HeartWork Organizing

Helping you find peace and purpose through organization and design

How to Organize Kids Art Projects April 3, 2012

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Kids’ art projects are notoriously hard to organize.  The topic comes up constantly.  There are a bazillion ways to store your little Picasso’s projects, of course, but really, simple is better.

My absolute favorite storage solution is the Li’l Davinci art frames.  You can check out this video of how these front-hinge beauties from Dynamic Frames work.  My kids (2 and 5) decide which creations are frame-worthy, and they love to help me load their new opus into the frames at least once a week.

While we have enough wall space in our house for a mini art gallery, we don’t actually have enough space in our house for the art studio it takes to create said art.  So I was thrilled to take my little ones to a new place recently, the Creative Clubhouse in Havertown, PA.  Unlike the pottery studio just down the street from our house, the Creative Clubhouse is geared for the younger set (12 months to 8 years), and I didn’t feel like I was bringing my bullish children into the china shop.  The setup is simple, with areas set up for Lego play, dough play, simple glue projects, easel art, magnet boards, a huge chalk wall (sure kids, go ahead and draw on these walls), and an area for building towers from blocks.  They also run scheduled art and music classes throughout the week.  If I had an extra room in my house for art, it would look just like the Creative Clubhouse.

Look around this space, and you’ll see some pretty simple but effective art solutions that can easily translate into most homes, even if you don’t have your own art room.  Owner, Amy, will tell you that they are all IKEA solutions, easy to pick up and easy to install.  Supplies, like paint brushes, crayons, and any other high-risk implements can be stored in cute and shiny cans hanging from organizing rails, originally meant to organize a kitchen.

how to organize kids art

Smocks and aprons, the wardrobe staple of the preschool set, hung on simple keyhook bars in the lower left corner of that shot, were super accessible to the kiddos.  At home, you might be able to hang these on the inside of a pantry door or coat closet door.

If you can’t spring for a set of Dynamic Frames, then a simple set of clips hung on airline wire, normally used to hang curtains in a hip loft space, will allow you to hang painted art, especially great for those that need a bit of drying time.

How to organize kids art supplies

For hardback or canvas creations,  this skinny ledge provides the perfect perch for a rotating display of color.  It’s only about an inch and a half deep, so it can fit into just about any space. I like the idea of adding in some favorite books to create a seasonal or theme display.

How to organize kids art supplies

Last, think multi-functional in every single piece of furniture you bring into your house once you have kids.  I think it should be a crime to manufacture any bench or ottoman without storage underneath.  With just a little planning and maybe a basket or two, a bench can store even more puzzles, games, and creative supplies.

How to organize kids art supplies

We’ve been back to the Creative Clubhouse, and I love that my kids get to be creative and messy, but I don’t have to clean it up.  If you need a few more ideas on how to store your kid’s art, check out how to organize creations in digital form, and 5 more ways to organize kids art supplies.

Are any of these solutions to organize kids’ art working in your home?


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?


Mini-Kitchen Makeover With Pink Appeal January 26, 2012

Filed under: Color With No Regrets,One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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More in the kitchen series: Yes, technically a this is also a kitchen, but for very small cooks.  And very pink.

Have you ever seen two little girls play in the Pottery Barn Kids store in the kitchen section?  Let me tell you, I thought I would not be able to get my girls out of there recently.  But for $700, there better be a real stainless refrigerator in that set, right??

Pottery Barn Kids Retro Kitchen

Kitchen Remodel for a Screaming Ugly Kitchen

When I had the chance to pick up a really sturdy wood construction three-piece kitchen for just $10 at a recent consignment sale, I couldn’t pass it up.  But, boy, was it ugly.  Purple, deep pink, and a shade of blue that made my eyes hurt.

Still, I could tell this was worth remodeling.  The girls got to play with them for a couple of weeks, then down to my workshop they went.  There were some details I liked, including the foil burners on the stove…

And some details I didn’t like, as in the unfinished backs and interiors.

Even though it’s miniature, this kitchen paint job starts like any other.  With a simple step, you can avoid this mistake: properly prepare oil paint surfaces.  Use this tip to tell if you have latex or oil paint on your existing surface.

Color Choices for a Super Cute Kitchen Remodel

Then primed, lightly sanded between coats, and rolled on two coats of Sherwin Williams Impatiens Petal SW 6582.  Picking this shade might have been the hardest part of the project, but luckily, I am an expert at picking Color with No Regrets.

It always amazes me how bad the primer coat looks. I’m showing you this just in case you want to paint your real cabinets.  Remember to use a good quality roller and sand in between coats to remove any fuzzies that are left behind by the roller.

I decided not to mess with the attached kitchen faucet on my set, and I saved a few bucks by spray painting the handles a stainless steel finish. There were two different sets of hardware here, but it didn’t make sense to spring for the $20 bucks for new hardware.  Remember, the whole set only cost $10 to start.

Kitchen Remodel: The Big Reveal

I was able to finish and bring the kitchen back upstairs a week before Christmas.  The girls love it.  Last week I thought one of the clients who visits my home office was going to rush over and get caught up in kitchen play when she saw it. I originally wasn’t going to keep all three pieces, but once they were done, the girls loved it so much that the whole set ended up in our living room instead of the play room.  How could we not keep them all?

Santa (aka Nonni) did come through with the actual Pottery Barn tea kettle that makes boiling and pouring noises.  At $40, it cost more than the kitchen and all the remodel supplies together, but it is the splurge that makes our little play kitchen irresistible.

I especially love that the backs and insides of all the pieces are finished now.  Thank you, IKEA, for such cute play fruit. And I love that the kitchen is actually storage as well.  The dishes and food are always stored inside the three pieces.

All in all, for the few hours of work it took to bring this retro kitchen up to speed, I can say that it was SO worth it!  This is a kitchen set that I am happy to have in my home for the next few years.  And I’ve even happier to have “saved” $680 versus the other kitchen.  The girls seem to love it, too.

And yes, in case you are wondering, the painting process I followed here or a cabinet paint product would work just as well for your real wood cabinets, in pink or any other color.


Kitchen Remodel: What Would You Do? January 24, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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Thanks for hanging with me on my kitchen series.  And now a shameless plug.  If you haven’t already registered for the now famous Dump and Run Kitchen Strategies Organizing Class on February 11, please do so right now.  It’s coming up quick.  This is the yummiest organizing class you’ll ever attend.  And SOOOO practical.  I’ll show you how to keep your family fed with cheap, healthy, tasty meals that I spend about 10 minutes a day preparing in my crock-pot.  You get to come, make your own crock-pot meal, and take it home to eat that night.  We oversold last year, but I won’t do that again this year, because there are only so many chairs in my house.  Hear what one person had to say last year and sign up now.  This weekend I made sausage and peppers in about 5 minutes, and it fed us for two days. 

If you come to the class, you’ll also get to peek in my pantry, get organizing ideas for your own drawers, and see my kitchen…Ah yes, we’re back to the kitchen blog series.

What would you do if this were your kitchen remodel?

I’ve been grappling with my kitchen for some time now.  It’s a nice kitchen, but not great.  My hundred year old home was not built with today’s family or designs in mind. Here is the current footprint before the remodel.

Kitchen renovation- current footprint
I know this kitchen has been remodeled once, because we actually have the very cool original blueprints framed and hanging in our living room and the paperwork on the cabinet refacing that was done 15 years ago.
Kitchen renovation before

Galley Style

Here’s my problem.  My husband and I are super frugal people.  We weren’t always this way, but by making very frugal choices over the years, we’ve been able to enjoy some really great things, like peace of mind, and career changes without fear. So now, when we’ve been blessed to move to a great house in a fabulous location, we’ve decided to make some changes to our dated kitchen.  It’s not a horrible, completely ugly kitchen.  It’s just a little dated.  It has its problems.
  • We butchered the laminate counter when we replaced the stove a few years ago.
  • The eat in area is just big enough for our table, but not big enough for more than two people.
  • The walk-in pantry is just steps outside the kitchen, in the dining room.
  • There is a ton of wasted space above the laundry, which is in the kitchen behind the fridge, in this picture.
  • The galley style is not my favorite layout.
  • The laminate cabinets are a bit dated, but not completely ugly, and could be improved, perhaps, by Cabinet Transformations.
  • Our “mudroom” is 6 coat hooks and a shoe-bench at the end of our counter.
  • Crumbling walls behind the cabinets and a direct vent to the outside behind the microwave create a constant draft.
  • But the biggest problem is the wall that separates the back staircase from the kitchen.  I can envision this wall GONE< GONE< GONE, and visually expanding the kitchen by about 8 feet.
kitchen renovation before
But there is a lot of good about our kitchen, too:
The durable vinyl flooring was installed immediately before we bought the house four years ago, and wears great.
The layout is adequate, and all the cabinets are sturdy.
There is plenty of cabinet and counter space.
The taxes on our old home appear to be very low compared to newer construction in the area. A remodel would jack up the taxes. Yuck.
The Choice for Our Kitchen Remodel
So I am currently faced with some options.  A minor kitchen remodel would include the following:
New Cambria engineered stone counters.  Maybe I’ll do a post later on why granite is not the best choice for a kitchen remodel.
Stylish new backsplash
Side panel on the dishwasher, providing support for the new counter and separation from the stove
Patch behind the microwave, closing up the vent flap, and stuff insulation behind the cabinets before the new counter top goes on
New sink, disposal, and faucet
New electrical outlets and new under cabinet LED lighting.
This option would take about a week to complete, but I’d only be out of service for the day they install the new counter.

The major kitchen remodel would be a total gut.  Here’s one version of the new floor plan.  See the big mass in the middle?  That is a big honking 12′ island with no wall in the middle, that allows me to keep my laundry in the kitchen and even add cabinetry.

Kitchen renovation plan 4

  • The major change would be removal of the wall behind the washer/dryer, opening up the kitchen for a humongous island.
  • We’ll either need to live with a bar height island or purchase a smaller washer/dryer to accommodate a standard height island.
  • We will need to relocate the current powder room to the current pantry, which will allow us to have a more traditional commode AND sink.  (Woohoo!  A sink in the bathroom?  Apparently an option one hundred years ago.)
  • We will have to get all new flooring, which means we may as well remove the 3 cast iron radiators and install radiant heat flooring, which means we have more room for cabinets.
  • We will gain visual access to the two windows, now currently in the powder room and rear hallway.
  • We will gain insulation!!!!!
  • We would definitely gain the WOW factor.
We would be out of service completely for 6-8 weeks.  With toddlers.  Who eat 6 times a day.  And access to our basement is through the kitchen, which means we’ll be limited to accessing that space (where I store many of my work supplies) sparingly.
Did I mention we’ll be down a kitchen for 6-8 weeks?  With toddlers.
But, we’d end up with a dream kitchen.  Here’s my inspiration.  This kitchen is on the website of one of my favorite builders, http://ciprianiremodelingsolutions.com .
Kitchen renovation inspiration


What would you do?  Obviously, there is also a major price difference, but the frugal choices we’ve made up to now mean we’re not especially pressured financially.  I just have to find somewhere else to hang out for 6-8 weeks besides the kitchen.  With two tiny eating machines in the house. OK, I’ll admit, I eat constantly, too.
Do I just shelve the whole idea of a kitchen remodel for 4 more years until they are in school and out of the house much of the day?  Has anyone else lived through this?  Want to talk me into a position?  Come to the Dump and Run class on February 11, make your case, and leave with your dinner.
Do nothing for 4 years, then dream kitchen?
Minor kitchen remodel now and dream kitchen later?
Major kitchen remodel now?
Move?  (Do not give my hubby one more reason to hang out on Realtor.com!)
What would you do?  I’d love to hear.

Critter Control for Family Outings December 22, 2011

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My little peanuts don’t like to leave the house without their friends.  On any given day, we might leave the house with a dog, cat, bunny, unicorn, or even Elmo.  On our recent trip to Sesame Place, I was especially worried that our escorts for the evening, Elmo and Kitty, might get lost.

Using a label maker, you can use my method to keep your critters safe. I created an extra special name tag bracelet for both animals by adding a few extra spaces before and after my cell phone number on our favorite pink label tape.  The tape overlapped on to itself and stayed on each critter’s paw for the night. See the pink bracelet on his right leg, below?

If one of the animal’s had been lost, there would have been no problem contacting us. Just be sure to clip the special bracelet off when you return home, since label tape isn’t something you want in a crib with a toddler.

I hope this little tip helps you prepare for your next outing with your entourage.


Ready to Enjoy the Holidays with Two Forms November 17, 2011

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Nope, this isn’t another article about left-over turkey recipes, getting your guest room organized, or this season’s hottest decorating trends.  Instead, this is about how to actually enjoy the holidays, and two little forms that might help you do this.

(I could insert a holiday photo here, but I’m not going to torture you with early holiday mania.) 

Do we really need one more to do list for the season?  Well, these forms aren’t about getting more done.  In fact, if possible, I’d like to do less this year, and enjoy it more.  I’m a working mom with two tiny children and a desire for a home that passes for clean. Do I need more stress in my life?  No.  What I need is to remember the five year rule and build my life around it:

If it is likely to matter five years from now, then it is probably worth doing or paying attention to.

So this year, I’m trying to spend more time on crafting holiday memories, instead of just getting through the holidays.  These forms should help me, just by writing things down and scheduling memory-making events before they pass me by.  You’re welcome to use them, too.

The first form is a 2+ Month Holiday Calendar Page.  Since I’ve gone to an electronic calendar, it always seems like there should be another week in between today and next week.  So I’ve created a view of the calendar that takes us right through the first week in January, where all of our social commitments and wishes are getting posted.  This is getting clipped to all the party invites and newspaper clippings of things that I want to do.

The second form is to do list of a different kind for the holidays.  It seems like our holidays have way more Santa than Jesus.  I wanted to look for opportunities to introduce more angels, Jesus, and our true holiday heritage.  So I modified a template so to list out four types of events for this year’s holidays:

  • Family traditions.  For instance, I love to have matching holiday pajamas for the whole family, but they are extremely hard to come by without paying a fortune.  These can’t wait until the last minute.
  • Entertaining Angels.  You might know the Bible verse Hebrews 13:1, which says Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.  We may have a party, or we may take a meal to a family.  I want to be ready to entertain angels.
  • Praise the Lord.  Here’s where I’m looking for ways to make Christmas more about Jesus for my kids.  Since they love animals, I figure a visit to a live nativity would be amazing for them.
  • Can’t Miss Events.  We love to do things like visit a live reindeer and learn about them.  Elmwood Park Zoo has had them in years past.  We’ll probably be seeing ours at Hershey Park this year.

If these couple of forms help, that’s great.  If they just get you thinking in a different way about what needs to get done this season, that’s fine, too.  As always, I wish you peace and purpose.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos


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.