In the world of human-centred design, the phrase “constructive discontent” is used to describe a place or a thing that falls short of its intended purpose. It’s the corner cupboard that becomes a dead space in the kitchen. A desktop that’s a bit too high, forcing you to adjust your chair, so now your feet sort of dangle. Packaging. Pretty much all packaging instills constructive discontent in users, but especially so the type of packaging designed to withhold the last bits of product for which you have paid. I’m looking at you, printer ink.
When you first move into a new place, constructive discontent pops up all the time. You enter the relationship with your new space, possibly aware of its faults, with eyes wide open, and plans to effect change. Sometimes the plans become projects. Sometimes you learn live with whatever it was causing constructive discontent. Eventually you cease to see it. It just becomes the way things are.
If you’d asked me a couple of weeks ago to identify a space within our home in which constructive discontent has been banished, nay, vanquished, I’d have said, “My workroom,” without thinking about twice about it. My workroom was remodeled in 2012 and I have thought my workroom fine and dandy, and quite fit for purpose ever since. And then I read Lilo Bowman’s book, Love Your Space.
Love Your Space has ended up being one of those books that arrived in my life at the perfect hour: just when I’m dusting off the old Cast On rss feed, planning new podcasts and preparing to invite Patreon supporters into my life and workspace. Although I’ve worked at home, from this space, for over twenty years, Love Your Space helped me look at my workspace with new eyes. I do love the way my space has been shaping up over the past month (the orange hexi-tiles still make me smile, every time I see them) but Love Your Space has made me realise that there is still room for improvement. It’s not constructive discontent, per se, it’s more a new way of looking at my tiny workspace, and really thinking about the room, its contents and their organisation.
Case in point: This weird little jog below the window. It’s not wide enough for a narrow bookshelf, and it’s on an exterior wall that gets cold in the winter. After twenty years in this space, I know that restricting airflow from this part of the wall will cause condensation to form, and mildew growth will follow. I thought there wasn’t much I could do with this annoying little waste of space, and began stacking rulers in it that were too long to live in the bookshelf beside their friends. This kind of worked, but about all it had going for it was that the rulers were out of the way.
After seeing some of the storage solutions for measuring devices in Love Your Space, I wanted something better. So instead of a weird little space for resting rulers that don’t fit anywhere else, I thought, why not gather every ruler I own and use this space to store ALL of them?
This little piece of kit was designed for hanging utensils in kitchens. It was inexpensive, but about 10 cm too long. Tonia very helpfully removed the threaded collar from inside one end of the rod, cut the rod down to size with a hacksaw, sanded it smooth, and fixed the threaded collar back inside the rod using epoxy. A £15 solution that took a few hours to accomplish. (Although I still need to patch the wall where I dinged it with the drill!)
This solution works. Boom. A cheap and easy fix for a problem that I only noticed was a problem when I began considering ways to make my workspace better. I love it.
So much so, in fact, that I got in touch with the book’s UK distributor, Search Press, and asked them to put me in touch with Lilo Bowman, in order to schedule and record a chat for the podcast. Lilo very graciously said yes, and that interview will be available when Cast On returns in early October. If you want to pick up Lilo’s book ahead of the interview, you can buy it here.
As for my workroom, watch this space. I have plans.