Desk share: Is one better than two?

My husband wants me to share a desk with him. 

I’m skeptical, to say the least. He often leaves papers strewn about, which I have… issues with.

My husband works from home. Last fall he converted his desk into a standing desk, using a milk crate to boost the monitor of his desktop computer up. He also often works from his laptop, and with a milk crate and keyboard on his makeshift standing desk, there’s no room to work on his laptop at his own desk. So he uses his laptop at my desk, or he takes the laptop into the dining room, turning our eating area into an office.

In late 2014, my husband brought up the idea of purchasing a standing desk. I told him that we should talk about it — after he finished cleaning up his current piles of papers. He called my bluff! Over the holidays when he had some time off, he cleaned everything up.

“It’s done!” he told me. He wasn’t in a great mood, because admittedly after a few days of scanning and sorting through old papers, it’s hard to maintain a cheery demeanor.

How could I not talk about the desk now? He pulled out a spreadsheet he had made on standing desk sizes and price options. Now he was speaking my language! It was simple and quick to choose a desk, which made me all the more willing.

The spreadsheet stated that we could save money by buying the top part of the desk separately. Unfortunately, this meant a trip to IKEA – always risky business – in my in-laws’ jeep. For efficiency’s sake, we paired the trip to IKEA with a trip to pick them up from the airport. “Welcome home!” my husband said, getting out of the car to greet them. I waved from under the desk top, which was angled over my head. “We decided to come in your car,” he told them. They agreed, though not that enthusiastically, that the savings were worth the less than comfortable ride home from the airport. Truth be told, I waited in the car while my husband went in to buy the desk top. I really, really hate going to IKEA.

When the base of the desk arrived, it was time to move things around in the office. Unfortunately, this made a mess. On the bright side, we got rid of some stuff in the process.

 “The filing cabinet’s too heavy to move,” my husband said. He gave me a look that meant, “If we don’t clean this thing out soon, I will boycott all future scanning projects.”

I took out all of the files and stored a small fraction of them in the black crate that had previously been serving as a monitor stand. “I’ll just put the files in the other room for now,” I said. What I meant was, “For as long as humanly possible.” I am not looking forward to that filing cabinet resolution.

We began moving items like the printer and desk chairs into the living room. “Should we vacuum?” I asked. How often do you actually clear a room of its furniture? It seemed like an easier and more pressing task than cleaning out the filing cabinet. I vacuumed and even dusted the baseboards with an old t-shirt for good measure. I cleaned some cobwebs from the window, which we can’t usually access because of the furniture in front of it…

And as I looked at the unobstructed windows, a terrible thought came over me. I knew, in that moment, that if we were going to cover the windows in plastic, bought back in October at Menards, this was the time to do it. I thought of keeping my idea a secret, but that felt sneaky. Hesitantly, I said to my husband, “I guess we could put the plastic on…”

I looked at him hopefully.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I know you don’t want to.” The plastic would save energy and money. But the windows are so tall. It would require a ladder. Maybe next winter.

While I was still swatting at cobwebs, my husband asked, “Do you know where the compressed air is?”

What?

“Where’s that box of tech cleaning supplies?”

I found the box of tech maintenance items — things I never use — and he took out a metal canister that looked like a bottle of hairspray. He attached some kind of coffee-stirring straw to the bottle, took a panel off the side of his computer, and cleaned the inside of it. I considered cracking open my laptop to do the same, and then thought better of it.

Before I realized what had happened, we had removed both of our desks from the office. “But, wait,” I said. “I was going to maybe keep mine…” I hadn’t committed yet. The new desk is almost six feet long, but what about having my own space that I can keep just the way I want it?

Yet it looked so spacious without the pair of desks. I did the math. One desk was less than two. I’m always about less stuff.

“Let’s try it,” I said.

The work station is divided into thirds. Not in any physical sort of way, though I wouldn’t be against using masking tape to section it off. My husband’s desktop monitor is on the right third. I am on the left third. In the middle, is the empty third for my husband’s laptop use.

My husband loves the new desk, and that means that he’s more likely to work in the office, and not in the dining room. Plus my new position at the shared desk places me right in front of the window. I don’t have to strain my neck while I people watch.

I’ve worked next to my husband at the desk a few times so far. We were able to agree easily on whether to sit or stand, avoiding a potential chair driven power struggle. It was spacious when he was on the end third using his desktop computer, but when he moved over to the middle third to use his laptop, the papers he spread out overflowed onto my third of the desk.

I got up and started searching out the masking tape. Then I decided to just work in the living room.

One Saturday in February, my husband was out of town and I tried the desk out on my own. It was great! I spread my papers into his section, and I watched a guy in jeans going for a jog on the street below.

The only thing was…I was a little cold. If only we had put the plastic on those windows.


Carissa Jean Tobin lives in a condo in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband. Her hobbies include creating humorous surveys for friends, lounging at the Wilde Roast Café, and administering the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to interested family members, friends, and strangers. She teaches kindergarten in North Minneapolis.