When I was 23, I had a boss that bought these crazy expensive chairs and had me build them. She told me that years of desk work to not get work related sitting injuries was important.
The day I finally realized that my work was transitioning from adventuring and physical labor (my early twenties was all trail building and dog training and such) to desk jockey, we bit the bullet and bought those fancy chairs. They’ve lasted fifteen years now – and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I write a lot about optimizing systems and using tech, but I don’t often talk about physical space – but I think about that, too.
So here’s a photo of my desk:
It’s not classy, but it’s mine. I’m left handed (but use a mouse right-handed), so your mileage may vary.
Start with the bones:
That adjustable chair that flexes with me and has lots of ventilation and doesn’t ever, ever break. I got it used on ebay for half or more off than a new one, but still not breaking.
That solid wood desk – the top is getting worn, as you can see, but I don’t care. The drawers work, I can stand on it, it doesn’t wobble.
These two things were HUGELY extravagant when I was in my twenties. They’ve lasted me so long I’ve never had to buy a new one.
Stuff I need:
All you guys with your multiple monitors trying to figure out which one is on Zoom and what not . . . I just got a giantly wide screen and split the screen up how I need as you can see. You can see my camera on a little stand that I move to the middle of it and move the screens around it – I actually make eye contact with people during video conferencing because I can move the screen to right in front of that camera and still have working space.
I have a light bar above my monitor that helps with reading if stuff is on my desk (I have to print financials, I’m old school) – and it makes for good video lighting. Details!
Wired mouse and keyboard – I got so tired of spotty service I don’t care about the aesthetics.
French press (but it’s full of some kind of herbal tea or cacao, not coffee) that I sip all day (it can also be a water bottle) to keep myself busy.
Reading glasses – I turned 42 and it was over. If the light is low and the text is small, yuuuup. I have them stashed all over the house in convenient areas but I ALWAYS forget to keep one in my bag when I go out.
Pixel charging dock – I’m one of those that needs it max charged all the time, but it also becomes a photo rotator when I’m not using it and I LOVE having those memories rotate through. (See below)
I like less stuff on my desk, so I have the organizer on the left (remember, left handed) stuffed full of things I probably need to clean out – but everything at the ready, and what doesn’t fit there you’ll see under the shelf on my right – the shelf holds electronics, but also handy little carabiners and paperclips and stuff.
I’ve got a pile of books to make “book notes” on for when I finish a project and want to fill a half hour spot with some learning.
Orientation – my back is actually to the main part of the house where people come in – it allows me to tune out people going back and forth and distracting me, and I have an easy look at our backyard and side yard for a dose of sun and nature whenever I need it, but it doesn’t blind me with actual natural light straight in front.
Everything else is morale for me – being pretty isolated at home, I take a lot of time to stop and be delighted by stuff in my field of view, or help me manage feelings:
- Mug from someone I love to remind me about what’s important. (Yes, I live in paradise but I need sparkles and snuggles from Fresno.)
- I have a couple plants and a sprayer to keep them happy
- I have the cutest hedgehog tape dispenser
- I have fidget things that 100% I am playing with on conference videos but you can’t see it.
- I have Cheese Sandwich to remind me that if I don’t do what makes me fun, I lose my brilliance (thanks to my kids for making me watch every single episode)
- I got a screaming goat that always makes me feel better when I’m frustrated.
- I got a video that I need to digitize and send to someone who brought it to show them I love them – so instead of a to-do list, it’s constant presence annoys me. I’ll probably go get the set up after writing this.
- I’ve got some signs about self work that I look at to remind me about whatever it is I’m focusing on right now (currently it’s “say no”, “life is a gift, don’t waste it with things you can’t control,” and “you make the rules of your life” because I’ve been pretty focused lately on making everyone else happy)
- My degree that was actually really painful to get that’s signed by the Governator. It’s the only thing I wanted when I got my masters’ degree just because I always wanted to be someone with a fancy signed degree in their office signed by the Governator. I’m kind of over it, but it reminds me where I was at when I graduated and keeps me humble.
- My warm fuzzy board – here’s where I look when I feel less than, not strong enough, etc. It contains warm fuzzies from people I respect, reminders of who I am that I need in moments like that, and the like. Many of the things there have little notes on the OTHER side that keep it secret which makes it feel even cooler. Stuff in writing matters, esp if it came from someone else, for me. Words and acts of service are my love language, and when they’re combined, I’m not lonely or sad.
- Dog spot – the dog chills there all day (that door is all dirty from paws and noses) when he’s not enjoying the little side yard garden. Natural light flowing in for me to easily look outside.
The key is to keep stuff not cluttered, per se, but in the spot you need it at that right moment. I attempt minimalism, but not to an extreme. If it gives me delight, it stays forever. If I amass too many delights that it becomes clutter, I move it on. Because, ultimately, delight isn’t clutter, and it’s not mindful intent.
But an optimized physical space helps you optimize your mental space, too.