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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
NAPO Expo 2011 Recap (Part 4): The Professor's Coconut Radio

Recapping the NAPO conference and expo sometimes feels like the theme song from Gilligan's Island. We've covered the millionaire (and his wife) and the movie star -- our profession's rock stars. The "I Feel Pretty" product reviews were certainly the Ginger and Maryanne of our industry. Then we talked about the good Goliaths, the big kahunas, the Gilligan & the Skipper of paper organizing (Smead and Pendaflex, or Pendaflex and Smead -- let's not take the metaphor too literally). Last week, I covered all the essential and nifty hanging things the castaways brought in their luggage and used to adorn the walls of their huts (though why they brought luggage on a three-hour tour has always remained a mystery).

While it would take the better part of a year to cover ALL of the vendors at the conference, there were three ingenious products that reminded me of the nifty inventions that dreamy Roy Hinkley (what, you didn't know that was the Professor's real name?) came up with on the island.

Today, I present you with the winners of the Paper Doll "Coconut Radio" Award for inventive organizing products, each of which, like the Professor's creations, excels with regard to one or more of the following characteristics -- they're super-cool, technological or green (because, let's face it, the Professor was all about natural products and re-purposing).

I rarely get giddy with excitement over organizing products, especially organizing products unrelated to managing paper. So, followers of my Facebook and Twitter posts suspected I was awfully intrigued by this next product. I couldn't stop talking about my eagerness to see it in action after hearing about it from my colleague, Monica Ricci, who first reviewed Pliio at the 2011 International Home and Housewares Show in March.

Pliio is an organizing tool (or as the Pliio folks say, a clothing management system) that files your clothes. No, seriously. It helps you FILE your CLOTHES! How cool is that?

Pardon Paper Doll for gushing, but even with all my organizing skills in realms outside of the paper world, I've always envied the people whose drawers looked like the assistant manager at The Gap had just come through and tidied up. I've gazed longingly at the Flip-&-Fold style of laundry gadgets that let you fold each article of clothing to the same size. But until I saw Pliio, I didn't realize what was missing...what I truly wanted was a magical tool for organizing clothes as if they were paper files!

Pliio is the brainchild of professional organizer Clare Kumar and industrial and graphic designer Yuriko Zakimi. Mechanically, the product is simple. A Pliio folding filer is a pad about the size of a small placemat, which is placed in the center of the article of clothing you wish to fold. You manually fold in the sides/sleeves to conform to the edges of the pad, and then fold the Pliio from one end to the other, essentially rolling the item like a soft taco until it is neatly arrayed in a package about the size of a woman's wallet or a small clutch purse.

Then, fold your next article of clothing, and the next, lining up each vertical piece (with the Pliio remaining inside) next to the prior one, anywhere from a drawer (like a filing cabinet) to a shelf (like open filing at the doctor's office) to a canvas sweater box (like a desk-top file box). I can definitely see it becoming a favorite for travelers seeking ways to consolidate space in luggage (as airline baggage fees continue to rise). But the best part of Pliio is that because you're "filing" your clothing vertically, you can see each individual article of clothing, so nothing gets hidden or buried.

I initially imagined this would only be useful for filing t-shirts and polos, which would have been inventive enough, but Clare won me over at conference by showing how versatile the Pliio was for folding blouses and even dresses while keeping them wrinkle-free. (And don't get my started on the too-cute-for-words mini-Pliio for folding baby clothes!)

To see the Pliio in action, take a peek at this video put together by my NAPO conference roomie, professional organizer and blogger Deb Lee:

As Clare says in the video, the system is designed to take you from piles of clothes to files of clothes. And what Paper Doll worth her salt wouldn't love that?

The only downside? Pliio is not yet available in stores. Patience, Gilligan.

My first introduction to the The Tote Buddy name came at the start of this year's conference, when we learned that our cantaloupe-colored conference tote bags were provided by The Tote Buddy. I mistakenly assumed the company made only environmentally-friendly grocery totes. Been there, done that, I thought, and relegated visiting the booth to the outskirts of my schedule.

Shame on Paper Doll!

Surely by now you've noticed that two decades of "paper or plastic?" have stepped aside, making way for "Will you need a bag or did you bring your own?" Even the least green among us are doing our part for the environment, carrying reusable tote bags to the grocery store and on errands in order to decrease the use of environmentally-unfriendly plastic bags and deforesting paper bags.

But it's easy to forget to bring that bland black or grey tote into the store. Totes are generally branded with a store's logo and are often not all that cute. And if you're getting more than one bag's worth of stuff, it's unwieldy to carry a pile of totes at once.

The solution? The Tote Buddy, billed as the World's First Reusable Bag Organizer®, is a stylishly attractive tool for storing and carrying your totes, making it more likely that you'll feel fashionable when carrying the totes...making it more likely you'll enjoy using them...making it more likely you'll actually remember to use them. Win! Win! Win!

The Tote Buddy people explain even better in their 6- (yes, six) second video how to get from having a mess of forgettable, unattractive bags to having a memorable, fashionable way to carry them:

The Tote Buddy is a portfolio-style case. Undo the Velcro fastener, unfold The Tote Buddy, and place your folded totes inside, with the handles facing out. Re-fasten the Velcro strap and use the totes' own handles to carry the whole kit & caboodle. Using re-usable tote bags is good for the planet, and using a pretty carrying case is good for your mood.

The Tote Buddy measures 15 1/2" W by 11 1/2" H (when viewed with the spine facing downward), is made of 100% recyclable non-woven polypropylene with an adjustable Velcro closure, and comes in two styles, a lighthearted floral and a sleek black:

Each Tote Buddy holds up to ten totes and sells for $14.97. The Tote Buddy also sells spacious and attractive totes in floral and cantaloupe (OK, they call it orange, but PaperMommy can tell you how much I hate that color) for $7 and $3, respectively. Such selections ensure that your Tote Buddy handles are fashion-forward, as well.

I bet even the Skipper would get one for his Little Buddy.

Newcomer Grid-It!, from Cocoon Innovations, was the geeky (in a good way) belle of the ball at this year's NAPO expo. It even won the NAPO Organizers' Choice Award for Best Technology Product! This is all the more intriguing because the Grid-It! isn't made of metal or plastic, requires no batteries or chargers to power it, and doesn't have any moving parts!

Grid-It! is actually an organizing system for providing practically endless configurations to hold all of your digital devices, accessories and personal items in place. (How many configurations? Try the game to see for yourself.)

The design of Grid-It! is simple, yet brilliant. There's a flat mat or pad-like base covered in rubberized woven elastic bands for firmly holding items in place...or, in the words of Cocoon Innovations, it's an "object retention system for gadget organization." Because of the vertical and horizontal placement of the elastic bands, you have a versatile array of possible configurations which can change easily, depending on what you're trying carry with you. (The back can even double as a mouse pad!)

Whether you're high tech or low tech, have iPads or doo-dads, there seems to be a useful Grid-It! solution. Instead of a purse, backpack, messenger bag or briefcase with a sea of gadgets and essentials swimming at the bottom, Grid-It! lets you configure your own pegboard-style layout for your Blackberry or iPhone, iPod, hand-held game, wireless mouse, ear buds, USB cords, memory cards, chargers for your cameras and phones, flash drives and more.

If you're low-tech (or just need to carry some low-tech items along with the others), attach sunglasses, lipstick, business cards, chewing gum (unchewed and still wrapped, please), hand sanitizer, batteries, etc. And Grid-It! can be used just as well for office or school supplies, tools (a boon for professional organizers or computer repair specialists)
 and even cosmetics.

The Grid-It! isn't just for everyday use carting around the essentials (and luxuries) of modern life. Imagine how much easier it would be to unload your airline carry-on for hand inspection when everything is attached to one rubberized pad.

There are multiple varieties of Grid-It!, from a tiny 7" W by 5" H grid for $9.99 to progressively longer and/or wider versions, up to the 15" W by 11" H luggage accessory style for $29.99.

They also make one with three metal-reinforced holes for storing in a three-ring binder and a sun visor Grid-It! for keeping your car organized.

The standard Grid-It! is black, although some sizes and styles come in alternate colors, including High Rise Gray, Royal Blue, Racing Red and Blush Pink.

The only negative thing I can say about Grid-It! is that I didn't get one. The guys had them on display at their booth the night before the conference officially started, and by the time I meandered over to them on Thursday morning, they'd been picked clean of all their sample giveaways. (They did, however, offer a plethora of Juicy Fruit gum and Tic-Tacs, two items they'd been using so show the Grid-It!'s versatility.)

The Grid-It! certainly will help you keep essentials close at hand better than Gilligan's tree sap pancake syrup boat glue!

Ah, the Professor. So, he could build a nuclear reactor out of sand and palm fronds but couldn't fix a three-foot hole in the side of a boat? Can you imagine all he could have accomplished, if only he'd ever been to a NAPO conference and expo?

posted on: 5/10/2011 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by dava on 5/16/2011 3:51:12 PM:

You had me at the Pliio. We literally have a mountain of teenage-girl clothing, (4 stacks each about 3 feet tall), waiting to be crammed into drawers where all my effort at folding will be rendered useless. Oh, but then you show me the Grid-it. This geek girl is intrigued. I have to stop reading your blog. It's worse than a trip to the office supply store. I end up with stuff-lust every time!

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 5/16/2011 5:06:46 PM:

Oooh, Dava, sorry about tempting you into "stuff-lust"! I promise that tomorrow's post is straight-up information and won't tempt you to buy anything. :-) But remember, if there's a mountain of teenage-girl clothing, you-know-who better go to that mountain...and pare it down. Pliio, and indeed all the storage-related organizing tools I recommend, work best when excess is deleted. After all, nobody truly loves ALL their clothes. Help them work to keep what they love the most.

by Clare Kumar on 5/16/2011 11:04:12 PM:

Dava - I love the "you had me at Pliio" comment. Made my day. Thanks!

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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