Something Handy: 10 Big Tiny Nightstand Hacks For Working At Home

Something Handy: 10 Big Tiny Nightstand Hacks For Working At Home

If you’re like me, you get as much or more work done sitting up in bed than at your desk or the dining room table, which, let’s be real, get overrun by other people and their stuff and my stuff and your stuff and everyone’s stuff way too quickly.

You know what solves that problem? A tiny space that’s too small to share and too inconvenient for anyone else to invade.

Here are 10 ways I make this 18″ space between the bed and a set of bookshelves work for my work-from-bed days.

#1: Binder Clip

There’s nothing worse than having to lean out of bed to scoop the laptop cord off the floor when your battery’s dying. This jumbo binder clip keeps my cords right where they’re easy to reach. It’s size makes it easy to unclip and move from the nightstand to the bed, where I clip it to one of the legs of the breakfast tray so it doesn’t slide down to the floor when I’m using the cord. It also travels in the other direction to my desk, where I clip it to a file box to keep it and the cords attached. This hack is so old and so common that if it was any less useful I wouldn’t bother to call it a hack.

#2 & #3: Big Trivet on Big Plate

I have a square plate I really like but haven’t used in a few years and a square trivet that was rediscovered in the garage after decades in a box. The way the trivet fits into the plate provides a lip for catching pens and keeping them from rolling off the nightstand. The raised edge of the plate is perfect for the jumbo binder clip that holds the cords. The trivet is like a giant coaster; I can have my water and my coffee next to me without having to worry about coasters. It’s also big enough for a small bowl of cereal, for those glamorous mornings when I eat while I work in my pajamas. The best part is that while the trivet is a bigger surface for cups, it’s not big enough to collect a lot of clutter. This is about as full as my nightstand gets.

#4: Phone Ledge*

Groping for my phone in the middle of the night is a drag. Being able to slide it in between The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker and the square plate makes it easy to find in the dark and easy to shut up when I forget to put it on Do Not Disturb. I don’t worry about dropping it on the floor or spilling water on it when it’s safely tucked in to its little ledge.

*The part of the phone is being played by a small notebook while the phone takes pictures.

#5: Hanging Clipboard

It’s a clipboard hanging on the side of the bookshelf within reach of my bed. It’s holding my the notebook I currently use for Daily Pages. Need I say more? I probably should. These particular bookshelves are destined to be horizontal in my office. For the time being, they’re vertical (it works because the shelves are cubes). The surface with the clipboard will be the top of the shelves and I really don’t want to damage them. Apart from a coffee ring from 2005, these shelves are in great condition. My solution? Command Strip and Command Hook. I’m only on Hack #5 and I feel like I don’t need to get out of bed again until my bladder’s had enough. Sweet.

#6: Breakfast Tray

I think this tray was maybe $19.99 at a Pier 1 or Mervyn’s sometime in the 20th century. It’s legs down and out with extra wings for newspapers and magazines — or in my case, the half dozen notebooks and planners I’ve got on hand at any given time. I wear a lot of hats and I like to keep my thoughts in several designated places. One notebook for coaching tools and designing workshops, one for drafting short stories, another for tracking who’s signed up for which event and activity, and so on. It’s pine with a melamine surface that can handle a dry erase pen in a pinch. There’s room for my laptop, pen cup, mouse and mousepad when I want them, and the telescoping tripod that holds my phone when I’m on a Zoom call (or watching Britbox when I’m doing busy work). I use it every single day I’m home and keep it safe and sound right by my bed for when I need it. Easy to set up, easy to put away.

#7 & #8: Smart Device and Floating Shelf

I have an Echo, but that’s not the hack. The hack is that I have two lights, two fans, my phone, my laptop, and my Echo plugged into Smart Plugs. I don’t need to have a light on this nightstand because I don’t have to be able to reach over to turn it on and off. Voice commands do it all. When it’s time to charge my laptop, I tell Echo to turn on that plug. My phone is plugged in all night, but after 3 a.m. when it’s fully charged, the Smart Plug turns itself off. I turn fans and lights on and off while I’m writing, while I’m on Zoom calls, and when I’m away for the weekend.

If you don’t have a floating shelf hovering above your nightstand, are you even using your space efficiently? If you have more than 14″ of surface area for things like fans and melatonin and the collection of postcards you’re sending out next (save the USPS!), you probably don’t need a floating shelf. But I do.

#9: Personal Fan

Perched on the floating shelf, this little $5 personal fan I bought at a drug store in 2008 has been a lifesaver. From its higher vantage point on the wall, it can cool my legs and move more air around on hot summer days than if it was sitting on the stack of books (although that worked for a while). Comfort is totally a work-at-home hack.

Bonus: See that little black flashlight next to the fan? That’s for when the Echo doesn’t work because our Internet decides to be unstable, PG&E does a round of brownouts through town, or whatever else is going to happen in 2020 decides to happen. This is a work-at-home hack, because being prepared frees up mental space for working instead of worrying.

#10: Vintage Lipstick Case

You gotta have some things on hand to help you look and feel professional. For some women I know, fresh lipstick before a Zoom does the trick. For me it’s an allergy pill at 5 a.m. so I don’t look my worst at the 10 a.m. Write Along, and standby Tylenol PM for nights I can’t sleep (hello pandemic 24/7 low-level anxiety). They’re mixed in with a handful of regular Tylenol and some Advil, which I’m taking less frequently as my broken tailbone heals. It’s been a year for all of us, honey. I could probably squeeze a lip gloss in there if I took some of the pills out. That’s the goal.

Teach me your hacks. What do you have to have on your nightstand so you can work in bed for days in a row without ever having to step out into the real world again unless you’re getting groceries?