Creating an Office from a Closet

A work space doesn’t need to be large, just a functional one. This closet worked perfectly.

September 7, 2019

Like most moms, I seldom prioritize my own needs over those of my family’s until I reach a breaking point.  Due to unplanned circumstances, our family ended up moving into a home that was twice the size of what we were living in and my mom moved in with us.  It worked out well in that we had a game room for our boys to have their computer/video games and toys, a living and family room, and another bonus office.  But when my husband started a new job working from home, our “shared” office space became a challenge since he makes a lot of phone calls and I write and make videos.  I tried using various places around the house, but there was always some kind of distraction, or sound and light issues.  I loved filming outside, but between crazy Florida weather or the noises of a busy suburban neighborhood, sometimes it would take an hour to get a decent 15-20-minute video.  My frustration levels were at an all-time high.

I was talking with—okay venting to—my adult son about the situation and my frustration.  He pointed out that we had a large hallway walk in closet that was just a drop spot for stuff that could go other places and that it was a nice size for a small office/studio area. I saw the potential in his vision and set to work in relocating and planning the space.

The first task was to clear the closet out and find a home for everything.  The winter coats and suitcases were able to fit in our separate closets, the pantry items and card tables were able to find a home in the laundry room, and the donation drop box items went to the donation center and we just found a smaller box and another spot to put stuff we clear out.

Once that was done, I took measurements and started scanning the web and Pinterest to get a vision for what I wanted.  A home office/recording studio wasn’t something I found readily available, but by pulling ideas from larger scale set ups of each, as well as elements and color schemes that appealed to me, I was able to create an idea of what I wanted.  I made a list of items I would need: a desk, a rug to go over the hard surface floor, storage, sound paneling, lighting, office materials and decorations.  The next step was creating a budget and finding items that would fit that budget.  I did a lot of online comparison shopping and store wandering before finding what I was looking for on Amazon and at Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Target and having a realistic idea of costs.  I also scavenged the house and my own stash of supplies and décor in my classroom for the little touches that could save me money.  I settled on a budget of $1000, hoping desperately for it to be less since this was all that was in my rainy-day fund.  Here’s a breakdown of what I purchased and spent.  I am happy to report I was WAY under budge and able to keep money in my rainy-day fund for another day!

  • Paint Lowes $25.18
  •                 Paint color from Lowe’s HGTV Home/Sherwin Williams Web Gray SW7075 (flat)
  • Rug Target $59.49
  • Desk Amazon $106.99
  • Storage 6 cube organizers Wal-Mart $28.24 each x 2 ($56.48)
  • Storage boxes Target $4.99 each x 6 ($29.94)
  • Cork boards Target $11.39 each x 2 ($22.78)
  • Acoustic panels  Amazon 3 12 packs $16.90 ($50.70)
  • Letters  Amazon 4” & 2” $21.98
  • Borders  Amazon $21.13
  • Backing (gift wrap) Hobby Lobby $4.99
  • Desk lamp  Target $14.99
  • Floor lamp already owned
  • Dog bed Pet Supermarket $13.99
  • Stapler/Tape dispenser $7.59 & 4.99 ($12.58)
  • Camcorder/cell phone camera—gift/already owned
  • Decorations—already owned
  • Odds and ends (glue, rollers, etc. $40-50 ish)
  • Light ring with phone mount $39.99
  • TOTAL costs: $531.21

My first step was to paint the room a fantastic grey color I found after going cross-eyed with colors and samples and I settled on one I found at Lowe’s called HGTV Home/Sherwin Williams Web Gray SW7075 (flat).  My husband, the photographer, applauded my choice for being an 18% grey that works well on film.  Hurray for luck being on my side. 

The next step was ordering furniture and getting it assembled and in place.  I moved things around several times while trying to find a cohesive workspace that would record well.  Then, I shopped for lighting and sound paneling and worked at getting that installed.  That was a bit of a challenge as I didn’t want to ruin the walls by gluing them directly on.  I ended up hot gluing them onto the cardboard packaging it shipped in and affixing that to the wall with picture hooks, hot glue, or anchors (on the ceiling panels).  The sound absorption has proven to be a challenge as I didn’t want a completely soundproof cave, nor did I want a ton of dust collecting material since I have a severe dust allergy, so I needed the surfaces to be relatively easy to clean. I found a rug that could be steam cleaned and also strategically placed throw blankets on a shelf and hanging on the door when needed to help dampen the sound a bit.  Next, I played with the lighting and, while I found some great light boxes on Amazon, they proved to be too large for the space, so I opted to go with a light ring camera mount along with the lamps and overhead light that was in the space.  It isn’t perfect, but it works for what I needed and with my budget.  Finally, I scavenged for accessories that would personalize the space. 

I added a couple of bulletin boards, one of which became my dream board with pictures to inspire me and remind me of what I am working towards.  I also collected up artwork I had created at various painting parties and other mementos that would make me smile.  I also added a dog bed into the corner since our pups like to be wherever we are working.

My “mom cave” was a fantastic place for me to work and be inspired, as well as be left alone when I need to record or concentrate on work and I don’t have to stop the rest of the family from what they are doing or wait for the weather to cooperate.  I’m sure I will still create videos in other spaces, but it’s nice to have a go to place of my own, and one that was under budget!

Life update:  as this project has been in the works, life has continued to happen.  If your life is like mine, it happens at the speed of light and this summer has been twice that.  Shortly after getting the studio office set up, a great opportunity to work from home came up and I jumped on it.  Unfortunately, the closet studio was no longer the best space for working 8-10 hours a day, plus it was in a main thoroughfare in the house, so we came up with a new plan. 

Since my husband and I both work from home, we decided to commandeer the boys’ game room since it was larger and away from the family area so we can work and they can live at the same time, let our oldest have the old office and the closet studio became the toy room.  So, we spent a weekend swapping everything around and getting reset, but it is working out fantastically.  We have been able to make the space a shareable office that can double as a studio and, with the addition of a futon, it has actually made a great spot for the boys to come and sit and share their day with me when they get home while I take a break from work.  I know it will probably change again, but for now, it is inspiring and comfortable and exactly what we need to be productive.

Can’t Find It? Create It!

Guest Post by Allison Alexander July 22, 2019

This is a guest post by a friend and colleague that told me about her experience with creating a planner of her own when she couldn’t find what she was looking for and was kind enough to share her process with me so that I could share with you! Happy reading…and creating!

Let me start by saying that I am terrible when it comes to lesson planning. I have a very hard time keeping up with a planner and a calendar. I tend to forget to look at it and it becomes another paper weight on my desk. However, I always want to improve myself and work on my weaknesses, so I decided that this year I would vow to keep up with a calendar and planner. I started searching for the ideal planner, but in my search discovered that it was either too expensive, or did not meet my needs. I found a majority of teacher planners were geared towards elementary school teachers and I am a high school teacher. This is when I decided to make a list of what I would want/need in a planner. I knew I needed to be realistic with myself as far as what I was most likely to keep up with. My list included a monthly calendar for an overview and important dates, a weekly calendar for the nitty gritty daily details, to-do lists, parent contact lists and meeting notes. I decided to use Microsoft Publisher to create my own planner. I wanted something I could decorate myself, as I find adult coloring very relaxing. With this in mind, I kept the design very simple, with outlined letters I could doodle in and a design I could color myself. I searched for a mandala coloring page in the image search feature and used that as the focal point of my cover page. (I made sure the image I selected did not violate any copyright rules.) made a first page with room for my contact information and my daily schedule.

Next I decided I needed a monthly calendar. I could have chosen a pre-made calendar, but I decided to do my own so I could control the amount of space I would have to write in. This is where I made an error that I did not discover until after I had the printed copy in hand. I did not make enough room for the last week of the month! So my best friend, Sondra, who requested a copy of the planner, came up with the BRILLIANT idea that we not work the last week of the month! We can’t work that week if it does not exist, right?  I wanted the calendar to span two pages, to make plenty of room to write. I purposely left off Saturday and Sunday made those columns reserved for notes.

I wanted my weekly calendars laid out similarly in a two-page spread.


Since I love to make check off lists, I decided to include a section of to-do lists.

I also wanted a convenient place to log parent contacts. I included a place for a date, student name, type of communication: email/phone/text, and reason for contact.

I made the last section of my planner for Meeting Notes.

Once I had the sections and pages that I wanted, I decided to have it professionally printed and bound. I have had experience with Staples copy and print services before, so that is where I went to explore.  They have a presentation and manuals section, so I went there and chose “Pro-Presentations and Manuals”. This gave me the option of having it coil bound and having a clear plastic cover. I also chose a cardstock back cover, but could have selected a vinyl back cover. I saved my Publisher document as a PDF file to upload it to the Staples website so I could set up the print job. I had the option of adding tabs to separate the sections. It was in setting up the tabs that I realized that I would need to add additional pages so that my two-page calendar spreads would print correctly.  I decided to search for more mandala coloring pages and added those in.

I had the option of what type of paper to use to print the pages. I ended up choosing 32lb cotton paper, so that the pages would be heavier than copy paper, but not as heavy as card stock. I paid extra for the nicer paper, (about a $10 difference in total cost) but I think it was definitely worth the extra money. The total cost of the planner was $33.10.

If you didn’t want to have it professionally printed, you could print it yourself and put it in a 3-ring binder, or Staples can bind it for you for a small fee. I am very pleased with the outcome!

Check out this video to see a flip-through of the completed product.

This video is posted with permission on my YouTube channel. Don’t forget to go to the channel to like this video, as well as subcribe to my channel for more videos or to check out past videos!

Bio:

My name is Allison Alexander and I have been teaching math for 20 years in the Polk County Public School district. I have experience teaching all levels of math from 6th-12th grade. I became National Board certified in Adolescent/Young Adulthood Mathematics in 2006. I was also the math department chairperson for 6 years at Auburndale High School before moving on to a different school. I currently teach 10th-12th grade math at Winter Haven High School.