Suddenly Home THREE: Work with what you’ve got  

My husband and I love to reminisce about our scavenger hunts.

Literally every time we move, we head to the streets in search of discarded tables or shelves to turn into makeshift office furniture.

In the furnished spaces we’ve rented –which rarely had any kind of office  – my husband has always discovered ingenious ways to repurpose furniture without a trace. He once used scrap wood, cardboard and glue to turn the front drawer of an antique desk into a keyboard tray for me  (He restored it to its original state before we left).

When you suddenly find yourself working in a new environment, you have to get a little creative. Work with what you’ve got. And scavenge if you can.

Workspaces don’t need to be fancy to work well, but they ALL need the basics: a desk, a good chair, good lighting and some kind of shelf (though I have managed without this a couple of times).

As I wrote in an earlier post, people probably think of kitchens and dining tables as natural places to work because they have tables. But the table doesn’t make the office. If it’s a really great table, put it somewhere else — somewhere you can concentrate.

In a pinch, my husband and I have occasionally dragged good kitchen or dining tables into to other rooms to make workspaces, sometimes switching them out for smaller tables, or just eating on a kitchen island.

If you think about how much more time you spend working than eating, you’ll see why this makes sense.

With isolation measures still in place, you’ll probably have to go on scavenger hunts in your own house or apartment (or friends’ or family members’) to find office furniture. But you’ll be amazed at the resources you will find. If I didn’t have an office already set up, I would be looking at my kids’ room for tables and shelves.

The next fundamental is good light. It’s something people often neglect. I can tell you, from having been stuck working with bad lighting, that it’s essential to good concentration (and avoiding headaches). Some natural light in an office is ideal, not least of all because it keeps spirits up. But even with  sunlight, you’ll need a good lamp. We have frequently stolen good lamps from other rooms in the house and set them up near our desk.

Stop and think about how much more time you spend at your desk compared to reading in bed.

The last essential element is a good chair. When I see pictures of people working at home on folding chairs, my back aches in sympathy. Bad office chairs catch up with people quickly. Even a cheap padded office chair is better than the glorified lawn chairs in some home offices.

At the moment, office supplies stores still qualify as essential services here in Quebec, and that’s probably true everywhere. So if you don’t have a swivelling, padded chair, this might a good time to make a small investment in one. (You can get a basic one at Staples for $100.)

You’ll need some kind of shelf or box system to keep things in order, and within reach. More on that in the next post….