Jan 26, 2013

Living in a Matchbox

The embarrassments of the bedsit life

Some call them studios others apartments, others prefer not to talk about it. The matchbox spaces, the humble bedsit where many a creative person have laid their humble belongings.

From Shannon Guymon/Creative People Need Rules
These little embarrassments we don’t like to mention in public – a social faux-pas even amongst peers. Unless overnight success suddenly dawns after 10 years hard work; then it is safe to mention living in a bedsit in a hazy past life. Such concealment lifts ambitions clear from stray, dampened pity or serves as protection from being devoured as the weakest in the litter. We humans hold lofty ideals yet to acknowledge unfavourable circumstances in others and do nothing is tricky; every pack- dog knows it is best to hide injuries to avoid being attacked.

Facing facts

Candid discussions with artists on the subject of their living quarters require a level of familiarity that takes time to develop. Wading into the murky waters of peoples’ less than salubrious financial affairs is not the done thing – but as creative people the world over have much in common it is safe to assume a general lack of standing on the property ladder also.

Denying the existence of our hidey-holes is one thing, allowing our own visions of the space to be limited is another. Even the tiniest of cubby-holes can be improved with a little imagination.

First things first: 

To create an inspiring “home work-space” embrace the actuality that you do work from home. If you have ticked N/A, please reconsider; take note of time spent on work related e-mails, publicity, application forms, preparation and information gathering in any given week, then proceed.

An office on a boot string

Setting up a dedicated work-space is the practical solution. Many creative types use laptops which were designed to be moved around –very convenient I admit, but I would advise a stationary desk (even if this work space serves a double purpose as a kitchen table or side board etc.) Having a dedicated work space conditions the brain to connect that specific environment with achieving work related goals. Over time the brain should automatically make this association, leaping into life the instant your bum parks at your “desk”. More of an ambitious mind-set, than when lounging semi-clad in bed, laptop precariously balanced on knees chomping biscuits….. for example.

The art of furniture placement

After deciding on the “office’s” location the next step is to make it real. In regards to desk placement Feng Shui practitioners would advise sitting as far away from the door as possible. (For more tips see: http://bitylink.info/Feng-Shui-office ) Having a firm wall rather than windows or doors at your back is also recommended – magic or practical wisdom aside, it’s a strong and supportive position to work from.

Setting the tone

Make it stimulating, pleasant and practical. Create a physically comfortable environment where you want to be. Organise the necessary work tools and have them close to hand. Atmospherically speaking your office should be a biosphere, heightening concentration; a catalyst for moving towards goals, an inspiration lab for “best practice” results. (See http://bitylink.info/Feng-Shui-for-artists for more pointers.) Visual reminders may appeal -such as memorabilia from past achievements or a notice board for planning purposes. Alternatively make the area aesthetically pleasing, designing your vision of a successful work space.

Lighting the set
Lights create contrasting moods in a single space -a very desirable effect for shoebox dwellers. Highlight the territory of your office space. Lighting effectively subdivides a room, compartmentalizing and building imaginary walls. You are creative so get creative! Christmas lights are as cheap as Tesco chocolate at this time of year – drape around mirrors (use tacks to support them) or string along walls for warm and mellow toned ambiance. D.I.Y and make your own lamp: remove the label from a large glass jar, put Christmas tree light or an alternative light source inside the jar – voilĂ !

(See http://www.boot-fairs.co.uk/London.htm for de-cluttering and bargain finding)


Containing your work space from spilling into other areas (physically and metaphysically) will keep you sane -especially when working from a sardine tin. Don’t be a drone (mono-toned and monotonous); keep separate areas for separate functions – If there were walls where would the kitchen, study, and dining room be? Develop positive habits to distinguish between work-time and  play-time. When such boundaries become blurred it may feel like constant toil but in all probability the pace is similar to that of a lethargic snail. Without time limitations the mind frequently starts “goofing around” and without the restorative effect of a break, energy and optimism flag. Change gears and change your frame of mind. Take a walk around the park, read your book or go for that clichĂ© coffee; try a non-computer based activity. Meet up with people if at all possible. Working alone is one of the more challenging aspects of the “home-work” that we inevitably do in our creative careers.

When to leave

Set a cut off point when you leave your “biosphere”. The traditional office scenario where it is necessary to physically leave the building is more straightforward ! For matchstick-box working right-brainers pre-planning helps; arrange an alternative activity for a definite time, take a class, meet someone, make a phone call. This can help resist the temptation of marching endlessly forward in an undefined direction. Some people advise leaving the house completely, walking around the block and returning to the house as if just coming in from work!

Copyright ©2013 The ahr-tis-tik mind.
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  1. Interesting article Eimear. While I don't live in a bedsit, I do work in my bedroom so a lot of what you write is relevant- keeping the space ordered essential- and tidying it all away after the work day over also.

  2. Thanks Arnold.
    Yep tidying it all away at the end of each day can be something that needs some training to do, but once ye get into it it's well worth it! (:

  3. I especially liked the points about lighting. Smaller spaces can be much more interesting and more creative than vast spaces which are not as manageable in many ways. Also, using acoustic panels and bass traps in a smaller space is essential to control over-emphasized frequencies and reflections. You're very talented Eimear: I can't imagine anything holding you back, especially since clearly you know how to make the most of what you have. Good luck to you!

    1. Thanks Lance! Lighting is a great tool alright -candles are also great!

  4. Nice writing. May distract me from doing actual work for a while lol.

  5. ((: