Summer – a chance to turn procrastination into action

Customized Family Handbooks – an Invaluable Family Resource

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

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

Purple Martin & Co Purple MartinThe Purple Martin & Co.

During the 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 enough to have been able to work with phenomenal and inspiring clients over the years, such as:

  • 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 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 all of 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 at risk of key man/woman dependency.

The biggest question I receive from every client I meet with is…

“Why can’t my iPhone (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 iPhone, 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 iPhone 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 iPhone 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 iPhone 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 iPhone can you you I have an allergist, but I can’t tell you that my son receives like 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!

  1. Make a list of all your specific roles
  2. Describe both how and who you use to accomplish them (be detailed and include accurate contact information)
  3. 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”)
  4. 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:

  1. Others know the handbook exists and know its permanent location
  2. You and your family are familiar with the handbook contents and are comfortable retrieving information in a panic
  3. The criteria data remains updated and accurate

There is not 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 and 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 ifs” 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 under the 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.”

Lori Martin

 By Lori Martin of The Purple Martin & Co. 

The Purple Martin & Co.’s Facebook page

Paper – Game On

Paper.  It’s a bully. We hate bullies, but love seeing them put in their place and that is why we enjoy helping our clients stand up to their paper.

Paper.  It taunts us. It creeps into our homes and multiplies at such a rate that we get over-run by it.  It piles up and mocks us because it knows that without a system and routine, it will always triumph.


Well, not today. Today, we put paper in its place, and this is how:

One. Piece. At. A. Time.

80% of filed papers are never referred to again, so we are going to be brutal about what makes the cut and what doesn’t.


Most people keep way to0 many papers simply because they do not know what they can let go.  Knowledge is power, and half the battle, so have on hand Record Retentions guidelines from your accountant to guide you as to what to keep.

Paper Mgmt


Be prepared.  Have the proper supplies on hand and schedule adequate time for the project.  Keep in mind that paper is not a one-stop-shop.  It did not pile up overnight, and it will not magically disappear overnight.  Prepare yourself for the process.



  1. Recycle bin
  2. Shred bag(s)
  3. Bins to sort papers in to
  4. Sharpie and Post it Notes

SET THE CLOCK.  Set your pace, but to thine own self be true.  If you can only manage a 2-hour block, set your timer for that and go for it.   If you can power through in one sitting, great, but do not feel pressured to start and finish in one day. Set yourself up for small successes in the beginning so they will lead to more success during the entirety of the process.

If you are digging out of a major paper pit, take small steps – and get help if you need it. A professional or a friend, a“clutter buddy,” can keep you on track and hold you accountable.  We get help in other areas of our lives, asking for organizational help is no different.



It is all about retrieval, create a system that works for you.  Don’t fall pray to thinking it needs to  “look” a certain way.  It needs to look however you want it to look, but mostly it needs to function, not be featured on the cover of a magazine.  Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.

Paper Managaement


You can use in/out boxes, binders, angled file organizers, or bulletin boards. Use what appeals to you and what you have the highest likelihood of maintaining.   If you like “pretty” files, use them.  If you are more about function than beauty, go with that.   Be sure to not mix business files with home files if you or your significant other works from home.



  1. Gather all your papers and get them into one bin or box.  Clear your workspace.
  2. Pick up the first piece from the top of the pile.  Avoid thumbing through the pile.
  3. Sort papers into one of three piles: KEEP – SHRED – RECYCLE
  4. Divide the papers in the KEEP bin into 3 sub-categories: FILE-RESPOND TO-PAY.
  5. Make sure you have a TAX file folder that is labeled with the current year so you will be prepared for next season!
  6. Use clear 1/5 Smead tabs to create FILE names that you will remember.  It is all about retrieval!
  7. Stop the paper before it even arrives into your home! Opt out of catalogue mailings and credit card offers
  8. Stand over the recycle bin before the paper hits your desk.
  9. Designate a tray or inbox to hold your mail until you have time to process the papers.
  10. Schedule at least 2-3 hours a week to process your papers.



SMARTY PLEDGE: To Organize My Command Center

SMARTY PLEDGE: To Organize My Command Center – by Elizabeth Ouzts


Smarty Pledge Before

What prompted you to contact Simplicity/enter the contest?

I’d heard great things about Simplicity from friends and thought it would be great to win time with an organizer through the Smarty Pledge to Purge Giveaway.  I NEVER thought I’d win!



What do you think interfered with your ability to become organized?

I felt like I didn’t have the time to tackle the overwhelming piles of “stuff” so I just kept putting it off.  I was also using a pre-made filing system that was not customized my needs.  Files became over-stuffed and difficult to retrieve papers.  You know when you have a file titled “TO BE FILED” that there is a breakdown in the system!



old filing system smarty pledge



How did disorganization make you feel?

It made me feel stressed and made me not want to go into my home office.



What was disorganization costing you?

My sanity!  I was feeling overwhelmed and couldn’t find things I needed.



How did you feel before Simplicity arrived on your project day?

I was both nervous and excited.  I wanted to get help and organize but wasn’t sure how the session would go.


What was your impression of Simplicity when they arrived in your home?

Laurie put me at ease immediately.  She was friendly and professional and made me feel like this was something I could do.


What items did you find most difficult to part with?

My daughter’s artwork from school was the most difficult to part with, but with Laurie’s help I learned how to cull this and keep the “masterpieces” for Madeline to have later.


What surprised you about your project day with Simplicity?

I was pleasantly surprised by how much we got done.  4 packed drawers of stuff, an art cart and several piles are now in one and a half drawers (with room to spare) and the art cart is neatly stacked with office supplies that I need daily. My files are now customized and easily accessible!



New filing system Smarty Pledge


Instead of having a file called-“Child’s File,” I now have a customized file for each of my daughter’s important papers, including school papers, activities, and medical records.





How did you know when you reached organizational success?

I knew I was successful when I could sit at my desk, work, and access all the things I needed.  Also when the recycle and shred piles were larger than the keep pile I knew things were going in the right direction.  I selected an inbox to hold all the current papers that need to be acted on immediately.  The rest was filed or discarded!



Smarty Pledge inbox


How did you feel once the project was completed?

Wonderful!  I am inspired to keep this area organized and work on other areas that need help.


How would you describe your overall experience?

This was an AMAZING experience!  It exceeded my expectations and I’m so happy with the skills I’ve learned and the help Simplicity provided.


What are your plans to maintain your new organizational system?

I am going to get a few more filing boxes and store these in accessible but out of the way places.  I’m going to keep my inbox and filing up to date and get clear boxes for my closet.  Once my basement is finished I’m going to organize all the arts and crafts before moving them to their new home.  I’m excited to keep this ball rolling.  Organizing is contagious!



Smarty Pledge After Simplicity

Organizing Your Command Center

Simplicity shares tips with The SoGood on how to organize your command center.

The Command Center is the hub of all activity. This is where schedules are planned, bills are paid, schoolwork is reviewed, coupons are clipped, and magazines are stacked. With so many tasks taking place in one small area, piles can grow quickly. It is vital that your command center work efficiently in order for you to be productive.

An effective Command Center supports all the tasks performed in that space.

  • Create Activity Zones: Think of your Command Center in terms of activity zones. Keep all of the supplies and resources you need for completing a task within the appropriate zone.  Create a specific place for each type of information.
  • DSC_0387
  • Discard the Junk:  80% of what lands on our desks is trash.  Prevent papers from piling up at your desk by stopping solicitations before the mail arrives.  Remove your name from catalog mailing lists and make sure you have a trash bin, recycle can, and shredder nearby.



  • Decorate to Motivate: Create a Command Center that is both visually pleasing and functional.  Purchase desk supply organizers that will help keep your systems maintained. Label and hide loose cords. Toss expired coupons and outdated invitations, calendars, and announcements.


  • Designate the Landing Spot:  All papers must land somewhere.  Use an inbox or letter tray to store all current papers.  Avoid the habit of flipping through you inbox.  Nip procrastination in the bud and act on a piece of paper once you have touched it.  Carve out adequate time each day to address your inbox.  Emptying your inbox each day is a great goal.  But if you have thousands of messages in your inbox, know that an empty inbox won’t happen without commitment.  Create email folders so important information and action items can be easily found.


  • Close Out: Before you shut down for the day, review your to-do list and priorities for the upcoming day.  Take time to clear your desktop to set yourself up for a successful and productive tomorrow.



To improve productivity and save time, develop systems and strategies that effectively address the barriers and distractions that show up along the way.  A well designed Command Center will not only save you time, but also allow you to get more done with less stress!

Paper Statistics

Statistics on Paper and Filing


    •  The average American gets 49,060 pieces of mail in a lifetime, one third of it is junk mail·
    •  There are thirty-seven hours of unfinished work on your desk at any given time.
    • 90% of all documents handled each day are merely shuffled.
    • Over 800 million pages are created from computer printouts per day, enough to fill a file drawer 225 miles long.
    • 80% of filed papers are never referenced again. 50% of all filed materials are duplicates or expired information.
    • Experience continues to show that 30%-40% of all recorded information can be immediately deleted from electronic systems or paper systems.
    • Studies show that some executives will pick up a single piece of paper from their desk thirty or forty times before acting on it.-Michael F. Woolery, Seize the Day
    • By switching to electronic bills, statements and payments, the study (commissioned by the non profit Pay It Green Alliance) found, the average US household could save 6.6 pounds of paper and reduce greenhouse gases by 171 pounds per year.  According to the alliance, you could save up to $100 on postage, $50 on checks per year-and whatever you would have spend on late fees. -Ilyce Glink, Tribune Media Services.
    • The average American business person loses an hour a half a day, or 40 hours a year, in lost productivity, searching for lost and misplaced items from messy desks and files. – Wall Street Journal
Please Note: Unless otherwise stated, all statistical information was obtained from the National Association of Professional Organizers. NAPO continuously collects statistics on organization and clutter control.

Searching for Ways to Help you Clear the Clutter? Part 2


Struggling to find ways to let go of some of your belongings?  Below we have complied a list of non-profits and vendors in Charlotte that can help simplify your life and clear the clutter!

If you don’t see what you need on the list below check out our resource page at:


Books, CD’s, DVD’S, VHS Tapes

Mecklenburg Library Book Drive


Furniture and Beds

Beds for Kids


Newborn Clothes & Blankets

Baby Bundles


Art & Crafts and Gardening Supplies

LifeSpan Services


Stuffed Animals

Stuffed Animals for Emergencies


Old Electronics

Donate Games


Building Materials and Home Fixtures

Habitat for Humanity



Soles for Souls

Wine Corks



Bulk Trash/Junk Removal & Donation Drop Off Services

Captain Clutter, Alan Womack


Old Paint Removal/Disposal

Trinity Painters, Vincent McCullough






Searching for Ways to Help You Clear the Clutter? Part 1


We think we own our stuff but often times it really owns us.







If you’ve got plenty of space for all your things, this might not be obvious.  But as soon as you find yourself pinched for space, this reality rears its ugly head.  And thus begins the conflict between what we want or need to do with all the excess and what we think we ought to do.
There are many reasons we hold on to things we know we’d be better off without. These things are clutter.


Clutter is …

Anything unused or unloved

Anything broken and unlikely to be fixed

Anything easily replaced if necessary

Anything that exceeds the space available


So what are the most common types and how can they be overcome?

Inherited Clutter

“It’s been in the family forever.”  That might be true, but if the items in question don’t fit your lifestyle or your taste, you can and should find another home for them.  Cast a wider net.  If immediate family members don’t want the things, see if cousins, nieces and nephews, or close friends do.  Beauty and utility are in the eyes of the beholder.  What is clutter to one person might be treasure to another.  It might sound like heresy, but family heirlooms can be sold or donated.


Gifted Clutter

A gift, once properly acknowledged, belongs to the recipient.  If you’ve been given something that you don’t want or need, you’re under no obligation to keep it.  After a proper thank you, thoughtful re-gifting or donating can keep this type of clutter at bay.


Buyers’ Remorse Clutter

I paid a lot of this item so I’d better keep it.  It seems wasteful to let it go.  The psychological cost of holding on to mistakes is often higher than the dollar cost.  Mistakes happen.  Every time you look at the misguided purchase (particularly if it was an expensive mistake), you’ll feel bad about it.  Let the item go and vow to not make that same mistake again.


Just In Case Clutter

This is closely related to buyers’ remorse clutter.  How often do you say, “I might need this someday so I’d better hold on to it.”  Or, “I’m not sure what this is or how it’s used, but I’d better save it, just in case.”

If “this” is something incredibly difficult to find and expensive to acquire, maybe you give yourself a pass.  Otherwise, give yourself permission to let it go.  The random hardware, key, computer cord etc are almost certainly clutter and can be discarded without any remorse.


Coming back to where we started, your stuff owns you, not the other way around.  And paradoxically, the more we surrender, the more in control of our homes and our lives we become.  Learning to let go of clutter is an acquired habit.  The more you practice letting go, the easier it will become.


We would love to also share with you a special sermon given by JoeB Martin in Atlanta, GA, in regards to clutter.  Click the link below to hear more about how to simplify your life!



Focus on freedom (through better organization)


By Angie Mattson, Your Organized Guide, Inc.

Freedom – it’s what many people really desire. It might be what you desire. Freedom from clutter. Freedom from confusion. Freedom to go, and do, and be and have anything you want. One of my clients really wanted it and finally discovered how to have it. Here’s how it went down:

We’d spent six months together working on his Five Essential Business Systems (TM), creating checklists, flowcharts, and delegation documents and more in order to help him grow his business sustainably.

When met for a follow up session, he said, “Angie, last week I had two entire days with almost nothing to do. Work was being done, but I wasn’t having to do it.”

In a word: he had discovered true FREEDOM!

I asked him what he did with some of the free time and he said, “I went home and had lunch with my girls.” Three precious girls and his wife. Lunch at home in the middle of the week. It was marvelous to hear.

So many people (you?) become an entrepreneur in order to have more freedom, flexibility and variety. To make more money. To stop working for the not-so-great boss or the company that doesn’t nurture your creative side. To actually do work you’ve always dreamed of.

Instead, the vision of self-employment can become a reality gone terribly wrong:


  • You’re working 24/7


  • Weekends and vacations – what are those?


  • Dinner at home with family just doesn’t happen anymore


  • Your hobbies – not touch in months (or years…)


  • Working on the fly isn’t working anymore. Balls are being dropped, clients are getting frustrated, money is being lost (or never collected in the first place…)


After working with more than a hundred small business owners, I am convinced the key to discovering real freedom is getting your business and your life organized.

And I know it’s something you really want.

Create and use systems – these are just organized sets of instructions, steps, or how to’s. Get yourself organized. Good, consistent habits grow a business, support your success, and your freedom.


Angie Mattson is Chief Efficiency Officer with Your Organized Guide, Inc. She’ll be presenting The Five Essential Business Systems ™ on Thursday, February 14, 2013 as part of Simplicity Organizers’ Lunch and Learn Series. Come find out how easy it is to put the power of systems to work in your small business. 


What is the Number One Way to Reduce Paper Clutter? GO PAPERLESS!

whitekeyboardThough going paperless will involve some initial time and energy, the long-term results will provide you with a less cluttered home, peace of mind and a more efficient workspace.

Top 5 Reasons to Go Paperless:

1. Go Green!  Going paperless reduces the number of trees sacrificed each year.

2. Increased efficiency and creativity!  Less paper = more productivity. With fewer papers on your desk, you not only clear space for productivity, you clear space for creative thoughts!

3. Decreases Clutter!  Having fewer papers piled on your desk and around your office limits the risk of losing important documents.

4. Reduces operating costs!  As the paper grows, so do your storage and supply costs.  Going paperless also prevents you from spending money on office supplies like filing cabinets, files, envelopes, checks, and stamps.

5. Provides Tighter Security!  Paper documents are subject to both identity theft and destruction from natural disasters.


Ways to Go Paperless:

  • Sign up for online banking
  • Use online bill pay services
  • Cancel junk mail, magazine and newspaper subscriptions
  • Purchase a scanner
    Option: Fujitsu ScanSnap

Important to Remember When Deciding to Go Paperless:

  • Back up your computer either through an external hard drive or preferably, online!
    Option: Carbonite
  • Start right where you are. Don’t worry about going back and trying to scan a lot of old information at first. Set up files on your computer that mimic your paper files. Over time your paper files will diminish.

Top 10 Retrieval System Tips

file cabinet detail

In order for information to be readily retained and retrieved, you need an efficient system.

1. Alphabetize your files! Make sure the categories are not too general, otherwise the file becomes a disorganized “catch-all” and your good intentions will be sabotaged. Categorize and sub-categorize in a way that works for you!

2. Use sturdy hanging file folders with clear tabs. The colored tabs are harder to read. For the cleanest look, use a labeler, but neatly handwritten tabs are fine too.

3. For big files, use box bottom hanging files that accommodate multiple interior file folders.

4. Leave 1/4 of file cabinet drawer space empty to allow for additions to existing files. An overly full file cabinet is hard to use. Better to buy another cabinet than try to stuff more papers into the existing one.

5. If there is flexibility in space, consider your hand dominance when placing file cabinets or boxes in relation to your desk or workspace. What’s accessible for a right-handed person might be awkward for a left-handed person.

6. Center all labels rather than staggering them laterally. This seems counter-intuitive, but it really does make for easier viewing.

7. Try to avoid a “to file” box on your desk or kitchen counter. The need for this intermediate holding area is an indication that your filing system is too complicated or inaccessible. Figure out what’s not working and correct it.

8. Keep tax files in a separate file box- clearly labeled by year. You probably won’t need to frequently access them, but when you do, it’s a relief to be able to find what you need quickly.

9. Have the proper supplies on hand and the right amount of them – most systems fail because people run out of the supplies needed to maintain the system.

10. Year end is good time to purge files and create new ones for the upcoming year. Begin to get financial information ready for tax preparation and purge on-going files.

Remember that it’s much easier to keep up than to catch up!