3 Ways to Create a Home Office Anywhere (And Put It Away at the End of the Day)

I’ve been working at home for just shy of a year—and it took more getting used to than I would’ve thought. It took me several weeks to learn, for example, that I had to get ready in the morning as if I was going somewhere. Getting dressed (even if it meant putting on a different set of soft pants than the ones I’d slept in) and then changing back into my pajamas at night became key to dividing the day between work hours and off hours. So did getting a change of scenery (a walk before or after work, as though I was ‘commuting’ still), taking a real lunch break, and creating a physical way of dividing my home office from my regular home.

That last part is easy to do if you have a separate office, maybe. But in a very tight two-room apartment, this took a long time for me to figure out. (I’m still not great at it.) I’d spread out at our one table in the corner of the living room, then push everything to the side at the end of the day, so that my work stuff literally encroached on dinner and lurked in my peripheral vision all night.

When one space serves as both your home and your work, your relaxation space and your meeting space, your unwinding-on-the-couch and get-stuff-done space—and especially now, with many of us staying inside all the time—it’s both hard and essential to create a physical divide between work and home. As I’ve learned, if you can’t close the door on your office—if you’re working at the kitchen counter, say, or even on the couch—you can at least pack it out of sight when 5:00 hits.

Here are a few tricks for creating a mobile at-home office (and putting it away).
1. Office on a Tray Above: At Remodelista, we’re longtime fans of trays for every need, including corralling desk essentials (like on these Cafeteria Trays by Schoolhouse; see more we like here). A few weeks ago I was looking for a way to move my whole workspace off of the table at the end of the day, and bingo: trays to the rescue again. This time, though, I used a regular old baking sheet lined with a pretty kitchen cloth. There’s no need to buy anything specially, and it’s big enough to hold a computer, pens, and a few essentials. Move your office-on-a-tray to your workspace during the day (it works as a lap desk on the couch, too), then set it in a separate part of your space, out of sight, when the workday’s done. 2. Office in a Drawer Above: If the kitchen is your workspace, clear out a drawer and create space inside for your office essentials: a laptop, pens, paperclips, a tray for papers, and whatever else you need. Pull out your supplies during the day (maybe even work at the counter; it’s a perfect standing desk)—then literally close the drawer on it when you’re done. Photograph by Matthew Williams for The Organized Home. 3. Office in a Bag Above: An idea from The Organized Home book: an office in a bag. Slip your laptop and papers into a bag (we like a stand-up canvas version like this, but any will do); chargers can go into smaller bags inside. Tote it all to your at-home workspace in the morning, then pack it away when it’s time to relax. Photograph by Matthew Williams for The Organized Home.
Also helpful: Aha! Hack: 5 Smart and Surprising Alternative Uses for Binder Clips. (Hint: They’re great for keeping cords and chargers from taking over your living space, which they’re prone to do.)

N.B.: Featured photograph from A London Townhouse Designed to Catch the Light; photograph by Rory Gardiner.
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