Kicking off 2024 with a hard refresh of my workspace
New paint, new art, new furniture...new intentions? Plus, my interview on the Texas Standard radio show about quitting diets.
Confession: I spent all of 2023 working from my kitchen table. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my kitchen because it’s airy and light and surrounded by some of my favorite art. But it’s noisy and disruptive. It’s often a mess. There is no privacy.
I was constantly interrupted every time a kid or Hubs, who often works at home, came in to get something. Now, I dearly love these people, but being in the literal hub of the home, it was like Grand Central Station.
I knew I needed to move back into my the old office, but something was holding me back. So much work was needed to get it back into working order and to make it a space I wanted to create in. I’ll admit, a big reason I was dragging my feet was because I remembered the space feeling dark and claustrophobic.
And let me be really honest. I got so swept up in my work (obsessed is the word that comes to mind), including writing and growing this newsletter over the last few months of the year, that I let it rule me. I was afraid of taking my foot off the pedal.
I alluded to this a few weeks ago, but I forced myself to take the last two weeks of the year off to get my mind right and reset my priorities. I know myself. I need hard boundaries, especially now that I work for myself. I can be so hard-driving and laser-focused that I don’t want to stop for anything that takes me out of flow, even if it will ultimately be better for me.
I had lost my office, our fourth bedroom, when my 22-year-old son moved back in a year ago. But last October, he moved into his own place, and I sort of begrudgingly determined I would reclaim this space. I had the carpet steamed, which Sterling, my handsome mutt, promptly got sick on. I bought new furniture from a nearby furniture outlet and found this incredible executive desk with shelves in the front and drawers in the back, so it looks great from all sides.
Touching up the paint on the walls turned into its own mad adventure, requiring multiple visits to Sherwin Williams to get the color just right. I literally pulled painted sheetrock off the ceiling in the hall to match the color. (Side note: I don’t recommend this.) At last, I got the name of this cool greige, and voila we had a match (yes, Husband, you were right from the very beginning). By the way, the color is Light French Gray, a supposed neutral that isn’t really light. I’ve never loved it, but I’m going to live with for now. Last but not least, I hired someone to replace the burned out lightbulbs in the light fixture; I didn’t have a ladder high enough for the 20-foot ceilings.
Part of the reason the room felt suffocating was because originally I had hung the wall art at eye level, following all so-called rules you read on the internet. It just made the space more confining—a gray prison. My son, an artist and tattoo apprentice, had used the room as his personal studio (hence why it needed touch up painting). He filled it with his own oversized pieces, hanging some of them even higher than height level, and the effect was extraordinary—the space transformed. I knew going back in that I wanted to find bigger art to fill the space.
Hubs wanted to get new art for his offices too, so we reached out to Kevin Ivester, who owns a small contemporary art gallery on Austin’s Eastside, and he put together a catalog for us and then brought a selection of art to our house in mid-December.
We ended up with this ethereal two-piece acrylic painting entitled “Everything Beautiful Is Far Away” from local artist Shawn Camp. It was exactly what was needed. It makes the room more airy and light, and when the west-facing afternoon light falls on the iridescent clouds, it’s something to behold.
My friendwrote a post last week about setting intentions for the new year and cleaning out her office to make room for the new. Like me, she doesn’t do resolutions, but she admitted she is very good at intentions. She posted pictures of her space, taking inspiration from , who kicked off this new year vowing to share more of her real life on Substack, not Instagram. Over coffee last weekend, Jen confessed, “If Farrah can do it, why shouldn’t I?”
Here I am now, too. Part of my intention for 2024 is to broaden the scope of this newsletter; to bring more of myself and my everyday life into it. In her post, Jen shared she realized her home office matched her intentions. In reclaiming my space, I wondered what mine says about me.
Mostly, I think it reflects my love of nature—and the color blue. There are clouds and sky, and ocean waves, too. Yellow has never been a favorite color, but I noticed that I’ve brought elements of it in. The publisher I work for now gifted me a sunny glass candle among other items for Christmas, and it’s here, along with a golden tarot deck from one of my best friends. I’ve brought in tokens from previous workplaces—personalized mouse ears and the glass mouse I was given after completing a digital fellowship with the Newspaper Association of America eons ago.
I quasi dabble in feng shui, and this room sits appropriately in my career space, whose colors are black and blue and whose element is water. One of my initial worries with Camp’s piece was whether it would cancel out the good juju of the photograph of the ocean waves my sister gifted me from one of her surfer buddies, photographer Jeff Biege.
I remembered the creative cycle but couldn’t recall where air fit in. It isn’t one of the primary feng shui elements; it’s more the chi, or energy that flows through all the elements… feeding fire, creating waves, growing trees. It’s the life force within our spaces.
“Feng Shui uses this available Chi flow and when your home is open ready to capture this potency, you will be part of this vital flow,” an article I found read.
The way to know if spaces need air, it said, is to note whether you want to be in them. If you have a space you avoid, this is where energy is needed. What does it say that I spent months avoiding this room, my career space?
Before the redo, the office was lacking light, a place I dreaded coming into. Now, it’s the place I want to do work in.
Do you have a favorite space? What does it say about you? Did you do anything to clear out the space for the new year or set new intentions? Share your thoughts here.
My Interview on Public Radio About Navigating Diet Culture This Time of Year
Quick mention: I did an interview for the Texas Standard, a public radio program broadcast all over the state back in December, talking about the difficulty of navigating the New Year when you’re no longer dieting, and it went live last week. I’m the only “real person” in the piece, which you can read or listen to, the rest are doctors and therapists talking about the dangers of dieting. The piece alludes to the reasons I quit dieting in the first place, having not one but two children with anorexia and one of them relapsing, but I’ve written more extensively about it here.