Anchored at home

by Kristin on April 26, 2010

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by Stuart Seeger

I have always had a place to lay my head, but when it comes to having a place to craft my words, I have been a freelancing nomad.

I wander from dining room table to living room sofa, from a small desk in my bedroom to a small table on the front porch. When nothing feels quite right, I pack up and wander to one cafe or another, or maybe to the library. For about eight months I rented a desk at a local co-working space, but they decided to not renew the lease. Back when I first started freelancing, my desk was in a sun room, which I shared with a lot of toys. I can’t even remember where I worked at the next house I lived in, before I bought this home.

For years, I’ve tried hard to convince myself that being a gypsy writer is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it might be preferable: There’s plenty of variety and ways to keep things fresh. Perhaps avoiding physical ruts can keep you out of creative ruts, I hoped.

Longing for home

The reality, though—at least for me—seems to be that without a home base, I feel restless and distracted. Maybe even insecure, and a bit on edge.

Think about what it means to know you have a home and can go there. Home, ideally, is the place where you can let down your guard, open up your heart, and completely be yourself. Even when you’re out in the world, mixing things up with new experiences and unexpected challenges, home still waits for you, giving you the rootedness and courage you need.

I think the same goes for having a dedicated space to work. I used to think it was just a practical matter—I didn’t like working at the dining room table because there was always a pile of school papers sitting across from me, and my notebook would inevitably get stuck in some syrupy residue that didn’t get wiped up. But now I think it has more to do with having the emotional and mental space, which is tethered to the physical space. It’s a state of mind even more than a state of practicality.

Carving my nook

Jason and I have been looking at bigger houses that are for sale in our neighborhood, but a week or so ago we decided to make something happen rather than wait for something to happen.

We began brainstorming the space we have in our home, and how it could be radically rearranged. We talked about what my work needs are: how much space I need, what files and materials I need easy access to, how important it is for me to be able to look out a window—not just toward the sunshine, but also toward the activity on our bike- and pedestrian-happy street. We took all of those things into consideration, along with the space needs of our family, and drew up a plan.

On Friday, we made an IKEA run, where we bought a basic shelving unit that can serve as an airy room divider (I already had all of the office furniture I needed). On Saturday, we moved every single piece of furniture on the first floor of our house, completely swapping out the dining and living rooms. On Sunday, we rested (actually, we spent quite a bit of time dealing with all of the randomness that is inevitably unearthed when you move lots of stuff around).

And on Monday? I began my work week anchored in a new home base—a place where I know exactly who I am and what I am supposed to do.

Happy Monday to you all. I hope you have a place that helps you be yourself and do your best work.

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  • ed cyzewski

    Looks great. You won’t regret having that space. I’m glad to see you’re keeping it clean and free from clutter.

  • Trina

    Sweet Kristin. What you did speaks volumes about simplicity. Enjoy your new space.

  • Susan

    Awesome! My hubs and I went through a lot of ups and downs in NYC, I had lived in 8 places in 9 years in my Brooklyn tenure, and as a couple we lived in our last place for 4 years if that tells you anything. It’s no wonder I never felt like I was at home with my life, let alone my space. I was nomadic inside and out. Now that we have our own little carriage house and space, it’s like a refuge. It feels safe, like the only thing filling the space is us and our dreams.

    As opposed to shared walls with toxic neighbors and urban chaos.

  • dorie

    Yay, you have an office! This makes me so happy to hear.

  • Norcross

    Fantastic! My work is mainly as a designer / developer, so I have a bit larger setup. But having your own space is invaluable. Here’s my setup:

  • Kristin T.

    ed, I had to laugh about your “keeping it clean and free of clutter,” seeing as how when I took the photo I had yet to start *using* the space. :) We shall see how well I do on that front. The good thing is that I have a variety of drawers, cupboards and shelves at my disposal, so I should be able to keep things in order. (Btw, where do you do most of your writing?)

    Trina, simplicity is something Jason and I keep going back to as we discuss what would make our home work better. To a certain point, having more space can aid in simplicity, but then you reach a tipping point and it becomes excess. We’re trying to determine that perfect balance.

    Susan, when I’m frustrated with our tight quarters, I often think about all of the people living in NYC (not to mention all of the people in most every other country). Then I remember to be thankful for what we have, and we take a trip to IKEA. :) (Your little carriage house, btw, sounds like a dream setup.)

    dorie, thanks! I can’t wait for you to see it all this weekend. The entire house is transformed, and there’s only one new piece of furniture!

    Norcross, nice setup! Yes, you need more space than I do, for sure. Writers have always had it good when it comes to space and equipment needs. Technically, a pen and a notebook and a park bench are all I need (for maybe an hour or so!).

  • ed cyzewski

    Half at home and half in public places such as cafes and libraries. I need both. I also pass on the wifi when I’m at a cafe or library. I carved out a spot for my desk, filing cabinets, and book shelf in what would have been our tiny bedroom. We opted to sleep on a futon in our apartment’s living room so I have a little room to write in the office/clothing storage room. :)

    You can find out more about my views on writing spaces in my book at, but generally I try to do my serious, for-pay writing, at cafes in the AM so I’m free from online distractions, and then network, e-mail, and blog in the afternoon (for the next day).

  • Tara Mohr

    Oooh how fabulous! I’m excited for you!

  • Sheryl

    Your own space! Connected yet separate—-lovely! I hope it’s everything you need.

  • Kristin T.

    ed, I need both kinds of spaces, too—public and private. I like that you have a routine worked out. I usually let restlessness dictate whether I stay or go.

    Tara, thanks! It feels good.

    Sheryl, you’re absolutely right—that “connected yet separate” idea is key. I could never completely retreat and still write honestly about everyday life.