One of the joys of blogging is hearing from thoughtful readers, like one who shared a post from a web developer and business owner; who was surprised by the memories that came up when his accountant advised him to shred old business records.
What caught my imagination, though, was picturing this good man hunched over a dinky home office shredder, feeding in five years’ worth of receipts:
“Two whole entire compost bins full of shredded document garbage, to be exact.”
It made my back hurt just to think about it; and I do yoga*, people.
If I can save one person from the misery of dealing with those crappy little home shredders, this blog will be worth it.
I hate home paper shredding machines that much.
They’re expensive. They’re fussy. They jam. They’re hazardous if you get clothing or fingers caught in them. They break easily and you have to replace them, cha-ching, cha-ching. They’re noisy. They’re inconvenient to use. They’re ugly, yet take up a ton of space. They fall over easily (at least in my house, they did). They require lots of maintenance from you: emptying, vacuuming, oiling**, unsnagging, shopping for a new one because they hardly ever last.
Here are two alternatives to hunching over one of those gawdawful machines:
Okay, deep cleansing breaths, and indulge me for just a minute.
This is one of these situations where you have to remember what you are (probably) not:
If you are a secret agent, a celebrity, or working on highly confidential stuff that you print at home (!!!), see Alternative #2 below.
The main culprits for identity theft from papers stored in your household, unfortunately, are also known as “family,” “friends,” and “caregivers,” some of whom will fraudulently open bank accounts or empty yours, if they have opportunities to snap cell phone pics of your papers. I could tell you some heartbreaking stories about this.
Professional identity thieves prefer to steal online (much less work than breaking into millions of houses).
If we’re talking about your personal household paper records, you get maaaaaybe 20 documents a year with truly confidential numbers that someone could use to steal from you: social security numbers, pin numbers, birth dates. Cross out the number with a black marker, or use this excellent and effective office toy: a security stamp. I think the security stamp does a better job at obscuring text than a marker, but markers work too.
Your credit card number on receipts? It generally just shows the last four digits. In fact, your credit card number is a public number: it’s the expiration date and security code that you want to protect.
Your checking account number is also a public number. It’s written all over your checks, which you give to strangers.
Junk mail: tear it in half and use two different waste bins for it. You could put one half in a slow motion recycle bin. Financial statements, health information: throw them out with the cat litter, or other garbage that no one would want to dig through.
You probably don’t need a shredder at all.
But let’s say you do need papers shredded, or are security and privacy-minded***, like me.
I’m talking commercial records management businesses that use industrial shredders and send out mobile shredding trucks. (I speak from having supervised the process of discarding hundreds of boxes of confidential records, at two different sites…)
Let a REAL shredder do the job. You can watch for community shred days, which in my neighborhood are usually sponsored by a local bank.
Shredding trucks are fabulous. In my heart, they are the REAL monster trucks.
If you have a business with lots of confidential records, or you really don’t feel comfortable with not shredding at all, find a shredding company. Look for a place that advertises to medical clinics, because quite honestly they’ll get sued six ways from Sunday if they don’t securely destroy those papers.
And you don’t have to be a medical clinic, or wait for a community shred day!
Many of them will also sell you these nifty shred bags:
Every year or two, I waltz into my local records management company and buy a $10 bag. (With these, you pay for the bag, and its future shredding, up front.)
Then I fill it up, seal it, bring it to them to destroy, and buy another one.
You might be wondering what’s in that bag.
Morning pages, of course.
And I never have to deal with one of those home paper shredder nightmare contraptions again.
The story of this empty box (29 October 2022). Available at: https://daverupert.com/2022/10/the-story-of-this-empty-box/ (Accessed: 3 November 2022).
* My yoga routine would make a real practitioner laugh; but I no longer have back pain, so there’s that.
** Yeah, you’re supposed to spend irreplaceable moments of your one irreplaceable life oiling those stupid things! In addition to everything else they demand from you.
*** This is gentler than calling myself “paranoid”…
**** BONUS NOTE ….but what if the shredding company went out of business?? Would I get a home shredder then? NO. NEVER. I would put “grill night” on the menu and fire up our trusty charcoal grill with document tinder in the charcoal grill chimney. Mmmmmmm…. Document-smoked chorizo, onions, and peppers…