Creating spaces - mancave

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Before the pandemic i had three main “spaces” in my life. My bedroom (where i slept and relaxed) the cafe (where i did most of my work) and the the storage locker (a personal library of sorts)

This worked well. It enabled me to separate out each part of my life. Being autistic and ADHD i find it tricky to get my brain to focus and for whatever reason i react well to physical separation. Arriving at the cafe would put my brain into work mode. Arriving home would help me to relax etc.

With the pandemic access to the cafe (and my short live private office!) has gone away. I had a few useful weeks of access over the summer, but that didn’t last long.

In response i consolidated my life into my bedroom and built a “bedroom studio”. It’s worked well, but it has one major issue. I am only productive if i have support. On days without support i just can’t focus. The environment is too overwhelming and complex, i just end up in a muddled daze.

I have access to support a few days a week (which has been a godsend!) and it works well; but the rest of the time is still very tricky.

With this in mind we took another look at that third space in my life. My storage unit. We wondered if we could use it as an escape space. Somewhere to go and hide. Where i could head out, do something (lego, work, writing etc) and then head home. A way to externally switch my brain on and off.

More or less i needed a mancave or shed. Somewhere to go and hide in order to do small projects. This is a post about what we did and why, plus some thoughts on how it’s working and what we might be able to do in the future.

Cold box.

The storage unit is more or less a cold metal box in a building full of metal boxes. It’s around 8 by 12 feet. So not small, but not big. It worked well as a library for short visits but it wasn’t going to cut it for anything longer. It had become quite a mess and there wasn’t anywhere to sit or any flat surfaces for projects.

The first thing we did was to empty almost everything out of my storage unit so we could redesign the space. The redesign focused on creating enough floor space for a desk or bench. While tidying we found a desk (!), so that kinda worked out well.

In order to clear the floor space we did a bit of “tetrising”. Stacking stuff into the back of the unit as tightly as we could. It went well, after a days work we had a basic space ready to use.

What works.

As hoped the space works well for small productive trips. In the last week i’ve visited a few times. I tend to go there with a specific thing in mind, but end up pottering around a little. I’ve done some writing, some work tasks and started on a few lego models. I’ve also done a huge amount of tidying. Sorting the space out is a project all of its own. It’s rather lovely. It’s an absolute relief to be able to escape home and the overload it brings.

We’re on the top floor so when it rains i can hear the rain. It’s rather amazing. I listen to the rain as well as podcasts and music on my headphones. It could almost pass for a cabin in the woods. Kinda… ish.

What doesn’t work

As mentioned above the storage space is pretty damn cold! It’s down to around 7c in here. It’s not very humid so the coldness is also very dry. It’s not comfortable, but with a thick enough hoodie its “good enough”.

Being a storage unit it also doesn’t have any power or wifi. I’m using my laptop on battery and tethering to my phone for a slightly spotty but “better than nothing” internet connection. I see this as a positive. It helps with urgency.

These downsides are not all bad. The coldness and lack of power breeds a sense of urgency. Once i arrive i need to get on with whatever i am doing before i get too cold. A bit like visiting the cafe, the space enforces some degree of simplicity. It works really well for my brain.

Closing thoughts

This is not a long term solution. Hell, this is not even a short term solution. At best it’s a stopgap to get us though the worse of the lockdown. I was worried about the guidelines, but a bunch of lovely folks on Twitter have helped with that worry. My situation seems to have been accounted for which is a relief.

All that said, right now, its just what i needed. It’s proving to be very useful. It does the right things to help my brain to wake up and focus. It even seems to work quite well when combined with ADHD meds, which is rather awesome. While it wont be forever, i hope that it continues to help bridge the gap till when i can return to the cafe and my normal ways of working.

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Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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