ID Theft - Don’t Let It Spoil Your Holidays!

View this video for a hilarious response to identity theft. Then read the article. Seriously!

Yes, it does happen. Especially at this time of year you can’t be too careful. People fall for email scams and more often, their private information is compromised.

Much as my clients protest, I insist you buy a good shredder. Situate it right next to your desk, plugged in and use it whenever you open the mail. Shred, shred, shred.

Never give out credit card or bank account information to anyone in an email (or phone call unless you initiated the call).

Items you must shred:

• Address labels

• Preapproved credit card offers

• Any paper with a signature, social security numbers, account numbers, email, etc.

• Documents with driver’s license, maiden name, passwords, pin numbers or other ID information

• Utility bills (phone, internet, gas, electric, cable, etc.)

• Financial offers, checks or new account solicitations

• Bank statements, loan information, ATM receipts, old/void checks, receipts, deposit slips

• Credit reports

• Credit card statements or receipts, bills, carbon copies

• Pay stubs, resumes or employment records, personnel information

• Legal or insurance documents, leases

• Investment or property transactions

• Medical and dental records including x-rays which require special handling

• Birth certificate copies

• Expired passports or visas, military IDs, other IDs

• Resumes, transcripts, school records

• Tax forms, returns

• Travel itineraries, airline tickets, luggage tags

• For laminated items, cut up with scissors and place half in two different garbage bags

• Digital data and media are especially important. There are secure companies that can shred these.

• Erase all hard drives before getting rid of computers

If you need help, call on me. I welcome your emails and calls!

Happy Holidays! And don’t fall for any scams!


End of Year Review

Even though we're all busy with holiday festivities, year end is the best time to consider and consolidate our organizing systems – so we can finally relax with a cup of tea and a good book.

Here is a shortlist of some important year-end items:

Tax Planning 
December offers the last chance to reduce your tax bill. None of us like tax preparation. If there are receipts, bills and papers scattered throughout your home and office, tax preparation become an arduous project. Efficient capture systems make tax season less onerous. If you didn't create a tax file at the beginning of the year, start one now to corral tax-related papers.

Medical Review
Check medical expenses to see whether you can take the medical deduction. If you are close to the amount needed, you may elect to do annual tests now to reach that amount. Review your flex spending plan. Some plans end on Dec 31 however others extend the period until March 15. Check whether yours says "use it or lose it" by year end. 

Financial Audit
After Hurricane Sandy, it should be obvious that home insurance and health insurance are essential. Review your insurances to ensure yours is in place for your current needs. You may want to do a photo inventory of your possessions to store offsite. Review your portfolio allocations. Some IRAs require minimum distributions by December 31 or you may face penalties.

Disaster Plan
Hurricane Sandy reminds us that stuff happens, even in the city. Let us help you create a Go bag and gather essential supplies so you are prepared for emergencies like extreme weather, power outages, terrorist events, fire, illness and injury. A family disaster plan gives you confidence that your family members know what to do and where to meet up if disaster strikes. We can help if you are facing caretaking challenges as well.

Digital Calendar
I recommend a digital calendar. Before January 1st, extend your repeated items into the next year. If you go to the gym on weekday mornings, schedule it in as a recurring event, reserving that time slot on your calendar. Enter important dates, birthdays and events. It's essential to program in travel from one location to another and transition times for different activities. Plan email for a few times a day, and no more. The beauty of a digital calendar is you can Block in your day and see exactly how it looks. Conflicts stand out so you don't plan more than is possible in 24 hours. It helps you to be realistic about time and make good  choices. Another benefit is redundancy. No worry if you lose your phone. It's synched to your computer, so you're back in business without missing a beat. If you need time management help, call us.

Paper Planner
If you prefer a paper planner, buy one now for the best selection. Stores run out quickly as they don't stock too many. You can customize a binder type calendar for your particular needs. Use only one paper calendar and keep it close. It should be as essential to your life as your cell phone or wallet. The trick is to use it daily. More than one calendar is a sure recipe for errors. 

Tech Upgrades
Take advantage of holiday sales to purchase upgrades for your business which you can use as business expenses. With up-to-date technology work is more efficient. Now is a good time to do a digital cleanup. Your computer will be happier and run more efficiently. We can help you with digital organization and a tech plan.

Office Sweep
Revamp your home office, whether it's a spot to do bills or a fully functional home office for business. We help with space planning and set up. Being organized makes work so much more fun when you are not drowning in paper and searching for supplies. We can transform your desk into a place where you want to work. If you run a business, now is the time to purchase a shredder, ergonomic chair or supplies you need to work efficiently. Don't agonize, organize – for a happier, more productive year and a more successful business. Cha-ching!

Vision & Plan
Finish old projects, clear clutter and make way for the new year. Write a plan for 2013, not a to-do list but a list of goals. What do you want to accomplish in 2013? What do you need to let go of to simplify your life? Organizing is not a project – it's a process where we set up systems that work for your lifestyle and how to maintain them. Let go of perfectionism. Magazine photos are created by stylists and photographers. Apply the principles and ideas but understand those pictures are not replicas of real life. Still, it's fun to look at them so gather those books and magazines together in one spot, and dream. Simplicity is the goal, not perfection. Let us help you get to a more organized life.

Winter Specials
Ask about our winter deals to sweeten clutter clearing and organizing in December and January. And remember, you get a free hour at your next session any time you refer a friend who books a four-hour session.

There's no better time to get organized. Call us now if you need help.


After Hurricane Sandy

I hope everyone is ok after this devastating storm. 

If you haven't been able to communicate with family and friends, there is a Red Cross website where you can list yourself as safe and well.

We all think it can't happen here. I was a bit skeptical too. After all, NY usually doesn't have these severe natural disasters. Well, never say never!

Some were affected more than others. According to a friend on First Avenue, there was a river on her street from East River surges. Some of the the streets in Chelsea were flooded too as the Hudson River breached. With the subway system dark, no buses running and few cars on the road, NY was eerily quiet. Many trees were down and power lines were affected. Power was out in many neighborhoods. 

I was luckily not one of those whose power was cut off but I now advise all my clients to put together a Go Bag.

Once storm repair is over, call me if you need help creating a Go Bag or Family Disaster Plan.

Be safe and be well!


End of Summer Organizing

“I’m fascinated by the mystery surrounding ‘getting organized.’ ”  ~ David Allen

End of summer last licks

I’m probably the only one you know who is happy to see the end of summer, and I’ve been using the last few days of this month to work on my own organization.

Yes, Organizers also need to organize. Clutter comes into our lives daily. I anticipate the brisk cool days of Fall when we can put away the summer gear and focus on our indoor spaces.

As we get ready to spend more time indoors, ask yourself: Is my home a soothing haven or a stressful mess? Which gets me thinking ... what does it actually mean to be truly organized? Organization is simply having what you need, when you need it. Too much stuff gets in the way of that; even too much of a good thing can be overwhelming.

Here are some ideas about organization:

Organization is not products
Often new clients ask me what to buy for the first session. They are surprised when I say nothing. Organizing products are great but most of the time, they end up as clutter because one has purchased something that looks great in the store but doesn’t function for our needs. Most of us already have all the stuff we need, or we can repurpose what we do have. It’s critical to sort and purge first; then determine the space, and only then think about what storage products to buy.

Disorganization is not deciding
Organizers say clutter is postponed decisions ...which is why it takes time to get organized. A room filled with stuff without a home might mean 5000 decisions. Should I keep it? Do I love it? Is it functional? Does it contribute to my life? How many do I have? How many do I need? Where should it live? What would happen if I give it up? Who do I give it to? Stuff seems to take over our time. Yet humans are collectors so we need to make good decisions.

Paper multiplication is a dilemma
Paper seems to multiply. If a room full objects is 5000 decisions, a box of paper can be 5000 decisions. That’s why it’s important to minimize paper. Convert to online bill paying. Contain necessary paper in an effective file system. Toss obsolete newspapers. Shred financial offers and get off the mailing lists. Minimize mail through one of the unsubscribe services. Make decisions a few minutes daily before you have that backlog which takes over your space.

Organization is having a place
You’ve heard the wise adage ... “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Where is the place your mail resides until you can read and process it? What about your current action papers? Do they have a home or are they scattered about? Your extra paper towels, office supplies, photos, shampoos, boxes of tea, sweaters ... Does every item have a proper place so you can find it when you need it? Or do you waste precious time looking, get stressed or spend money to buy items you know you already own, leading to more clutter?

What you keep adds meaning 
Figure out what adds meaning to your life and eliminate the rest. Here’s where an Organizer can help. We guide you to make the right decisions. We help you set up systems that work. We keep you accountable to the process until it gets done.

Freebies & Specials
Is there an end of summer organizing project you want to accomplish? Call for a Complimentary Phone Consultation to discuss your projects. Our rates go up in January. Take advantage of the last quarter of the year to get organized once and for all.

Have an organized day,


Clear Your Clutter; Change Your Life!

Anna Lieber, Professional Organizer Presents a Talk for Elders

Hamilton Senior Center
141 West 73rd Street
between Amsterdam & Columbus
Thursday, August 16, 2012
12:45 pm 

• Save time and money.
Never lose keys or glasses again, or anything else.
• Reduce housework and cleaning.
• Organize bills and important papers.
• Clear your mind while you control the chaos.

Clear the way to a better life with easy tips and ideas from a Professional Organizer who helps her clients stay clutter free.

Be there for an exciting time and FREE prizes!


Living Large in Small Spaces

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”  ~ Socrates

Shoebox Living
Mayor Bloomberg is waiving current guidelines to create apartments in Kips Bay measuring 275-300 square feet. That’s half a subway car. I’m not sure people who work in cubicles all day want to live in one.

At 23, I moved from the East Village to what is now Soho. It was Little Italy then. No art galleries or shops. No markets or laundries. There was a bocce ball court at the end of my street.

My first apartment there was a shoebox: teeny-weeny tiny. Soon I charmed the landlord into giving me a bigger apartment with a sleeping loft and it’s own private entrance in an inner courtyard (very European). Still a studio but with four times the space, it seemed capacious.

Small vs. Big
We all want more space and more storage. But we live in New York – no attics, no basements, no barns, no garages, no sheds. No guest rooms, just sofabeds and no offices, just nooks. Storage is costly. What to do with all that stuff?

Keep or Toss?
Many of us have too much. It a problem of affluence. It’s especially true of Boomers and Seniors. Gen Xers and Millennials have a lot to teach us. They don’t save or collect. They shop carefully and say no often. They’re just not into consumption. Gen Y with fewer jobs and higher student loan debt, grew up wired, 100% computer savvy. They prize green living and simplicity over luxury and status.

“Millennials in particular seem to be embracing the concept of ‘traveling light’ as a way of life. Whether by necessity or choice, minimalism appears to be the new ‘chic’.”

Small & Beautiful
I’m not advocating living in a teeny-tiny spaces or chucking everything but it’s interesting to see how some live in just 300 square-feet called home. How do they do it? Check out these YouTube videos for a glimpse of how a few creative people live large in small spaces. No clutter. Great ideas. Built ins and double duty furniture. Now, don’t we all feel abundant and spacious?

(If the links aren’t live, just paste the address into your browser)

Amazing NYC Apartment - Transformer Style..Storage in Disguise!

Small Space, Big Style #02 (4/4)

Amazing Unfolding Origami Apartment video - OffBeat Spaces

Ask About Redesign

We use your furnishings and rearrange the space for best layout, flow and function, customized to support your life. We reuse your accessories or add a few items to make the apartment beautiful. It's a cost-effective way to transform your space in one day. 

Freebies & Specials
Do you need more space and less clutter? Call for a Complimentary Phone Consultation to discuss your projects and find out about our
Summer Specials.


Electronics Cemetary

“Whenever I go into a home or office, inevitably I find an electronics graveyard: obsolete or broken appliances, phones, computers,  televisions, even unopened software still in boxes. Face it. We’re all guilty of this.”  ~ Anna Lieber

Recycle obsolete, broken, unwanted electronics at Best Buy. No matter where you bought it, you can drop off three items including TVs, DVD players, computer monitors, audio and video cables, cell phones, and more. No console TVs or large appliances. Go to this web address to check everything they accept and find locations.

Donate working items to your favorite charity, thrift shop or shelter. They often welcome your items even if obsolete. It may take some research and travel as most do not pick up small items but you’ll feel good that you’ve found a second life for these objects, a good home, and you are contributing to others. Selling on Craigslist and listing items on Freecycle sometimes works. Be prepared to wait, wait, wait. If you need the space now, better to release it quickly.

To some, this may sound appalling but as a last resort, trash it. If an item is broken, obsolete or useless to you, it may be to others, too. Do you want to trip over it, dust it and allow it take up valuable real estate? The trash doesn’t always mean the landfill. Some trash gets recycled as it is picked over for the gold: bottles to redeem, metals to scrap for cash, items to repair, and books to sell.

If you need help to declutter your home or office, or any space filled with hoards of items, contact me. I welcome your emails and calls. I offer a Complimentary Phone Consultation to discuss your project. When you refer a friend who schedules a four-hour session, you earn a Free Hour added to your next four-hour organizing session. I look forward to hearing from you.

Age-Activated ADHD

Sometimes we wonder where the day goes. We often lose focus in the middle of our work, especially when we are interrupted. Often, we interrupt ourselves going from task to task and room to room, without ever completing anything. I've been focusing on completion myself to get the many things I need to get done finished.

I've stopped to take a break to look at this very true but funny video. Let me know if you see yourself here.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Recently while helping a client organize her overflow of possessions for an imminent move, I said I would begin with the low-hanging fruit. She didn't understand what I meant so I thought I'd better explain.

The World English Dictionary online defines low-hanging fruit as:
1. the fruit that grows low on the tree and is therefore easy to reach
2. a course of action that can be undertaken quickly and easily as part of a wider range of changes or solutions to a problem

At another clue:  Low-hanging fruit is ... "usually more abundant and easier to harvest... which generally means selecting the easiest targets with the least amount of effort."

Low-hanging fruit is a term I borrowed from my marketing/sales background but it applies to organizing as well. Just as we may focus on the easy sales prospects first, it's a good way to begin any organizing job particularly for those with hoarding challenges.

I advise my clients to work on what's easy and obvious first. In a hoarder's home, there are often items in the path we can pick up and put elsewhere, trash to toss, expired food, bottles and cans to recycle quickly.

Often just starting with the low-hanging fruit will lighten the load and give you a great sense of accomplishment with little emotional angst. Let me know if it works for you.


Time Management Take-Aways

Here are some of the tips shared for CEOs at our event at the Darien Historical Society, along with a few more. Managing time more effectively is a skill everyone needs. Time is a nonrenewable resource. As Carl Sandburg said "Time is the coin of your life.... Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."

Task Management

• Scan for high priority items in voicemail and email. Then go right to important projects during your power hours.

• Resist the urge to respond to every call or email immediately. Instead, schedule blocks of time in your calendar and batch calls and email replies.  Avoid responding to other peoples' priorities all day. Most things can wait.

• When facing a difficult or unpleasant task, do it first and move on.

• Schedule a “do not disturb time” for creative work during your peak energy time of day (for most it’s mornings). Do low energy tasks later.

• Avoid sticky notes and small bits of paper. Use one notebook for voice mail numbers, notes, lists, etc.

List Management

• Use a master list to download tasks and reminders from your brain.  

• Create a brief daily list for priority items. Focus on the important, not just the urgent.

• Before you leave the office write a daily list for the next day. Now forget it until tomorrow. Long hours are not effective.

Project Management

• Create a shared notebook in Evernote for updates, meeting notes and agendas for team projects.

• Hire talent you trust can handle the job. Train them, delegate and let go. Empower them and have them check in with milestones. Resist the urge to micromanage.

• As CEO and leader of your organization, your focus is on strategic rather than tactical work. 


Do More With Less Time - A CEO Trust CT Chapter Event

On April 18th at 6:30, I will be speaking on a panel on Time Management sponsored by CEO Trust. I’d love to see you there.

As a CEO, time is one of your most valuable assets. While managing time is a fundamental professional tool, and you didn't get to where you are by wasting much time, the bar for effective time management is continually rising for CEOs in today’s business world. Come learn key concepts and techniques specific for us as CEOs and begin accomplishing more in less time. Learn how to be productive (and less busy), to identify and eliminate hidden time wasters, to increase personal effectiveness, and to apply a variety of time management tools to a personal plan of action.

Here are links to the event:



CEO Trust

March: Taxes Done; Set Up Financial Files

“We’ve been trying to achieve the mythical paperless office for decades. It’s the business equivalent of the 1950’s chimera, the flying car that we were all going to have by now.” – Steve Brown, “San Francisco Business Times”

Once taxes are completed, pack away last year’s papers and start your files fresh. Set aside an hour or two to simplify next year’s taxes and make life easier every day.

Fresh Files Annually

• Dedicate a file drawer or file box for finances using hanging folders clearly labeled. If your bills are simple, an accordion file with 13 pockets may work. The IRS audits randomly or when they see red flags on a return. If your records are clear and accurate – no problem!

• Create a folder for each vendor bill, insurance and brokerage account. File bills chronologically, most current on top. Some prefer a folder for each expense for categories that correspond with the tax return, such as office supplies, insurance, medical, etc. You’ll still need files for banks, taxes, credit cards, income, etc.

• Separate business and personal finances. Two checking accounts, two credit cards and two sets of bill files using different colors makes accounting cleaner. Have those colored folders on hand so you can make a new file when needed.

• Create a folder for each revenue stream, ie. business income or payroll stubs, investments, inheritance or pensions. Have social security and payroll deposited directly into your account to save time.

• Create a permanent file for important financial documents which live here forever.

• Keep credit card receipts and cash receipts separate. Minimalists discard credit card receipts once they’ve checked the statements. Set up a simple petty cash system for your business since these receipts are the only record for deductible cash purchases.

The Bill Pay System

• A computerized accounting system automatically categorizes and creates reports. I like QuickBooks Pro for business and Quicken for personal finances.

• Hot files in front of the files work well. Create a bright color folder for “Bills to Pay” and a “To File” folder so paid bills don’t get lost if you have no time to file that day. Be sure to file those monthly.

• Pay bills electronically and set up auto-payments for predictable recurring bills like utilities or cable. Monitor when those payments are taken and deduct them from the balance in your check register.

• Log due dates on your calendar. Pay bills weekly or twice a month. When you pay, record amount, date paid and confirmation number on it. Simple!

• Pay on time to avoid costly late charges. With the money saved, buy yourself a reward for good financial management.

Pack Away the Old Year

• I recommend storing backup files for seven years, especially for a business. Consult with your accountant. 
Keep the actual tax returns forever. Home purchase, mortgage docs and other major purchases are kept forever or until you sell. 

• Pack last year’s bills into a box labeled Taxes and Year. Confine it to deep storage as it need not be accessible.

• Finally, discard files of the oldest year in storage to make room for 2010. Shred critical documents with account numbers, signatures, passwords and confidential information to prevent identity theft.

As always, I’m here if you need help.
February: Create a Hot File

Paper and mail everywhere?

With piles of papers and unopened mail on every surface, you feel overwhelmed by all the tasks you need to complete. A better solution is a set of Hot Files or Action Files to hold papers which require action so you can address them in a timely manner.

Set up your personal hot file.

• Set up a bin with select hanging files on or near your desk. Label your files including “this week, next week, to pay, to do, pending, events.” If you have a lot of advance events, projects and appointments, you can set up folders for each month of the year. This simple tickler system is the key to managing paper.

• Use an in-box for the daily mail and papers you collect until you sort and process them. Block time in your calendar weekly to empty the in-box and work on administrative tasks. • I use another box for “to read” as these materials pile up with bulky catalogs and magazines.

• Process the mail. Recycle window envelopes and ads. Shred sensitive materials. Staple multi-page documents. Add bill pay dates and appointments to your calendar and drop papers into their folders. Now you can easily find bills and information for appointments.

Save time, money and stress.

• Cultivate the habit of using hot files daily to keep control of action items. It takes a month to set a habit, so don’t give up.

• For added motivation, indulge in attractive supplies. One saved late fee will more than pay for a beautiful hot file bin and inbox.

• Studies show the average person spends six weeks a year searching for misplaced information. What could you do with that time? You’ll also avoid the stress of missing appointments and payments. You’ll be reinforcing healthy habits.

Need help?

If you’re overwhelmed with a backlog of paper and don’t know where to begin, I can help. As a Professional Organizer, I simplify the process so we handle the piles, boxes, bags and clutter, and set up simple systems custom tailored to work for you.


I offer a complimentary consultation on the phone to discuss your project. If you refer a friend who schedules a four-hour session, you earn a free hour added to your next organizing session. I welcome your emails and calls.


January: New Year’s Resolutions

Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”
– Oprah Winfrey

Confessions of a Clutterholic - Lois Morton
A hilarious song about clutter we can all relate to. (You may need to lower the volume on your computer speakers).

Have you resolved to finally get organized in 2012?

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions we all get stuck, rebel, and often throw in the towel. While the top three resolutions are about eating healthy, exercise and not smoking, getting organized is a close fourth.

Small steps

• Get in touch with the “why,” and the “how” will work itself out. Why do you want to be organized? The stronger your reasons, the more motivation you’ll have. Is it so you can walk easily throughout your home? Is it about being more productive so you can increase your income? Or so you can finally quit losing things in your own home? Or stop paying late fees on bills, etc. Being disorganized is stressful.

• Make a commitment. Organization is a process, not an event. It requires daily maintenance. You don’t brush your teeth once and say “there, now they are clean.”

• Small steps lead to big results. You’ve heard me say it. It’s the Japanese principle of Kaizen, a way of life in which every aspect of our life deserves to be continuously improved through gradual changes. Small and gentle improvements are the way to go.

• Keep your eye on the prize. If you want a Zen room, work on it bit by bit. Every improvement, however small, sparks a pleasurable response in your brain-ways, and reinforces your new decluttering habit.

Creative process

• Develop routines to keep you organized without thinking. Morning routine: stretch, make the bed, tidy the house, make breakfast, wash the dishes, etc. Your routine will start your day off right. Some prefer to tidy the house before bed. Find what works for you.

• New habits take time to set in. It’s never a straight path. It’s a journey with twists and turns along the way. Some backsliding is inevitable. The important thing is if you fall off the horse, get right back on.

• Believe in change as a creative process. Reset your brain toward embracing change rather than resisting it and, as the Chinese fortune cookie promises, you’ll experience many rewards.

To get it done, just start ...

If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, work with a professional. It’s hard going it alone and much more fun with a guide. To finally make your way though the clutter, call on me. Let’s make all your resolutions happen.