Summer – a chance to turn procrastination into action

By Lori Martin, Chief Operating Mom, Purple Martin & Co.

Lori Martin
Lori Martin

I’m ready for summer! Looking forward to the days when our routine is gone and we relax into an agenda that reveals itself anew each day.

Where the stress of carpools, parent / teacher meetings, homework assignments, and task lists are gone and the freedom to just “enjoy the day” returns for a brief season.

During summer I close The Purple Martin & Co. and take time to reflect. I think back on the clients I have had the opportunity to serve and take stock of all I have been able to learn from each of them.

My goal is always to re-open in August with new and refreshed ideas …to create more efficient strategies for my clients and to stay on top of the latest trends and technology enhancements.

I am fortunate to have been able to work with phenomenal clients over the years, this past year, has included a particularly inspiring group ….


• A mother of six
• A young mom battling cancer
• A widowed parent of young children
• A young mom beginning to “parent” her aging mother
• A retiree managing her mother’s dementia

Each client has a unique set of needs and circumstances, but at the core they all have one thing in common … The need to empower others to help them.

Well the most logical answer I always receive from clients is “so I can have a break” ….

But the most important answer I know we are both thinking is ….
“Because I may not be here one day and I need someone to know EVERYTHING that I know.”

In the business world, when we are assessing risk within an organizational structure we always look for what we call “Key Man Dependency.” This is when one person holds all the cards, has all of the knowledge, and nobody else is trained in their “expertise.” The biggest risk with “Key Man Dependency” in business is if that employee were to decide to quit, all of the knowledge of that specific job would walk out the door and into the hands of the competition.

In the case of managing a family, if one person is managing the “day to day” tasks of running the household and has not communicated the details of his/her role to anyone else, the family is also at risk of key man / woman dependency.

The biggest question I receive from every client I meet with is ….
”Why can’t my i-phone (insert any form of technology here) stand in for me in an emergency.”

I always answer this question with the following question ….
“If your spouse’s plane crashed today, and you were handed his i-phone, could you figure out everything you needed to know about his job? More importantly, could his phone tell you where to find his life insurance policy or who his power of attorney is?”

Then we turn the tables …
“If you were to die today, would your husband be able to take your smartphone and understand how to do your job?”

The answer to both questions is always – no, I would be completely lost.

The reason being that technology does not translate our intent to others. My smartphone cannot tell my husband what time my daughter eats lunch at school, what my son’s carpool schedule is for baseball, who he can call for my four year olds play dates?

My phone is excellent at recording contacts – but they are just that – names and addresses lacking the CONTEXT of how they touch our family’s life.

My phone can tell you I have an allergist, but it can’t tell you that my son receives life saving peanut allergy treatment via an epi-pen that is stored in the upper left cabinet in our bathroom.

Only YOU can provide the details and intricacies of how you manage your household.

The second question I am asked most frequently during speaking engagements is ….
“Do I have to hire someone to have a family handbook?”

The answer is ABSOLUTELY not.

I encourage you to take this summer and create your own family handbook!

a. Make a list of your specific “roles”.
b. Describe both how & who you use to accomplish them (be detailed & include accurate contact information).
c. Organize your information in a logical format that others can understand (use a simple three ring notebook and tabs to divide the information into logical “chunks”).
d. Store your information in a safe place (I recommend having both a hard copy and electronic version).

Above all else, I like to remind clients that your family handbook remains useful only if the following criteria are followed…

a. Others know the handbook exists & know its permanent location.
b. You and your family are familiar with the handbook contents and are comfortable retrieving information in a panic.
 c. The critical data remains updated and accurate.

There is no right or wrong way to create a family handbook. The most important thing is that one exists and that others can retrieve the information easily in an emergency.

The third most frequently asked question I receive is …
 “My life is so complicated, how will I ever find the time to complete this?”

I encourage you to take this summer and turn procrastination into action.

Take a few minutes each day to chronicle the important intricacies of your family’s life. When you think your handbook is in a good place, put it through a test run.

Hand your notebook to a close friend or spouse and see if they can step into your shoes and help in a crisis based on what you have created. If your notebook needs tweaking, take the time to make the changes recommended by a friend.

I’ve seen the crisis first hand and while we don’t live for the “what if’s” in life, providing a safety net for those we love “just in case” is something we can’t afford NOT to do.

Be inspired to take the summer challenge of creating your own family handbook. My hope for you is that your family handbook will become as one client described … “like the fire extinguisher I keep underneath my kitchen sink …. I hope I never have to use it for its intended purpose, but it sure does give me peace of mind knowing it is there.”

Getting Organized For Summer

Hunt Summer Bucket ListSummer is almost here and that means it’s time for fun! And, what better way to prepare for those good times but to get organized so you can truly enjoy them!

1. Write it down!

We like to call this a brain dump.  Don’t try to keep all those camp dates, doctor appointments and overnight packing lists straight in you head – get them out and write them down!  Plan your entire summer as early as you can-adding important dates and reminders to your master calendar.

2. Design a schedule and create structure.

Setting routines allows lets parents and kids know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.  Even if every week involves a different activity, focus on creating morning and evening routines that are consistent. For instance, your evening routine should involve emptying that day’s activity bag and packing for the next day.

3. Create a Summer Bucket List.

The possibilities are endless in the summer months.  Provide pencils and cute cut-out paper.  Meet together as a family and have everyone write down 10 things they want to do this summer.  Post the ideas on a bulletin or magnetic board.  Each time an activity or wish list is accomplished, pull it off the wall and place it in a bucket to review at the end of the summer.

4.  Keep a family calendar visible & plan a family meeting.

Gathering as a family and taking the time to go over your summer plans helps establish strong communication with everyone in the home.  Color-coding items on a highly visible calendar will keep everyone on the same page – literally!  The refrigerator or the family bulletin board is a great place to put your calendar.

5. Construct a “launch pad” or “drop zone”.

Make sure everything you need for the next day’s activities – from sporting equipment to beach bags – is kept in a pre-determined location.  Gather all the items you and your family will be using the night before – it’s a huge time saver for the morning.  Planning ahead eliminates the stress of not being able to find important items for the day’s activities.

6. Assign a home for everything, label & involve the kids.

This is an all-year tip that carries extra importance during the summer.   Letting the kids participate in setting up homes for summer gear makes them feel involved and increases the likelihood of their helping to maintain it.  Use clear bins so everyone can see what’s inside. If you have younger children, keep items at their level so they have easy access.

7. Invest in the right supplies.

Organizing into bags specific to each activity or child will allow you go grab and go, saving both time and sanity. Consider putting together “waiting bags” that contain books and other activities to keep kids occupied while at the babysitter’s, a sibling’s sporting event or other activities where they might get restless.

8. Involve the family in meal planning.

Summer is a great time to encourage your children to design healthy, balanced meals.  Shop together at a farmers’ marker and teach them how to plan and cook meals.  Allow them to take ownership of this important life skill.

9. Tackle summer reading and writing assignments early.

Nothing is worse than the last minute scramble to complete the summer book reports.  This is especially true for the reluctant student.  Have the required books and materials on hand at the start of the summer and help your child structure a timetable for completing assignments with plenty of time to spare.  With few academic pressures, summer can be a great time for children to savor good books.  Family reading can be a rewarding and relaxing bedtime activity.  

10. Schedule “me time.”  You’re on summer break too!

It may sounds silly, but if you don’t put it on your calendar and the family calendar – it won’t happen.  Give yourself time every day to recharge your batteries.  Some time in the morning before the household comes alive helps you to “fill up” so your day will run more smoothly.  Relaxing and reflecting for a few minutes at night can soothe away your busy day.

Renting Your House for the DNC?

We, at Simplicity Organizers, are preparing for the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte this September.  Several of our clients have explored renting their homes during the DNC and have asked us to help them ready their space for this rare opportunity.  We have collaborated with Trent Corbin of Providence Property Management to provide some tips on how to prepare and rent your home during the DNC.dncc_logo

Marketing your DNC Rental

When marketing your DNC rental, Trent says the most important aspect of any listing is the photography.  Many visitors arriving in Charlotte for the Convention will not have been able to see their accommodations first-hand before signing a lease, which makes the photos in online listings critical to a potential renter’s success. Hiring an organizing company before taking photographs can be time and money well-spent. Potential renters will see your home as neat, spacious and efficient. Keep in mind most DNC visitors preferred a hotel room, but unable to find one, they’re considering a rental.  If your home or condo is cluttered, your listing will scarcely get a glance.

The primary rooms and areas of interest are:

  • Living Space – Picture this: You’re a lobbyist attending the Convention.  At the end of a long day of events and networking, when you come home to your “home away from home, you want to relax.  Does your living space fit that bill? Or are magazines piled high on the end table and video games scattered on the floor?  A potential renter will wonder if this clutter going to be there when they arrive.  Don’t give them reasons to pass on your rental, especially when the fixes can be so easy!
  • Kitchen – Visitors during the DNC aren’t going to be doing much cooking, but they might be entertaining with a caterer. A quality kitchen always adds value when marketing your home.  You don’t need to upgrade to stainless steel and granite, but you DO need to put away the dish soap and dirty kitchen towels and clear the countertops of miscellany.  If your refrigerator is covered in children’s art and magnets, please take them down for your rental photographs.
  • Bedrooms – The master bedroom needs to shine. That’s where the renter will be sleeping and they’re hoping for luxury.  Kids’ rooms are tough to market for the DNC. Most attendees won’t be bringing their families. Simplicity’s team can assist you in turning your kids’ cluttered spaces into rooms that look like inviting for executive, lobbyist or media personality.
  • Bathrooms – These are always challenging because they are often tight spaces with lots of mirrors that make for difficult photography.  Simplicity Organizers can help you reduce the clutter so your bathroom shines.  (Remember: always keep the toilet seats down when taking bathroom photographs!)
  • Exterior – This one is pretty simple.  As a DNC attendee, I might be entertaining at your home so it needs to look polished and presentable. I need to know your garage isn’t filled with a bunch of sports equipment and tools if I plan to park my company car.  I would also prefer not to have to use a machete to hack through your overgrown bushes to get to the door.  Make it look clean, make it look nice and make it look organized.   It’s as simple as that.

If you’re thinking about renting your home during the DNC, contact Trent at Providence Property Management today, but first, make sure your home is organized and ready for photographs and marketing materials.  Yes, it may cost you money up front to prepare before renting your home, but the money you make from the rental and a highly organized home when you return, will be worth the upfront investment!

Organizing Your Garage

garageIt’s time to vote for one lucky winner to take back their garage – with style! Carolina Custom Garages, Simplicity Organizers and Rubbish Works have teamed up to help one lucky Charlotte home-owner get their garage in gear – for free!

Rubbish Works will haul away the donations and trash, Simplicity will organize what remains and Carolina Custom Garages will tie it all together with their custom garage organization system.

Check out the messy garage photos of the Top 10 Finalists and select the garage you think should win the garage makeover by clicking on the heart, the Facebook Like or the Twitter Tweet under the photo of the garage you wish to win.  Voting is open to all this week. The winner will be posted on our blog on May 7th.

For those of you who want to organize your own garage, we’ve shared our organizing tips below.


When it comes to organizing, the garage suffers an identity crisis.  Is it part of the house or not?  Does it merit a high level of “spiffing “ or does anything go?  Is it a place to park cars or is that fantasy thinking?

Regardless of how you view your garage, some organizing can be helpful.  Now’s a great time to tackle this project while the weather is mild and the children are still in school.

With garages, the contents may be different from what’s in your house, but the organizing process is the same.  First, envision how you want your garage to function- what’s working and what’s not? Then, it’s time to roll up your sleeves.

Sort and Purge

Everything comes out and is separated into one of three piles- keep, donate or toss.


All the keepers are stored with like kind, with most frequently used items being easily accessible.  Open wire shelving is an excellent, affordable option for keeping things off the floor and in easy reach.  Shelf height can be adjusted to accommodate your needs.  If your budget permits, a custom installed garage storage system is as good as it gets.


When practical, use clear, lidded containers for storage.   Dirt and bugs will be minimized and small items won’t be lost.


If you have a label maker, use it.  If not, consider buying one.  It’s a purchase you won’t regret.

Discard / Donate 

Don’t sabotage your project by letting trash and donations linger.  Call the city for an extra trash pickup and load the car with donations.  If you’ve got a mountain of discards, using a professional rubbish removal service to haul it all away will be money well-spent.

Finally, under “misery loves company”, take a look at the entries in Simplicity’s Messiest Garage Contest.  And for inspiration, see the winner’s before and after photos which will be posted on our blog soon!