HeartWork Organizing

Helping you find peace and purpose through organization and design

Fear Of Buttons March 29, 2012

Filed under: Closets & Storage,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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Are you itching for a new spring wardrobe?  Beware not to let koumpounophobia, a real documented phobia of buttons, set in.  Watch this tip on how to store those extra buttons that come with new garments so you can actually find the right buttons when you need them.

If you can’t see the video thumbnail, click here:

Please comment below to let me know what you think of this idea to save and store buttons, and how you would make it even better.


Is it Better To Consign or Donate? The Economics of Purging September 8, 2011

Babies don’t stay babies for long. My babies have grown out of baby bug rattles and what seems like thousands of adorable outfits.  I can’t store them all, so I thought I’d try consignment sales. My clients are often tortured with the idea that by donating their goods, they are somehow losing money.   Is selling at a consignment sale or store, on eBay, or on CraigsList any better? I decided to run the math on my own involvment in a community consignment sale and see how it compares to donation values.

Let’s set aside the emotional distress tied up in pawing through teeny tiny clothes, hand-knitted sweaters and beautiful booties. Look, I’m a professional, and even I did a mini fashion show for my husband as I tagged items for sale. (Aaaaw, remember her in this cute little outfit? It hardly looks worn!)

Let’s examine facts. I had about 250 outfits, shoes, and baby gear that were consignable:  in good shape, no stains or tears, matched in complete outfits, and basically looking like-new.  I signed up to be part of a local one-day consignment sale, but working with a consignment store is similar.

First came the scramble for child-sized hangers. Clothes on hangers tend to sell better. Every dollar spent on prep reduces profit, so I scoured Freecycle and hit up friends and clients, but it was tough coming up with enough extra hangers.  I used adult hangers for many outfits.

Using straight pins to attach sale tags is tough on the buyers. One DollarTree package of safety pins, cost, yep, just one buck. Sale tags were provided by this event host, but some sales require consignors to print tags at home, adding paper and printer ink costs.

Then came the real cost. Little outfits had to be unpacked, put on hangers, steamed or ironed, grouped and priced. I spent at least 10 hours, maybe 15 hours or more.  At minimum wage of $7.25 my “cost” for time spent would have been at least $73 bucks.

Last, I trekked to the sale site for drop off. Loading items and delivering to the sale site took a little more than an hour, so rack up another roughly $10 in opportunity cost and aggravation.

Now comes the fun part. Each sale works a bit differently, so read up on what’s available in your area. This sale gives 60% of the proceeds back to the consignor, which is pretty good.  I opted to volunteer at the sale and earn a higher percentage of the earnings, in my case 75%.  I donated two hours of time for greater profit and an additional shot at end-of-day markdowns.  I scored big, getting an all-wood three-piece play kitchen, which I look forward to repainting “Pottery Barn Pink”, for just $10.

I priced just about every item at $2. Price items to sell, for sure. Remember, folks, pricing something unreasonably high at a consignment sale actually lowers your chance of earning any profit at all. Most people come to these sales for deals and steals, so play along or don’t play.  And really, you’re done with it, so let it go and feel happy it’s getting another life.

  • potential gross = $500
  • potential take = $375 (that’s 75%)
  • potential net (minus my costs) = $292

My results?

  • actual gross = $192
  • actually paid to me =$144
  • actual net (minus my costs) = $61

I’m not surprised that $61 is just about what I spent that day at that very same sale. I received a check two weeks later. Unsold items can be donated by the host, but I picked up mine to take to another sale or perhaps donate for the tax deduction.  That means I dragged home 150 outfits, which was no easy haul back out to the car.  They are still worth another roughly $75 back on my taxes when properly documented.

So was it worth it? About one-third of taxpayers itemize deductions, and we can claim charitable donations on Schedule A. If I had bagged and dropped off those same 250 items at my local Goodwill, I would have been able to assign a thrift value to them of the same $2, and taken the deduction on my taxes next April.  My donation would have reduced my taxable income by the value donated ($500), and reduce my tax bill by roughly $125. (Note: Taxes can be confounding.  Please talk with a tax advisor for specifics.)  Hmmm, that is suspiciously close to my net earnings on this sale, but without the time that I spent preparing, dropping off and collecting my unsold items, and volunteering at the event. Click here for one guide to donation values.

So should you or shouldn’t you?  If you enjoy consignment sales, if you could use the cash more than the time, or if you have some trendy, high-quality items that you know people are willing to pay top dollar for, then go the consignment route. I appreciate it, because I’ll probably be buying your stash.  Watch out for emotion, though, since the longer you wait to consign, the less likely your stuff will be current and desirable. If, however, time is more valuable to you, then donate your goods to a charity like Goodwill or any local charity that will provide a receipt for tax purposes, knowing that the financial outcome to your bottom line will likely be about the same.


Mom’s 10-Week Summer Organizing Plan June 15, 2011

A huge part of my business happens in the fall when moms everywhere realize that their plan for getting organized during the summer didn’t happen as planned.  School is out this week where I live, so I’m offering up this 10-week strategy for getting organized.  The idea is that you tackle one manageable topic each week, and you find yourself a bit more organized at the end of the summer, but you still have time to enjoy yourself, guilt-free!

I’d love to hear how this works out for you.  Please post a comment and let me know if this plan helps you.  Happy summer!

Week 1: summer calendar, backpacks and sports gear

During this week, ensure that all summer activities, camps, vacations, babysitter time-off, and travel is on the same calendar to avoid overlaps and gaps.  Also, unpack backpacks and sports bags coming home from school to avoid lost items and fuzzy green sandwich remains surfacing in the fall.

Week 2: summer clothes

During this week, cull through all family members clothing to ensure everyone is covered, so to speak.

Week 3:  fitness routine

During this week, if you’ve let your own fitness routine slip, look at ways to incorporate fitness, healthy eating, or other healthy habits back into your day.  Take a class or enlist a buddy to help make it stick.

Week 4: kid artwork and paperwork

During this week, get each kid to review last year’s treasures and masterpieces with you, and decide on the best items to archive.  Then order Dynamic Frames to help organize next year’s works effortlessly and beautifully.

Week 5: an unfinished project of your choice

Choose something you’ve been meaning to get done and tackle it, whatever it is.  Refinishing a piece of furniture, organizing the garage, having a contractor make repairs, or even making that long overdue doctor’s appointment for yourself deserves your attention this week.

Week 6: household paperwork

Yep, you knew this was coming.  Devote just 30 minutes each day this week to clearing off counters, desks and tables.  If you need to set up or tweak your filing system, challenge yourself to do this in under an hour.  Ensure there is a mail handling station you can live with.

Week 7: mom’s closet

Earmark one day this week to cull through your closet for items to donate.  Anything that is to small, too big, stained, ripped, hopelessly out of date or ill-fitting needs to go.  Then, and here’s the fun part, make a list of items you want to add to your wardrobe, and go shopping for good quality staples.

Week 8: school clothes

This is the week you tackle the kid’s clothes.  Get in there with your kids, and get an idea of what is in good shape and what needs to be replaced.  The stores will be having back to school sales by now, and going armed with a list of what’s needed will save you money at the registers.

Week 9: school supplies

Ditto last week.  Take a day early in the week to clear out the junk drawer and desk drawers, lightly organizing, before hitting the office supply stores.

Week 10: new routine (dry run)

This week, take pride in the fact that you’ve accomplished so much this summer.  Then write down your new routine and run it by each member of the family.  Get agreement on activities, house rules, curfews, and morning routines.  Do a daily dry run the week before school starts, and you’ll have less whining and more smiles come fall.


Contest Winner: Julie in Havertown won over $500 in organizing goodies! December 14, 2010

Filed under: Closets & Storage,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 12:46 am
 You have to be very careful when you run an organizing contest, lest the prizes end up as more clutter.  Not so with our latest winner, Julie in Havertown.  This mom of 4 (plus husband and dog) won our contest held at the Best of Main Line Today event back in July of this year. 

Julie and I spent some time reviewing her household hotspots, and strategized on winning solutions for craft items, toys, and papers.  The Taylor Gifts (also found at www.shopgetorganized.com ) kicked in $200 of organizing supplies that we carefully hand picked for her needs and growing family.   After some time asking the kids to dig in, sort, and pare down toys and jumbled art supplies, Julie had a good idea of what she wanted to keep and store.  Because the kids did the work, even creating labels on the computer for their toy bins, they were ready to help when I came back with the pretty new storage solutions.

Julie’s favorite was probably the very stylish woven bins to hold all the games and game controllers in the play room. 

Espresso Woven totes are a great way to stash gaming stuff My favorite was probably all the added space in their craft closet, once items were sorted, stored in colorful boxes and labelled by the girls. Colorful boxes hold art and craft supplies at kid level.


The girls all went crazy over the stick-on blackboard.  Before I left we had two completely different tableaus on the wall. 

Stick on blackboard paper, boardered with colorful wrapping paper for extra punch.

We also added a 6-pocket over-door holder to act as a family in-box, perfect for this family of 6.  This will hold party invitations, permission slips, incoming mail and other paper that shouldn’t end up on the counter top in a hard-working kitchen.

magazine holder as in-box

This was such a fun project, and I thank Julie for letting me offer some solutions to daily life.  To see a video of what Julie and some of the kids think, visit the HWO FaceBook Page.

Of course, as the kids grow and household activities change, organizing systems will be tweaked and refined, but all of these products can be repurposed many, many times.

Solving Challenges in Dormers December 13, 2010

Filed under: Closets & Storage,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 11:14 pm

Dormered spaces, or dormers, are those charming areas in homes with sloping walls.   They can be considered an architectural feature or a space and storage challenge.  They are commonly found in older homes, especially in attics and top-floor bedrooms, but they are making a comeback in new construction as builders add these cool angles in to more homes.  If you are a little person, say under 8 years old, they can be magical spaces, outfitted as reading nooks or special forts.  But for the rest of us, these spaces can just represent lost real estate. 

Closets in dormered spaces can be the worst, unless you employ some tricks to help you get the most out of the spaces.  Determine where the bulk of the usable space is first.  Is the longest run at or above 45″ from the floor on the sloping wall or on a flat wall that meets the sloping wall?  Compare the space on a wall that is flat, sloping to meet the dormer on one side with the running length on the dormer.  You might be surprised to find, as we did in a recent closet redesign, that not only could we have just as much hanging space on the wall that was easiest to access, but we also allowed for shelving space on the wall in the triangle above.  And as a bonus, we were able to install a second hanging rod on the opposing wall, effectively doubling the size of the closet.   Look for the longest run that falls between the height of 45″ and 60″ from the floor to maximize the comfort level and space for hanging items.  This configuration came with a bonus.  Because we were no longer blocking off the dormer space with a wall to wall hanging rod and clothes, we now could use the rear of the sloped closet for out of season storage that was much easier to access, without having to remove a wardrobe.

In another closet, the entire length of the closet was a hanging rod and shallow shelf that was installed right up against the slanted wall/ceiling, making the shelf completely useless.  We re-installed the same closet hardware about 18″ away from the slated wall, allowing us to raise the bar just a bit  to make sure everything had enough space to hang without hitting the floor and allow for full utilization of the shelving above, with the help of some baskets.  A full geometry course isn’t necessary to understand that there is more space to utilize at the big end of a triangle than at the pointy corner.  And we created some additional space behind, allowing for easy access to special occaission and off-season sotrage.   It’s not much, but 12-18″ is enough for folded shirts, stacked shorts, and shoes.

If the hanging rod must be placed along the length of a slated wall, so that standard hanging rails and brackets won’t install properly, there are brackets that are specially made to support lengths of more than three feet.   You can find it here

Another way to deal with slanted walls and dormered spaces is to make them work as storage.  The term for the upright wall that meets a low slanted ceiling is a knee wall.  Many times, a knee wall will be installed that creates vacant and hard to reach spaces behind it.  Some people use these as very short closets, but you still need to put doors on the openings.  And often these unfinished spaces are unconditioned, making them too hot and too cold.  If you already have knee walls built in, consider making them work to house an existing dresser.  By cutting out an opening, inserting a dresser, and finishing the front with decorative molding, you have an inexpensive and very functional solution.  Just be sure to measure the space at both the front (the knee wall) and the back at the depth of the dresser to ensure there is enough space to accomodate it.

If you have a living space with a dormered section, keep in mind that your furniture will probably need to be located to allow for enough comfortable space getting in to and out of the furniture, but chairs under dormered spaces can work very well.  You don’t actually need the entire space behind the furniture to raise and lower yourself.  The client who owns the room pictured here originally thought that the slanted space under his stairs was only suitable for his TV.  However, when we put the furniture in place, we could get the most seating in the room by bringing a recliner under the dormer. 

If have a dormered space but aren’t comfortable with many different angles, consider painting the walls and ceiling the same color.  Usually we think of ceilings as some variation between white and the wall color, but by painting  the ceiling and the walls all the same color, you minimize the number of transitions that the eye has to process, instantly calming the space.

Whatever your dormer challenges, find a way to make your space reflect the job you need it to do and the uniqueness of your style, and you are likely to end up with a dormered space that is a feature and not a fright.


Cool Tool: Organizing Unruly Hair Dryers November 1, 2010

Filed under: Closets & Storage,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:53 pm

Hair Dryer Holder Inside Closet

If only everything in life were this simple. I installed a hair dryer holder yesterday for a client, and we both absolutely love it. More importantly, we made use of the “dead space” in her closet on either side of the door INSIDE the closet. The gadget is contained and out of sight but easily accessed just inside the door.  There were absolutely no tools required, and this works on tile, glass, drywall, or plaster.  And it was no small feat taking the picture from inside the closet! 

You can order one here.  http://www.taylorgifts.com/item/sure-loc_hair_dryer_holder/W32004

The client uses another quick trick for keeping things tidy…she wraps the cord inside a spare toilet paper tube to keep it from escaping in to the rest of the closet.


TLC’s Clean House Comes to Your House September 3, 2010

Filed under: Closets & Storage,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 3:50 am

If you recognize the name Niecy Nash, then you are probably a fan of the TLC Network show, Clean House.  A Philadelphia-area native, Gina Rubenstein, recently won a daytime Emmy for her production work on the show.  Congrats, Gina! 

According to the Main Line Suburban Life, “Now Rubenstein and the “Clean House” crew are searching again for the messiest home in the country and are looking to help a family in Greater Philadelphia.  To qualify, a family must have at least three rooms in their home that are extremely messy, own a single-family home and have at least two adults, or one adult and an older teenager, living in the house.  To apply either go to www.mystyle.com  and click on “Clean House” and then “Be on TV” or email clean-house@stylenetwork.com and include in the email the names and relations of everyone living in the home, the address, phone number, whether the home is owned or rented, why the home needs the “Clean House” crew and a photo of the home.”

If you’ve never seen the show, it airs at 10 PM on the Style Network, which  is channel 160 on Verizon Fios in our area.  You can also find the shows reruns at various times of the day and weekend.