Despite our best efforts, most of us are still weighed down by personal papers in our lives, whether it is offers for new credit cards in the mail, to bills from utility companies, copies of documents from medical visits to financial statements from our bank.
It’s estimated that per person, Americans still use an average of 700 pounds of paper products each year! Trying to wrap our arms around what to do with this onslaught of paper can be overwhelming.
Take note for the next month of what comes in the mail. Each time something arrives, decide if you can receive that information via email or text notification. For example, can that doctor’s report be sent via an alert to a secure online system where you can download the file, so you don’t accumulate more paper that you will need to shred? It’s estimated that over 40% of municipal solid waste is paper! Let’s at least get it recycled.
If you have a small personal shredder at home, create a bin by it to drop in any paperwork you receive and don’t need, that has a personal identifier on it. Non-personal papers can go into the recycling bin. Be disciplined about shredding every week.
Why shred? According to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll, nearly 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft!
Some of the things that should be shredded include ATM receipts, credit card and sales receipts (unless needed for taxes), old utility bills, bank and financial institution statements (unless you need them for the current tax year or to keep as part of your tax filing), old pay stubs, medical bills or pharmacy receipts (unless you have an unresolved insurance dispute), cancelled checks, expired warranties, old car or home insurance policies.
Consumer Reports suggests keeping paper files in 4 categories: to keep for less than a year; to keep for a year or more; to keep for 7 years or to keep forever. There is lots of good information online from the government as well – take a look at this article called A Pat Rack’s Guide to Shredding.
After you start to cull the paper coming into the home, focus next on papers in filing cabinets, drawers, or elsewhere in your home.
Look for shredding events if your home shredder can’t handle the volume or you can’t handle the time to shred! Business supply stores also have shredding bins available to deposit papers for about $1 per pound. Put your paper on the bathroom scale and find out how many pounds you can shed!
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