Home office

Before we had a baby, I mostly worked at the kitchen counter. I like the kitchen counter. You get a nice high hard seat, so no back pain. You’ve got a much wider and broader surface than any desk. You’ve got ready access to snacks and drinks and cups. The lighting is good. If you’re frustrated you can flop onto the couch. The only downside to the kitchen counter is you’re right in the middle of the house.

Having a baby coincided with the start of the pandemic and with our mother in law living with us for twelve months, so the house went from empty all the time to being really full. As a result, I mostly worked in the bedroom for a year. It was…not optimal. Decidedly on the non-optimal side of the equation is what I’d say. My wife didn’t have it much better–she outfitted a 5 x 8 foot closet upstairs (I believe those are the literal dimensions) as her office. The bedroom had its perks. You’re in bed, so it’s easy to nap. The light is good. The cat sometimes hangs out with you.

Negative was that there’s no room in our bedroom for a desk or a chair, so I was working on the bed (and sometimes on our yoga ball). You’re also in bed, so it’s easy to get sleepy. My back pain, which I’d conquered in physical therapy two years ago, returned and became troubling. I also just felt kind of hemmed in, spending almost my entire life in a fairly small space.

In April my mother in law moved out, freeing up the guest room, and although it took me some time I’ve finally gotten around to fitting up a corner of the room as an office. It’s great! It’s so amazing! I used to dislike the guest room because the ceiling is low, the stairs to get down here are cramped and narrow (I’ve fallen down them three times), and the floors are a shiny, cheap-looking laminate. But now, especially in the summer-warm, it’s a paradise. The basement actually gets plenty of light because we have French doors that look out onto the back yard. It’s quite cool when the heat is off, but when the heat is on it can get very warm because there’s a vent direct to the furnace.

And it’s so isolated! There’s no just dropping in on you down here. The baby is screaming in her room right now, and it feels so distant. Even my wife, god bless her, only texts me if she needs me. It feels totally removed from the rest of my life.

I leave my laptop down here 100 percent of the time now, hooked up to an external monitor, with a wireless keyboard and mouse always hooked up as well. They’re also connected to this powerline internet setup that everyone else in the household dislikes, and which never seems to work well for them (wireless in our house is finicky, so we’re always trying to find work-arounds), but which has been quite fast enough for me. I suspect the difference is I almost never take video calls, so if it cuts out for a few seconds, I don’t even notice.

It’s great. It’s so great. I have some office supplies down here: pens, paper-clips, etc. There’s a waste-basket. I’m gonna get a small electric goose-neck kettle so I can do pour-over coffee without going upstairs. It’s so great.

And another good thing is you can also leave! Like sometimes I write my two thousand words for the day, and I’m like what now? Well, I can just get up and go upstairs. Be gone. Be elsewhere. It’s very freeing.

Downsides: it’s one more place to leave things. It gets annoying to want a book or a notebook and to find I’ve left it in the basement. I’ve addressed the stair problem by only wearing socks that have little rubber grips on the bottom, but I do still sometimes fear I’ll fall and die on the narrow stairs. And although our dog is content to visit me here, the cat almost never comes down, and even when he does appear it’s only for a peek: way too cold down here for him to stay. Other than that, it’s perfect. I have no complaints.

Oh wait, and of course if we have guests I need to leave! This hasn’t occurred yet, but it will, intermittently. Earlier this year the keyboard on my computer was broken for a month, and I composed entirely on my iPad, which actually worked out okay, so I think I might just leave the whole computing setup here and work on the iPad for the length of any visit. But we’ll see.