Happy Spaces // Desk Area

Welcome to happy spaces! I think this might end up being a series about spaces that make me happy and inspire me. Originally, I planned the title of this post to be happy spaces to talk about my desk area because my office space has been a few years in the making and I’m FINALLY done with it. It is done and I’m happy with it, hence happy spaces. However, once I started playing with the thought of happy spaces, I realized that I do that with all the spaces in my house. Design and decor is a little hobby of mine, on top of DIY-ing all the things possible. So with that in mind, this is probably going to be a series about all the spaces in my house, plus places that inspire me. It’s going to be fun. 

My office area has been the sore spot in my side for a few years. As a writer, I need a space to write and feel inspired. For me personally, I need spaces that are pretty and bright. I like light and windows. I do not enjoy feeling like I walked into a vampire’s den. Enter my old apartment that felt exactly like that. We dubbed that apartment the tiny apartment. It is the smallest of all the apartments we lived in. It was under 1,000 SQF and had exactly three windows that allowed light into the apartment. Well, two windows and the patio door. One of the windows and the patio door were completely covered by the stairs and the walkway for the upstairs apartment, combine that with the way the apartment faced, the only person getting any light anywhere was Little Man in his room with his unobstructed window. That apartment really forced me to get creative with my spaces. I had so little of it that every single piece of furniture and anything in the house had to have a specific spot and be multi-functional. Eventually, I got a small desk that could fit in the corner next to my closet in my bedroom. I put it right next to the window so that I could get whatever light would come though. I added a shelf above it for a plant (that died), a picture my father-in-law drew for me, and a letterboard. It was my corner of inspiration. I told myself that the space was perfect and wonderful and everything I needed. In reality, I had no space on the desk for more than my keyboard and my mouse (I had a desktop back then) and I had zero room for writing on anything if I needed to take notes. However, I had absolutely no where else to put my desk nor the space to have a bigger desk (like the one had my eye on at IKEA for months). 

Then we got to move! We found a townhouse and moved and that was a whole whirlwind. However, because we were moving into a house and we already had a layout for our stuff in mind (remember, I’m a planner) I knew exactly where my office space was going to go and I had room for the desk I wanted at IKEA. We actually went to IKEA and a few other places to upgrade some of our small furniture (like our couch) in order to fit the house. When I say couch, we had a futon for a couch for when my brother would spend weekends with us. Fun fact. We also did all this before the move so that we weren’t moving furniture we weren’t going to use.

In the new house, we had a breakfast nook area plus a dining room in our huge open concept downstairs. When I say huge, I mean it was bigger than my apartment so it feels huge. My office space would be converted from the dining room because we could just use the breakfast nook area for our dining room table. That idea worked for about 3 months. It is very distracting having an office in a living area that is busy. My husband and son would be watching a movie or something and I would just want to watch it with them. So I just never worked in my office area. Or I would make them do stuff upstairs to give me quiet while I worked. This wasn’t anybody’s favorite situation. 

We decided to move my office area upstairs to our bedroom where we already had half of it converted to hubby’s work area (he used to work from home). There was a huge open corner on the opposite side of his work area that would work perfectly for my office space. So we moved everything on upstairs and boom, his and hers office sides.

My side // “Hers” side. This is also the duel monitor situation I mention below.

This worked out for like 6 months. I upgraded my laptop and sold the desktop so I had more space on the desk to utilize for writing when I would write in my journal or study my bible.  Then I started really getting into my blog and started working on launching my podcast. I also am somebody who really enjoys using two screens when I’m working on projects. So I started changing my set up and added an external monitor. I got a keyboard and mouse. I got a monitor stand. It was a decent set up. I just lost all the room I previously had for journaling writing and things. I also felt very cramped when plugging in my mic to work on my podcast. Plus I had zero room for storing things. I didn’t want to keep doing small updates that wouldn’t work in the long run. So I started going through my Pinterest office board to figure out exactly what I wanted instead of just trying to find a solution as cheap as I could make it even if it wasn’t what I wanted. I started to go through the photos on the board and I picked the things I liked best about in the photo. So I knew I was going to get shelves to put on the wall because a large majority of my pins had shelves (My rule for Pinterest is that I pin things that make me feel sometime about the space so I can pick out exactly what I like about the photo when I have to go back. Like, I like the feeling of organization and things having a place they belong).  

Off to IKEA I went. I originally thought I was going to find some sort of cart to put underneath the desk to store things and can easily move the cart (the shelves would hold decorative things and the occasional book).However, there is like one filing cabinet that fits underneath the desk I have and it was $100, which was more than I was willing to spend on a filing cabinet that would be a temporary solution to my storage problem because it wasn’t my favorite thing that existed at IKEA. This IKEA trip was a few hours, in case you were wondering. Many of them spent in the office department trying to figure out solutions. Hubby saw this corner desk table top, that was identical to my current table top and even used the same legs as what I had at home. I didn’t think the huge corner desk would work though and I was afraid of cutting off walkway room. After another hour, we went back to the corner desk and I decided to get it and the shelves I already picked out would still work for it. At this point, it didn’t hurt to try because my other ideas were not panning out with what IKEA had (or any other store based off my searches while at IKEA).

It took me about two weeks before I realized I could put my Cricut on it and be able to do all my projects, all my journaling and bible study, and writing at my desk. Before this monster desk, my Cricut was hanging out in my laundry room and I took over the dining room table to do all my projects. My desk makes everything easier. 

Now I can finally say my office area is done. It is pretty, inspiring, bright and the most important thing, I want to work there. Every now and then I’ll change the scenery  because I get really productive being around people so I’ll go work at a library or a coffee shop. But, I’m less likely to do that these days because I just love my space so much. I have room to write in my journal. I have enough space to use the white tabletop as a background if needed. I have room for bible study time and when I’m planning out blog posts and podcasts. I have room to record my podcast and not feel cramped. I don’t say many things are perfect because there is always room for improvement. My office space though? It’s perfect. 

Paper to Digital

Planners are my jam. I love testing all the different ones and trying to make it work for me and my life. I’ve tried all different types of planners. I’ve done bullet journaling, which I LOVE, but I’m not artistic. Seriously, I cannot draw a straight line with a ruler. Boring layouts are not my jam, I tried to make it as cute/pretty as I could with stickers and using markers but it still wasn’t working for me. I’ve tried planners that were under $10 from Target. Those didn’t work either. I was on the verge of investing in an expensive planner that a lot of bloggers I follow use or have used and liked until they found something better. The person who designed the planner was someone I also followed and I really liked her. I couldn’t afford the planner right away without hitting another one of my funds, so I decided to wait. 

During this wait, I had to keep making doctors appointments and it is VERY awkward to pull out your huge planner to write in and schedule appointments on the little desks in front of the scheduler. I use the big paper sized planners so I can also stash any paperwork I need to carry around without folding it or ripping it. So I started putting the appointments in my Google calendar for things it was awkward to pull my planner out for and then would tell myself to input it to my planner later.

At some point, I realized my paper planner was starting to give me anxiety. My planner would have all the things I was doing that day- work, appointments, errands, to-do list for that day, and then I would also have my school assignments listed in there to keep track of what was due each week. I also tried to put goals in there for myself to remember to do the things I want to do. One week there was more colored area from writing (I still use colored pens because I think it is better with color) than there was white space left. I was always told I do too much but I was seeing it on paper. There were no margins in my life and looking at the weekly plans and each day stressed me out. How was I going to accomplish all that in a day? PLUS, I never got around to my to-do list each day. I would forget to check my planner and as things popped up in front of me during the day, the to-do list took a back burner.

Something had to change. Using planners was something I loved but it was stressing me out. I didn’t need extra stress in my life. I’m a natural planner. I love to-do lists and plans and schedules. My planner should be a relief for me, not a stress inducer. At this point I still hadn’t purchased the expensive planner. In fact, I was also starting to think that inputting my appointments and things in my Google calendar to then put in my paper planner was really double the work instead of easier. I decided I was going to test out a digital system.

Now, one way to deter me from trying something is if I research all the different ways I can do it. I actually do this a lot. I think I want to try something new, I read a bunch of stuff and then I cannot decide which way would work for me. For this experiment, I wasn’t going to research the best to-do list apps or ways to keep your schedule. I KNOW how to do those things. I just needed to use different tools. I can stay on a schedule like a drill sergeant. So I used my Google calendar, which I already had and was using. I also started with the reminder app on my iPhone. These were apps and tools I already had. My phone is always with me so I don’t need to worry about misplacing something I need to-do. What I first liked about using my phone was that I could input something the moment I remembered or realized I had to do it. 

In the reminders app, you can make separate lists for your to-dos as well as set priority and times for an actual reminder. So time sensitive things I can set an alarm for within the reminders app, plus give it a bunch of “!!!” to catch my eye. So for me, I have 5 lists. I have my regular to-do, that is like general to-dos, laundry, errands, pick up whatever, etc. I have my school list for assignments. I also have a list for my ministry and the things I need to do for that. I also have a writing to-do list to keep track of projects and things I need to do for the blog or things I want to do. I also meet with a coach and I have a list for the things I need to do or things we talked about before the next meeting. 

Now, everything gets put in a list. If I think it and I need to do it. I put it on the list. Sometimes, the numbers get pretty high and that is where anxiety CAN get triggered. But, since I use the priority and reminder times, I know I am not forgetting to do anything important or on a timeline. Sometimes, I think about researching something for Lucas so that will go on my to-do list, but it something that can wait a little bit and not have to get done right away. 

I put everything schedule wise in my Google calendar. I have color codes for school stuff, work stuff, blog stuff, goals and writing time, and reminders. The types of reminders I put in my phone are if I have a free trial of something and I want to remember to cancel it or if I need to think about keeping it. With Google calendar, I can set alarms to go off to remind me about events. This is my favorite thing because I set the alarms to the time I would need to leave the house by. So once that alarm goes off, I need to be walking out the door. 

I’ve been using this system for almost a year now and I have no plans to go back. I did recently buy a paper planner for my goals and things I want to do, goal wise. I’ll do a different post about that because it looks different and doesn’t overwhelm me at all (so far). It is very nice to have somewhere that I put all my goals though because trying to plan that out in digital form was not working for me as it was easy to ignore. 

What I like the most is that I can pull it up anywhere. I also have an apple laptop, so I can pull up my reminders if I need to add something or see what I can do if I am at my computer with some spare time. I can also pull up my calendar on my computer to help me plan things. The accessibility of these apps make it all awesome. It is so much better than making sure I always have my planner on me. Now, I can carry smaller purses. (Seriously, I used to carry tote bags everywhere to carry all my stuff. Now I just carry a small notebook around for meetings and any writing ideas I get while out and about. Small notebooks don’t need huge tote bags for purses.) 

What do you use for planning? Tell me about it! 

Accidental Minimalist

Minimalism is a word that is all over the internet these days. It’s basically its own fad. Marie Kondo’s Netflix show has “sparking joy” becoming its own verb. I have friends on my Facebook feed suddenly cleaning out their houses like they are in their own marathon race. It’s awesome! I’m sitting over here still working my way through Gray’s Anatomy in my own marathon. I’m in season ten, things are getting real over here.

There are plenty of books to read, there are documentaries on Netflix, bloggers across the internet, all with ways to become a minimalist. I don’t read any of these books or watch any of these documentaries. I follow some of these bloggers though. They’re awesome. Truth is, I was already a minimalist before there was a word for it. I’m not trying to be a hipster and say that I was doing the cool thing before it was cool. I just don’t hold onto things. I’m not sentimental either. I have 4 things I’ve kept over the years that have any sentimental value.

1) Nicky. A stuffed animal that I got when I was six. He has survived 21 years of moves and most of those moves I don’t even remember packing him. He is my miracle stuffed animal and I am not letting him go. My mom got him for me when I was home sick from school for a week. He was just sitting on a random end cap as she was waiting in line for my medicine.

2) My high school yearbooks. I feel like this is self-explanatory.

3) My mom’s high school yearbooks. I have very few pictures of my mom and will be what I get to show my son of my mom.

4) A photo album of my mom’s trip to Germany after she graduated high school. See above.

I’m not extreme. I watched about half of the documentary on Netflix and got lost when he was explaining the one chair thing. That I don’t get. I have a full-size couch, a huge dining table and plenty of chairs. I like to have people over for dinner. I like to have parties. I like to do things at my house so I will make sure I have plenty of places for people to sit. I also like pretty things so I have decor. I just don’t enjoy clutter so I am very specific in what I have. My pieces are pretty and simple. I clean out things constantly to ensure that my cabinets don’t build up or my closets don’t build up. By constantly, I mean I’m just mindful. For closets, if I notice something my son doesn’t fit in anymore, I start a little pile in his closet. For my closet, when I notice I’m not wearing something anymore, I start my own pile. When these little piles get to be not little piles, I take them to the Salvation Army. I do have a system for when I declutter. It happens about once a year. This is like going through the garage or through the hall closet. It might happen more often with Lucas’ toys but for the rest of the house, it doesn’t happen often. I usually don’t buy anything unless I know exactly where it is going to go and what purpose it will serve.

THE ASHLEIGH NO CLUTTER SYSTEM

1) When was the last time I used this? If it was 4-6 months ago-I usually toss it. That is the minimum. If I figure out it was longer then six months, adios. 

2) If for some reason, I can think of a reason I need to keep this item-the “what if I need this?” argument. “I have this use for it” argument. I evaluate the cost of the item VS the cost of the space in my house. If the item is replaceable for $10 or less, I toss/donate it. The space in my house is worth more than $10.

This was especially important in my old apartment where we had less than 1,000 SQ FT of space. Not only did I not buy anything that I couldn’t specifically say where it would go once it was home and not only did it need more than one purpose, but when it came to cleaning out things, the retail value of my space, was WAY higher than $10. Clutter can actually stress you out more. (maybe that is just me.) so cleaner and clearer spaces are a win for me. If I needed another binder, I’ll gladly pay $5 for a new one three months later after throwing one out. I had three months of the space and now I know the reason for needing it instead of the “well this is sitting here because I might need it.”

3) Now, maybe I have this item in my hand that I cannot put a numerical value on because someone made it for me. It was a gift. Can I actually get rid of it? That is when I ask myself why I am keeping it. Am I keeping it because I like it or because I feel guilty if I get rid of it? Guilt isn’t a reason to keep something. Especially if it is just going to sit in a box in your garage. What’s the point? Is that family member coming over, searching your walls for the painting they painted you or your boxes to make sure you’re at least storing it? If someone painted me something and I love it, it gets hung up. If I am keeping it because I feel guilty if I get rid of it, it goes in the donate pile. Guilt isn’t a good emotion and having things that I am only keeping to not feel guilty won’t make me happy.

4) Now, if all of that fails. If I have some obscure item that somehow doesn’t fall into any of the above categories that I can’t logic away. I go to Marie Kondo and ask myself; does this spark joy? If it does, I keep it. Joy is a good thing and joy is in short supply these days. Keep the things that bring a smile to your face, no matter how small. If it doesn’t spark joy, adios it goes.

Now, there are some things that I have other systems for, like my son’s artwork from school. Pictures from high school and all my writing. I have systems for my calendar and my to-do list. I will be posting about those systems in the future. This was just a glimpse into my ways, if you’re interested in any of my systems, drop a comment. Have a question? I would love to hear from you!