Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Clearing the desk

Earlier this week I cleared off my desk. It was long overdue, but also something I just couldn’t manage to get done before now. I had strong(er) motivation to do something, but the spark was an idea I had, a project I thought would be a good idea. The result was a winding road, but with a successful outcome. I am both relieved and invigorated.

The truth is, I haven’t used my office much for some five months or so, ever since my Hackintosh started playing up, as I mentioned when I bought my new Mac mini. Instead, I used my MacBook Pro at the dining table, and that wasn’t all bad: It was cool in there in the warm months, I could watch TV while I did whatever it was I was doing, and it was a big space, so it felt expansive.

On the other hand, dining chairs aren’t very comfortable after a couple hours, and a dining table is too high to type. I also felt bad about having nine square metres of house that I never used for anything beyond storage—my garage is supposed to be the place that’s all about storage.

So, when I decided to buy a new desktop Mac, that also meant starting to finally get my office sorted, since a desktop computer implies the use of, ya know, a desk. This was the week that I made a major step forward.

I mentioned in a post yesterday that I went to “a computer store I often go to for stuff”. I also said I went there for a hard drive, which I got (it’s for the dock I bought for my Mac Mini). However, I was actually interested in two other things.

First, I wanted to look at (and probably buy…) a 4K monitor, which is basically a super-duper high resolution monitor which is too pretty for words. My current monitor is okay, sure, but a 4K one would be so much better. And, if my goal is to sort myself out with stuff that will be good for around ten years (as my current monitor has been), then, why not? I’d seen some I was interested in on the store’s website, and wanted to see them in person.

I was also interested in monitor stands, specifically ones that are basically shelves. I wanted to be able to slide the keyboard for Nigel’s computer under the shelf when I wasn’t using his computer (which is most of the time) so I’d have more room to use the desk. And, when I did use NIgel’s computer, I could slide my keyboard out of the way, too. I’ve seen such things online, so I knew they existed.

Things didn’t work out as planned because, as I said yesterday, “most of their shelves were empty”. There were no monitors to look at, and there were no monitors stands of any kind—just those movable arm things than one or two monitors are attached to (something I’d considered in the past, actually).

When I went to the home centre I mentioned yesterday, I decided to make up a temporary version of what I wanted so I could try out the concept (before and after photos above). A final version would be, potentially, a lot of work.

So, I bought a simple Melamine shelf and some storage baskets to use as supports (see photo at right). The shelf is shorter than my desk is wide, which allowed me to put my microphone stand on the side of my desk (it had been on the back). That had advantages of its own, because it meant my microphone wouldn’t be in front of the window any more.

I took everything off my desk and put it into a box. Some of the stuff was office supplies—notepads, paper clips, scissors, that sort of thing—and some techy stuff I needed to review (like hard drives). But clearing it all away gave me a clean slate (and it really was clean, because I wiped down my desk while I had the chance).

I set everything up, inverting the baskets for more strength, and it worked as I imagined it would, including a space for my Mac mini. However, there was only enough space to store one keyboard. Now that I see my idea is a sound one, I’ll make it happen.

I’m going to make a shelf the width of my desk, paint it, and put it on legs I already have. I’ll share more about that project when I do it, but it can’t happen until I find all my tools. For now, the important part is that I tested the idea, found it’s a really good one, and also worked out that the final version of my idea will do what I want it to do.

My idea may be further modified, though, because I also need to make room for my computer speakers: The speaker in the Mac mini isn’t exactly awesome, and I don’t always want to wear headphones. I’ll know more about that once I finalise the project, but for now my temporary version works very well.

So, I’m using my office for the first time in months, and I haven’t used my MacBook Pro in more than a week. If this keeps up, I may sell it. My desk is clear for the first time in a year, and since that’s what I face and mainly see when I’m using my computer, what’s in front of me is much more serene than it used to be.

The downside of all this is that a problem I’ve had for some time, namely that I need to write blog posts early in the day, is even truer now. If I haven’t already turned on my computer and written something before evening, chances are I won’t do so. That’s about coming up with routines, though, now that I seem to have solved my technological and esthetic requirements.

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