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?


Sesame Place is the Christmas Place to Be December 1, 2011

Filed under: General,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 11:02 pm
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Last week I published some forms I’m using to organize our family’s holiday activities this year. I wanted to make time for special times like our family outing to Sesame Place. We made it to Sesame Place’s a Very Furry Christmas opening night, and I’m thrilled we did.

The park, the only Sesame Street-themed park in the country, is a water park/dry ride attraction during the summer. This is the first year they’ve swapped slides and sprinklers for Christmas trees and twinkle lights. Our favorite characters are still there, and there are four adorable shows to see them in action. Be sure to catch the rock show, and you’ll be dancing along.

Sesame Place Christmas Show

I really love that the attraction is unapologetically a Christmas event. I learned about Kwanza and Hanukkah through some of the shows, but there were no watered down greetings or signs saying Happy Holidays. Santa makes a few appearances, but even so the whole event captured the spirit of joy and the true meaning of Christmas

My husband told me to rave about the food. We were thrilled all summer that our season passes got us 30% off at the restaurants. The food was kid friendly but tasty, fresh, and even healthy sometimes. Meal plates are generous, so we usually shared a couple of meals and a salad for the whole family. We had a full dinner for four last Friday night for just under $20.

Saving the best for last, if you go, be sure to get the kettle corn. Yum. Lightly salty, lightly sweet, another good deal at just $6 for a bag that fed all four of us all night. It’s not to be missed. Or if you can’t make it, just order it online. Ooh, this might be a problem for me.

My kids are 2 and 4, but I could see older kids, easily up to 10 years old, enjoying the park, especially for this event. Shoot, even us big girls enjoyed it. Here are some of my mom friends from the Philly Social Media Moms group. Thanks to Sherry Aikens of www.BabyPop.com the photo. That’s me all the way to the right in the big pink scarf.

bloggers at Sesame Place

We had a wonderful time ringing in the holiday season. This might be a new tradition for us. Speaking of traditions, it was a nice place to pick up a tree ornament, something we like to do wherever we vacation throughout the year. We sharpie the date on local themed ornaments, and relive happy memories when we decorate the tree.

Sesame Place Ornament

We’ve got our Sesame Place season passes for next year, thanks to the 25% off deal available to visitors to the Very Furry Christmas event. Hope to see you there.

Sesame Place Christmas Event

Disclosure: We received discounted or free tickets to attend the opening night event, but we highly recommend the season passes, available at smoking deals for everyone.


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.


Shoplifting Mom Tells All August 15, 2011

Filed under: General,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 3:00 pm
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It’s rule number eight.  Don’t steal.  Seriously, look it up.  Among the revelations that come with being a mom, I never thought I’d be breaking rule number eight of the Ten Commandments, or that I’d be claiming that my kids made me do it.  And it’s happened more than once.  Holy cow.

            I find myself in the Target parking lot after an hour of combo cardio shopping and squats from picking up items that the baby has chucked from the cart, bags already loaded back into the car, when I pick up the toddler to find hidden underneath her, items that we took from the store without paying for.  (Queue the stunned look and pregnant pause.)  Obviously the exit gate shoplifting scanner thingies didn’t beep when we passed through, so I’m ok, right?  The cashier didn’t notice, so I’m ok, right?  I just saw the 20/20 show about how major retailers actually plan for a certain amount of “shrinkage,” so I’m ok, right? 

            No.  I have to load the baby and the toddler back in the cart, trudge back into the store, and own up for these items totalling $6.39 before I can lay my head to a pillow tonight.

            The next week, we just make it through the Wal-Mart checkout line when I notice the open box of graham cracker bears that the baby has almost devoured.  When I try to own up, the checker says to me, “I thought they were yours.”  Yes, they are since possession is 9/10th of the law and my daughter clearly possesses 9/10 of them by now, but I haven’t yet paid for them.  The checker wants me to get lost rather than mess up the rhythm of her line, but I hang tough and cash out anyway.

            It’s the cupcakes that do me in.  While sitting in a local bakery where the owner knows me, I coerce the counter kid to hand over two beautifully decorated carrot cupcakes to busy the kids while I am making my cake selection.  When all is said and done, I scoop up the kiddies and race back to the car to crank the air conditioning.  Once the car is cooled, nothing on earth could convince me to turn around and pay for the tasties that we innocently just stole, so I have to phone the shop and ask them to add the cupcakes to my tab.  I can’t do this anonymously.  They know me there.  How embarrassing.

            I’ve been mulling over the moral of the story for a few weeks now, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.  Even organized people can overlook things?  Children learn more by watching than through words?  Kids make you do things you never imagined?  Stuff happens?  Lighten up a little?  Yes, all of the above.  I know I’m not the first mom to do this (repeatedly), but I hope that I’m modeling doing the right thing when nobody is looking, which is the definition of integrity.  But it sure would help to hear if you have your own mommy shoplifting story to share.


How Do You Sign “Control”? June 23, 2011

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 10:51 pm
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our lives are really very much about being able to control our environments.  My youngest daughter is just about to turn two years old.  She’s a pretty easy going kid, and she’s very easy to talk to.  But she does spend a lot of time telling me what needs to happen in her little world.  She’s still using more sign language than words, so I have to pay close attention.  As soon as I pick her up from the crib, she wants me to turn off the fan that sits on her dresser and is shaped like a cat (sign: kitty, all done).  I carry her into the kitchen and she tells me she wants to explore outside (sign: shoes).  Even though she sees lunch already on the table, she heads toward the TV for her favorite video (sign: sign time).  She wants to play in the water when she sees me at the sink (sign: wash hands).  She wants more pickles (sign: more more, because we don’t know the sign for pickle).

It’s fun to watch her make these mostly silent demands on me.  I know that she is hardwired to create patterns, demonstrate possession, and anticipate activities.  She is trying to shape her world. 

In a way, that’s what we all do.  I see it with the people I work with.  As a Certified Professional Organizer®, I’m privy to the way people set up their homes, their time, and their information.  As we get older, we are able to anticipate and assimilate the needs of others better than my almost-two-year-old.  But, really, it’s the same instinct showing up in adults.  One reason we want to be organized is that we want to control our environments.   

As adults, we often get discouraged about our ability to get or stay organized, to have the perfect home, or meet some goal we’ve set for ourselves.  Little people are great for showing us that whether we do it quietly by signing or with a lot more commotion, trying to get our way is only human.


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.