Designing a Family Friendly Computer Station

It's no surprise that computers have affected all of our daily lives in the way we communicate, handle our finances, do homework, keep up with daily events, and much, much more. While most of us have adapted to the computer age, we haven't been as quick to adapt our furnishings to accommodate this new focal point in our homes.

While most family members have a need or desire to use the computer, our computer stations are not very user-friendly for the entire family. The truth is that not every family has the space in their homes to dedicate an entire room as a home office, but almost everyone needs some kind of space that is a center for a home computer, bills, receipts, mail and other important paperwork. For some, that spot is in the kitchen; for others, it is the bedroom or the dining room.

So how can you create a workstation that is designed to work just as well for Mom as for little Billy? The key is to get organized! No, that doesn't mean you have to change everything about the way you work or use your desk (the vast majority of us let things pile up and hope to have a day when we can sort out the mess). But it does mean having separate areas for each family member's belongings so everyone has equal use of the space. Here are a few ideas of how to make a family workstation work well.

1. Invest in adequate furniture.
Some people buy a cheap, small desk in hopes of making the desk less obtrusive in the room. However, a well-made, taller piece with shelves and storage is often a better purchase because of the versatility it offers. Not only should you have space for your computer hardware and peripheral equipment, but you should have space for each family member to store their work or papers.

A wide variety of selections are available in all price ranges, from full-size desks, to office armoires to smaller writing tables that are great for laptops. You may want to start simply with a desk and a chair, and later add pieces as your budget allows, such as a hutch or a coordinating bookshelf. Don't forget to add lighting though - invest in a good lamp that will help you and your family members perform various tasks at the workstation without straining the eyes.

2. Give everyone a space.
One of the easiest ways to help keep your family workstation clean and organized is to assign each family member a basket, large enough to hold full-size papers or magazines. Baskets can be stored right on top of the desk or on a nearby shelf and can help your piles of papers look neat and tidy - while keeping them handy at the same time. Mom has one basket to put the mail, bills, coupons and photos in. Dad has one for his work papers, calendar, Blackberry, and sports magazines, and little Billy has his own basket for homework, his iPod, favorite CDs, and Webkinz codes.

When one family member is using the workstation, he can easily get to his or her things in one place, and just as easily put them away when he or she is finished. No sorting. No filing. Just keep your things in your own basket. If you basket gets full, it's time to dump some things or start putting some things away. It's an easy system that can work well regardless of the family member's age or tidiness habits.

3. Conceal cables and wires.
Fold mailing labels back on themselves around each cord and label the wire. Don't forget to label the cords that connect different components to each other, as well as the cord to the electric supply. Then bundle like wires together to give you easy access to the cords but also cut down on clutter behind your desk and on the floor.

4. Get an adjustable chair.
For every family member to use the computer or desk space comfortably, invest in a good chair that is easily adjustable for different height requirements. Teach children how to raise the chair to the proper height so that they don't have to strain their eyes to see the screen or their arms to reach things on top of the desk. A good chair that helps kids use the workstation appropriately will also make them less likely to hurt themselves by standing on the chair to reach things just out of their grasp.

The bottom line is simply that a great family workstation should work well for all members of the family. By implementing a few rules and some simple solutions, your family computer station can be a fun and functional addition to your home.

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