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Friday, 05 April 2013


Okay, so how about this: Build an inexpensive but warm and well-lit garden shed for your new office, just big enough to hold all your working equipment and table space. And convert your old office space to the massive storage room you need. Put lots of attractive shelves in that old space, and file cabinets and flat files. All of it just a few steps away from your new working space.

That sounds like it could be relatively inexpensive. Plus it would give you one room for clutter and one room to keep tidy and useful.

[Two rooms! Now you are taking luxury and decadence. --Mike the Ed. P.S. I really don't have enough of a yard to build any sort of anything on it. ]

Is renting office space an option, even on a temp basis to allow other options (ie garden shed) to mature.

Mike.. just watch a few episodes of Hoarders and you will find the energy to thin out your stuff. Less really means More.

"Well, it's been workin' so far."
And so it has, very well Mike. For which, thanks.

Hate to think of the distraction of managing contractors for months at a time....

Get a good carpenter to create a tailored interior for your office. It can do miracles in terms of storage and workspace.

How high is the ceiling … ? Get the picture … ?

How much space do you have in the basement? You could put your printer and scanner down there, as well as storage of supplies. Add a small computer to handle the scanning jobs (the printer should be easily hooked to the network).

With a dehumidifier to keep things dry most basements are ok for photos and electronics.

You're looking in the wrong direction. Any acronym based World Headquarters worth it's salt, (think SMERSH), deserves a vast underground complex in which to hatch it's plots of global domination.

[With a huge hatchdoor in the roof for the launch of the doomsday device. I'll take it under advisement. --Mike]

I'm going with the back yard studio idea. My daughter is no 11 and no longer in need of the colossal "swing set" and I've already mapped out space for it. In fact check out this site for tons of inspiration. http://tinyhouseswoon.com

This on in particular has my eye.

And if building codes are an issue, put it on wheels and call it a trailer. A lot of folks on this site do exactly that.

Post a room layout showing doors and windows, height/width/length. Then a list of needed devices and aprox dimensions. There are lots of us with "Space Efficiency" credentials and experience, and we do not charge for our services.

Sounds like a fun project.

Here's another idea. Buy a 4-unit townhouse, rent out 3 of them and live in the 4th. Apply for an FHA loan (works with houses from 1 to 4 units and requires you to live in it) with only 3.5% downpayment. Your three tenants will pay out the all the mortgage + tax + insurance, with some left to spare. And since it's 3 years past the last time you bought a house, you can get "first-time home buyer" tax credit too. Run the numbers Mike, you'll be surprised how they work in your favor. You can even move to Florida or California and buy there for more sunny days and nicer weather.

Mike, rather than thinking about an office above the garage, go down. Build a secure bunker under the house so TOP can continue after the world ends. Furthermore, this will ensure you can have exact lighting all the time and not just whenever the sun and clouds deign to give you 6000K temperature light for 2hours only three days a year.



I considered an addition to my home as I have my Epson 3800 is in my living room and my work desk and two other printers in my bedroom. The builder I spoke with advised adding a second floor as I couldn't add a room to the main floor due to the house sitting in a flood plain. Besides the cost, I realized it would be more square feet to clean!

Work area still in bedroom, Epson still in living room. And as I'm the person who has to live with it, I'm happy with the arrangement.

One word: Tupperware.

No, really. My wife ran into this problem about 10 years ago, when the kids' accumulating junk exceeded available space. Her first attempt was to try persuading them to let her jettison anything they didn't need anymore when they went off to college. That didn't go over well. So, she bought a couple giant-sized tupperware type plastic bins, complete with burp-able lids, and proceeded to put the kids' stuff in them in our dank, dark basement, all carefully labeled and catalogued. As more junk accumulated, she just bought another bin or two.

The secret ingredient in this plan: the contents of any bin that goes untouched for 2 years is quietly 'de-accessioned'. (Translation: shit-canned).

Don't tell the kids.

You could turn the garage into your office. Since I converted my garage into additional living space, the car has adapted to life on the driveway. And the space where the car sits is that much less snow to shovel.

You need to have a winter home for TOP World Headquarters. I suggest Georgia. Since our kids grew up and left home, my wife and I use only a small area of our house. Not only can we offer you room(s) for your printers, cameras, computer and person, we can promise you that photography -- like cycling, hiking, fishing, boating, etc.-- is a year-round, outdoor activity here.

Part of the price of everything is the price of the place to put it. You are doing a good job with what you have, and apparently your family is thriving. Any building project may threaten this. Think about going to an 8 1/2 inch printer controlled wirelessly in another room and farm out larger prints you may want. And take a hard look at things you can get along without. Good luck.

Perhaps you could solve your lack of sapce problem by getting rid of a few things.

As the English used to say (more or less): "A man who earns a pound but spends a guinea (that was 21 shillings at the time when a pound was twenty shillings) is a poor man. A man who earns a pound but spends 19 shillings sixpence (a sixpence was half a shilling) is a rich man.

The same principle applies to living space.

[I believe that was a pretty specific Englishman...Mr. Micawber, from Dickens' David Copperfield. --Mike]

I seem to recall you were building a darkroom at one time. Maybe you could use a little wifi magic to put your printer in there rather than the main living area. After all it is the modern way to print photos. The single dim light bulb might be an issue but then again atmosphere is important.

For that kind of money you could get a nice RV. On occasion I've thought it would be nice to have a mobile office. You could go on the road and interview the legends too.

Instead of the garden shed you could get an RV and use that as you office. That way, if spring takes to long to arrive, you can drive your office south to go and get it.

I have seen people put on partial second stories.

As has been suggested re the last post, it may be much cheaper to have your basement waterproofed, and finished for office use. Or at least for storage. Besides, if you ever sell the house, a dry basement is MUCH more salable than a wet one.

You probably ought to be talking to the organizer you hired, rather than to builders. I ran a contracting business for more than a decade, from an office that was smaller than 11 x 11, and it was no hardship at all. In fact, it was quite comfortable.

I suspect you've just got too much stuff in there...

How old is your son? Maybe he would like high-end computer equipment in his room that would enable him to play games, etc. while also functioning for continuation of TOP. Easy transition to future arrangements.

Someone the other day suggested water-proofing the basement. Obviously I don't have knowledge of other considerations but basically it sounds worth exploring (no doubt you have).

Kickstarter . . .

Okay, my final two cents: I've been through the process of making a wet basement dry, and it's all about the kind of leakage you're getting. Sewer backup? I'm guessing no. Groundwater? A lot or a little? Seepage through cracks? Retro fitting a perimeter drain tile is the most common thing to do. Depending upon the basement and buildout it can be a minor or major headache, but if you're cutting concrete not inexpensive. If it's more in the direction of seepage, I've used this product and it's quite good. You have to prep the surface the right way, and it creates an impermeable membrane that stops seepage and takes the damp away. Aren't you renting? Will the owner kick in?


You moved the kid out -- use HIS old room for YOUR space(that's what's its for).

I think these prefab sheds look like a pretty good way to add a studio or office. http://www.modern-shed.com/

Sounds like an insoluble problem. One way to deal with an insoluble problem is to give up on it until your situation changes and you can approach the problem from a new angle. In this case that might mean simply waiting for your business and cash flow to grow a bit more. It might not take as long as you think.

Do you have enough ceiling height to do a loft sort of thing? Or some sort of shelving with slide out shelves that could hold printer, scanner and other equipment?

Or something on wheels (could be pushed around) holding printer/scanner etc.

Seems like there should be some sort of creative solution.

How big is you're office Mike....and what is in it, and what of which is in it, is 100% essential to editing the best photosite this side of the Horsehead nebula. Then tos away the rest....believe me, I'm of to a blue and yellow box tomorrow (that serves meatballs), and that will mean....2 little office cabinets that will find there way to a storage room. Will be filled with some craposa of the detritus variety (not essential but maybe handy later). A Nikon Coolscan 5 and a V30 Epson were cleared out and stored until further notice (the Coolscan maybe reborn an Oly 60mm since I could also photograph slided using a reprotube). An old laptop is on the way out as well. The 2 shelves and some big plastic boxes will expand storage room considerable....boxes will be dustproof and under my bed, and store various aquired flashlights (might come in handy and a 45CT4 well you can't argue with a 45CT4 and a old Nikon SB26 as a slave can you).

I just know you're home restoration lady will admire the work.....(and at least I'm satisfied when my musscle ache will fade).

BTW, thinking of that, maybe she can get your stuff more organised and you can get het to co-write a column on perfect digital darkroom arangements.

Greats, Ed.

How about buying a used travel trailer, gutting it, and re-outfitting as your office? The commute wouldn't be too bad!

Sounds like you need more storage space for your STUFF, rather than office space. Add a little room to the back of the garage, and through all the STUFF in there.
Then again, the simplest solution is to get rid of STUFF ;-)

Planning!? When did they stop you wandering into the forest with your stout axe, hewing some pine trunks and organising a barn raising with your neighbours?

As someone said in the reply to your last post, it's amazing what you can do with a tiny space with some intelligent space planning, but you mentioned you can't use your basement because of flooding.

What would it take to flood-proof or "tank" your basement? There are firms here that do a complete sealing service for old basements using barrier layers and concrete skims. It's relatively cheap and buys you a ton of space. Services (cables and heating) can be included in the process.


Sure you must have US equivalents.

"My enthusiasm at the time was for adding a second story to the garage, even if it would be expensive."

Just a thought. Could the garage be converted to an office?

Another alternative is to use the office space as the living/TV room, and the living room for your office.



.....a dry, permanently waterproof basement beckons......
I did the same in a previous home and was able to have a small 8x12' permanent shooting space that was always ready (and home to a lot of photo stuff that helped to decrapify other places in the house.)
It's hard to over state how much enjoyment that little room produced.

Do you have a larger room you could repurpose for your office and redesign your current office space to serve the same function as the larger room, but in a smaller space with some clever design? Maybe hire an interior designer, or engage a hungry grad student in that field at your local college.

I suspect the best solution (besides living with what you have) is to not build anything, but rather to sell your existing house and buy another house that has a space configuration that works better for you. The net difference in price between the two houses may well be very little or a wash. What houses sell for is not only related to square footage--other market forces effect the price considerably. In essence you would trade the value of your house for another house. You may even be able to find a short sale or a foreclosed house that fits you better. Of course, that would mean you would actually have to clean up and organize your existing house! :-)

I think you should move -- move to Milwaukee's Riverwest Neighborhood. My wife and I lived in Riverwest for two years. It's kind of a haven for artistic types. You can get a large home there on the cheep. You could get one of those big duplexes and convert the attic to a huge office. Then, if you wanted, you could rent out the extra unit. You could diversify your income stream and you'd be living in a vibrant neighborhood -- close to downtown and the lake. Also, Riverwest is dog friendly with a large dog park and wooded trails along the river.

I can picture you putting the finishing touches on your next post while enjoying coffee at the Alterra on Humbolt.


Just some thinking outside the box, if you'll forgive the pun...

" I'm stuck with my 11x11' space, and that's that. Lucky to have that much I guess."

Yes, you are lucky. I would love to have 11x11 feet for my office:

How about Xanax? Xanax could make the whole problem a lot easier to deal with.

Couldn't you just pile all the rubbist you hardly ever need in Zander's bedroom?

He's a student - chances are he won't even notice a few extra boxes.


An office that measures 11' square isn't that small. With a decent budget for new furniture (some which might have to be custom made to fully address your needs) and a talented space planner/interior designer -- FYI, the two aren't necessarily the same person -- I suspect that you could significantly improve the functionality of your present office despite its limited space.





I hate to be a retrocrank, but I have this same problem. The obvious answer is you have too much stuff. Reduce the amount of stuff to fit the available space. It's also a low-cost answer.

I think you should marry the new organiser/declutterer lady... Of course, she would then need some space.... And I think I'll move to Riverwest. Dave makes it sound like paradis-sur-Milwaukee. I am facing similar space problems; at least I was until I realised half the stuff I am keeping needs to be thrown away. Do I really need notebooks full of shorthand from 30 years ago? Books are the hardest thing. I've probably got 400 film books and I don't see how to thin them out, at least while still writing. I think you spend the first three quarters of your professional life accruing stuff, and the last quarter getting rid of it. Maybe you could feed the surplus paper into your furnace and cut your heating bills enough to pay for more space? Sorry, my glib jokes are not helping.

"I'm stuck with my 11x11" space, and that's that. Lucky to have that much I guess."

By comparison, it may be considered a large work space, a lot larger than those who've converted their closet for instance. I think that's what Mark Hobson over at The Landscapist did, if I remember correctly the picture he posted on his blog.

I thought you had said earlier that you're a horder? Did you get rid of all the extra stuff lying around. That should clear up some space. And maybe put the books on storage and get an e-reader.

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