As a relatively tall human (6’1’’) I’ve struggled with using tools designed for others of average height. One primary example was the ergonomics of my computer workstation. Computers have gotten smaller and more portable over time which has been wonderful for adapting the computers to tiny living spaces, but hunching over a laptop all day was a pain in the neck. I tried all sorts of marketed solutions, yet, these solutions were designed for smaller humans and never quite fit me. I loved the laptop size and portability for our tiny house but the problem was always that the keyboard and the monitor screen were connected so that either my hands or my neck were uncomfortable. My hands needed to be low and my screen needed to be high to meet my gaze.
Recently, I retired my seven year-old MacBook Pro computer. As such, I decided I had a new opportunity to address my old keyboard/screen problem. I purchased a new Microsoft Surface Pro computer which is a tablet, touch-screen, laptop hybrid where the keyboard is removable. I loved the concept of this new multipurpose computer but I hated the idea of hunching over an even smaller device at my desk or in my lap. Even if I had a separate wireless keyboard at my hands I needed a way to put my screen up high.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Richard Franck
To solve this surprisingly complex problem of a pain-free, tiny house workstation, I had to distil my most basic needs and wants. This computer workstation had to be:
- Stable, durable, and inexpensive
- Modular, storable, and easy to use
Most of the ergonomic products on the market were expensive, business oriented, and had to be permanently mounted for stability. My partner, Tammy, solved this problem elegantly by using the bookcase in the tiny house as a standing workstation. Unfortunately, the bookshelves are not at the correct height for me. Even if we had made our book shelves adjustable for my height, I like to alternate between a sitting and standing workstation. Also, I use my computer for more than work. If I wanted to read a recipe from my computer while I was cooking in the kitchen, or watching a movie in bed, I wanted to be able to do so hands free. I realized I needed a mobile stand with a mount for the tablet computer.
Since part of the tiny house DIY ethos is to simplify, it didn’t make sense for me to engineer this tool from scratch. I decided to search for a motley hodgepodge of items that I could assemble together. The result of my inventing process was:
- A wireless keyboard/mouse
- A metal chemistry ring-stand
- And a plastic tablet mount for car headrests (designed for child use in the back seat)
For approximately $75, I now I have a stable, pain-free, workstation that can move around the tiny house. This little workstation adjusts to my height (standing, sitting, or laying down), and can easily be disassembled for storage. Living deliberately with a DIY ethos has helped me assemble my life to meet my physical and emotional needs. I believe all humans are capable of clever ideas. It’s the implementation of those ideas and inventing them into reality that is the challenging part. With a little practice using the Tiny House DIY ethos you too can tailor your life and reduce the discomfort of having to use tools made for the status quo.