HeartWork Organizing

Helping you find peace and purpose through organization and design

Field Trip to My Trash March 1, 2012

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:30 pm
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Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

I recently took a trip to a recycling facility. Field trips were the best days when I was in school. Usually just the break in routine was enough to get me excited, but field trips were usually fun, too. This was all of that and good for you, too.  If you want your kids to have their own recycling adventure, you can check out this recycling curriculum, designed for elementary school-aged kids by a national recycler.

My township went to “single stream” recycling a couple of years ago. Homeowners get to throw all of their recycles into one bin, and they get sorted out at the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). Apparently, that increases recycling rates by 50%.

recycling dos and don'ts

from Allied Waste/Republic Services, applies to Radnor Township

You can take your own Waste Management recycling tour via this video. My initial impression when I saw this was that the process moves super fast, just like our exuberant Waste Management PR host for the tour, Patty Barthel. It’s hard to find people so excited about trash! If you go in person, you’ll get to wear those super sexy hard hat, safety glasses, earplugs, and safety vest, just like I did. (Sorry, I’m not giving up that picture!)

My big aha moment was that recycled materials are not just trash to avoid, they are an industry. An industry! It produces jobs. It generates millions of dollars in raw materials. It is highly automated. It is continually evolving. Oh, yeah, and it keeps our stuff out of landfills.

This state-of-the-art facility is only a year old, built in November 2010, but I’m wondering why we don’t have one of these in every neighborhood.  This relatively small facility was very impressive. It processes over 20,000 tons of material each month: glass, metal, plastics, and paper.  I don’t really know what 20,000 tons looks like, but I do know what a Boeing 757 looks like, and this facility processes the weight of two hundred sixty-one Boeing 737’s each month.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Recycling is mandated by the state, but controlled by counties or municipalities in Pennsylvania. It turns out there are lots of MRFs in our region, but they don’t all operate exactly the same. You need to dig a little to know what to put into-and keep out of-your bin. Go to your township’s homepage, and there’s probably a link for Trash & Recycling. It’s worth checking out, because there are plenty of things that go through the line that shouldn’t. Patty said she’s seen these kooky things, among others, on the recycling line:

Bowling balls do not belong in recycling.

  • bowling balls
  • mattresses
  • garden hoses
  • asphalt
  • car batteries

When I was there, I saw these non-recycles on the line:

  • Barbies
  • bath towels
  • window blinds
  • a basketball and baseball
  • a full plastic bag holding carefully shredded paper
  • tires
  • an umbrella

An umbrella???? Seriously?

The entire facility is a series of conveyor belts that look a lot like the rides at Sesame Place. Patty called it an amusement park for your water bottle.

At the end of the ride, everything is baled and sold as a resource for new materials. There are bales of rigid plastic, other plastics, paper, and metals. Less than 10% of what comes in leaves as trash.

Single Stream recycling is highly automated through disk screens, optical sorters, magnets, and air flows in addition to the facility workers, but it only works when dissimilar materials are separated from each other. If you buy something that has a cardboard liner inside a plastic wrap, remove the cardboard from the wrapper, otherwise the whole thing ends up in the landfill.

Speaking of plastic bags, they don’t belong in curbside recycling at all. Shopping bags, dry cleaning wraps, and trash bags can be dropped off at many local grocery stores. They literally gum up the works. Don’t use plastic bags for your recycles, or they end up caught in the gears and screeners, like this.

What can you recycle at this facility? Do you need to wash, sort, or separate into your bins? In part two of this post, I’ll spill the beans.

Um, you compost beans. They don’t recycle well.


Candyless Month: SMART Goals Help Organize Smarter Snacks February 16, 2012

Filed under: General,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 3:43 pm
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Remember when I told you I was going to try to get a handle on my candy addiction in January?  Boy, am I glad that’s over!

You might be wondering, how is this an organizing or decorating story?  Trust me, it is both.

The thing about organizing is that if you have a plan, a system, and the right tools on hand, you can be successful.  Without any of those things, well, you get more of what you’ve always gotten before.

My plan was to cut out my candy binges.  Not calories.  Not candy entirely.  Just the 3 o’clock and 8 o’clock binges.  That’s where I sit down and eat half a bag of M&M’s or an entire box of Girl Scout cookies.  My system was to have some substitute sweets on hand, including frozen fruit, oranges, Greek yogurt, and roasted vegetables. And the tools, well, that’s where you came in.  Every time I went into the pantry, I thought about this post I was eventually going to have to write, and so I thank you for being there for me.

My goals were SMART:  specific, measurable, applicable, realistic, and time-bound.  There was absolutely no reason I couldn’t be binge-free for thirty days.

Things pretty much went as planned.  Not having my daily sugar dose, some mornings I definitely woke up less sluggish.  Sugars that come from processed foods and candy really do gum up my works, which is way more noticeable than in my twenties.

Oh, and I remembered that I needed to drink more water.  Not just pour it and let it sit nearby, but actually drink it.  Osmosis isn’t a good way to get your hydration.

Then, near the end of the month, I took on a two day staging job, and my system failed.  (That’s the decorating part of the story.) I fell back on chowing through an entire bag of Skittles to get me through the job instead of taking sensible breaks for water and real food.  Skittles are so seductive, I even got my assistant hooked on them.  Sorry, Jill.  Although the Skittles.com site is one of the biggest wastes of time ever, I have to agree with the tweet/quote, “Where there are Skittles, there’s a way.”

OK, one slip is not bad.  But then I had a weak moment in the evening, which began with me reaching for a box of chocolate drizzled popcorn that I bought as a hostess gift in case I was invited to a holiday party.


Note to self:  buying candy just in case is probably a bad idea.

I struggled with this one, so close to the end of the month.  So I flipped the box and checked the stats.  10 servings in the box.  130 calories per serving.  Are you kidding me?  Stalling, I pulled out 9 plastic baggies, intending to eat just one serving.  It works for those Nabisco hundred calorie packs; it might work for me.  Here’s what one serving looked like.

Pathetic. Hardly worth the calories.

That particular night, my better nature won out.  I opted for a tub of Greek yogurt instead and saved about a gazillion calories.  ‘Cuz you know I was not just going to eat one serving of that popcorn.  You know I was going to eat the ENTIRE BOX, right?


Organizing my pantry and my thoughts help me stay on track.  I have no idea if I lost weight or not, but I can definitely say that one of my favorite shirts feels more loose.  Yeah!

So, it all ends well.  Borrowing a title from my blogger friend, Stephanie over at Intentional Girl, I’ve become a bit more intentional about my snacks.  Which is good, because candy season never really seems to end, does it?


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.

Six Signs Your Kitchen is Outdated January 17, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:13 pm
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And so it begins.  I thought it was high time I did a kitchen series.  I’ll be sharing some of mine and others.  Here’s a few easy ideas to start out with.  Stay tuned for the next couple of weeks.  If you haven’t subscribed to the blog yet, what are you waiting for?  Look over to the side here and click subscribe, and get the goods immediately.

Even if your kitchen really is “experienced,” it doesn’t have to look old.  We don’t all have a big budget for major renovations, but these six easy and affordable fixes can ensure that your kitchen functions well and looks good, too.

1. A microwave sitting on the counter is not only a dead giveaway to the time since your last upgrade, it’s also a pretty easy fix. By moving it to where it belongs, within the line of upper cabinetry, it will expand the size of your kitchen by two and a half feet, at least on the countertop.  You probably have a hood above your range that holds a fan and light, which your new microwave will also have.  For about $200, you can get a nice microwave that has features such as the all important magic popcorn button.  For a little more, you can get the wonderful convection feature, that expands your cooking range, even browning meats and cooking breads without turning them to rubber.

2. If your fridge is over ten years old, not only will a new one provide a style update, but an energy lift as well.  According to one source, an older refrigerator might be costing you from $100/year to $280/year to operate than a newer model.  Replacing it with an energy efficient model can pay for itself in just a couple of years.

Want to see the other four? Check out the full article originally published at AboutOne.com.

Photo Credits:  ©HeartWork Organizing