Creating an encouraging workspace

Published by Lori Pickert on September 23, 2010 at 03:24 PM

One thing we mentioned in A Work of One’s Own was creating a workspace that reminds you of your goals.

Just as we create a workspace for our child that gently reminds her of her own goals, we want to make ourselves a space that

- celebrates what we love

- reminds us of our goals

- encourages us to continue working

Ideally, our workspace should inspire us daily to keep doing the important work of becoming our best selves.

Making this effort sends the same messages to ourselves that we want our children to get from their space:

– you are valued

– your work is important

– this is what you care about

– this is what your hard work looks like

– you still have more work to do

– there is joy in work and learning

Our space tells us a story about our daily life and work, about our values and priorities, about our plans and dreams.

What story is your space telling you?

We are designing the lives we want to lead by living and working where we’re happiest on projects that call to us.Jessi Arrington


Comment by Annika on September 23, 2010 at 03:56 PM

My space is telling me that I am a disorganized wreck with no focus.

Comment by Christine on September 23, 2010 at 07:52 PM

I think my space is too focussed on what I admire about other people's work and not enough on my own.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 23, 2010 at 08:38 PM

annika, how rude! :^)

christine, mm, and we're back to inspiration and balance. it's good to be inspired, but our space should, i think, focus us back on our own work.

note to everyone: i updated this post by adding the quote at the end.

Comment by Jacinda on September 23, 2010 at 10:56 PM

My space tells me that I value my children far more than I value myself. We live in a tiny (yes, teensy) home and the girls' creative space is in the best and most spacious room in the house. My space, which i share with my partner and everything else that doesn't fit anywhere else, is in the smallest. It's sunny and it is a separate space but the key is organisation. After setting up most of the rest of the house I basically lost motivation. It is an ongoing challenge for me to cultivate some space for me and my work, separate from the girls. It all seems to just swirl around and I end up back focussed on the girls' work or managing our environment.

Comment by the little list on September 24, 2010 at 01:55 AM

So much truth here. I recently discovered your blog and I'm enjoying it! Nice to meet you.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 24, 2010 at 02:55 PM

jacinda, if you spend most of your time in the space you made for the girls, i wonder if you could make that a shared space and have it reflect some of your own interests/goals/etc.

and i know it's a tiny space! :^) maybe you could get up by the ceiling. ;^)

little list, thank you! nice to meet you. :^)

Comment by Sheila on September 24, 2010 at 03:18 PM

My space is telling my that I must have been a squirrel in another life. Or am one now. It's crowded, colourful, filled with books and art. I like it but it's a bit dusty...can I get a personal assistant to clean for me without appearing shallow?

Comment by allie on September 24, 2010 at 06:27 PM

Our classroom environment has to reflect whatis important to the children and show that we admire their work and we find it important. I spent 20 minutes this afternoon dragging furniture around the room to showcase construction as a large part of the space, to give them more physical space to work with that interest.

Documentation is also showcased, and I realize more and more how important that is. Like Christine suggested above, we have to be careful to make sure we are celebrating our own work rather than surrounding ourselves only with other works. The most prominent things in a child's environment should be child made.

As adults in the classroom, we naturally design the workspace in a way that is appealing to us also, I think. I feel as comfortable in my classroom as I do in my home. And for people who are making working spaces for children in their homes, it is bound to be the same way.

Comment by Sheila on September 24, 2010 at 10:55 PM

What I struggle most with is making the need fit the space. It can be so incredibly difficult at times, too, because the magazine spaces are ALWAYS different from my spaces, not to mention so much smaller.

Comment by Dawn Suzette on September 25, 2010 at 03:43 AM

I gave my desk to the kids and they still draw on the kitchen table... guess it is time to take my desk back!
Thanks Lori! As always...motivation to make those changes.
I recall a post about spaces when I said I moved a bunch of the kids things upstairs and you said what goes up will come down.
Ones of the many things that has surprised me as a parent is this ever shifting and changing environment. The feeling of being in constant flux. Growing out of and beyond things. Meeting new needs. Exciting and a little crazy at the same time.
Or maybe it is just because we keep moving... that makes it a little crazy too :)

Comment by Alice on September 25, 2010 at 10:26 AM

We live in a very small space - it probably looks rather chaotic (and frequently is) to the outsider, but I figure that our house is for us first and visitors second. (i am trying to initiate the rule that chairs and the couch are left free so that unexpected guests do have somewhere to sit:-) ).

Now that we are finally homeschooling (yay) I am really concentrating on organising our work materials so that they are readily accesible. The whole appartment (being small) is our workspace and the diningroom table is where most work takes place and it is right in the centre of the house.

I'll try and take some photos, if only I could find that camera..... (just in case I was sounding organised).

Comment by WildIris on September 25, 2010 at 05:54 PM

I've read your blog for a long time and learned a lot about project based learning from your blog. Thanks!

You've been awarded the "One Lovely Blog Award." Enjoy!

Comment by nancy on September 27, 2010 at 03:31 PM

we live in a 2 story house and i consider the first floor the shared work space for the entire family. each room and corner is shared and i'm enjoying it. it's constantly changing as we all grow physically and interests wax and wane. the room with my sewing machine is a bit cluttered, but that's because i'm working on a project. so it's telling me to come back!
i'm a big believer in creating space a space that calls you to work and discover by keeping supplies and tools handy in a visual pleasing way. i'm a bit of a neat freak with an interior design background, so a clean work space helps my creative mind. :)

Comment by B on September 28, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Thanks for this post--it manages to be both inspiring and practical.

Comment by kort on September 28, 2010 at 09:00 PM

it was this response to my question from the "Work of One's Own" post that still has me:

"this is like a meditation -- our environment quietly reminds us daily of who we are and who we want to be. we can focus on the things that are most important to us, and bring more of those things into our daily lives."

i think moving the environment to the realm of meditation, to the third teacher, gives me permission to take it seriously. permission to take my own work seriously. permission to stop being afraid and start getting busy.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 1, 2010 at 04:04 PM

sheila, oh, i want a personal assistant to clean my space, too! :)

allie, i hated 99% of the child spaces i saw when i was working as an educational consultant. they were almost always made with an eye toward what adults think kids like -- bright primary colors, visual chaos, etc. -- and paid no attention to what the adults working in the room needed. so file cabinets, boxes, messy bins of materials were shoved everywhere -- and visible. it was like a visual war where one side was cartoon and the other was mess.

i saw very few classrooms like yours and mine!

usually with a classroom situation -- and i think this happens in small homes, as well -- there is a tendency to want to give over every square inch to the kids, because they need it. but the space should also reflect the work being done by the adults and it should work for the adults on a practical level -- they should have somewhere to sit, write, store materials, etc. if it doesn't work on that practical level, then things spill over into the kids' space anyway.

sheila, i'm really interested in knowing more about what you mean by making the need fit the space. i assume you mean the space isn't large enough to contain all the things you need to fit in there.

i think magazines and online inspiration can be helpful to a point -- you can find some good idea for display and organization, and you might find an overall look and feel that appeal to you.

but there's nothing like actually paying attention to your own space, figuring out what works and doesn't work, and focusing your efforts on one area at a time to improve. one thing that i recommend to both parents and teachers is to go into your workspace and take a lot of photos of each area and each wall -- without cleaning up first! set them aside, then look at them a few days later and see what jumps out at you. sometimes we get so used to something that we don't really *see* it anymore. this is a way to trick yourself into seeing those things that need to be changed/improved the most.

dawn, lol re: what goes up must go down .. i believe i said that, since i feel like i've spent a large portion of my time just moving things from room to room and floor to floor! the constant change you mention has definitely been true for us. every year we move things around to better accommodate what we're doing *now*. spaces are redefined as our work changes focus. i get really tired of toting boxes of books. :) but it's a necessary process!

alice, yay for homeschooling! :D

definitely find that camera and share some photos of your space; i want to see. :)

thank you, wildiris! :)

nancy, "creating a space that calls you to work and discover" -- perfect! :)

thanks, B -- hey, i try to always be both! :)

kort, that is a beautiful response.

a lot of teachers i worked with struggled with the idea of the room being "the third teacher". they had a hard time accepting that they were sending strong messages to the children with their choices about furniture arrangement, where materials were kept, what was hanging on the walls, etc.

really, i think they just wanted to make something that looked like a nice classroom and then forget about it and get down to the business of teaching .. not realizing that every day of the year their voice was being drowned out by the loud messages sent by the environment they'd made.

the space has enormous power over what happens in it. it can tell you every day, "your work is important". and "this is who you are".

"permission to stop being afraid and start getting busy" -- perfect! that's the motivation we all need. :)

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