(Author photo)

This week we’re back to working at home, specifically more about making yourself a great workspace outside. Why now, at the end of the summer? Because, as a lifelong outdoors person, I can tell you September and October are some of the best weather for outdoor living, especially after this brutally hot climate change summer. Plus you can push comfort in outdoor spaces farther into cold weather than you’d think, something we’re all keenly interested in this year, and something I’ll be posting about soon. 

Without further ado, here’s your landscape-architect-approved…

Five More Ways to Make a Great Outdoor Workspace: 
(or Study Space, for those still-at-home kids)

For real luxury, add an electric fan to that outdoor workspace. This can be as simple as plugging a portable fan into an extension cord, or as elaborate as installing a ceiling fan into the porch ceiling. Fans help with flying insects, too, if that’s an issue. You know about patio heaters and other heat sources outside, but let me point out two things: 

1) if you want a patio heater, buy it immediately, because as soon as this extra-hot summer wanes, there is going to be a big demand for those this year.

2) working by a firepit sounds delightful, but from personal experience, it doesn’t happen. Nothing is as distracting as fire. You’ll have a marvelous relaxing few hours sitting by the fire…and doing no work at all. 

Storage space
Outside you can’t leave papers and electronics spread out for days, which is both a plus and minus. You’re forced to be more organized. There are outdoor cupboards and such on the market, but I’d approach this like working in a library or coffeehouse or other public setting: you bring it with you and you take it with you. 

What you need therefore is a good bookbag or a portable file box or something of that sort. You’re at home, so this storage could be more fun: beachy tote bags? A clean wheelbarrow? Those bike panniers you never use (and the world’s shortest bike commute)? 

Space for a guest
Whether that’s a sibling, a spouse, or someone genuinely from the outside world, you need a place to sit – a movable chair – and maybe a spot for a cup of coffee. If you’re having in-person conversations with anyone you don’t live with, outside is the safest place to do it. For kids studying outside, that guest is likely to be you, helping with lessons and technology. Make yourself comfortable while you try to remember math about fractions.

Fun stuff
There’s a whole universe of patio, pool, and backyard accessories out there to liven up your outdoor space with. Maybe keep the inflatable pool toys out of sight of your Zoom camera, but there’s still plenty of space for some strings of lights, flags, or flowers, which brings me to:

Use the nature you’ve got
​Looking at or being near plants and non-threatening animals makes humans like us more relaxed, less depressed and anxious, and less mentally fatigued. Has there ever been a time when we needed this more? What you need is some greenery in your view most of the time. Trees are better than just lawn, but even a flower pot is worthwhile. Extra credit for backyard birds, maybe attracted to a birdbath or feeder. 

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