Tiny Working: How to Stay Sane

Addressing the mental challenges of working in a small space.

As I mentioned in my last post (Tiny Working: How Will It All Fit?), I live AND work in a 300 square foot RV. And while it’s a financial dream and I have no problem fitting all my stuff, there are emotional ramifications to Tiny Working.

Whether you’re a recluse or a social butterfly, there are undeniable benefits to having a work space outside your home. Since I’m so enchanted with Tiny Living, it took me a while to realize what was missing from my Tiny Office:

1.     Interaction With Other Humans.

2.     Separation Between Work Time and Relaxation Time.

These are not to be underestimated!  My office is ten steps from my bed, seriously. There are days that I don’t speak to another person until Mike gets home at 6pm. And obviously there’s no clear end to the work day when the kitchen, living room, dining room, and office are all in the same room!

Here are a few tips I’ve discovered to get you through a Tiny Working day with your sanity intact:


1. Plan Outings

Give yourself a reason to leave the house. Create the potential to meet other people. Get your hair cut or go grocery shopping. Or how about a workout to get you outside AND energized? It doesn’t have to be a long or expensive outing, just enough to bring your brain back to reality. Structure your week so that you have a reason, each day, to change out of your pajamas.

2. Change Outfits

Speaking of pajamas, changing your outfit is a fantastic way to get in the right mindset. When you wake up, change into your fancy work clothes (those special outfits reserved for meetings). Then when you decide to stop working for the day, change back into your comfy clothes. This has the double effect of keeping you productive during the day and telling your brain when it’s time to stop working. Honestly, who’s going to get distracted and take a nap while they’re in a blazer and collared shirt?

Case Study: Mike’s Uncle David has been working from home for many years. He runs a successful business and manages to stay (relatively) sane. He swears by this method and says it has gotten him through some of his most challenging work-from-home days.

3. Make Friends

Are there other people in your neighborhood who work from home? Anyone else who’s car stays in the driveway all day? Who’s getting the mail or taking out the trash in their pajamas? Well, channel your inner dolphin (they’re so friendly!) and say hello. Chances are they’re also craving a reason to get away from work. Chances are they’re also a little frustrated and looking for a friend who understands. And chances are that you are similar types of people and will get along great.

Case Study: Mikenzie and I moved into the trailerhood around the same time. I could see her “driveway” from my office and knew she was home a lot. One day she was on the patio drinking wine with a friend and I walked up to introduce myself. When she said she was a photographer and worked from her RV, I jumped with excitement. I had come prepared with a sticky note with my name and number and I handed it over enthusiastically. Then I didn’t hear from her for two weeks. I felt like such a fool! Who approaches a stranger with a sticky note?! Seriously? But she finally did call. Turns out her husband, Tim, is also awesome and all four of us became friends! Mikenzie and I would turn up on each other’s doorstep looking for cooking supplies or wanting to vent about the trailerhood or the challenges of working from home. She saved me from pulling out my hair countless times.

4. Have an Office Away From Home

This is the most powerful tool at your disposal. Have another place you can work. Or have several! Take your laptop and headphones and setup shop elsewhere for the day. There are SO many places with free Wi-Fi and like Planned Outings, this one has the double benefit of human interaction AND workplace separation. If you find a place you like, you may even become a regular. And trust me, nothing is more thrilling than the librarian knowing your name and favorite study carrel.

Here are a few places I’ve used as my Office Away From Home:


Public Library – Free, free, free. It’s quiet and full of knowledge. What’s not to love? We also realized that once I got a library card, we stopped buying new books. Mike and I are avid readers and this Office Away From Home actually saved us money!

Case Study: San Diego Public Library has one of the most amazing reading rooms I’ve ever seen. Gosh, today I think I’ll work with a bird’s eye view of San Diego! What a hardship.


Coffee Shop – Less Free. Although you have to buy something when you work in a coffee shop, usually that something can be a cheap cup of tea or delicious pastry. And that transaction buys you pleasant ambience and comfortable chairs. Cha-ching! Speaking of money, be careful with this one. Daily coffee and pastries can take a chunk out of your wallet and add it to your waistline.

Case Study: 2 Tarts Bakery in New Braunfels, Texas has a funky, energizing vibe. They serve tea in teapots and offer gluten-free pastries. I would happily live in their pastry display.


Coworking Space – Not Free. The cost of a coworking space can vary from about $100 to $750 per month.  But if you can afford it, it’s SO worth it. Coworking spaces are full of ambitious, smart, hard-working people. They are usually freelancers or entrepreneurs and are working on something they love. The environment is stimulating and the networking is fantastic! Cheaper memberships usually require sharing desks so it’s definitely necessary to have a home office to store all your equipment.

Case Study: 3rd Space in San Diego is a coworking space for creative people. It’s been my Office Away From Home for almost two years. I’ve met some incredible people and ended up working with and/or becoming close friends with several of them. In fact, two 3rd Spacers became my clients and I’m currently designing their remodels!

That’s it. That’s my hard earned advice.  If you’re working from home and having a tough time, try one of these tactics. What have you got to lose?


San Diego Library photo credit: San Diego Magazine

2 Tarts inside seating photo credit: Trip Advisor

2 Tarts display board photo credit: The Pink Samurai blog