If you’ve moved for/with the military, then you already know that sometimes the house you rent or buy at your new duty station isn’t always the house of your dreams—the one with the basement where you can set up your workout equipment or the spare bedroom for the craft room you fantasize about having in your future forever home.
Sometimes you have to embrace the idea of the perfect-for-the-moment house—the one with enough room for your partner/children/pets that’s close enough to base, school, or work, and at a price point you can work with.
If, like many military-connected folks, one or more adults runs a small business from home (because it provides flexibility that accommodates frequent moves and/or solo parenting during deployments and training exercises), that means you may also have to be a little resourceful when it comes to creating an office space for yourself in your new home.
If you have a closet you can spare, a tape measure, and a local discount or thrift store (or assorted furniture and containers you haven’t yet unpacked from the boxes still in the garage), you’ve got most everything you need for a DIY home office.
Figure out what needs to go in the space. That can vary depending upon your personal or business needs. Perhaps you just need a place to prop your laptop, a writing surface, and some file storage. Maybe your work requires office machinery like printers, scanners, multiple monitors, etc. Do a mental inventory of what your office needs to house.
Take measurements. Measure the closet’s height and depth. While you can configure even the tiniest of spaces to work for you, it’s important you know how much room you have available. Those measurements will affect how many shelves you can install (if you’re so inclined), how deep your desk can be (or whether you should consider a drop-down writing surface that you can secure back to the wall when not in use), whether there will be room for filing cabinets, and more.
Determine your power needs. Will you need lighting? If you miraculously have a skylight in your closet or get lots of natural light with the closet open, then maybe you don’t. Will you need outlets installed? If you have outlets near the closet and safe options for surge protectors and extension cords that won’t cause a tripping situation, perhaps you don’t. You know how much light the space has and how much light you ideally need to work. And you know what you need to be able to power. You also know if you’re safe/comfortable/knowledgeable handling electricity or whether that’s a job to task an electrician with.
Use what you have. Do you have a couple of filing cabinets and an extra door lying around that you can sand and paint? Instant desk. A student desk that fits in the space with a chair you can fold when not in use? An old microwave stand (that the packers threw in the moving truck despite your sign saying it stays behind) that you can use as a computer stand? You know what you need in terms of storage and utility in your new office. Before you go shopping for more stuff you’ll need to move yet again if another PCS is in your future, see what you can reuse or repurpose from what you already have. Once you’ve pulled what you can from what you have, consider thrifting rather than purchasing new. This way, you can leave those items behind with your next pack out for them to find their next home with no guilt or remorse on your part.
Make it your own. Paint the walls with your favorite color. Decorate with tchotchkes that bring you joy (if space allows). Put up a photo or poster that inspires you. Hang your vision board. Add your own unique flourishes and touches to make the space warm and inviting.
With some creativity and resourcefulness, you can create a home office no matter what the space restraints of the place you call home. Even in a closet.