How Are You Affected by your Workspace?

So this is my office. I actually kind of like my office right now. I feel at home there, and can be productive. But it wasn’t always this way for me.

I’ve always known that I am very affected by my environment. Even as a kid, I would spend hours arranging and decorating my bedroom. I have been aware that I’m sensitive to my environment, and that I care a lot about my space. But I have not always been in touch with how my space is working, what it’s doing to me, and especially what I can do to make it more conducive to work and health.

Earlier this year I started feeling somewhat disenchanted with my office space. I didn’t want to be there very much, and noticed that I would work out of the office as much as possible. It was somewhat odd because, at least to some extent, I got to design and arrange my own office. Many of the things I love and want in my space are there already. But I’m no expert at this. All I knew is that I had a problem.

Finally I decided to stop avoiding the issue, and do something. First I cleaned the place up, washed the windows, dusted, and vacuumed. Then I attacked the clutter, removing everything that didn’t have a permanent home, and making a home for everything that was cluttering up my space… immediate improvement but still not quite there. Next I rearranged my books, giving myself room to expand without having to rearrange, and getting every book integrated into the library in it’s proper place… more improvement, but something was missing. So I started in an aesthetics.

  • Lighting: brought in more lamps & turned off the fluorescent lighting… much better.
  • Sacred Space: I have always liked candles and icons around. In my new office they were not in my sight line anymore, but off to the side. I brought them right onto the desk with me (see the picture above). This was perhaps the biggest positive change of all.
  • Smells: I started burning incense again. I know this isn’t for everybody, but I love this smell & gave myself permission to do it.
  • Music: I began keeping my study music on play. Sigur Ros, Olufar Arnalds, Anonymous 4, and other chant music is nearly always playing if I’m writing or working.
  • Books: much of the clutter is book related for me. I started removing and re-shelving books before I start in working.
  • Cultivating: I have to keep working on my space, adding things, taking things away. I need to pay attention to what is bugging me, what’s working, where does clutter accumulate and why. My office space needs to change and grow. I need to keep thing in my sight lines that remind me of what is important, what I love, and what lights me up. That’s part of why I’m writing this post. I’m starting to feel a bit stuck again… hoping for some wisdom & ideas on how to keep improving & enhance my environment.
  • Managing: I still have a tendency to collect clutter in my workspace. I’m experimenting now with ways to collect the clutter out of my sight lines. Bins, boxes, shelves, containers, whatever it takes, the clutter has to be contained, and there needs to be some plan of attack for how to integrate or discard everything. I’m still working on this one.

What are the things you think about with your workspace? What music do you listen to? Are there too many people around, or not enough? Think less about the overall aesthetic and more about the elements that are in your office for an aesthetic purpose. What are they? What do they do? Where does you eye go naturally? What is in that place? What are the things you’ve done that have helped? What factors am I not thinking of?

Here are the icons on my desk. The triptych is by Perugino (c.1448-1524) / Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John, Saint Jerome, and Saint Mary Magdalene. The other is an icon I ordered from a Greek Orthodox bookstore a long time ago. It was made in Greece, but I don’ t know the artist or dates.


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  • Organization is always an evolving beast. We change and so must our spaces. Getting the most out of your space means constant tweaking and starting where you started: analyzing your behaviors, is important. Your take on being aware of your senses is an interesting take on organizing your space.

  • Mark Stevens

    Tim, what a great post, you have caused me to stop and think about my own. I also found a connection with your phrase, “I’ve always known that I am very affected by my environment. Even as a kid, I would spend hours arranging and decorating my bedroom. I have been aware that I’m sensitive to my environment, and that I care a lot about my space.” I feel the same way but until I read it, I hadn’t really thought about it. Here is a pic of myspace