Friday, August 21, 2009

Home Offices

Husband here...

Wife, Esq. is being unreasonable again.

She wants to hire a designer--or an organization consultant--or a junk hauler--or SOMETHING to fix up our home office.

Those of you who have been to our house probably know that our office is something of a pit. No way around that. But there are a few pretty good reasons for it:
  1. It's the natural home for all the papers and random crap that go with running a household.
  2. I spend a lot of time in there, and I'm a slob.
  3. Wife, Esq. works in there occasionally, and she sinks to the least common denominator level of cleanliness.
  4. It's where everything gets shoved when we're cleaning up the rest of the house--it's like a magnet for entropy.
Out of those, I think numbers 2 and 4 are most important. I'm not likely to suddenly become neat and organized after 30+ years of the opposite, just because some random gay guy redesigns the room--this isn't HGTV, where organizational paradigms are changed in half an hour. And we're ALWAYS going to need a place to dump the mess when company is coming over...and I don't know where else that would be.

Wife, on the other hand, thinks that a consultant can fix everything. (I AM a consultant, so of course I know better than that.)

I've tried to compromise. Knoll and Steelcase both have some pretty nice, flexible cube systems that we could set up in the office, and we'd both have our own separate spaces. I could junk mine up; she could have hers as pristine as the driven snow. Design it right, and she never even has to SEE my cube. All that for only $5,000 or so. I can even design it myself.

But no, she won't even talk about it, or what she wants from the space, or what she wants a designer to do. She just wants me to be perfectly tidy. Realistically, it's not going to happen. My college roommate (and subsequent best man at the wedding) once threatened me with a makeshift flamethrower: "Clean--or BURN!!!" Even then, I only made a show of cleaning. I don't know what she thinks a designer can do to change me, that she or my old friend/roommate can't with their threats.

So, gentle readers, what shall we do? Waste money on a consultant who tells me to file/shred things promptly? Spend money on upgrading our furniture so we have essentially two separate offices in one room? Move Wife, Esq.'s office to the basement where it can be as neat as she wants?

Mommy, Esq. here: Only fair our readers get a glimpse into what I've been stressing about. Here are some photos I sent a few organizational consultants and designers of our home office. With our work demands we have to share this space and as Husband mentioned - it's been sinking to the lowest common denominator. I think a designer will help us come up with furniture and storage solutions (including redoing the closet with its naked bulb and falling down doors) - I don't have a firm idea of what I want so I'd like some options/guidance. It takes a lot to maintain a happy home and I feel that organization and cleanliness are part of that process.


Anonymous said...

Actually it's worse than "30+ years of the opposite". It's definitely genetic. Ask Mommy, Esq. if she would like your parents to design the office for her. I didn't think so.

The only possibility I can come up with on short notice is for you to wear a shock collar a la the "Invisible Fence" used for dogs. Then negative reinforcement could be applied at appropriate times.

Anonymous said...

I think both of you need to craft what you think a workable space/workflow solution would be. Someone else coming in and inflicting their system will last exactly 2 days before you revert to your own ways.
If you need professional help to take down the doors and build a structure, maybe get a hand with that if it's really not what you can do yourself. But if you don't know for sure what you want from the space, you're going to get a solution that may be right for someone else, but not you.

If you want to test out what a random person's take is, here you go:
My assvice: big bins/baskets that hide things. Bin for mail. Bin for work related stuff. It's stuff you can dump in there the second you get in the door, and then go back to it when you need to. When the Bin is full, you have a mandatory 30 minute rule to work the bin and clean it out by filing, dealing, tossing, whatever.
I'll send you my bill. :)

In the alternative, watch a few episodes of Clean House and copy what you like.

T. said...

I agree with Almostima, there is no need to hire a consultant for this - especially since you will likely go back to your own ways very quickly. Better to find things that work for you yourselves, and I bet doesn't take very long at all. It's all about hiding the mess - fix the closet so you can dump the stuff you can't part with in there, close the doors. Get bins and filing cabinets to hold the papers, etc. I've actually never seen your office, aside from the photos you posted, and I really don't think it looks that bad - not a tough job at all! You could tidy it up in no time!

Donna said...

Hey it looks better than the man cave I have to deal with.

Lisa said...

I think the main benefit of a consultant/designer is that it would force you to implement a system and at least get the initial complete clean up done relatively quickly. Otherwise transition could take a long time - or at least it does in my house. Either way big bins and hiding places are a good thing. So is having your own desk so each is contained to your own chaos. Good luck!

Krissy said...

Really, your office is not that bad! I was expecting a real dump!

First thing's first: YOUR DESKS ARE TOO SMALL! Workspaces that are too tiny leave no room to work and no storage space.

I wish I lived closer, I love organizing and would take on this job in a heartbeat!

Gretchen said...

Why do you have deer antlers in your closet?

Well, in all seriousness, I think everyone is right on here - bins to dump stuff are key. BUT, you have to commit to keeping it up. If you can't do that, well, not sure it's going to last long regardless of how well planned it is.

Oh, watch that crazy TV show about hoarders and you'll feel better!

Anonymous said...

Our office situation mimics exactly what you described! Last year I spent 12 HOURS shredding papers--some loan applications and med ins. forms from **1994**. We got rid of books, bought a storage "solution" for the boys art/craft supplies.

Fast forward one year later---piles, piles and more piles! It takes such an effort to maintain, and tons of willpower not to let it become a dumping ground...which it does when we have people over.

I would agree with cleaning it up, getting some storage bins, and dividing it up.

Good Luck!

ABS said...

I sort of wonder about the people who are able to instantly squirrel papers away into their perfect places. I think most people live with piles for at least part of the time. We have filing cabinets with nicely labeled folders. Stuff makes it into those folders once every couple of months or so ;-)

When we open our mail, we make a pile of stuff for the shredder, which slowly makes its way upstairs (where the shredder is). It then usually gets piled on top of the shredder, where is often sits until the night before the house cleaners come.

The keep/file stuff gets a separate pile, which makes its way upstairs and sits on top of the desk for an unpredictable amount of time.

I agree with the others that said that bins for the interim would be helpful. I just wouldn't buy them too big because it would be too tempting to let things pile up for a long time, and it would become a daunting task to go through them.

Is the designer/consultant concept attractive because you don't know what you want in terms of furniture and layout and therefore don't feel like you can take care of it yourselves? If so, it might help tremendously to do the initial sorting (a la Clean House - a keep/file pile, a donate pile and a trash pile) and clear out the room so you have a blank slate.

If, instead, the problem is you don't think you can bring yourselves to tackle the mess unless you're on the clock with a paid helper, well that's another issue.

I also agree with the person who said your desks seem kind of small.

Understanding your need to have a dumping place once in a while, I'd also suggest that in your cleaning process, you eliminate as much non-home office stuff from the room as possible. Be brutal in sorting through clothes and other stuff. (When was the last time you wore it? If you were moving, would you want to move the item with you? If you whittle yourself down several sizes, don't you deserve a new coat, dress, jacket, whatever? Goodwill is your friend - a friend who will give you receipts for your charitable donation write-off.)

If you've ever seen Clean House or similar shows, you'll recall that the room always looks worse before it looks better! The sorting process is messy, but necessary.

LauraC said...

I think I am in the minority here! I vote for office organizer/decorator because:

1. You both make a lot of money.
2. You both spend a lot of time away from your kids.
3. Paying someone to plan, do the dirty work, and organize it for you = not that much and much more time with the kids.

What Jon and I have found is that it is not the time to think about getting a new desk that is the issue. It is deciding what we want, looking for the perfect item, then moving the item in and doing all the hard work.

I liken it to cleaning my house. Of course I can clean my own house, but my time is precious so I pay someone to clean it every other week to spend more time with the kids. And every single time I walk through the house right after it has been cleaned, I am so happy!

Stacey said...

Having seen the office pit I vote for SOMETHING to be done! But don't you get any satisfaction out of going through crap and getting rid of stuff? I love it when I can take a box and par it down to just a few items. Then DH carts the rest to the dump or Goodwill. But Laura makes a good point - if you can afford it, why not outsource?

Anonymous said...

Hilarious!!! This reminds me so much of an article I just read in the New Yorker where an architect was bemoaning the disappearance of "the man cave" in houses across America. He blames the container store, and those who love the container store. You are not alone my friend. Men across the country are being ousted from their man caves in ever increasing numbers, and the caves of clutter being transformed into suffocating dens of order and tranquility. Your options are limited. I suggest doing as the other men in the article did- take to the garage.

Anonymous said...

Of course you could get your mother(s) to do the job for you but then you may never find anything again. 2 suggestions: get the closet done and move Aaron's work station down to the basement. It's already a disaster - perfect for him.