May 2004
Vol. 2, No. 5

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.”

— George Horace Lorimer,
Saturday Evening Post Editor-in-Chief, 1899-1936

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Organizing to avoid identity theft

I can’t help it. Those Citibank commercials featuring victims of identity theft never fail to crack me up.

I laugh, but the subject really isn’t funny. In fact, it’s pretty darn scary, especially when you realize how easy it is for identify thieves to become you with just a few key pieces of information.

I recently attended a seminar presented by Victoria I. Mikoch of A Very Private Eye Research and Investigations in Phoenix. Victoria offered a number of ways to protect yourself from identity theft. Following are seven simple things you can do:

1. Shred everything.
Shred envelopes, letters and inserts (especially pre-approved credit card offers) with your name and address, or any other personally identifiable information such as account numbers.

Shred ATM and any other receipts you don’t need. Also shred prescription bottle labels. An identify thief can call your doctor (the doctor’s name is on the label), identify himself or herself as you and then ask to have your medical records sent to a “new” address. Think about it. Your medical records include your social security number and other information that would make it easy to steal your identity.

2. Be prepared for the worst.
Photocopy everything in your wallet and put in a safe place in case your wallet is stolen. Report stolen or lost cards immediately. Don’t carry cards you don’t regularly use. And don’t carry your social security card.

3. Outsmart thieves.
Use a fictitious name for your security code when asked to provide your mother’s maiden name. Make one up or use your spouse’s mother’s maiden name to foil a would-be thief.

4. Say, “I’ll call you.”
Never give any personal or financial information over the phone to someone who is calling you. Instead, ask their name and phone number and call them back.

5. Protect your PINs.
Remove your PIN codes from your wallet. If you can’t remember your PINs, write them in code – backwards or use them next to a fictitious name and address in your address book using your PIN as the street address.

6. Pay attention.
Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.

7. Monitor your credit.
One of the best ways to uncover identity theft is to review your credit reports regularly. Order copies at least once a year from all three reporting agencies and scan carefully for any activity that does not pertain to you.

www.Equifax.com 800-997-2493
www.TransUnion.com 800-916-8800
www.Experian.com 888-397-3742

To avoid getting caught by a computer scam, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, offers this guidance:

* If you get an email that warns you, with little or no notice, that an account of yours will be shut down unless you reconfirm your billing information, do not reply or click on the link in the email. Instead, contact the company cited in the email using a telephone number or Web site address you know to be genuine.

* Avoid emailing personal and financial information. Before submitting financial information through a Web site, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar. It signals that your information is secure during transmission.

Equifax advises consumers to use credit cards instead of debit cards, especially for online transactions. In the event that something goes wrong, you can dispute charges on a credit card; debit cards can leave you vulnerable to bank fraud.

Finally, as tempting as it is, do not use one password for all of your accounts. The best passwords are alpha-numeric with at least six to eight characters. An easy way to keep track of passwords is to write them in your Rolodex or address under the name of the account. Or use a free password manager service like RoboForm (www.RoboForm.com) to keep track of passwords for you.

One final tip: If you think your identity has been stolen, go to http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/ to learn what you should do.

Next month: Getting motivated to get organized

To read back issues, go to:


Between January and December 2003, the FTC received over half of a million (516,740) consumer fraud and identity theft complaints; up from 404,000 in 2002. 42% of all complaints received by the FTC related to ID theft, up from 40% in 2002.

Source: Federal Trade Commission Report National and State Trends in Fraud and Identity Theft (January – December 2003)http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel

SURVEY RESULTS: Most requested organizing topics

In the last issue, I asked “What organizing issues would you like to read about in future issues of Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly?”

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

22% said: Clutter control (maintenance mode)
20% said: Filing systems
18% said: Clearing clutter
14% said: Room organizing tips
8% said: Organizing schedules & things to do
8% said: Other
6% said: Family organization
2% said: Moving
2% said: Organizing finances
0% said: Disaster preparedness

Thanks so much for your feedback! The results of this survey will help me to provide the tips and information you need most.

NEW SURVEY: Spring cleaning

Did you or do you plan to do a spring cleaning of your home?

a. Yes, it’s done.
b. Yes, I am planning to give my home a spring
c. No, I haven’t done any spring cleaning and
don’t plan to.

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, Please DO NOT REPLY to this message. Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” and your letter answer in the subject line. Feel free to include comments in the body of your e-mail. I really enjoy reading them.

I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

SPRING CLEANING: Tips for Allergy Sufferers

Spring cleaning can actually aggravate seasonal allergies. But there some simple things you can do to help manage your allergy symptoms.

Get organized and plan your day. Pollen counts are highest from 5am to 10am, so do your indoor chores in the morning and save the gardening and yard work for the afternoon.

Dust with a damp cloth. Dry cloths and feather dusters just stir dust mites back into the air.

Get rid of mold. Use a simple solution of dishwashing detergent and water to clean moldy areas. Be sure to dry thoroughly to help prevent regrowth of mold.

For more information about managing seasonal allergies, visit http://www.benadrylusa.com.

READERS WRITE: Closet organizing trick

To declutter my clothes, once a year (you can pick your birthday, New Year’s Day or tomorrow) I put a rubberband over each hangar hook. When I take the garment off the hanger to wear, I remove the rubberband.

(Hint: Keep a baggy or dish handy to put rubberbands in.)

Once the year is up, it is easy to see what hasn’t been worn and I can donate the clothes to charity. Some people may be more comfortable with a two-year period.

— Submitted by Aleane Bocconcelli
Peoria, AZ

WRITE TO WIN an autographed copy of my most recent book!

Do you have a question about uncluttering or organizing? Or a really great organizing tip that you would like to share with other readers?

Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with “Readers_Write” in the subject line. (Please DO NOT REPLY to this message.)

I try to answer all questions and, if your question or tip is used in a future issue of this newsletter, I will send you a free autographed copy of my latest book, Organizing Plain & Simple. Check it out at

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Racking up frequent flyer miles

For somebody who is supposed to be home writing a new book, I sure have been traveling a lot.

In the third week of April, I was invited to go to New York City to demonstrate “Spring Cleaning Tips for Allergy Sufferers” via satellite to 25 morning TV news programs across the States.

A week later, I was flying back across country to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers in Chicago. More than 600 professional organizers attended and I had the opportunity to sign 40 copies of my book, Organizing Plain & Simple.

(For information about NAPO or for a referral to a professional organizer in your area, go to http://www.napo.net.)

I will be going back to Chicago June 3-5 to sign copies of Organizing Plain & Simple at the Book Expo of America – a trade show that is expected to attract more than 30,000 publishers, booksellers and authors.

If you would like to get a signed copy of one of my books, go to: http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

Click on the SignedCopy.com logo to purchase a signed copy directly from my Web site and have it delivered right to your door!

That’s it for this month. Until next month, keep it simple.