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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Get Back To Where You Once Belonged: Breadcrumbs, Luggage Tags and Tattoos

Once upon a time, long before the invention of GPS (and even before The Beatles climbed out on a rooftop), people were worried about getting themselves (and their loved ones) back to where they belonged.

In the Time of Fairy Tales

Hansel and Gretel were cursed with a stepmother who was more Disney stereotype and less Carol Brady. The woodcutter's kids overhear their stepmom's evil plot to reduce the number of mouths to feed at the cottage by sending them deep into the woods, too far to ever return home. In a tale that would make any kid dubious of parental love, the co-dependent woodcutter follows his wife's orders. (Sheesh. Doesn't anyone ever call Child Protective Services in these fairy tales?)

After Hansel and Gretel's successful effort finding their way home with a path marked by surreptitiously-dropped pebbles, the evil stepmother tries again, but first locks the kids in their rooms with just bread and water to sustain them and prevents them from gathering more stones. The next day, not-so-sharp Hansel takes a slice (a slice?! not even a loaf?!) of bread and the drops a trail of breadcrumbs, with plans to follow the crumbs back home.

Apparently a kid who doesn't realize hungry birds are going to nibble a bread buffet probably doesn't realize he's better off seeking out a different domicile. So, not a perfect plan, but certainly one that had an impact on future day trippers.

Nineteenth Century English Country Homes

In At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson tells a tale of backstairs intrigue in large country houses:

Guests brought their own servants, too, so at weekends it was not unusual for the number of people within a country house to swell by as many as 150. Amid such a mass of bodies, confusion was inevitable. On one occasion in the 1890s, Lord Charles Beresford, a well-known rake, let himself into what he believed was his mistress's bedroom and with a lusty cry of "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" leaped into the bed only to discover that it was occupied by the Bishop of Chester and his wife. To avoid such confusions, guests at Wentworth Woodhouse, a stately pile in Yorkshire, were given silver boxes containing personalized confetti, which they could sprinkle through the corridors to help find their way back to, or between, rooms.

Don't you wonder at the efforts put forth by scullery maids and their cohorts, cleaning the floors but ensuring multiple trails of differently-colored confetti remained untouched?

WWII: Luggage Tags and Little Ones

Just prior to the outbreak of World War II -- and during the war, especially during the London Blitz -- British children were sent from cities to rural areas, ostensibly to safety, as part of evacuation programs like Operation Pied Piper. History books are replete with stories of British (and later, European) children, standing on train platforms, with luggage tags (bearing their names and essential data) pinned to their coats or hanging from strings around their necks.

Even the grinchiest hearts lurch at the thought of children, tagged like luggage, being sent away from their families "for the duration", as the phrase went. But today, even the shortest field trip or crowded fairground can give moms or dads pause about how best to ensure their little ones will get back to where they belong.

Of course, parents work hard to teach their children how to locate and identify a policeman, and how to memorize their parents' vital information to report to a grownup (but not a stranger). Over the years, parents have learned how to sew identifying information into kids' jackets but refrain from personalizing clothing so as not to give any ne'er-do-wells an opening.

A whole industry has even grown up recently around technological gadget solutions like Amber Alert GPS, Brickhouse Child Locator, GPS Nanny, and Track My Kids.

However, there's a simple but low-cost (sticky) paper solution, an upgrade of the luggage tag notion: customized adhesive labels.

Modern Day Return-To-Sender Solutions

Tottoos was inspired by a lost child in a football stadium. The founder explains:

We were heading to the concessions stand and spotted a little girl standing up against a trashcan, crying.  We asked if she needed help.  She told us she couldn't find her mother.  When we asked what her mother's name was, she said, "Mommy."

I stayed with her while my husband made his way through the sea of people in search of a security guard.  I was thinking the whole time how worried the girl's mother must have been and wished I could just call her to let her know where her child was, and that she was safe. 

If your child is going to be in a crowd -- on a field trip with school, at a fairground or amusement park, or anywhere that he or she could become separated from you or whomever is in charge -- Tottoos are an inexpensive solution for minimizing anxiety.

Tottoos are custom-made with FDA-approved adhesives and last 12 hours or longer when properly applied to clean, dry skin. The decals can feature personalized data, such as "If I am lost, please call [number of your choice]" or the name and emergency phone number of a preschool, elementary school, worship group or other organization overseeing an outing.

Thus, a child need not provide an excess of personal information to a stranger (even a Good Samaritan). Further, parents and organizations can ensure that there's a breadcrumb trail back to home base, even if a child is unable (due to hysterics, confusion or inability to memorize numerical sequences) to provide essential information.

In addition to identifying emergency contacts, Tottoos also offers kits with customizable decals to display important medical information, like allergies or chronic illness alerts and instructions regarding what to do in case of emergency.

This makes the stickers suitable for use not only for children but also for adult outdoor adventurers, Alzheimer's patients, and others who might be unable to communicate after encountering difficult or dangerous situations.

SafetyTat uses "medical-grade, hypoallergenic, latex-free adhesive" on all of their products. Paper Doll thinks SafetyTat earns bonus points for offering the same kind of solution as Tottoos, but with a charming artistic flair.

There are a variety of SafetyTats for different needs.

Quick Stick Write-On! SafetyTats employ a proprietary Tattek® peel-and-stick approach. They come in brightly colored basic versions for boys and girls, and allow parents to quickly write a contact number and attach the decal to a child at a moment's notice. A pack of 18 Quick Stick Write-On! Safety Tats are $19.99 and come with a waterproof tattoo marking pen.

Original SafetyTats are similar to the QuickStick variety, but the clarity and appearance may vary according to the child's skin tone, and they require water to affix to the skin (like old-fashioned kiddie faux tattoos). Pre-created phrases for the line of 27 "tattoos" (with a wide variety of designs) include:

In case of emergency, contact...
If lost, please contact...
I have non-verbal autism... 
ALERT: Nut Allergy
ALERT: Diabetic
and a variety of other stock phrases from which to choose, in packets of 30 for $19.95. (Other kit sizes are available.)

TatBuilder allows customers to easily create thousands of possible combinations of styles and features, including background and border colors, message text and icons or artwork. Just click to choose features and select text from a drop-down menu:


TatBuilder allows the designer two lines for contact information on each tattoo. A package of 24 tattoos is $19.95.


Random thoughts:

Paper Doll always suspected that Hansel and Gretel's stepmother and the Soylent Green-loving witch were long-lost relatives, but this might be the result of a lifetime of watching television melodramas.

Also, Paper Mommy never let Paper Doll out of her sight until college, relegating what could have been carefree afternoon hours to playing room mother, looking at bones while touring natural history museums and discovering the essentials of making maple syrup at Tifft Nature Preserve. Not once did she ever misplace a kid.

posted on: 11/9/2010 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Janet Barclay - Organized Assistant on 11/9/2010 4:58:07 PM:

Julie, what about the baby harness? I know I wore one, probably until I was old enough to object (at least a year before I went to college LOL).

by Diane N. Quintana on 11/10/2010 8:32:22 AM:

Julie, This is fantastic information. I am particularly intrigued by the decals for the elderly - a wonderful thing. About the child harness, I used them for both my boys because they never walked, they ran! The harness was my way to keep them safe and allow them a little freedom.

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 11/10/2010 3:29:00 PM:

Diane, while both styles of tattoos were certainly envisioned for kids, I thin nursing homes & assisted living facilities, plus families of early-diagnosis Alzheimer's patients could benefit. And LOL to both of you about the harnesses. I thought Janet was joking, but Diane's comment shows they are alive and well.

by information technology on 11/16/2010 9:41:46 AM:

What a great resource!

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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