrobe. My pre-COVID plan was to make that space into an amazing closet, but it kind of just turned into this chaotic space that was overflowing with clothes to the point where I couldn’t actually shut the door because my over the door shoe hanger made that impossible. Even worse than looking like a hot mess, it had this musty, thriftstore smell from various vintage pieces that I had yet to dry clean. Putting a desk in our bedroom was completely out of the question--I did that when I started out as an attorney and I completely attribute my nightmares (the ones where I showed up to court in jeans without knowing which courtroom to report to and had no idea what the case was about) to working and sleeping in the same space.
During the weekend before my first 5-day work from home week, I went into full HGTV mode to create a zen workspace. It was like one of those episodes where the harried homeowners have only 48 hours to make a complete disaster into a functional room. And in an effort to amp up my stress level, I was trying not to buy any new furniture or decor, because why not make myself even crazier with a bonus challenge? Clearly I watch too many competition reality shows.
Here is what I did to make things work. I’m posting this in hopes that it will give you some ideas for a multi-purpose work from home zone, especially if you are also facing the challenges of city living.
Tips and Tricks:
Get rid of large furniture that only serves 1 function: I had a large clothing rack in this room that dominated one of the walls. Since it was wide and took up a ton of space, I disassembled it down to the bottom shelves and put that into our foyer so that we have a place to take off our shoes before entering. I don’t want to be tracking COVID-19 into our apartment because our cleaning lady is on hiatus and I’m not a competent floor washer. It also serves as a place to let our Amazon packages quarantine since the virus lives on cardboard for up to 24 hours.
Utilize the unexpected spaces: The room is small, but has high ceilings, so I put a wall-mounted clothing rack up high to hang inventory that I don’t need to access frequently. This freed up a lot of floor space for well..more inventory and a small desk.
Decorate, because it is worth it: I once read that employees are happier if they have pictures of the places and people they love in their workspaces, so I filled the space with succulents, hanging plants, and air plants to make me forget that I spent most of the day facing a wall and looking at a giant screen. I also surrounded myself with bright colors that make me feel as cheerful as possible. Side note: I’ve been trying to eliminate Ikea furniture from my life, but it does exist in the guestroom/bedroom/office/inventory space. I’ve decided that poorly put together furniture no longer gives me joy. I started to get really annoyed that this basic bitch Malm dresser was visible in the background of all my conference calls. I kept thinking that if I had that sprawling suburban oasis with a home office and built in shelves, I definitely would not use this sad, hand-me-down dresser. Since I’m determined not to buy anything new, I finally tried my hand at an Ikea hack that I pinned about 5 years ago and wallpapered the shit out of this dresser. I’m loving the colors since it really ties in the rug with the rest of the room.
Try not to buy: In my former life I would have purchased an entire home office from West Elm, Anthropologie, or a vintage furniture store, but I didn’t want to do that and have the items go unused once life resumes to normal. Also, many of these places are experiencing major shipping delays and that would have defeated the purpose of putting together a WFH space in 48 hours. Instead of shopping for something new, I decided to use an upcycled chair that I bought at GoodWill as my desk chair. It used to be a strange shade of puke green, so I spray painted it pink and used the fabric from a dress I found while thrifting to recover the cushion. It isn’t as comfortable as my ergonomic chair, but it is a decent, temporary solution. I did have to buy a small desk, but instead of getting an ergo footstool like the one in my actual office, I swiped a poof from our living room which feels oddly more comfortable and looks way less corporate.
I hope these before and after pics bring you some joy and color in these crazy times. Know that here at Ukay we are in the same boat as you are and are just trying to make things work in this bizarro episode of Black Mirror that we find ourselves living in.