table computer and monet


We’ve reached the half-way point of this month-long adventure in Atlanta. Right before we left, I had a sweet new Milwaukee friend ask me if I would mind working and writing from a hotel room for a month—did I need somewhere beautiful or nice to help inspire my writing? I assured her that as long as I was in a clean space, I’d be fine.


Fast forward about 28 hours, after a long day of traveling, opening the door to room #343 of our Extended Stay, with the wafting smell of stale smoke and chemicals that were supposed to have removed them, and I started to doubt my cavalier attitude toward whether “I can write anywhere.” Evan walked in behind me, the room distinctly hot and humid, and said, “Well, we better get you a plant.”


make the bed


The next morning after we checked that the internet was decent, and the temperature in the room had dropped to low enough that we had slept fairly well, things were looking brighter with the Atlanta June sun streaming in. We went out to buy a plant and a few more little luxuries to make the space more inviting.


alpenglow plant


Almost everyone has to work in a space that has some limitations, but at the same time there are ways to work within those limitations to incorporate more beauty and order into a space. So whether you’re working out of a hotel room for a month, or facing your new office cubical, here are five tips to make the most of your space.


1. Focus on Beauty

The view from our hotel room is the back of a McDonalds, but since it’s June in Atlanta, there is an abundance of trees and flowering bushes in that back parking lot as well. So one simple way of making the space better is to make sure that the table where I work is angled so when I look out the window I see the trees, not the drive thru line of cars.


This principle of focusing on beauty is both for the physical and the psychological. I position myself to see the green leaves out the window and the Monet print from my desk, not the TV or the drive thru. But it also means that I focus on the great parts of being at a hotel: I always have hot water; I can control the room temperature; We have a king size bed; Someone else washes the towels and sheets; and I have a fitness center down stairs. Sure, there are a lot of less great aspects of hotel living, but then I can go take a hot bath anytime I want. (For more focused inspiration, read the Nester’s writing about “Arrows” Nesting Place)


basil in the window


2. Keep it Tidy

The catch about a hotel or any small space is that it can get messy fast, but the upside is you can clean it up fast. There just aren’t as many things or spaces to explode or hide. But that also means that an unmade bed makes the whole room feel unmade. So spending 15 minutes to make sure that the bed is made and the dishes are done and clothes and shoes are contained makes the whole space feel so much better. So I broke out my old college pop up hamper, to help corral dirty clothes, and forked over $1.19 for an 18-pack of hangers, both totally worth it. (For more on the power of clean surfaces, read the Modern Mrs. Darcy’s #1 tip from Pinterest)


closet with window


3. Buy a Few Little Luxuries

One of the limitations of a hotel room is that it’s hard to justify buying a lot of things to make it better, because you likely can’t take it home. But for me, there are a few things that really make a difference. One is $2 alpenglow plant. It’s a little spot of beauty, and a small way to help the air quality in the room.


Another is as simple as nice smelling dish soap and a quality sponge for all the washing of dishes by hand 3 or 4 times a day. Your $10 worth of little luxuries might be different, but small investments into making the place better can be a great investment if you are considerably more efficient and pleasant to be around living in that space. (For more on small changes to make your environment better, see Megan @ Sorta Crunchy’s post on the Survival Guide for the Highly Sensitive Parent)


sponge and dish soap



4. Bring a few Bigger Luxuries

Creating a good hotel working environment is also dependent on packing well. For example, having good computer speakers means that I can listen to great music, either my own music collection or streaming it from Spotify. So we chose to really limit the number of books we brought, relying mostly on kindle and audio books we already have or checked out from the library, and made space for our computer speakers.


speakers with computer


Also, since I’m writing a great deal, but have a really old laptop, I chose to bring an extra keyboard and mouse. (The scroll pad on my laptop is really unreliable and makes typing straight on my laptop a really miserable experience since the cursor jumps around.) And we decided to make room for a soft cooler to help us pack lunches (every day for Evan during the week, and for weekend excursions.) Think about what you want to do in and around your space, and bring a couple more expensive pieces of equipment in your luggage instead of extra clothes or books. (For more reflections on packing for vacations see this post)


pack a lunch supplies


5. Food as Art

Finally, focus on the beautiful and functional things in the room. Make your own still life on your counter with a bowl of fruit, or a pretty wine label. Think about buying an herb plant that is both beautiful and edible. Again, focus on the beautiful parts of the room and your life. There really is beauty all around us! Next week, we’ll explore how to eat and cook on a vacation or longer work trip.


fruit bowl


What are your tips for living out of a hotel? What are your little luxuries that you’d buy or bring with you?




5 Responses to 5 Tips for a Month-Long Hotel Stay: Creating a Workable Space

  1. Hey, that looks like where I have been living for the past few weeks? Have you seen me there?

    • Anne Hays says:

      I very much admire you positive attitude. You have found some very creative ways to make your hotel stay pleasant. I have written in a hotel room myself a few times – and on a boat too – and always felt lucky that my vocation was so portable. I hope you make good progress on your book while you are there.
      Love, Anne

      • Amy Rogers Hays says:

        Thanks Grandma Anne! We were woken up this morning about six o’clock to the very loud sound of the fire alarm. So we got to see the whole hotel out in the parking lot in their pajamas. Turns out that a dryer caught fire. Evan and I took a walk around the neighborhood, although it was mostly without sidewalks (and reminded us why we’ve been driving places to get out and walk on paths). By the time we got back, about 45 minutes later, everyone was back inside. But good thing I did laundry yesterday. It was however, a pretty stronger reminder that I need to be much more diligent about backing up my writing word files!! We miss you guys! Love, Amy

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Amy, these are a lovely set of ideas and inspiration. One of the important things for my family & me is keeping the room tidy and having clothes hanging up rather living out of a suitcase.

    I make sure that I have my favourite soap & shampoo with me since the smells remind me of home.

    As a family we carry photos of home and garden that we put around the hotel room.

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