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How to embrace your shredder … and what to discard

  By May 30, 2014

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I’m a bit of a purger.

When furniture or a knickknack breaks, I’m inclined to throw it away, rather than save it for 10 years, hoping I’ll find someone who can fix it.

I wasn’t always that way.

About 10 years ago, I owned a table that had been my great-grandmother’s. Then, with slight pressure, the frame cracked in two. I was heart-broken. I knew it was too heavy to transport on my own, and even if someone could repair it, would I ever trust it again around small children?

That 100-year-old table stayed in my dining room for a year, too loved to be thrown away. But, eventually, after much internal struggle, I came to the realization that our lives would be just as full without the repaired table. So, with the help of neighbors, we hauled the table to the curb. I’ve never looked back.

That act was so freeing for me. I’ve since rented dumpsters twice, purging my house of items we no longer use, whether broken or of a prior decade. I love having a house free of clutter, no small task when you have two teenage boys.

But there’s one thing I wasn’t able to free myself of completely: mail.

I knew that I should be destroying statements, credit card offers, old credit cards for reasons of security, but I couldn’t seem to get myself to Office Depot to use their shredder. What if I needed that scrap of paper at some point? My old tendencies of holding onto things too long remained with mail. But eventually, the mail pile would get to me, and I’d cut up the cards and bills in a spontaneous purge. But I still couldn’t take that final step toward shredding. It was too permanent.

Then, I began packing for the move to our new house. I found a box of old checks I hadn’t thrown away since our last move. My husband, Mo, saw me tearing up the checks and took charge. He bought a shredder from Best Buy, brought it home and plopped it down in the dining room. Within minutes, I was shredding old bills and the old checks. The kids took their turn. Even the collie came by and sniffed this noisy new contraption.

Having a shredder is the next natural step for a purger. It allows for instant gratification when you are trying to clean up the mail pile, the last bastion of hoarding. But there is the risk you will freeze when you are trying to make decisions. Lifehacker.com posts that once you decide what documents to keep (he lists some suggestions), you should shred everything else. He writes, “A good rule of thumb to think about when you’re deciding what to keep is to think about how hard that document is to replace.”

FightIdentityTheft.com says you should shred anything with a signature, account number, Social Security number, or legal or medical information. They go into much more detail, advising you even shred address labels from junk mail and magazines.

TheNest.com advises that you pick a shredder that does more than cut your documents lengthwise. There are cross-cut, confetti and diamond-cut shredders. Mo bought a cross-cut shredder.

I can’t believe it took me this long to finally get a shredder. And if it hadn’t been for the quick-thinking of Mo, I might still be cutting checks with scissors (although I admit to a slight tinge of panic every time I run something in the shredder). If getting rid of the table was my first big step toward purging, the shredder was the next natural progression.


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