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Officiency in the Media

Call to Order: How to Get Life's Ducks in a Row

by Betsy Lehndorff

Rocky Mountain News, www.rockymountainnews.com
April 25, 2005

Maybe it was just plain bad luck - the time you were in an accident and your car was towed with your keys in the ignition. When you got home, exhausted and dazed, you discovered you were locked out.

What a time to realize you didn't have a spare key.

Instead of bad luck, maybe your organization skills were at fault.

"When you're in those moments, you're really not at your best," says K.J. McCorry, president of Officiency in Boulder. "The calmer and more organized you are, the easier it is for other people to help you."

The solution is to goof-proof your life. With a few simple steps, you can greatly improve your chances of getting through relatively unscathed the next time bad luck strikes.

Being organized also prevents loss, says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Institute. She recommends you make an inventory of your household goods in case of a fire or break-in.

With credit-card and identity theft rampant, reorganize your bill-paying routine while you're at it, she says.

Both are estimated to cost the public more than $12 billion a year.

Here are seven ways to get started:

Inventory your wallet or purse

  • What you'll need: a copy machine

  • In a pinch: use pen and paper

  • Time: 10 minutes

  • Cost: less than $1

  • Action: Make a copy of the front and back of your credit cards, membership cards, driver's license and other IDs. Copy a check from your account. Also write down the customer-service telephone number for your cell phone.

  • Why: If you lose your wallet or purse, it will be easy to contact these businesses and protect yourself from identity theft.

Create a list of emergency-contact phone numbers.

  • What you'll need: pen and paper

  • Time: 10 to 20 minutes

  • Action: Write down telephone numbers of your neighbors, nearby relatives, children's schools, your husband or wife's boss, your doctors, pharmacy, attorney, plumber, mechanic and other essential people in your life. Make two copies. Keep one with you. Give one to your spouse, and file the other at home or work.

  • Why: Get in a jam and you'll locate help right away.

Shred documents.

  • Time: less than 30 minutes

  • Cost: Prices start at about $30.

  • Action: Visit a local office-supply store and buy an electric shredder. At home, plug it in where you pay bills. Instead of throwing them away, shred bank and credit-card statements, credit-card offers and documents that show your Social Security number.

  • Why: These documents contain personal information that can blow about in the wind at your local landfill.

  • While you're at it: Get into the habit of mailing your payments at your local post office instead of leaving them unprotected in an unlocked mailbox.

Protect your computer

  • Time: a few minutes to several hours

  • Cost: $30 to $50

  • Action: Since you're at an office-supply store looking for a shredder, pick up a surge protector and virus-protection software.

  • Why: The software helps protect you from people trying to hack into your computer and obtain personal information, says Sharon Mann, president of the I Hate Filing Club at www.pendaflex.com.

  • While you're at it: Back up your computer files daily, scan important documents into your computer for record-keeping, and store a backup set of computer disks at a friend or relative's house.

Leave a house key with a trusted neighbor

  • Time: a few minutes if you have duplicate keys

  • Cost: $2 to $5 for extra keys

  • Action: Organizations such as Neighborhood Watch encourage you to get to know your neighbors and watch out for one another. If you know a family in your neighborhood whom you trust, ask whether you can leave a house key with them. If they aren't home much, ask whether you can hide a key on their property, says Mann. But keep the location to yourself.

Organize your car's glove box

  • Time: 20 minutes

  • Cost: $10 to $20

  • Action: Place your current registration and proof-of-insurance card in an envelope, along with some cab fare and parking-meter change. Add a pair of reading glasses (if you need them), a flashlight, a tablet of paper and a pen. Lock the glove box.

  • Why: If you're pulled over for speeding or have been in an accident, your organized glove box puts everything you need at your fingertips.

Inventory your home's contents

  • Time: two to four hours

  • Cost: free, if you have a camera

  • Action: Go online to www.rmiia.org and click on Home Inventory. Print out the form and fill it in. Or contact your insurance company for a form.

If you have a video camera, use it to document your valuable possessions. Or take photographs of everything, using a disposable camera."Start by making a list of your possessions, describing each item and noting where you bought it and its make and model," Walker says. "Clip to your list any sales receipts, purchase contracts and appraisals."While you're at it: Get out your insurance policy and see whether you need to update your coverage."If you have a $5,000 TV, insurance companies aren't just going to take your word for it, but they will work with you," Walker says. "The more documentation you have the better. It will speed up the settlement process, and you are going to be a whole lot happier."

Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.