# Springtime, when a young woman's thoughts turn to...rearranging furniture

It happens like clockwork: as spring approaches, I get hit with the uncontrollable urge to rearrange my office.

Maybe this is my really bizarre method of "spring cleaning". All I know is that once spring hits, I decide that I simply! can't! work! in my office as it's currently set up, and that it's high time to move some furniture around.

I guess in a way this is healthy---new surroundings mean that you're taking away the familiar, forcing your brain to pay attention and fire new synapses and whatever it is that brains do when they have to "think differently". And that can only be good for the creativity, right?

So I've been thinking all day about how I can rearrange my office this time. Really, it's a constrained optimization problem: given a set of X pieces of furniture, optimally arrange the furniture in a space of size a-by-b, subject to a set of architectural and logistical constraints Y. The parameters of this particular problem are:

X: two desks, two desk chairs, a random square table that's too small and ugly to serve any real purpose, a few file cabinets, and random chairs---let's go with "borrowed"---from other parts of the building.

Y: a window, a heating/cooling unit, a {white|black}board, immovable shelving, and active outlets/network connections on one side of the room.

Right now, I have the desks pushed up against the walls, with a wide open space in the middle of the room and chairs around the edges. I'm kind of thinking about moving at least one desk away from the wall. There's a certain configuration that everyone else seems to be doing and I could do that, but I'd like to be a bit more creative if I can. (I hate conforming.) I do think the current setup is a bit "welcoming" for students, and I'd like to retain that feel if I could.

I could just start moving things, but I'd like to have a plan before I start. Plus I don't want to spend all day on this project---I'd like to just go in, move things, plug everything back in, and enjoy.

Do you have an office setup that you are especially fond of? Any suggestions for configurations I could try?

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Are you happy with the furniture? Sometimes just getting rid of/ replacing non-idea furniture is the way to go. Otherwise, my mom suggests getting graph paper and measurements of the furniture and room and playing around with it on paper.

My advisor has a round table (3'?) in the middle of the office with chairs around where students sit. He just has to swivel his desk chair to get to it. I think it makes the space more inviting and collaborative-feeling since there's not this big gulf of space between me and him.

Allison, some of the furniture is ok/fine, and some of it, like the table, I'd like to ditch. I'm actually planning on ditching the useless table in favor of a functioning table---kind of like what your advisor has. I originally thought I'd get rid of one of the desks, but I realized the other day that I actually do use both desks.

I have used the graph paper trick before, so I might try that again. Or maybe I will just start moving furniture and see what happens (and hope I get it right, or mostly right, on the first try).

As Allison suggests, the constraints are a bit fuzzier, since you can add or remove furniture. One piece of furniture that I use quite a bit is a couch; it enables me to nap after my 8:30 class. My advisor had a beanbag which served a similar purpose.

The couch does prevent me from putting e.g. a table that I could talk to students with. But I didn't mean to get the couch; it just had to go to the office after it failed to go into my house.

I know what you mean about that urge to rearrange. When I was in industry it wasn't an issue since I had a cubicle - no rearranging possible there. When I had an office it took me forever to get it to a configuration I liked, and even then I kept wanting to rearrange. I did have the round table that I could swivel around to and join students or other administrators at. That was nice. Get rid of the ugly table if you aren't using it - free up some space, or make room for something you do like.

Ah, I see after commenting that this was posted quite some time ago...maybe you've solved the puzzle by now? I came to your post from a featured quote...didn't see the date at first.

I'd like to say that there are multiple attack angles. We could use physics and treat each as a point mass, from chemistry by mixing and matching until something falls out, from ecology by trying to get them in balance.

So many choices...

By Chris Mitchell (not verified) on 28 Apr 2008 #permalink

Zuska, I did solve the puzzle, eventually---I don't think I ever did a follow-up post, though. I ended up keeping the table but cleverly incorporating it to gain more desk space. The office flows so much better now, seems *bigger*, and I've gotten a lot of compliments on it.

I guess in a way this is healthy---new surroundings mean that you're taking away the familiar, forcing your brain to pay attention and fire new synapses and whatever it is that brains do when they have to "think differently". And that can only be good for the creativity, right?

If I recall rightly, there was a study once where they slightly lowered the lighting in part of a factory and productivity went up a bit. But they also increased lighting in another part and that helped too. I think the conclusion was that generally changing stuff helps.

Do you have an office setup that you are especially fond of?

I just moved into a new office, so I had the chance to rearrange everything. I have the desk facing the door, so that people don't just sneak up on me (also for privacy, in case I have something sensitive on the screen at the time).

The window is behind me and to the left, where it won't cause glare on the monitors. When I move my sofa in, it'll be on my left, where I don't have to peek between monitors to talk to visitors. I originally had a bookshelf on the far side of the desk, but moved it behind me, so I don't have to get up to get a reference book or CD that I need.

The biggest constraint in the setup you describe, as far as I can see, is the power outlets, since they pretty much dictate where your machines will go.