According to Days of the Year, today is Organize Your Home Office Day.

As someone who works from home, I suppose I should recognize this day, add it to my calendar, embrace it, and . . . act on it?

I tend to think of myself as a very organized person. I’m not a huge fan of “clutter,” though often find myself surrounded by it. I’ve worked with people whose offices resemble the set of some near-future post apocalyptic epic in which the space had been ransacked and looted for anything of value, then left full of papers and broken coffee mugs and garbage.

That’s never been me. I’m tidy and organized.

In fact, I was once accused of organizing my office as a means of “work avoidance,” and in fact have accused myself of just that. I’ve advised writers to not have an office, or even a desk, and to unbind themselves from the “temple” and make themselves able to write anywhere and at any time.

And yet I seem to have entirely set that advice aside of late, attaching myself to my little home office nook up in the loft area at the top of the stairs. I don’t even have a proper office—a room with a door. Our house is just exactly the right size for a family of four, and was purchased when I wasn’t working full time from home, but still wrote in off hours on a laptop usually on the living room couch.

But as my old laptop finally starts to age out of any practical use I find myself working in what I lovingly refer to as “the downtown office” less and less, my little nook has become my office, my world headquarters, my sanctum sanctorum, and as you can see in this picture, it’s too small, too messy, and actually kinda depressing.

Boy, in the cold light of the flash it looks so depressing...

Boy, in the cold light of the flash it looks so depressing…

But there is at least a little method to the madness.

I’m right handed, so the legal pads and word list on the right, in front of the modem, are handy and useful for taking notes. The computer itself is fairly well organized, though I may have a slightly more complex than necessary file structure. I recently adopted a semi-Kanban method of putting the most pressing files in folders marked TO DO, MOST USED, and THIS WEEK, and that’s been working to keep the more pressing issues front and center.

Note the Sci-fi Paperback Grab-bag box to the far right, under a stack of papers that are waiting to be filed (which I do every Saturday). It is keeping the file cabinet drawers closed, as is my cheap but effective shredder. And my shoulder bag.

In this picture you can see the even less strictly organized left side of the desk, which is where we find piles of papers, bills, notebooks, and whatnot. Directly to the left are more or less works in progress, behind that, slightly less pressing stuff. And some pens.

Holy God do I need a new chair.

Holy God do I need a new chair.

Shit. My pony fell down.

Jesus is this depressing.

I gotta get outta here.

That’s it. Time to take my own advice and work at least half time on my laptop, and start living the plan to work off site entirely at least one day a week. I’m letting stuff like email and Twitter and the internet in general distract me, which is making me work less. That godawful chair is killing my back. The sedentary nature of my life is making me gain weight and feel terrible.

Organize my home office?

Screw that.

I’m leaving my home office.

And starting right now, I’m setting aside a couple sheckles every month for a new laptop.

Maybe this summer I’ll actually go outside.


—Philip Athans





About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. I just read your book on writing science fiction and fantasy and I think that it was one of the few times that I’ve ever came across someone blatantly say not to restrict yourself to a writing space, but I agree. I find myself so caught up in the space and after so many times in the same space I start to feel restricted and grow more easily distracted with each passing day.

    I have a laptop to move, so why not do it? Unfortunately it’s pouring, so I can’t sit outside today, but maybe a nice spot by the window. 🙂

  2. I’m working on filling a Sci-Fi/Fantasy grab box for myself. There is a wonderful place about 40 mins away from me called The Book Thing where I can go and pick up as many free books as I want on all subjects/genres. I hope to have it filled an be using it in about two weeks, right after I finish Mainspring by Jay Lake.

    I have but one…no two questions. What is the image you are using as a desktop wallpaper? And where can I get it?

  3. Pingback: FOLLOWING UP | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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