This is how roomfusion (using a room in a way that is not aligned with its intended purpose) started for me. I live in New England, and it was so cold in the third bedroom I use as my home office. I had to find another space. My rule of thumb is that when I stop feeling my toes, I can start working on the couch in the living room. But, there’s only so much time I can look up and see a TV and not turn it on. Again, roomfusion. That’s when I go for option three: sitting cross-legged on my bed with a gigantic blue fleece blanket over my shoulders and one of those lap desks. Who knew an office could be this fabulous? Except it’s only fabulous for a few hours when, you guessed it, roomfusion creeps up on you.
Fast forward to the evening. Picture yourself heading to bed with a glass of tea and a new book. The shades are drawn. You open the door and wham!—roomfusion. Right before your eyes is a scene that looks like a mix between that Netflix organizing show that shall not be named and a scene from The Post,like the part towards the end when every journalist in the room knows Nixon’s going down.
Someone’s been working in my bed, I say to myself. Oh, crap. I have been working in my bed all day! On my comforter, there are folders and sticky notes. My laptop, iPad, and phone are all plugged in. The wires crisscross the bed making it look more like what I imagine the cable guy deals with when he goes downstairs to check the wifi connection. Damn: I’m suffering from roomfusion. My bed is a boffice.
There’s a pair of scissors on my pillow. Oh, yeah. I was returning something to Amazon and had a problem with the packing tape. The long tail of twisted tape, still attached to its red holster thingy with metal fangs, is dangling from my bedside table. I abandoned it when I saw the UPS truck drive up and I ran to meet it. Oh, and there are pens and Sharpies nesting in the blanket. I look at the lumpy blanket and think, Please caps be on please caps be on.
Definitely, time to get my routines together. Other people who work at home don’t actually live like this. They have routines. I’ve seen them. If they could do it, I could do it. Right?
The Ultimate End Roomfusion So-You-Can-Rest Routine
10:30 screens out.
At 10:30 an alarm on my phone goes off signaling its time for bed. I put the phone in the charger and turn it off. I go screenless. With the exception of maybe a little television, I don’t watch anything after 11:00.
11:00 tea time. I take a few sips and usually forget about it. When my kids are home from college they like to remind me: Mom, don’t you want to make the tea you never drink? It’s become a joke, but it is really part of my routine.
After abandoning my tea, I wash up. It’s not exactly a routine or a ritual, although I wish it was. My mom has one of those. (We tease her on family vacations that she’s a bathroom hog at bedtime, yelling through the door, How big is your face, anyway?)
Then I close all the doors and shut off the lights. This is no small part of the routine. It’s physical and spiritual closure.
11:30 reading is fundamental. On a good night, I’m in bed with an actual book or magazine, not a Kindle. Even my upstairs neighbor, who is very petite but walks like an elephant, can’t bother me. I have a pair of noise-canceling headphones at the ready. The $300 I paid for them are worth it. Sound blockage is key to settling down.
Back-up plan: If I am still not sleepy, I try to practice listening to my breath. I have an app for meditation called UnPlug, but of course, it’s on my phone. No phones in the bedroom. It’s best that way anyway. Breathe awareness is really weird for me. It’s strange to pay attention to something I never think about all day. It makes me think about my mortality. This can be unsettling. Note to self: Maybe no more breathing exercises in the night.
The Back-up Back-up Plan: If I’m awake to see the bedside clock read 12:00, that’s it, I’m triggered. I bolt upright, pissed. My tea is now cold. My brain is still on. My upstairs neighbor is beginning to thump around (or up and down, sometimes, if you know what I mean). It’s the witching hour.
The solution: a legal pad and a pen. I write down everything I can possibly think of that is worrying me: When did my neighbor’s dog get so big and scary? Why is my garage so hard to park in? Speaking of small, those dents on the right side aren’t looking all that small anymore. That could be pricy to fix. Keep writing stream of consciousness. For me, the pricy ding leads me to worry about a tiny crack I have in my tooth—the dentist is also pricy. Speaking of teeth and chewing, Why do I always put off grocery shopping? I like shopping. I should shop for gifts for all my friends who read my posts before I hit publish. I will give each one a bottle of wine. No, maybe bourbon. On the subject of drinking, I write down: Am I drinking enough water? Not a huge concern, but it’s there. Got the idea?
I pour every little thing out of my head and on to the pad. When there is no more room on the page, I crinkle up the sheet of paper really loudly (there’s something very satisfying about that). I toss it in the recycling, careful to close the door behind me. Again, I have found that if you ‘mindfully’ close things, it provides closure and maybe even sparks a little joy.
That’s all I got. If nothing else tires you out, all I can say is, print this routine out and read it three times slowly. You’ll fall asleep in no time.