Why I Ditched My Desk

At the beginning of May, we accepted a challenge from Minimalism and Your Money to spend 100 hours outdoors. While Dave met the challenge, Angie and I finished the month with 85 hours – still not too shabby for the rainiest month of the year. During the month, we managed to:

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We also enjoyed a lot of our meals on our patio and I soon began to look forward to lunchtime. Like a little kid in school, the mere thought of going outside meant I could barely sit still at my desk. Ah, my desk…it has been both a creature comfort and a thorn in my side for years. On the one hand, it has provided me a dedicated space to park my laptop and my rear end for countless hours over the past 4 years. On the other hand, it has also served as a constant visual reminder of my work obligations. If you work from home, you understand this dilemma. There is no separation of work and home. Even when you have a separate office, you still know the work is there and you can often find yourself “getting just one more thing done” long past quitting time.

I spend about 38 hours a week on my laptop. In that time, I accomplish whatever work tasks I have assigned myself, work on this blog, update our social media sites, and take care of any budgetary activities that may need attention (like paying the rent or logging our receipts). For the remaining 130 hours, my laptop always sat on my desk and along with the knick-knacks, gathered dust (or served as a catch-all for the mail). For the longest time, my desk was the first thing you saw when you walked into our apartment. When Angie and I would have decluttering days, I longed to put it in with the rest of the discards but could never bring myself to do it.

A few weeks ago, we were working on the bedroom closet – pushing our winter clothes to the back and bringing our summer clothes to the front. During this (quick) process, I mentioned that it would be cool to have some sort of cabinet or drawer to organize my sewing supplies. The very next day, we were pulling out of the apartment complex when I saw something out of the corner of my eye by the dumpster. Lo and behold, it was a cabinet! Granted, it was a lot bigger than what I had envisioned, but it was a cabinet and it was free.

We brought the rickety kitchen island into the house, cleaned and tightened it up, and there it sat for a few days while we tried to decide what to do with it. The only logical option was to put it where my desk was. To do that, I’d have to ditch the desk. You would think that I would have been ecstatic to finally have a reason to get rid of my desk, but I was conflicted. So first, I moved the desk to the patio to “test” our new idea before committing to it. I rehomed a few of the knick-knacks (they all have special meaning to me) to other locations in the apartment. Then I tried organizing my sewing supplies in the cabinet.

I didn’t like the way it looked. The next day, I moved some of our cookery into the cabinet instead. That didn’t make sense either, since it left empty cabinets in the kitchen (not the most ideal place to store my sewing stuff or a laptop). On the third day, I hit upon a “brilliant” idea. I moved our file boxes and my knitting basket into the cabinet and put both our laptops in the drawer. I know that doesn’t sound like a Nobel Prize winning discovery, but here’s the real beauty in what I did.

I moved my work out of my sight. The simple act of putting the laptop in the drawer changed the way I saw, not just the room, but our home in general. The first time that I walked into the apartment after the change, I was amazed at how much cozier and more homelike the place felt.

It’s not that I dislike my work. I don’t. I just don’t want it to be the first thing I see when I come through the door and I don’t want it to be the focal point of the room. Work is a small part of a much larger whole. For the first time ever, that drawer gives it a properly sized place in our home. I can get the laptop out when I need to, and I can put it back when I’m done. No more seeing it sit there 24/7.

If that’s not great, how about this then? Not having a dedicated space to sit for 6-8 hours a day has meant that I must find a new location to work. The kitchen table has always been just a few feet from my desk but the view by moving over just those few feet is completely different. I can see out the window! And then there’s the patio where the view is even better. Yes, I know that I could have picked up the laptop off the desk a hundred times and moved outside, but I never did. The desk was my “comfort zone”. Everything was already there and all I had to do was just plop down and write.

The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone. ~ Karen Salmansohn

Ditching my desk didn’t take away my responsibilities to work and home. It didn’t mean that I would spend any less time on the computer. It simply helped to reframe things in a way that was more reflective of how I feel inside. Work is important but it is secondary to the many, many more important aspects of my life.

Ditching my desk was a small thing but it was one of the best things I’ve done all year. Who knows what I may tackle next!

As for what happened to my desk…I gave it to a neighbor. She’s using it for a plant stand.

Side note: I was in the middle of editing this post on Monday morning when my phone rang. It was one of those calls that you always say “if this happens, then I’ll do ___” but you never really expect it to actually happen. It seems apropos that as I am delegating my work life to a smaller space in my home, transitions are taking place with my employer that may make my work life itself even smaller. At present, I don’t know much, but as things develop, I will keep you posted. In the meantime, it’s time to start thinking about how best to fill in that blank above.

Going Out to Play in May

At the beginning of May one of the bloggers that I follow (Dave from Minimalism and Your Money) issued a challenge: spend 100 hours outside this month. I didn’t hesitate before signing us up. Of course, after the fact, I realized that 100 hours roughly equates to 3 hours 15 minutes per day. That’s quite daunting when you think about those days when we can barely find 15 minutes to do something for ourselves. But that’s why it’s called a challenge. Sometimes you need a little push to get you going in the right direction and trust me, Angie and I needed this push!

We do a fair amount of outdoor living but nowhere near 3 hours a day. We should. Nature is good for the soul (and for your overall health and well-being too).

This year, I’ve been to the doctor more than I have in the past decade. Thankfully (as far as I know), I’m not ill, just aging. My years of avoiding anything that looks like structured exercise have caught up with me and despite the fact that I eat a 99% plant-based diet, I’m not as healthy as I could be. Though I passed the 24-hour blood-pressure monitoring test, my doctor still thinks I am at risk of hypertension, and my cholesterol is still borderline (though it did drop 46 points over the past year without medication).

How do I fix that? I think maybe the great outdoors holds the cure.

According to a recent article in Business Insider, the health benefits of being outside include:

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased short-term memory
  • Lower cortisol levels (stress hormone)
  • Boosted immune system
  • Increased creativity

I really could use all those things, so this outdoor challenge is very important to me. Plus, it helps us to branch out with our own project – 48 Great Dates.

So far this month, we’ve gone on two long hikes, spent a full day letterboxing, visited a U-pick strawberry patch, cruised a free antique car show and craft festival, and started eating lunch most days on the patio (rather than in front of YouTube). I also resurrected our “Go Out & Play” list from last year and narrowed it down to a May Play List. Fingers crossed, we plan to accomplish all of these items this month, while working toward the overall goal of 100 hours outdoors.

  • Hit golf balls at the driving range
  • Go letterboxing
  • Go wading in the creek
  • Hike to a waterfall
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Go paddle boarding
  • Enjoy a picnic breakfast (in the park)

If you’d like to follow our progress, we’ll be posting updates to Instagram @minimalmelody

How much time do you spend outdoors? How might you improve that number? What ideas do you have for fun things to do outside?