I’ve lived in many different types of places, and it’s taught me a lot about what matters in a home. For over a decade I lived in shared housing, which meant that my bedroom was my place of rest, study, writing and even socializing.
Once I moved abroad, I still worked in my bedroom as a journalist. Then I moved in with a partner, and we both worked in our bedroom and even prepared food there, as the shared kitchen was too small for everyone. It was lovely, but it also meant packing in many different aspects of life into one area.
It can be hard to separate work and rest, but it’s worthwhile if you have the space to do so. Even if you don’t, there are some creative ways to get your desk out of your bedroom.
Separating aspects of your life
Our life needs balance: time alone, time with friends, hard work and time to relax. And for those different aspects of our life to be clear and effective, they need to be separated out. Your alone time doesn’t work if it’s constantly interrupted with questions from a family member, for example, and your work space doesn’t work when it’s mixed with your resting space.
While rest tends to be passive, you need an active mind to be creative and learn or work. If you share a bed with a partner, it’s also about separating the personal from the professional.
Also, these different spaces need different things: soft light, warm coloring for the bedroom and books, documents and alert colors like green (known for aiding concentration) for the study area. The better we define our spaces and our time, the better we use them.
The importance of a place to relax
People need downtime to recharge, process, heal and give the mind and body a break. Your bedroom should be a place of peace — serene, comfortable and intimate. Desks, and all that comes with them, can interfere with that.
If you have a partner and one of you stays up tapping away at a keyboard, it can be rough on the other who’s trying to sleep or relax.
Bedrooms are also where we spend the last hour and the first hour of the day. It’s good to spend that last hour processing the day, learning from mistakes, perhaps talking it out with someone, rather than staring at the computer or watching television.
Likewise, the first moments of your day can set the stage. While I confess I like to check the news first thing, it can be better to spend at least a few minutes gently getting your head around your day before you dive into it.
Ensuring good sleep
In order to fall asleep quickly and to sleep well, your bed should be for sleep and intimacy only. Your brain needs to understand that bed and the bedroom is not a place to go over work, to-do lists and other things that are stressing you. Sleep experts even recommend that if you can’t sleep after several minutes, you should get out of bed and read or listen to music until you do feel sleepy.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your mood, your energy levels and even for your learning, cognitive and memory ability.
The 2014 Sleep In America poll found that 89 percent of adults and 75 percent of children have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms. But devices like smartphones, laptops and televisions can negatively affect your sleep. The blue light can suppress natural melatonin — the hormone that induces drowsiness.
There’s also the temptation to wake up and check your phone or email in the middle of the night, and then it can be hard to get back to sleep.
When your desk is in your bedroom it’s all too easy to get into bed and work. But that sort of slouching can be bad for your back, due to lack of lumbar support. A neck bent too sharply can also negatively affect your posture and cause pain.
Your posture affects your mood, energy and ability to think. According to one experiment, we’re more likely to think positively when sitting up straight.
An awesome place to think
Whether you study, work from home, write, blog, edit your photos, or anything else, you need a good space to think well. That means a space that’s free from distractions (especially a tempting bed).
It sends a message to yourself that you’re serious about what you’re doing, and helps you to focus, whereas studying in your bedroom – the relaxation place – gives you permission to be distracted by social media, Youtube and other things.
If there are family or people around the house, they should know that your desk is a place where you shouldn’t be disturbed.
How to do it
Recognizing that many people don’t have empty rooms they can appropriate, how else can you get your desk out of your bedroom?
See if you can find a quiet place with good light and little likelihood of distractions. That might be a clean corner of a garage, an outdoor shed, or a large, underused closet. Or it might be in the lounge room or kitchen — though it helps if the rest of the household is out while you use these spaces.
If there’s a lack of space, can you turn part of a bookshelf or wall into a pull-down desk? How about putting a bookshelf, curtain or divider around a desk to create some separation? Or a library or cafe? Have a desk bag so that you can easily take all the stuff you need to work with you.
Some people have found that creating a separate profile on their computer just for study, without social media, can help separate thinking time from relaxation time.
Jane Austen wrote at a tiny round table by the window, while George Bernard Shaw wrote in a little shed. It was a modest wooden room with a simple desk, but remarkable because it was built on a turntable that allowed him to rotate the whole shed, according to where the sunlight was. Apparently, he called the shed “London” so his assistants could tell people that’s where he was.
So, as with most things, how you physically organize your home is going to depend on you and your own unique needs. Sometimes my most creative ideas come to me while I’m resting and not trying to force them. So writing in bed can work for me. But that logic doesn’t apply to doing thorough research. What works for you?
— Tamara Pearson