Simplicity Serves: 7,680 Books and the Love of Reading!


Reading Tree

In March, I received an email from my mom, a reading specialist at a Title 1 school in Greensboro, letting me know about a request from the NC Department of Instruction asking communities to donate five gently used or new books to Title 1 schools.

Reading is a life skill and it is unfortunate that during the summer months, many students lose valuable literacy skills when they stop reading during their break from school.

According to the NC Department of Instruction, children from low-income families fall behind over the summer because they often go home to an environment where there are very few books or other reading resources. As a result, by the end of fifth grade, these students are approximately 2 ½ years behind their more affluent peers in terms of reading ability, primarily because of summer loss.  Summer reading loss negatively impacts our struggling readers, and ultimately our entire community.

I knew immediately this would be a perfect initiative for Simplicity!

I presented the idea of a book drive at our monthly team meeting and it was received with great excitement. We brainstormed ways to help spread the word about this promotion and set a goal to collect 1,000 books.  As we help our clients purge and organize their homes, large quantities of unwanted items accumulate, including children’s books.  Our clients have a much easier time letting go of their belongings when they know they are going to a deserving cause.

Since my mom’s birthday was a few weeks away, I contacted her school, Vandalia Elementary, and asked the principal her thoughts about throwing a surprise reading celebration-to not only celebrate my mom’s birthday and her 17 years of teaching reading, but more importantly to celebrate the joy of reading by giving each student a book.  Vandalia was thrilled with the idea and so our book drive began!

Shortly after, WCNC asked us to join Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway to promote organizing tips for children and share the news about our book drive.


As we began to promote the book collection, Alison Houser with Augustine Literacy Project contacted us to see if they could help.   She asked if we had chosen a school in the Charlotte area to receive the books.  I shared with her about our surprise donation to Vandalia with the first 1,000 books, but anything after that could be donated to another school in Charlotte.

Alison had just been in a meeting with Sedgefield Elementary and the principal said they were looking for help from the community to provide each child with five books to take home for the summer.   So it was an easy decision to donate any extra books to Sedgefield.

For convenience, several of my team members offered their homes as drop off locations throughout the city. Word spread quickly and the books began arriving.  It was the perfect time to clean off bookshelves before summer started.

Soon after we were invited to join John Carter on WBTV!

And the books kept coming!

Augustine Literacy volunteers helped us sort over a thousand books by grade level.

On April 9th, I drove with 1,ooo books to Greensboro to surprise my mom,

Surprising Mom

and share with the students at Vandalia. The celebration included a presentation, a read aloud, balloons, and cake.

Vandalia Book Celebration

With the support of other Greensboro community members and friends, 1,680 books were donated to Vandalia, allowing each child to take home 6 books for the summer.

Laurie reading

Laurie's Mom w Books


Vandalia Kids w books

 Reading Celebration

On June 10th, it was time to celebrate reading at Sedgefield Elementary! Thanks to the support of the Charlotte community, we were a part of the book drive that collected over 6,000 books for Sedgefield!

Sedgefield Elementary Celebration

Sonja Grant, a lead anchor on WCNC TV offered the closing remarks to the student body.

Sonia Grant speaking

What an incredible journey of collecting books!  Our original goal was to collect 1,000 children’s books, but with such wonderful support from both the Charlotte and Greensboro communities, we were able to help collect almost 8,000 books for two Title 1 schools!

As your children grow as readers, and the new school year is beginning, please consider making more room on your bookshelves by donating any lower level children’s books to Title 1 schools.  With your generous donations, we can help prevent summer reading loss.

Reading is such a critical life skill! Let’s continue to support this initiative and share our love of reading!

Elementary Kids with donated books

Special Thanks:

Alison Houser and Laura Freeman, Augustine Literacy Project

Kimberly Robertson and Dawn Amundson, Vandalia Elementary

Ivy Gill and Sophia Crawford, Sedgefield Elementary 

Ramona Holloway, Colleen Odegaard, Larry Sprinkle, and Sonja Gantt, WCNC TV

Brennan Shearer, Promising Pages

Crystal O’Gorman, Freelance writer for the Charlotte Observer

NC Department of Instruction

Simplicity Clients and the Charlotte Community


College Bound

You did it!

You’re off to college and starting a new chapter in life!

So how do you get off on the right foot?

College Bound

Here are a few tips for an organized start to your journey.

You will be in an unfamiliar place populated with strangers.  Don’t panic. Campus will soon feel like home and those strangers will become lifelong friends.  Your class schedule will bear little resemblance to the one from high school.  Classrooms can range far afield, especially on a big campus.  And you’re responsible for getting to class ON TIME! YIKES!  Leave extra early for the first few weeks of the semester to get the hang of your various routes. Some classes will be back-to-back, requiring extreme speed walking with no time for conversations if you are to be on time. Even if you have your schedule in your phone calendar, a paper copy that’s easily accessible is a good backup. Print a small version of your schedule with class locations and tape it to the back of your phone or laminate it and keep in it your backpack.

DON’T SKIP CLASS! Cutting class really hurts not only your grades and your level of motivation, but also your rapport with professors. And don’t think for a minute that most professors don’t know or care if you’re present.  Even if you’re going to a big school with huge lectures, you need to be present- no matter how late you were up the night before. You never know what key piece of information you might miss.

An organized home supports an organized life. Since the dorm will be your new home, here are some tips to keep it organized:

  • Communicate with your roommate before moving into the dorm. You will save space and money if you know who is bringing what- you don’t need two of everything.
  • If you are planning on going home before the season changes, leave most of your winter clothing at home.  There will be very little storage space in the dorm.  As fall arrives, you can do the wardrobe swap.
  • Find a place to study that works for you. The library is quiet and has all the resources you need for research. If you study in your dorm, keep your workspace clear with only necessary books, notes and writing implements accessible.  Turn your phone off and settle in with the books.
  • Keep cooking and eating utensils to a bare minimum. You’re not going to be attempting to replicate mom’s home cooking!
  • Label, label, label! Living in close quarters, you’ll likely be sharing- with or without permission. Labeling what’s yours helps you keep what’s yours!without permission. Labeling what’s yours helps you keep what’s yours!

A final note…

Always: ask questions, seek help, stay true to yourself, keep in close touch with your family, work hard, and HAVE FUN!

Simplicity’s Top Recommended College Organizational Supplies:

1)         Under the bed storage containers: Great for storing infrequently worn clothes.

Under bed storage

2)        Bed risers: Raise your bed so you have more storage underneath.

Bed risers

3)         Uniform hangers-Slimline hangers are great for girl’s clothes, but as long as the hangers are durable and all look the same-that’s all that matters. Swivel hooks make it easier.

Slimline hangers

4)        Drawer dividers for dressers and desks.

Dream Drawer Organizers


Drawer organizers

5)        3M hooks-Damage free ways to organize and decorate your college dorm.

Command 3M Hooks

6)        A shower caddy to keep your belongings together and organized!

Shower Caddy

Packing for Camp



When it comes to packing for camp, it’s best to start preparing a few weeks ahead of time so you avoid feeling rushed or overwhelmed. Work together with your child so they know exactly what they have and where to locate it. Here are 10 tips guaranteed to take the anxiety out of packing for camp:

1)     READ THE PACKING LIST PROVIDED BY THE CAMP – It will contain important details regarding not only what to pack, but also what to leave at home. If they have a special dress-up event or activity they will tell you what to include.

2)     TALK TO VETERAN PARENTS – Typically parents who have sent a child to camp in previous years can offer helpful tips that may not be included on the list.

3)     SHOP FOR CLOTHING AT SECOND-HAND STORES – Camp can be messy. Only send clothing with your child that you don’t mind tossing out. You can even instruct them to throw items away at camp if it is extremely dirty, wet or stained.

4)     LABEL, LABEL, LABEL – For items that do need to make it home then be sure it has their name in it. Use a Sharpie, masking tape or label tape to clearly label everything.

5)     PACK OUTFITS IN GALLON SLIDE LOCK BAGS – For younger children it can be especially helpful to pack entire outfits (shirt, shorts, underwear, shocks) in individual bags. Label them for each day they will be there. The air can be pressed out allowing for more compact packing. The bags can be reused to return wet bathing suits, shoes, or other soiled items.

6)      DRAWSTRING KITCHEN TRASH BAGS HAVE MANY USES – Pack your child’s bedding in one and label it with their name. Include another one to be used as a laundry bag.

7)     SHOWER SHOES AND A TOTE FOR TOILETRIES – Plastic flip-flops will do the trick and a small tote will make it easy for them to travel to and from the showers.

8)     DISPOSABLE CAMERA – Since electronics are typically not permitted, consider including a disposable camera so your child can capture memories from their time at camp.

9)     DRAWSTRING TOTE OR SMALL BACKPACK –   These are perfect for carrying water bottles, bug spray, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and other necessities they may need during the day.

10)  NOTES FROM HOME – Include a few surprises for your child to discover when they arrive. Some camps will provide instruction regarding where to send notes, cards, or treats ahead of time so they are waiting for them when they arrive.

Finally, if there are certain items like bedding, towels or bags that are only used once a year for camp, consider storing them all together in a lidded and labeled container so they are easy to locate every year.

Camp can feel both exciting and scary for parents and children alike. Being prepared will help everyone to relax and kids to make the most of their experience!

Solutions for Parenting with Simplicity

In the new year, Charlotte parenting guru Wendy Petricoff and our very own Simplicity owner and organizing expert Laurie Martin have teamed up to assist you in getting your home and children in order!

Want to teach your child valuable organizing skills but don’t seem to have the parenting skills to get them to follow through? This workshop is for you!

This three week workshop is full of customized take-home plans to help get your family in order, teach your children organizing skills AND give you the parenting tools to follow through!  

Make your new year’s resolution to get organized a reality and sign up today for this three week workshop!

Parents of Young Families: February 4, 11, and 18, 7-8:30pm

To register call  704-366-5007
Cost is $115 per family / $105 for JCC members 

Classes held at the Jewish Community Center, 5007 Providence Road
Click here  for more information.


Back to School Organizing Party

Our 2nd annual Back to School Organizing party for the 6th grade girls at

Trinity Episcopal School was a huge success!

Offered the week before school starts, the organizing party was the
perfect time for these girls to catch up from the summer break, meet
new girls in the grade, and think about getting organized for the new
school year.


Who knew that organizing could be so fun? After kicking off the party
with an icebreaker game, we led several hands-on activities to share a
variety of organizational tips and strategies.



This two-hour session focused on two primary organizational skills: the
benefits of knowing what you have and where it belongs and how to
effectively manage your time.

From binders to lockers, middle school students are expected to
maintain a variety of organizational systems on a daily basis. To equip
them with the skills to do so, we divided the girls into three groups to
organize pre-made messy backpacks and lockers. Proudly
demonstrating their finished product, they shared the steps they took
to put things in order and the supplies that were useful to maintain the


Middle school students also start to take on a lot more responsibility!
As the homework increases and the afterschool activities last longer, it
is important to utilize day planners to help manage time for both
personal and school life. To minimize stress in the morning, each girl
also created their own “get to school on time” morning routine.

Although organizing does not come naturally to everyone, it is such an
important life skill! By working alongside the girls to create customized
organizational systems and functional routines, Simplicity Organizers
hopes to help reduce anxiety and increase your child’s confidence in
balancing life at home and school.





Interested in learning more about our Simplicity Kids program or
hosting an Organizing Party? Please visit our website at

Routines for a Stress-Free School Year

Weekly Routine copy

Though there is a sense of freedom in the flexibility of summer, the structure and routine the school year brings can be comforting. Children thrive on predictability, repetition, and consistency. “Knowing what to expect from relationships and activities helps children become more confident,” says Dr. Peter Gorski, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Children need routines in order to learn how to manage their time and their day. In a nutshell, routines don’t bind, they liberate. Routines provide a strong foundation for future learning and independence. They empower children and teens to take responsibility. Structured appropriately, routines can reduce anxiety, eliminate power struggles, and reinforce positive behaviors, In designing your own family routines, you may want to consider the following:

Morning Routines
How you feel in the morning usually lays the foundation for your day.
Mornings can be very hectic, so set a routine that can provide a
smoother start to the day.

Afterschool Routines
Afterschool routines are just as important as morning routines. These
routines help teach children how to manage their time.

Meal Routines
Meals not only contribute to the mental and physical health of children,
they also establish a sense of family identity, and provide a positive
environment for family interaction.

Evening Routines
Evenings should be the time to wind down and prepare for the
following day. Building a bedtime routine will help your child learn how
to be prepared and the importance of a good night’s rest.

It is important to customize routines to meet the needs of your family.
Each family should establish patterns that work in their home. Though
creating routine for your family is very important, avoid making too
many changes at once. Becoming familiar with routines takes time.
Build gradually. Learning and understanding the importance of
routines is a very important life long skill.

Interested in learning more about establishing new organizational
systems and routines for the new school year? Please join us on
Thursday, August 29th from 11:30-1pm at the Junior League.

Summer Bucket List


Summer Bucket List

I don’t know about you, but at the end of the school year the last thing I want to think about before summer is another to do list!  I mean really, May seems as busy as December! After the long, structured school year filled with managing work, homework, household duties, volunteering tasks, and after-school activities who wants to plan another thing?  I just want to soak up the sun and wing it for awhile! But we all know how long that really lasts don’t we? About one day. That is when the Summer Bucket List can really come in handy.

This year I have asked each member of my family to come up with ten items for our list.  After nine months of being on auto-pilot with our fast paced schedules this exercise was just the ticket to slow down, change gears and sit down to really tune in to each other’s interests – and honestly to reconnect again on a deeper level. Here is what we all came up with:

I now have our list handy on the magnetic board in the kitchen ready for the quickly approaching lazy days of summer. (We may even have it laminated so we can check things off as we do them)!  So on the days when we are tired of the pool or we don’t have VBS or a camp to attend, we can help keep our summer calm by going to our list to pick an activity for the day if and when boredom should arise.

While planning ahead and making lists isn’t always fun, it is a necessary part of maintaining a more simple and calm existence for all.  What’s on your bucket list for the summer?

Simplifying College Life

The transition from high school to college brings many exciting changes, such as new friends, unlimited social events and the freedom that many teens crave. But with such freedom comes responsibility, and many teenagers find themselves struggling with this balance within the first few weeks of college.

 Dorm Picture


The key to helping teenagers shift from a supportive, structured environment in high school to a mostly unstructured environment is to develop a proactive organizational plan. Although a parent may be tempted to rush out to Bed, Bath and Beyond, armed with 20% off coupons to buy everything their child may need, this strategy is missing a key component – the teenager’s input. To best prepare your teen for the transition, it is vital for parents and teens to intentionally talk through the pending changes and develop a plan and strategy for helping the teen assume these responsibilities.

A comprehensive organizational plan will touch on four areas of a college student’s life: personal care, rest, play and study. From developing valuable time management strategies to implementing practical organizational strategies, discussing these four areas will prepare a teen for any challenges that college may bring.

As you develop the overall plan, here are some quick strategies to simplify and streamline their space.

Personal Care: Avoiding bringing all of your clothes to college. Select versatile pieces for the current season and leave the rest at home. Utilize slimline hangars to maximize hanging space.

Rest: Wake up at the same time every day, regardless of when you have class. This will prevent rushing and give you extra time to complete tasks in your room.

Play: If bringing a TV or video games to your room, coordinate with your roommate so nothing is duplicated. Make sure your furniture also provides extra storage space or pick up a storage ottoman.

Study: Designate daily study hours to prevent procrastination. Use either a paper or digital calendar to remind yourself of both homework and social obligations so that you can plan ahead.

To help your college bound student prepare their own organizational plan, join us for the Organizing for College Lunch and Learn on June 6th. We will share many practical tips and make sure your teenager is well prepared!


Getting Organized for Summer Camp

Summer 2013 is right around the corner!  As a child, I went to overnight camp and as an adult, I have worked for several different camping organizations.  I found that being organized helped me create amazing summer camp memories.  If your summer plans involve sending your kids off to an overnight camp, you’ll sleep better at night knowing they’re well prepared for their time away.  Here are some tips to get your campers organized and ready for a great summer!

Summer Camp


Use the camp’s packing list and know the camp’s dress code.  
The camp checklist (sample checklist: is a terrific way to make sure your child will have everything he or she needs during the week away. Print out a copy of the camp’s checklist, and then record how many of each item you send along with your child to camp. Pack this inventoried packing list in your child’s bag so she can use it for packing to come back home, helping ensure no belongings are left behind.  Helpful Hint:  Label EVERYTHING!

Helpful Ideas

Send along a couple of small backpacks or drawstring bags. Fill the first backpack with items like a water bottle, sunscreen, camera, and lip balm and have your child use it for time away from the bunk. Use the second drawstring bag as a “bunktime” bag for nighttime and rest time supplies such as writing and reading supplies, a clipboard, a flashlight, and other nighttime essentials.  Send along a camera and tell your child to hand it over to friends! It will be a great way for your child to remember his/her time at camp and these photos will help you put faces to all the new names you’ll be hearing as your child shares camp stories with you.

Letter Writing TO Camp

Keep in touch. Find out your camp’s policy on keeping in touch with your camper such as via letters, email or phone/text messages. Notes from home make everyone feel better—the camper and mom and dad. Also check to see if your child’s camp will be posting photos of campers on the camp website or a photo sharing site. Seeing photos of your child having fun while they’re away will put your mind at ease, especially if your camp doesn’t allow for direct communication with your camper.  Helpful Hint:  Start sending letters to camp before your child leaves to go to camp.  This way there will be mail waiting for them on the first day!

Letter Writing FROM Camp
Encourage your child to send letters home. Even if letters from camp don’t arrive home until after camp is over, there is nothing like hearing about your child’s camp experience. These letters will be special keepsakes that will remind your child of their week at camp for years and years to come.  Helpful Hint: Pre-address and stamp envelopes to your home address, as well as to other family members.


Plan something fun for the week after camp. If your child loves camp, coming home could be a big letdown. Have something fun planned for the week after camp such as trips to the pool, beach or a local attraction. This will ease your child’s transition back into life at home.

Camp Resources
Here are some great websites for camp gear and labels:
Camp Outfitters –
Camp Search – or
Labels –
Care Packages –

Camp can be a wonderful experience for the whole family—especially when you send your child off to camp prepared and organized!

Written By: Jaime Cojac (Simplicity Organizer)