Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused Part 3 by Laurel Schenkoske

Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused Part 3 by Laurel Schenkoske

Part 3 of 3 by Laurel Schenkoske

The goal was to bring my home office from cluttered to focused in two weeks. I did it. My office is now a place where I can work without distraction from physical clutter or from mental over-stimulation.

Last week I worked through the process of making things worse before better by pulling every item out. And due to this, all the randomness is now either out of the house, or in an appropriate place. That clears a lot off my mind.office-3

The work done at home is split between reading and writing, and I have an appropriate space to do each. For reading, I settle into the bean bag chair, with my Moroccan rug sticking out just enough to keep my feet off the cold tile. For writing, my desk is clear of excess clutter. (A longer-term goal is to get rid of the PC and monitor, but for now, I’m still using both computers.)

Hanging on the walls are simple reminders to keep me both calm and focused: an inspirational message above my desk, my grandma’s old Hummel pictures on the wall, ceramic angel statues throughout. There’s also a white board with my work-to-do list (our home to-do list is in the kitchen), and a larger board where I can scribble out my work while thinking – just like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory.

As for noise distractions, I have great success listening to music in alpha-wave frequency. This type of music does more than block out noise; with headphones, it helps stimulate the brain’s ability to think. There are many free tracks out there, up to 6 hours long.

The process of getting the office organized was simpler than I’d expected. And because I focused on just one room, it was manageable. Even when I feel the rest of the house is in chaos, I have a space to go where everything is in its place. In this environment, I can feel calm, and I can get work accomplished. The cats are happy, too!

While I met my two-week goal, the task going forward will be maintenance. For me, this will mean clearing my food dishes and coffee mug out; folding up the blankets after reading; putting away books, pens, and highlighters – every day. See Top Shelf Home Organizing Process for simple steps for organization and upkeep.

By: Laurel Schenkoske

Laurel is a busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife.  She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing.  Follow Laurel as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.

Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused Part 2 by Laurel Schenkoske

Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused Part 2 by Laurel Schenkoske

Part 2 of 3 by Laurel Schenkoske

It’s been about a week since my last post, and since my commitment to get my home office in working order in two weeks (by September 6th). If you remember, that meant creating a space of efficiency, which includes serenity and mindfulness.

In all aspects of life, things often have to get worse before they can get better. The same is true of physical space, and I certainly experienced it in my own office decluttering. A few of the smaller boxes I had stacked in a corner, I was able to make room for and arrange neatly in the closet. But three large boxes in the middle of the floor were very random – a result of last-minute packing from the old house – and had to be sorted piecemeal. I therefore emptied them of their contents, and spread it all out on the floor to better assess what I was dealing with. Doing this gave me a sense of what could be donated, what could be stored, and what needed a place in our home.

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During this time, I did not attempt to do any kind of work that required concentration in the office. Even though I could have sat at the desk, with my back to the mess, it would have been nagging at me the whole time.

By now, much of the content seen in the picture has found a home. But even as I type this, I can hear the TV and a video from my husband’s phone. I get up to close the office door, and he walks in to ask what’s going on. The door had been open to begin with because one of the cats was howling to get in. Clearly, space and clutter are more than just elements of the tangible.

The physical office is starting to take shape. But as that develops, I need to work out a system to keep it mentally peaceful, as well.

Goal: Work-ready in 1 week.

By: Laurel Schenkoske

Laurel is a busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife.  She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing.  Follow her as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.

Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused by Laurel Schenkoske

Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused by Laurel Schenkoske

Part 1 of 3 by Laurel Schenkoske

A little over two months ago, my husband and I moved, just a mile away from our old place. After two years in our Tucson duplex, our lease was finally up, and we were hoping for a better landlord, and needing air conditioning for the not-such-a-dry-heat monsoon season. We were lucky enough to have my parents and sister help with the cleaning and moving-in process, but even now, there is still clutter everywhere, and several random boxes sitting in the middle of the office. I was out of town for the last three weeks, for a very much needed break from work. Towards the end, I was feeling like I might be able to get re-motivated for work and school. But returning to the clutter I’d left behind, especially in the office, has made that much-needed motivation vanish.

office%201I am a Ph.D. student and an instructor at the University of Arizona, so, I’m a little busy. I don’t have weekends free and I don’t get summers off. I am never able leave my work at the office and forget about it until the next morning. Always, always, always, I have lesson prep and grading, research and writing, presentation and grant applications, committee responsibilities, and meetings – meetings as an instructor, meetings with my student cohort, meetings with my professors; they don’t end.

That all said, I need an organized, efficient space for work and concentration. This year it’s more critical than in the past since, with my more “flexible” (read, self-management requiring) time schedule, I need a place to work without distractions. And as most of us know, distractions abound. Facebook, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, and ohmygoshNetflix. And clutter. When I see clutter, my mind wanders. I want to clean, or to organize, or to just look in the stuff in that box over there. Whatever temptations the clutter offers, it is more appealing than the important task at hand.

Moreover, the distractions get in the way of my thinking process. In fact, physical clutter has the power to fill my mind with a sort of mental clutter. The more things I see around me, the more I can’t concentrate on my reading or writing. If I pause to reflect on my work and see stuff everywhere, my mind goes into cognitive overload and isn’t able to process anything fully. I begin thinking of all the things I have to do and start feeling anxious. My work takes much longer, and consequently, I have to stay up late, or get up early, or just plain fall behind.

But, if when I stare off into space, my eyes can rest on an empty piece of floor or a plain piece of wall, my mind has an opportunity to process and to rest. This gets me back on track much more quickly.

In German, there are a few sayings that apply here: Ordnung muss sein = There must be order; and Alles hat seinen Platz = Everything has its place. The first is a stereotype for the German lifestyle in general. The second applies more specifically to physical organization. But to have order in your life as a whole, everything does need its place. While my direct priority is to create a functioning office space, the underlying reason is that it will help create serenity and mindfulness in my home and in my life.

Mission: The Office. While much of our new home needs decluttering, organizing, and wall decorating, the office must be my new priority.

Goal: Work-ready in 2 weeks.

By: Laurel Schenkoske

Laurel is busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife.  She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing.  Follow her as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.