HeartWork Organizing

Helping you find peace and purpose through organization and design

Home Office In a Closet March 28, 2012

I was talking to a friend about this particular transformation, and realized it had never made it to the blog, so here you go.  For those of you who work at home, you can have a super-functional and pretty office, in just about 30″ of space (deep).


how to have a home office in a closet


How to have a home office in a closet

What would you accomplish if your office was this pretty?


Why Remove Pictures when Staging March 27, 2012

Filed under: Staging — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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Removing personal pictures from your home is one of the first and easiest things you’ll do when staging your home for sale.  There are three reasons you want to remove personal pictures from your home when it’s on the market.

1.  You want to leave room for the buyer to imagine their family, not yours, in the home.  First impressions happen very quickly, and it’s just easier for a potential buyer not to have to erase an image of your family so they can picture themselves at home.  Only about 10-20% of buyers can imagine the changes they want to make to your home.  Don’t stress the other 80% who can’t.

2.  Buyers love to wander over to your wall or table of family pictures to see if they know you.  It’s only human; we want to connect.  They’ll want to see if they know you from high school, if you look like them, or if your kids are about the same age as their kids.  Any time they spend trying to make these connections with you, they aren’t making the connection with the house, which is exactly what you need to have happen.

3.  It’s just prudent to safeguard your family.  Buyers are strangers, after all, and there is no reason that you need to let strangers know how old your kids are, what activities they participate in, and what your family likes to do in your free time.

Most sellers don’t want to remove family photos because they think that means removing the frames and necessitating a new paint job.  Not so.  One easy trick is to replace family photos with landscape art that goes with your decor.  In this shot, you can see that the homeowner doctored  a family hallway montage, and now it features some peaceful seaside shots.  Still pretty, still framed, but now something that draws you through the space to the next beautiful room, instead of slowing you down in the short hallway.

easy staging tips

If your home is on the market, and you haven’t yet taken down or swapped the family photos, what are you waiting for?


Why I Love My Job March 22, 2012

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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This week I’m enjoying hanging with my organizing peeps at the National Association of Professional Organizers annual conference. Did you know there is one?  It is always one VERY organized agenda!

I can’t wait to get back and share what’s new in the industry.  I’ll be spending a few days in the land of crab cakes and Orioles.  Too bad we’re a few weeks ahead of opening day. It’s true, I have one of the best jobs a person could ask for.

I love my job.

This is one of my favorite parts of my job.  I almost never work alone.

linen closet organizingThis is Smudge, and he was doing the safety check and space planning for this linen closet reorganization.   I have a million shots of my your little furry children helping me organize your spaces.  Next time I’m at your place, please remind me to snap a shot of the silly things they do to help us out.

Enjoy your week.

What do you love best about your job?


Organizing While Human March 20, 2012

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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People I work with often blame their current organizing state of affairs on the blessings of being an American.  Let’s face it, while the 99% have gotten a lot of press with the Occupy Wall Street movement, most Americans are still the richest 2% of the world’s population.  If we feel overwhelmed by our stuff, our debt, our gadgets, our calendars, and our information, is it just because we are Americans living in the year 2012?


One of the biggest reasons we keep too much is because we treasure possibilities.  We keep things we’ve never used just in case we might need them some day.  We keep relics of activities we used to do, but are unlikely to take part in again.  We keep magazines we don’t have time to read because there might be a cool article in there. There’s lots of psychology behind this, but basically it boils down to us being human, not the year we live in.

I found a little organizing story tucked in the book of Acts in the Bible.  Acts tells the story of what happened to Jesus’ followers immediately after he rose and ascended to be with the Father.  His guys were sent all over the ancient world to tell His story.  Paul, one of the new guys, heads over to Athens, Greece and is hobnobbing with the folks who run the town.  “All the people of Athens spent their time talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” (v.21)  Sounds a bit like us, always plugged in and getting our news practically by I.V. drip.  The Greeks were really into their gods, as you might recall from mythology.  The guys in charge ask Paul what he’s in town to discuss, and Paul says, “As I walked around, I looked carefully at the things you worship, I even found an altar with to an unknown god written on it.” (v.23)

In effect, the people of Ancient Greece were keeping an empty building or shrine in high-rent downtown real estate labelled to an unknown god, just in case they might need it one day!

There’s no need to beat yourself up about a little extra in your life here and there.  After all, there are times when being prepared makes a lot of sense.  The ability to plan makes us human and sets us apart from the rest of the animals. But taken too far, you might be taking up valuable real estate for something that really is a little wacky. We’ve seen it for two thousand years and more.  We’ll always organize while human.

Paul says that not only can he describe the God that they are holding a place for, but that God doesn’t even need a separate shrine, that He’s master over everything and everywhere.  Hey, Greeks, he’s saying, listen up.  That space could be better used than sitting empty.  Today, our unworn sweaters, unused books, uneaten food, unworn shoes, and yes, probably even our unoccupied real estate, can be better put to use helping our fellow humans.  Donating unused goods is a good thing!

Stay human, but keep the just in case within reason.


10 Ways to Go PaperLess March 15, 2012

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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If I had a nickel for everyone who told me they wanted to go paperless, well, I could buy several reams of paper.  The truth is that our society is nowhere near going paperless.  In fact, our actual individual consumption of paper is up in the past decades!  But we can all take one or two free or easy steps to have less unwanted paper in our lives.  The less that comes in, the less you have to organize.  Take a few minutes and do just one or two of these steps, and have less in your life:

Steps to go PaperLess

1. Stop your newspaper, or subscribe to only one day a week.

2. Get off direct mail lists at the Direct Mail Association site.

5. Let magazine subscriptions expire if you didn’t read them last month.

7. Display kids’ artwork with clever front-loading storage frames from DynamicFrames.


Read the rest of this excerpted article where it was originally published on ShopGetOrganized.

What steps will you take to reduce your paper piles?



Saved Again by Organizing An Emergency Fund March 13, 2012

Filed under: Financial Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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How are you doing on organizing your finances?  Do you have an emergency fund?

organizing for emergencies

Yeah, you snort, that and a live-in butlerWouldn’t both be nice?

Let me share a real-life story about how an emergency fund helped one person, and how you can get your own.  If you read stories like this and think, this isn’t real life, let me tell you, this is very real life!

One of my organizing clients has been working on a few organizing goals for about the last year, while employed with a temp job.  A few months ago, she got serious about paying down debts and stashing an emergency fund.

We agreed she should quickly stash $2,000 in an emergency fund.  To do it, she re-allocated some extra money that she was sending to pay down a credit card account, she completely cut out spending $30 per week on clothes, and she paid more attention to her food and eating out expenses.

At first, she was worried that by diverting some of her cash into a savings account, she was hurting her other goal to pay down credit card debt.  However, when I explained that the next “crisis” would cause her to rack up more credit card debt without having some cash in reserve, she got on board.  Without a cash emergency fund, credit card debt will grow because there is no other alternative to tap when a crisis hits.

It only took her a matter of weeks to pad her hard-to-access savings account (not her regular savings account).  Then, the inevitable happened; her car broke down.  Here’s the email she sent to me:

“I have to tell you something.  My car needs major repairs.  It’s not driveable.  If you hadn’t advised me to start an emergency fund several months ago, I would not have had the money to get the repairs done.  At all.  I am extremely disappointed that I have to use up at least $660 of the $1650 I have saved thus far, with great effort, but one thing I am not is panicked — thanks to you.  This is exactly the type of emergency you wanted me to start the fund for, and your advice could not have been more timely.”

On the same day she sent this to me, I had just paid over $700 for four new tires.  Yes, I used my credit card at the register, but I transferred the money from my emergency account over to my credit card account when I got home.  Done.  I’ve been doing this for well over a decade, and our emergency account covers these kinds of things, so financial snags aren’t really emergencies, they are just life events. I sleep a lot better now than I did in my twenties.  Marketplace Money calls this the FU fund.  Or the “See Ya” fund.  Call it whatever you want, it is how you can get ahead, too.

To get your emergency account going, follow the same strategies that my client used:

1.  Figure out if you can divert money from other obligations, like credit cards, just for a short time.

2. Find your splurges and halt them, just for a short time.

3. Part with anything valuable but unused, and sell it on CraigsList or similar.  $50 here or there can be way more valuable than a dust-catcher lurking in your basement.

4. Take a part-time gig if needed.  Tutor, mow lawns, whatever it takes to add a few bucks to your balance.

5. Monitor necessities.  Cut back on groceries, cable, cell phone service, whatever else you might normally think is non negotiable, even just for two months.  A little here or there can get you to your $2,000 faster.

6. Stash the money in a hard-to access account, like at an online-only bank or a credit union you don’t normally visit.

Once you have your emergency built up to $2,000, then start paying down credit card debt again.  Once that’s paid off, then you can really grow your emergency fund to cover the recommended 3-9 months of living expenses, which can really come in handy.  You see, my client lost her long-term temp job a couple of weeks ago, and she’s back to searching for full time employment.  Uncomfortable?  Yes.  Crisis?  No, thanks to an emergency fund that was waiting for life to happen.

If you love these ideas, please read more over at Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace  site.

all photos:  Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos


Exit Planning: Organizing Your Vital Records March 8, 2012

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm

No one really wants to think about it, but exit planning can be a blessing for those you love.  Planning for what happens to your assets, your debts, and even your email account and digital identity, can give you a sense of peace and security, even if you are nowhere near your final act.

I am gearing up to help a client with just this activity.  The process looks a little bit like cleaning up your files.  But there is a layer of detail added in, taking time to do things like contacting financial firms or governmental authorities, to make sure all is in order.

Recently, I went through my own family’s vital records, made copies, and removed the originals to a safer location.  People call me just about every month because they’ve lost their birth certificate, a child’s birth certificate, or their passport.

You can take a moment to download my free list of Vital Records  here, and use this to guide what documents you need to locate, copy, and safeguard. When I did this for my family, it took about 3 hours, total.

If you want to do a bit more planning than that, I suggest this great article called, What I have learned about Being an Executor of an Estate.

By the way, you don’t need any fancy books, folders, or software to get your affairs in order.  Chances are that most of your vital records are still in paper form, and a standard 2″ folder with dividers will work just fine to help you get your vital records in order.

This is one of those things that falls into the “important but not urgent” category, for sure.  I’m traveling to visit my parents this summer, and I hope to help them with it as well.  My mom tells me that their final will and testament still has designations for guardianship for my brother and I should my parents die.  I think their will might need updating while we’re at it.

What would help you get your family’s vital records in order?

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos