Getting real about functional work spaces
I walked through an IKEA store this week - a rare treat for me since the closest one is 50+ miles from my home.
Yes, I know there's kind of a love/hate thing for IKEA. If you do a Google search for "do people like IKEA" you'll find this post about Why I Hate IKEA positioned directly above this post about 21 Reasons IKEA Is Heaven On Earth :D
Since the first time I set foot into an IKEA I've enjoyed their smart organization and thoughtful arrangement of rooms.
I like to question the reasons we do, well, all of the things that we do actually :D - and I'm the type of person who is always asking if there is a better way. So IKEA, The Container Store, and similar stores are fascinating in their possibilities.
But there's a catch. It's known as STYLING.
Styling is a lovely thing. It shows how a room can look in its perfect form.
Perfectly organized, perfectly cleaned, perfectly arranged.
Those styled rooms are designed so you can envision yourself just swooping right in there with your piping hot latte (that you got Angel the barista from the coffee shop down the street who knows just how much cinnamon to sprinkle on top) and sitting down to CRANK OUT SOME WORK!
Except... there's nothing in the styled room pictures with which to work.
Now I will say, I think IKEA rooms are more realistic than many other styled rooms. But I'm still having a hard time picturing what I need to run my business being feasible in many of the spaces depicted in pretty much every styled image ever.
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If you're redoing or updating your home office, before you purchase anything you need to ask yourself this question:
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MY WORK SPACE?
Well, to work, right? But on what, exactly?
If you plan exactly what job functions you'll be completing in your space - whether it's a corner desk, an entire room, or a dedicated studio - you'll be able to make better choices for everything from desks to chairs to storage.
And you won't buy stuff you don't need because it looks pretty in a picture.
THINGS TO ASK YOURSELF:
- Is it dedicated space, or will it sometimes be used as a guest room?
- Will I do my family's bills there, and store personal financial documents as well as business items?
- Will clients come to my home office?
- Will I need to store inventory? Will my equipment is easy to access and use?
- Do I need large work areas for assembling items, packing shipping boxes, or similar functions?
- Do I have employee(s) - or could I potentially in the future - and will I need extra work space to accommodate?
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I'm lucky enough to have an entire bedroom in our house that is dedicated to my business.
It's kind of a mess right now (because I'm reorganizing!) but I'll share with you that I have a set of French Doors leading out to our pool area. This is the view. (Yes, I've moved my desk over to a corner so I'm not CONSTANTLY distracted by this :D )
Aside from the spoiled rotten tropical view, INSIDE the office I store a decent amount of supplies and inventory - so even with a good-sized room, thoughtful organizational choices, and a nice deep closet, I still struggle!
Some things work, some things don't.
Some things used to work but then I changed something in my business and now I need a new solution.
I truly believe this is just reality for many work-from-home people!
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I used to think - hope - that I could 'find the perfect solution' and then I'd be 'DONE' and things would be organized and lovely forever! Like those beautiful styled offices!
That really doesn't happen. Ever.
While I have some systems and storage solutions that have worked for me for years, the truth is that operating a business often means you're in a constant state of flux. If your business is creative like mine, there's all these shiny things pulling your attention - new products!, new equipment!, new things to try!
An example: I decided a couple of months ago to add Subscription Boxes to my product line. This required me to add a new type of shipping box that I currently didn't stock. I ordered 100 to get started.
This is what 100 subscription boxes look like, unassembled. Next to my desk chair for scale.
My closet is already filled with matting and backing supplies in 4 different sizes, 5 sizes of envelopes, 2 sizes of bubble mailers, my camera equipment, my laser printer for labels, my back-up network drives and surge protectors...you get the picture.
While you have to plan, you also have to be aware that things change and be ready to flow with it :).
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So what's the takeaway?
Simple - PLAN.
Plan, and think. Make lists. List what you like (binders? bins?) and what you don't (boxes? furniture / drawers?)
There's no right answer. We all have our own preferences - some like all items neatly tucked away, some like open containers with everything easy to see and grab.
Look at what's out there.
As we know, an internet or Pinterest search for "organizational tips for home offices" will give you enough material to blow an afternoon. Maybe there are some new ideas you hadn't considered. Keep an open mind, but also consider your long-held preferences. If you've always disliked file cabinets and folders, you're not going to suddenly enjoy that method just because that purple file drawer is super cute. You're still going to be annoyed putting papers into colorful folders instead of plain ones (ASK ME HOW I KNOW THIS! :) ).
Look at what's NOT there in the styled photos.
Yes it's beautiful. Yes we all try to go paperless. But get real about what YOU need to store for YOUR business.
The more you're able to clarify the functions of your home office, the better your organizational choices will fit your business.
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