Workspace Overhaul

Amnesia has its uses. I can’t really remember how awful my back felt when I whined about it almost a month ago. I do remember how long it took to get out of bed or pull my socks on, and how careful I had to be while doing it. Advil, exercises, and time got me through it, and since I really wanted to avoid a recurrence, I went looking for — and found — a new chair.

In the almost two weeks between the buying of the chair in Falmouth and its delivery to Martha’s Vineyard, I overhauled my workspace. I don’t believe that things happen for a reason, but I do believe what when some things happen, it’s up to us to figure out if we can learn anything from them. I learned, first and foremost, that I needed a new chair. I also took a hard look at my workspace and realized that it was out of control.

start 1

Note piles of papers here, there, and everywhere, unsorted and often precariously perched. Note junk stuffed under table because there’s nowhere else to put it. Sometimes clutter is just clutter, but sometimes it’s the outward and visible sign of inward, not-so-visible chaos. Between the out-of-control clutter and the screaming back pain, I knew that Something Had to Be Done.

What if I moved that table so that it was short side to the back wall instead of long side? In the nearly six years I’ve lived in this studio apartment, the idea had never once occurred to me. I measured the table and the available space. Then I started moving stuff around — careful, of course, not to antagonize my recovering back.

Travvy really liked this part. He found quite a few tidbits that had fallen behind the shelf, the table, and/or the chair.

trav hunts 1

True, the other half of the apartment looked pretty scary at this point. My bed, out of sight to the left, was part of the transfer station. I couldn’t stop now, not if I ever wanted another good night’s sleep.


Aha! A cozy little work nook was taking shape. The electrical outlet was no longer blocked by the bookshelf. Neither was the narrow counter space. I could put candles on it and other neat stuff that I like to look at.


At this point I was using the old chair as a desk and my exercise ball as a chair. A week ago, my new chair arrived. It fit right in.

new workspace

The table on the right, which I bought many years ago at a yard sale, has a new purpose in life. Its predecessor, a VCR caddy I bought from the previous tenant of an apartment I used to live in, was functional but too big for the space. Thanks to MV Stuff 4 Sale, it has a new job — as the art table for a little kid. The big box of fan-fold computer paper that I’ll never use has gone for a couple of other little kids to draw and paint on.

The workspace overhaul isn’t quite done. These two piles still have to be gone through and either filed, put away, or tossed. But we’re getting there.

leftover piles

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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11 Responses to Workspace Overhaul

  1. Amelia Smith says:

    Looks good. As I am also recovering from a bad back (I’ve been mostly-functional for almost a week now), I’m thinking a lot about my chair, and possibly moving to something different. I’ve always used a straight-backed wooden chair with a cushion on the seat, and I often sit cross-legged, but my back has suddenly decided that cross-legged is bad, bad, bad.

    How does the soft armchair work for you and your back?


    • This chair has a pretty firm seat and back — one reason I liked it. Also lower back support at just the right place. I’ve been using it for a week now and so far, so good. I was concerned that the arms weren’t long enough to support my lapdesk, but my knees take up the slack so it’s stable. This also makes me sit straight when I’m using the laptop. I don’t sit still for hours on end either. Some of my editorial colleagues swear by standing desks, which I’m pretty sure would drive me crazy. Have you thought about that?


      • ameliajames says:

        I have some internet/writer friends who’ve gone beyond standing desks to treadmill desks. Yikes. I don’t think that would work for me, but right now I’m typing while lying on the sofa, so anything’s possible. I like to be still when I’m doing any really intensive writing, though, and I think for me that means sitting.


  2. Juleann says:

    ooh — la — la!! The new chair looks absolutely beautiful, comfortable and will get the job done! I am so glad you have her!!


  3. Nancy clute says:

    Great job Susanna! You’ve inspired me to tackle my “exercise room” where the only exercise you get is tripping over the clutter that has overtaken it!…really nice meeting you the other night.


    • Ditto! One reason I knew the VCR caddy was too big and had to go was that I barked my shins on it almost every time I went downstairs. Also when I brushed against it, often something would fall off it. And I put up with this for how long??


  4. Anda Divine says:

    My desktop PC hiccupped again today and, rather than investing in yet another limping repair, I’m going to finally get a laptop or tablet. The prospect of detaching myself from my desk and monitor after all these years is truly enticing! And with this will no doubt come a major overhaul of my workspace; I’m envisioning a major event in my outdoor fire pit, dog at side, glass of wine in hand, garden hose primed and at the ready…..


    • About a year ago I did a similar overhaul on my main desk, where my old (WinXP, Word 2003) desktop, Morgana V, lives. But I do almost all my work on Hekate the laptop — which wasn’t my plan when I got her. Hekate (Win7) can’t communicate with my old printer and my even older scanner, so Morgana mostly prints, scans, and plays music, with a strong assist by Dropbox and iTunes.


  5. rawkimroll says:

    Great job! I’m generally very organized, and a great shelf-builder, but I have been on a procrastination streak about clearing thru nearly 3 decades of files and papers. It’s all well organized, but do I really need to keep all this stuff? Old electric bills, bank statements, payments etc. OTOH I had paid some parking tix one summer and was later charged twice. Of course I had all records of payment-cancelled checks and xeroxed tickets… when the courthouse moved their files to the airport they said, “oh, yeah we lost some boxes in the move”. Then lo and behold I got a third attempt in the mail for the very same tix already paid.


  6. Shirley says:

    Looks much better – and inspires me to finish sorting out all my STUFF……


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