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?


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?



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.


Get Organized. How Long and How Much Will It Take? January 5, 2012

Filed under: Business Organizing,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 6:40 pm
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There are three questions everyone wants to know about my projects:

How long did it take?

Did they keep it looking fabulous after you left?

How much did it cost?

It’s the New Year, and everyone wants a fresh start, so I thought you would just love to see this little project that a client and I completed between Christmas and the New Year.  His goal was to clear out the space so he could do something with it, maybe create a much needed home office office down the road.

Knowing that paper takes the longest to organize, we contracted to go through the paper and purge unwanted furniture and items.

This is a third floor bedroom/dormer space that was already finished, but being used to store tubs of paper and household cast-offs.  This picture shows just half of it.

Organize a home office

Here’s the other half.

So how long did it take to get this organized? Remember, there are five steps to getting organized (as always, with a nod to Julie Morgenstern’s great book, Organizing From the Inside Out):

  1. Sort
  2. Purge
  3. Arrange/Analyze remaining items
  4. Containerize
  5. Establish a maintenance plan

We planned on spending about 8 hours, and we spent about two hours longer than that.  And that is only because we went shopping, bought a new desk and file cabinet, and put them together. The client got way more than he bargained for!  Here they are, on day 2, the final day of the project.

Organizing a home office

And the other side of the room. You can see the new file cabinet hiding back in the corner. Yes, the client went through all the paper that you see in the before photos, and what didn’t get shredded or recycled got divvied up into the three small but sturdy drawers. There was a lot of recycling out at the curb the next day.

Organizing a home office

And to help with containerizing, we added two bookcases,

and we reset the bookcase that was already there.

Now this office really works. And we did all of this, just the two of us, in just a few hours over two days. So that answers the first question.

Will he keep it fabulous and organized now?  Probably.  He now has places to put household papers, his own personal paper retention guidelines, and a real desire to use this space for work instead of storage.  Most of all, he has systems with the file cabinet, the bookcases that store books, and the one bookcase that holds his office and teaching supplies.

And how much did it cost?  Well, in round numbers, it was around a thousand bucks for the services and the new furniture.  My organizing projects themselves start at $350.  This guy will probably deduct all of this as a business expense.  Smart move.

He said to me, “We got more done in 4 hours than I have gotten done up here in the last 5 years.”

Aw, shucks, that’s what I love to hear!

I hope this gives you some real inspiration for your winter organizing project.

What space are you ready to tackle?


7 Organizing Tips for Medical Records at Year End December 20, 2011

Filed under: Financial Organizing,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 1:57 pm
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Organizing Medical Records

Near the end of the year, you may be thinking about clearing out your medical savings account, organizing medical paperwork for tax time, and scheduling year-end medical appointments.  Do you know the rules?

Read the full article on how to use these seven tips to organize medical records and expenses.

1.  Will your medical expenses be tax deductible?

2.  Do you have a medical savings account or flex-spending account (FSA)?

3.  Have you used up your medical savings account or FSA?

4.  Are you saving Explanation of Benefits (EOBs)?

5.  Have you stashed away medical articles?

6.  Still looking for receipts that might be tax-deductible?

7.  Did you develop a chronic condition this year?

Not sure of the answers?  Read the full article on organizing medical records, originally published in About One.

Have you started getting organized for tax season?

Photo Credit:  Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos


Merry Mail, Or 5 Ways to Organize Mail During the Holidays December 6, 2011

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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Seriously, if I’m annoyed by the amount of mail I got this week, you probably are, too.  I’ll show you my pile if you show me yours.
 Organizing piles of mail
This pile is from just one day.  There are more than 13 catalogs, and 3 pieces of mail from Comcast alone!
Here are a few tips, good for the holiday season and all year through.
  1. Wait to go through your mail until you have a few uninterrupted moments.  Glancing through a stack gives you the false impression that you’ve done something with it. It sends your brain a message that you can move on to other activities, and your unprocessed mail then becomes clutter.
  2. Immediately recycle everything that doesn’t require your action.  Here’s where it gets tricky.  Go ahead and put those catalogs in the recycling bin.  WHHAATT???   If you don’t look at them between now and the next recycling day, chances are that Williams Sonoma, LL Bean and Victoria Secret will send you three more by next week.
  3. If you receive a charity notice that you intend to donate to, then immediately place the donation request with your bills, since it requires nearly the same actions as bill paying.
  4. Define a designated space for your bills.  Ensure that bills have a unique place in your office, on your kitchen counter, or somewhere special.  Ideally, keep your bills standing up vertically, so they aren’t easily covered by tomorrow’s mail.  Paying bills may not be on the top of your list right now, but you don’t want your gift budget to be spent on paying late fees!
  5. Be ruthless.  If you aren’t sure if you need to keep something, then don’t keep it.  This is especially true if you know you can request it again from the internet or another source. There are relatively few mail items that are irreplaceable or vital records.

There is a lot to get excited about this time of year, but losing your sanity over mail overload shouldn’t make the list.


How to Save Passwords, Please September 23, 2011

Filed under: Business Organizing,Financial Organizing,Organizing,Tech — HeartWork Organizing @ 12:36 am
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Quick, do you know the best way to save passwords?  How to store passwords?  How to remember passwords?  Here are some of my favorites for offline, online, or on your computer.

Where to Save Passwords Offline

If you want to save passwords offline, I like the On Line Organizer. It is about the size of the Hallmark calendars that many people still carry in their purse, and inside it has tabs A-Z.  On each page you can store a company or URL, User name, and Password.  The size and the A-Z indexing make it very easy to use at your desk or carry it with you.  I use and sell these lovely babies for $10.  They come in a two pack, so you can carry one and keep one at your desk, or give one to your honey or best friend.  Click here to order and make saving passwords easier.

How to Save Passwords with the OnLine Password Organizer

The Best Way To Save Passwords

How to Save Passwords with the On Line Password Organizer- Interior

Save Passwords from A to Z

How to Save Passwords Online

Online, there are many programs and apps that allow you to save passwords to an encrypted site.  LastPass is the one I’ve been trying out for the past few weeks, but since it has limitations when using iPad, I’m not able to recommend it for iPad users just yet.  I want something that works as seamlessly as Evernote.  But at my PC, LastPass does a great job of capturing login and passwords from every site I visit, and then auto-populating it when I return. You don’t need to remember passwords, you just need to remember one password.  Because the data is encrypted, it truly is about as secure as anything gets on the internet. Oh, and it’s free.  You can look into other password manager programs here.

I recently learned that some of the newer browsers are able to store passwords, too.  I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of letting Microsoft hold all my passwords, even with encryption.  I’m pretty sure Bill Gates isn’t going to try to hack my PayPal account, but it gives me the shivers nonetheless.

How to Store Passwords on Your Own Computer

The last option to store passwords is on your computer.  Before you go this route, be sure that your system has the latest version of a strong security/antivirus program and that the program is doing auto-updates often.  This would be McAfee, Norton, AVG (which has both free and paid anti-virus software), or similar.  If this works for you, then just type up a simple document or spreadsheet to remember passwords, and then encrypt the file.  You can find encryption programs like EncryptFiles, which is another free program.  My thanks to Jim at HelpDotNow for passing this along.  I do not personally use this approach or software, but it would be pretty simple.

If any of these options helps you, I hope you’ll let me know.  And remember that you can order your own 2-pack password keeper for $10 right now.  Ten bucks is a pretty small price to pay for your sanity.  (They also make great teacher’s gifts.)

**Please remember to always consider your business and personal needs and consult with an advisor before making business decisions.  HeartWork Organizing accepts no responsibility from any actions you may incur from this or other advice.