I just have a plain standard-issue guest chair

Raymond Chen

Whereas Larry started with a standard office layout and added a fancy-dancy desk chair, I have opted to modify the standard office layout by removing items.

First, I got rid of the corner piece, which is a colossal waste of space due to its sheer size. All that space behind the keyboard and monitor serves only to collect dust. Out it goes. Instead, I put the two rectangular tables along the wall and tucked my computers underneath them. One LCD monitor and one CRT (each with its own keyboard and mouse) and a KVM switchbox and my hardware is all set. (No speakers. On the occasion that I want to listen to something, I’ll put on headphones.)

Also tucked away is my empty ped, which I tried to get rid of at the last office move, but which somehow managed to find me. Maybe I can successfully abandon it at the next office move.

Hanging on the wall is a standard-issue bookshelf. On the table beneath the bookshelf is where my junk accumulates. I really should be better about that space.

Against the wall behind me is a standard-issue guest chair. I got rid of the standard-issue whiteboard, however, because they are such a hassle. You’ll collaborate with someone and have this awesome diagram on your whiteboard which you now can’t erase because it’s the only record of what you did. And your colleague can’t take the whiteboard out of your office, so there’s a moment of staring and memorization, maybe some note-taking, and the occasional “Hey, I need to take a look at that diagram again” visit. What’s worse is that if you leave the diagram up for too long, it becomes embedded in the whiteboard, and only furious scrubbing will get it off.

And if somebody else comes in to discuss something, their first question is, “What can I erase?” Then you spend the next few seconds deciding, “Do I still need to keep that?”

My solution is to hang a roll of paper on the wall, feeding it through an empty picture frame and out the bottom. Whiteboard markers still work great, and people can come in and draw whatever they want. After a diagram-fest, you can just take the drawings with you! And nobody asks “What can I erase?” because you can just tug on the paper and get a fresh sheet. The downside is that it looks like a roll of toilet paper sometimes.

The inconvenience of office moves brought me to a realization. When you’re young, you want to have as much stuff as possible. “The kid who dies with the most toys wins.” As you grow older, you realize that material goods are a burden and you try to get rid of them in order to simplify your life. At my last office move, I was able to fit all my non-equipment stuff into four boxes. And of those boxes, most of them were dedicated to the stuff on the bookshelf. My goal is to get the contents of my office down to one box. One of my former hallway neighbors was able to fit his entire office in one box. Now that’s simplification.


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