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Seattle interior designer offers pro advice for a balanced home and work life

Sara Eizen has a handful of tips and tricks for a practical home life during these crazy times. Keep clicking for photos of her at-home setups, alongside a collection of submitted home set-ups from Seattleites across the city. less Sara Eizen has a handful of tips and tricks for a […]

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In the midst of unprecedented times in wake of the novel coronavirus, introverts might be spending 24/7 with their extrovert roommates; families are attempting at-home offices and classrooms; desks are scattered with more crayons than ballpoint pens; and truth be told, some of us (maybe many of us) are losing track of what day of the week it is.

But one of Seattle’s top interior designers, Sara Eizen, says three simple words: “reclaim your home.”

And for her, she’s been working from home for about 25 years.

Utilizing supplies already tucked away within one’s home, she lives and breathes family-focused, affordable, ease, efficiency, and fun.

“Here’s a scenario: it’s 7 a.m. on Monday morning, and the whole family is in the kitchen. Everyone is moving in a different direction. Your keys are nowhere to be found, the kids are fighting for counter space against the island clutter, and your husband – trying to escape the madness – spilled his breakfast when he tripped over a stray toy,” she said. “I’ve been there. With twin boys, I know how hectic life can get. That’s why, as a Seattle interior designer and professional organizer, my goal is to equip your home for those crazy moments – and to do so in style.”

Maybe you’re already thinking “that’s impossible!” If so, check out her past Seattle-area home organization and interior design projects, and read on if your home is less than functional given the current global circumstances.

When trying to organize a workspace during these trying times, Eizen suggests simple steps for making work life at home just a little easier using what you likely already have around the house.

“You probably want to raise your monitor, especially if you have a laptop. You want to have it at an ideal height so that you’re not looking down, you’re not looking up, you’re not getting that weird double chin,” Eizen said. “Look around, I grabbed a bin that I used to use for toys and I just turned the bin over, that’s my little platform that I have my laptop sitting on. Any kind of box, bin, stack of books, just to get that monitor propped up.”

Sara Eizen suggests an option for a home office set-up. Photo: Sara Eizen

Sara Eizen suggests an option for a home office set-up.

For those who also need to elevate a keyboard and mouse, she simply advises a basic delivery of wireless-style desk necessities, of which are often found online to little expense.

Eizen also encourages those balancing work life and home life to make home office set-ups portable, so work and home remain relatively separate and organized.

“A lot of times people are having to set up on a dining room table, and at the end of the day you want to easily be able to pack up the office and the kid’s workspaces,” she said. “Pack that up so you can go back to a regular evening home life. Look around, grab a bin, grab a tote, grab some kind of little caddy so that you can pack up your office and put it away for the evening so that it’s not sitting out cluttering your home all the time.”

Can’t find anything around your home to suit the need? While Ikea stores are closed, they are still shipping. Eizen particularly suggests the RASCOG three-tiered utility cart, which can be wheeled in and out of the home with little effort, and runs around $30.

“You’ve got to pack it up for that sense of sanity, that mental clarity, and separation,” she said.

Beyond physical office set-ups, Eizen also encourages a sense of movement and space throughout your workday to prevent full days of sitting at the desk.

“I think a lot of people are probably already in tune to this, who do already work at offices and work at a desk all day, but it’s important to get up and move around. Break up your day and move around and work in different areas, she said. “Maybe for a while you have to put your computer on a kitchen counter or the kitchen island and work standing up for a while.”

Sara Eizen suggests an option for a home office set-up. Photo: Sara Eizen

Sara Eizen suggests an option for a home office set-up.

For those able to swing by their office and pick up computer monitors or other supplies, Eizen also encourages picking up something as simple as your desk chair to optimize comfort from your desk or office space at home.

“If you do have an ergonomic chair at the office and you can bring it home, I highly recommend that,” she said. “And once again, those are on wheels. Maybe during the day it’s out at the kitchen table, but then you can wheel it into a closet or into another room when you’re ready to close up shop every day.”

While working at the desk, Eizen suggests working behind closed doors, or even in a basement, during times requiring deep focus.

Beyond home offices and living spaces, however, Eizen most notably suggested one simple yet immensely beneficial change: headspace.

That is, lower the expectations that your workday is going to be the same as when you’re at the office.

“Just yesterday I was talking to a client who’s in the healthcare industry and she’s working 14-16 hour days. Her and her husband are on calls all day via Zoom, and both her kids are on Zoom for school. She’ll be in the middle of a meeting, and the Internet can’t handle everybody in the house streaming. So then her kid is screaming, ‘Mom, I got kicked out of my Zoom,’ or she’s getting kicked out,” she said. “The great thing is we’re all in this together.”

For Eizen, retaining this sense of inclusion and relatability to those around her is what propels her to maintain a sense of sanity from home, encouraging others to remember the same.

“For me, that’s one of the things that it’s been helping me keep my anxiety down, is realizing that we’re all in this together,” she said. “I think everybody has, they have very realistic expectations of each other, that things aren’t going to be completely as norm. These are really not normal situations, and if we could all just take a little bit of pressure off of ourselves to try to create it as if we’re going to have that normal work experience, I think it would really help.”

Sara Eizen suggests an option for a home office set-up. Photo: Sara Eizen

Sara Eizen suggests an option for a home office set-up.

From making looser and more flexible schedules to incorporating breaks from the desk, Eizen encourages those around her to take a small step back in achieving perfection and complete normalcy.

“I truly am worried about people with these unrealistic expectations like, ‘Oh, I’m going to work from home, I’m going to help my kids with school, I’m going to cook all these amazing recipes, I’m going to completely declutter my house, I’m going to get all these projects done,’” she said. “The reality is we don’t have any more hours in the day, we’re just home more hours, but we’re still expected to get all the same regular daily life things done. Don’t think you have to do every DIY project out there right now. Everyone is juggling way more than they normally do.”

In juggling work and tasks around the house, Eizen also suggests limiting home chores to after-work hours to avoid a slippery slope.

“You have to be really careful in starting to declutter in the midst of a workday, because what you think might be 15 minutes of cleaning could easily turn into 50. “On the flip side, changing the loads of the laundry is that perfect five minute break that you might need in your workday to move around while still being productive around the house.”

From adding plants and aroma diffusers to your desk for relaxation, to ensuring each family member has claimed a particular place around the house for work that can be put away after work hours, Eizen also suggests simulations of leaving the workplace through daily walks after work.

“You want it to feel like you’re leaving the office and coming home,” she said. “One thing that I think could be really fun for the family is closing up shop around the same time and then going out to take a walk around the block so that it sort of feels like, ‘Okay, we’re leaving work, we’re going to walk around the block, and then we’re going to come back to a home for family time.’”

Lastly, in a time of consistent interaction with one another, Eizen suggests recognizing and respecting social atmospheres within the household.

“Within a family, a couple, or roommates, you could have two completely different personalities, and that can be really tricky,” she said. “Say you have a couple and they’re working from home together. One of them might be used to being very social while they’re at work, and the other is more heads down. The social one might come out and be like, ‘Hey, let’s have lunch together. Let’s chat. Let’s do this.’ And the other thinks ‘No, I’m pretty much used to just working through lunch at my desk.’”

While social complications might arise at home, Eizen suggests reminders to respect one another and how their workdays may look, having honest conversations for long-term benefits, and setting aside time to be by yourself, or together, after the workday is through.

“I think so many families are trying to learn how to have grace and patience with each other,” Eizen said. “I’m a mom to 12-year-old boys and there have been a couple of times in the evenings where I’m like ‘I know this is supposed to be family activity time, but I just need a break.’ And that is okay, because for those of us who are used to having a lot of time to ourselves, we’re not getting it right now. I just tell the boys ‘Listen, mommy needs to shut her brain off 100%. I just need to go in my room and lay down for a little bit. I promise when I come back, I can reengage and be your mom, but right now, I need a break.’”

Sara Eizen suggests an option for a home office set-up. Photo: Sara Eizen

Sara Eizen suggests an option for a home office set-up.

And while Eizen chats with clients over Zoom about making solutions for the office and for home out of things they already have, she reiterates a sense of decompression in the midst of trying times.

“With all this social media stuff, you know, comparing and seeing other people do all these amazing things, and then feeling less than that, like ‘I don’t have the perfect home set up. I don’t have the perfect this, I don’t have the perfect that.’ Everybody just has to realize ‘We’re doing the best we can with what we have,’” she said.

In making small tweaks using small tricks around the house, and lowering a sense of perfection, Eizen believes these are times we will learn from for life.

“Even if all of this wasn’t going on, it’s great advice for all of us to keep in mind that social media, as we know, so much of it is filtered,” she said. “So much of it is made to look like it’s absolutely perfect, and it isn’t necessarily that way. We have to remind ourselves of that.”


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