Organizing Lessons from Jenga

Jenga-5Written by Robin McCoy.

If you’ve ever played Jenga, this will make sense right away.  If not, we’ll explain the connection.

Jenga is a simple game played with a bunch of uniform, oblong building blocks which you stack in a neat tower with each layer running perpendicular to the adjacent ones.  Building the tower neatly and precisely makes for a better game.  In turns, players carefully extract one of the blocks from any level and place it on the top.  The first few extractions are pretty easy.  Subsequent ones become dicier.  The tower becomes increasingly unstable until the attempted placement of another block on the top makes the whole tower come crashing down.  The player whose block placement caused the crash is the loser.  Think, house of cards, straw that broke the camel’s back… you get the idea.

So what’s to be learned from Jenga that has anything to do with Simplicity and organizing?

Uniformity makes organization easier.  If the playing blocks didn’t match, building the tower to start would be much harder than it is with standardized materials.   Extracting mismatched pieces would be nearly impossible.  The gig would be up almost as soon as it started.

Don’t doom yourself with a sloppy beginning.   A haphazardly constructed tower makes for a short game.  Likewise, poorly envisioned and executed organization makes for a quick return to chaos.

And, when stuff piles up, rather than being returned to its rightful location, it’s only a matter of time before everything comes crashing down. Just as in Jenga, no one likes to be the loser.  What are you losing by being disorganized?

Simplicity’s New Partnership with The Purple Martin & Co.

For the Love of Family, Paper & All Things Organization!

By Lori Martin.

Lori Martin

The photo below is one I treasure.  A priceless moment of my family walking together following Easter service 3 years ago. Nobody is looking at the camera and I capture the moment exactly as it happened.  No silly grins, no posing, no whining …. just a peaceful walk to the car.  I just love moments such as this!I came to treasure these moments even more (and I promised myself never to take them for granted) after I experienced a medical trauma in 2004.  Five days following the birth of my son (now 7), I was sent back to the hospital for nearly a week.

I had unknowingly torn a major artery and was in serious condition.  Following surgery and a significant transfusion, I was strong enough to return home but still too weak to care for my family.

My well intended care givers (mother, mother in law, husband, babysitters, neighbors) all desperately wanted to help me.  I had a 2 year old and she needed constant supervision, a newborn son, and I was silently grieving the traumatic experience I had been through.

I had thought of it all.  Emergency numbers were taped to the inside of my pantry, the extra insurance card was tucked away on my memo board, the daycare phone number was taped to the fridge!  Wasn’t this all someone would need to understand how to help in an emergency?  The short answer was, no.

I found out the hard way that this was not a good way to communicate my daily “mom life” to others.  I could understand someone needing to ask me about the details, but the big picture of my daily routine was not mapped out anywhere.  My husband even had to ask me which day to put the trash out.  Not his fault – I just always took care of it.

After recovery, I decided to never put myself in that position again.  I started working on my first “Martin Family Handbook.” My husband jokingly called it my “dork book,” and yes, I had to agree.  I became passionate about chronicling my children’s schedules, doctors, medical chart numbers, the foods they liked & didn’t like, the babysitter contacts, the air conditioner repairman etc.!  Every piece of information I used to run my daily “mommy job” was documented.  It was essentially a living & breathing document for our family and served as “command central.”



Lori's Family
Lori’s Family

Fast forward to today … I definitely don’t live my life anticipating another emergency, but what I have discovered is that having all of this critical information in a single place has been a wonderful blessing to my family.  I literally use my handbook every day and I take a smaller version (the “on the go” book) with me everywhere.

Awhile back, we were on vacation and my 7 year old cut her leg on a sharp shell at the beach.  I had packed my handbook in my suitcase.  When we went to urgent care, the doctors had ALL of the information they needed (shot records, pediatricians address & phone, insurance information, claims address, even the dentist address).  I happened to be traveling with a physician (a dear friend of mine) and she said, “I can not believe you travel with your kids shot records!”  The truth of the matter was that I didn’t even have to think about it.  They were just with me in my “handbook.”

I founded The Purple Martin & Co. on the single principle that an organized, regularly updated, family handbook should be a staple in each household.  Paper is truly the only shareable resource around.  My mother could not reference my iPhone or computer, she could not interpret which babysitter to call from my address book and she definitely would not know the chart number and my daughters favorite “back-up” pediatrician!

If you have a love of decorative paper, a need for organizing “command central” and a desire to put your family’s critical information in a user friendly format (not just for the “one off emergency” but for peace of mind in running your daily routine) please give us a call.

We would love to help!


Some Things Just Can’t Be Contained

By Anne Steppe.

If you haven’t been to SouthPark Mall to bask in the glory of 25,000 square feet of divine order, then drive, take the bus, run, walk, or hop on a pogo stick today to The Container Store!  The company’s 50th location held its grand opening weekend here in Charlotte, Saturday and Sunday, August 13-14 with 10% of the sales going to the Levine’s Children’s Hospital – this partnership is just one more reason to love The Container Store.

Simplicity Organizers at The Container Store
Simplicity Organizers at The Container Store

A handful of professional organizers were invited to a private tour of this slice of heaven Thursday, August 11 and Simplicity’s team was on hand.  You couldn’t help but be wide-eyed as you walked in to the brightly lit, thoughtfully laid out store.  The staff was gracious, warm and beyond friendly.  They provided food and drinks for us and gave us a brief history on the store.  It was clear from the beginning that The Container Store and their philosophy of how they treat their employees and customers were just as awe-inspiring as their store.

You know the way a kid feels on Christmas morning, or how a man might look at a ’57 Chevy?  Well, this  is how a group of organizers feels when blanketed by gorgeous organizing pieces.  At one point I told another organizer, “I think I want to live here”.  The order, the calm, the peace of it all was like a vacation from the chaos of life – our faces said it all – we were home!

Later that evening The Container Store executives, employees, vendors and guests celebrated with the parties of all parties!  The Liquid Pleasure band played dance music and amazing appetizers and drinks were enjoyed by all. The food was displayed on and served out of containers from the store! Oh, Container Store, you are a clever one!

You know you work for an amazing corporation when one of the creators and owners of the company rolls up his sleeves, takes off his jacket and busts a move on the dance floor with you all night.  It was a true celebration of appreciation and joy.  These folks love what they do and they have written the book on customer service.  With over 260 hours of training poured into each associate their first year, you can rest assured that when you ask a question at The Container Store the associates will know the answer.

So go… enjoy… experience The Container Store bliss… we did and we can’t wait to go back!

Green I Am

By Penny Dietz, Founder of  green i am

Who Cares About Making a Difference?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr Seuss, The Lomax.  Whether you’re talking clutter, health, environment or otherwise, this saying is so true!  That said, sometimes despite how much you care, it can be overwhelming to make changes or at least know where to start.  So, let’s make it simple!  Check out these three “P” tips to make change super easy when it comes to the health and safety of your home.

greencleaningproducts1)    Products, specifically Household Cleaning – EPA studies indicate that elevated concentration of household chemicals persist in the air.  In fact, according to the EPA, indoor air quality is up to five times worse as compared to outside.  How can that be?  Well, indoor pollutants come from all sorts of chemicals we use to make our lives easier every day – paints, carpets, furniture, household cleaners, personal care, among others.  Long-term exposure to chemicals inside our homes may be harmful to us and our families.  An easy first step in making a difference in the health of your home is to replace your conventional toxic household cleaning supplies (kitchen, bathroom, laundry, etc.) with safe, non-toxic alternatives.  But before being mislead by marketing tactics, here are a few recommended brands to consider:

•  Shaklee (Concentrated, Economical – available: online – Safe, Non-toxic cleaners)
•  Seventh Generation (Convenient – available: Harris Teeter, Earth Fare, Target)

When saying no to your “old” toxic cleaning products, protect our water supply and natural resources by properly disposing.



handiloveyousign 2)    Plastics – Plastics are everywhere.  In most cases, they are very affordable and convenient.  But increasingly, scientists are finding that a hidden cost may be our health.  Unfortunately, some common plastics release harmful chemicals into our air, foods, and drinks.  So how do you know which plastics are safe?  In general, safe plastics include numbers 1, 2 and 5.  To remember these numbers, think “I love you” sign language style… your thumb represents number 1, index finger represents 2, and your pinky represents 5.  That said, as a friendly reminder, it is not recommended to microwave plastics.  And if you have any plastics with scratches or etching, please stop use immediately as scratches/etching not only provides a breeding ground for bacteria but also gateways for leaching chemicals.  Of course, using reusable sandwich or snack bags, glass or stainless steel is a much safer option altogether.


3)    Plants – Certainly you can clean up indoor air pollution by saying no to toxic products and opening your windows allowing fresh

air to come in.  But, there’s also another simple way to combat air pollution – house plants.  That’s right – house plants can be effective in counterbalancing off gassed chemicals.  Here are a few of NASA’s recommendations – Peace Lily, Corn Plant, Reed palm, English ivy, Weeping Fig, Spider plant, Golden Pothos, andPhilodendron.

Believe or not, implementing these “small” changes can have a huge impact on the quality of your life.  So don’t delay, start today!

Clutter is a Magnet for Clutter

brokencarwindow“In the 1980’s, social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling proposed what they called the “broken windows theory” of urban crime.  They read about a famous study by psychologist Philip Zimbardo in which he left a car sitting in a nice neighborhood for 1 week.   The car went untouched until Zimbardo smashed one of the car’s windows. Within a day, the car had been completely stripped by thieves and vandals. Wilson and Kelling theorized that the presence of physical neglect or decay leads to a perception of disorder and chaos, leading people to behave accordingly.  So, when people see a broken window, they figure it’s okay to break more windows.  Then when lots of windows are broken, they figure that the area is rundown and therefore it’s okay to do all kinds of malicious acts.  The broken windows theory has since been applied in police work and urban development, most visibly in New York City, where attention to smaller, “quality of life” problems (such as repairing signs of urban decay and stopping low-level crimes) seems to have reduced the occurrence of more serious crimes.

paperpileWhat does the broken windows theory have to do with you?   Think about how your actions are influenced by clutter in your home.  Now think about how your actions are influenced by cleanliness.  When you have something in your hand-say, a piece of mail, it’s very easy to put that item on top of a heap of other papers. You might think, “It’s already such a mess; one more piece won’t make much of a difference.”  On the other hand, you’re less likely to put that item onto a clean surface.  In that case, you might think, “I’ve worked so hard to make this area neat, I don’t
want to mess it up now,” and you would be more likely to put the item where it belongs. This is another example of the broken windows principle – once clutter and disorganization start, we tend to add to it. Clutter is a magnet for clutter. This principle demonstrates that clear surfaces are one of your very best protections against future build up of clutter. If you notice some clutter piling up, don’t wait. Take care of it immediately.

Resource: Buried in Treasures, by David F. Tolin, Randy O. Frost, and Gail Steketee