How to get rid of documents

Years ago I began to be amused at the growing paranoia that was causing everyone I know to shred. “Shred your documents!” someone was yelling — probably in TV advertising but I don’t remember because I wasn’t paying attention.

Even though I was aware of the garbalogists (or is it “garbologists?”) who dove into celebrity garbage to collect … well, what did they collect? So I did understand if you were a celebrity and did not want some borderline lunatic fan-expert thrusting his mitts into your leavings and writing some sort of monograph about your eating habits, yes, shred.

But I’m not a celebrity. Moreover, I have a powerful antibody to paranoia. That is, I don’t think I’m important enough — as you know, grandiosity is one side of the paranoid coin — for anyone to go through my garbage. I don’t even drink liquids from recyclable bottles and cans.

After a while, though, I decided that shredding by hand my credit card receipts, just in case any of them had printed my account number in full, was a not bad idea. So I did that.

And when I got to my lawsuits, one of which is, as you know, against someone who lives in my building and uses the same garbage bins, I did start to shred. By hand. I wasn’t going to spend any money on an electric shredder, nor did I have the room for it, nor did I have any appreciation for the mechanism which regularly jams, and takes only a couple of pages at a time, and fills itself instantly, necessitating constant emptying into some sort of bag, probably blue, and what a pain in the neck the whole thing is.

Until I found a cunning little shredder at the Container Store. It costs around $10, looks like a scissors and works like a scissors, except that when you cut a piece of paper the gadget shreds it. It works well enough on single pieces of paper or old credit cards. But what do you do with piles of 8-1/2 x 11 paper, i.e., computer printed documents?

You take the pile over to Staples where you weigh it, pay around 80 cents per pound and dump everything into a locked bin which is emptied regularly and taken to an outside shredding mill.

Still, people shred too much. My 95 year old aunt has a shredder and shreds away. But what? Because she also keeps too much — ancient electric bills and the like. I told her that the only stuff she has to keep is tax deductible receipts (which should be with her tax records, anyway) and seven to ten years worth of banking statements.

But nobody listens to me and, honestly, I’m perfectly cheerful about it. I listen to me and shred only what is privileged and/or private and/or dangerous. Although I’m a litigant I am still not a celebrity and if all goes well I never will be.


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