Monday, February 14, 2011

Where Do I Begin?

by Doula Brandi

Where do I begin? This is not in reference to writer’s block, on the contrary it’s the question that I ask myself every year when I get the urge to de-clutter and do a deep spring cleaning. I have to admit that since having children I have become a ‘messy’. My past organized self has disappeared behind mountains of laundry, tons of toys, and reams of school papers. I’ve misplaced my day planner not to mention not being able to find the desk top or the sewing machine. This is not to place the blame of my untidiness onto my children, just in recognition of the immense amount of work that a mother has to do, especially a work at home mother. It is also about me realizing that time and space management are of the utmost importance.

Organization is a must for a successful home based business operation. 2011 is my year of taming the tiger of clutter. The inner ‘neat freak’ in me wants to come out, I can feel it. I just need motivation, energy and some inspiration. For a great while I have dreamed of a workspace, one off-limits to inquisitive little hands. Someplace where I can work peacefully and if I need to, leave work laying out in order to finish it later. It was really a dream since there is no such place in our small home of 1100 sq. ft.

In my quest for a set-apart space for work, I enlisted the help of my brother to transform attic space into a studio for me to work in. I had a budget of $400 (which I had been saving back for years, just for something special) to work with and managed to nearly finish the room without going over budget too much. (I still have drywall to finish, trim to install and painting to do-all “lipstick and rouge” touch-ups.)

We have pull-down stairs for our attic right over the area designated “school room” so in theory should be a good working arrangement. My space is roughly 8’X10’ and now houses my sewing machine in addition to a nice 4 foot work bench. At Lowe's I found a 4 ft piece of white counter top marked down to five dollars. We were creative in getting that into our little car’s trunk space, but did manage to get it home in good condition. We previously purchased used cabinets from a friend who remodeled their kitchen and I used the drawer tower for the base of my workbench with the other end anchored to the wall. The entire workbench cost about $10-15 to make.

Two sets of short (think over the fridge) cabinets are stacked on top of each other to give me some storage space on one wall. I sourced used carpet from a friend who had an auction and the carpet didn’t sell. It’s in great condition and makes the room feel cozy and soft for my bare feet. Plus it was absolutely free.

I re-used a light fixture from our dining room, where we recently installed a hunter ceiling fan, bought on clearance of course!

I also found a custom window at Lowe's that was returned, original priced way beyond my budget, but clearance priced at $65 it was perfect and less expensive compared to smaller windows at regular price! Now I have a great source of natural light and an emergency exit if ever needed. I love this new window, easy to open, tilts in for easy cleaning and the screen is removable from the inside.

The major expense of the room was the lumber, then insulation and drywall. I had to purchase all of these items new and paid full retail for them. We insulated the room well since it is in the attic and it has made the room very comfortable without having to heat it this winter. I leave the pull-down stairs open about 8 inches and heat naturally rises to warm the room.

I pulled a small two shelved bookcase out of storage to use for my Doula lending library. This room is definitely a multi-purpose room; sewing, beading & jewelry making, scrapbooking and doula office.

Now that I have my separate work space, I’m beginning to feel some motivation and inspiration moving in. I’m feeling energized to get it stocked and organized in order to use it! Thus my journey to neat living & working has begun. I hope that you will follow me and offer your hints for keeping your home & workspace organized as inspiration to me and others along the way!

~Doula Brandi

“We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”



  1. Have you looked up claiming this room on your taxes? I think as a separate room (and not a corner of a room) it meets the requirement, so a portion of your house can be taken off taxes, but I think I read that if you sell the house you have to pay back taxes in correlation to the sale price percentage. Anywho, just wondered if you had looked that up, or if you ever did, the pros and cons of that would make a great post.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion MJ! We have thought of deducting the cost of the construction, but not much on actually using the space as a business expense. I will check into that!

  3. Just because I love you, signed in to comment with my very own special Google account :) Love it, you did a great job! So glad I finally got to see pictures. And no toys in site, woo hoo! Can't wait to see all the fun creative projects that will flow from your new space!

  4. Looks like a great start to a little home office. Now I'm wishing I had an attic in my house--which I don't.

    Using the home office deduction is a catch-22. You have to pay back taxes when you sell, but you can write off a certain percentage of your utilities now. You might even be able to write off your $400 remodel job. The biggest benefit to the home office deduction is you can write off mileage whenever you leave your "office" for business purposes.

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  6. If I could spell/type it would help! Deducting mileage for business is not dependent on taking a home office deduction, they are separate. I have been deducting business mileage for years without taking the home office deduction. Be sure to keep an accurate log of all miles and the reason for the trip :) Best to talk to your accountant if you have any questions! And don't forget to deduct your medical mileage, for appointments, picking up prescriptions, etc., if you qualify!

  7. Thanks De & Naomi. I've been reading up on the tax issue and for me at this time, since I'm more of a 'hobby' to the IRS, it's not worth it to deduct a home office expense. We will be using the insulation & new window as deductions since they qualify for the energy credit. I also keep track of mileage and take that deduction when I have it.

  8. Cool Brandi, I wondered how you made your space work, this helps me visualize it! :)

  9. um, that above comment was me, in case you are wondering who Car is, lol. :)