In my younger years I kept old papers such as, statements, receipts and cancelled checks for every personal business transaction. My parents didn’t teach me to do this, I just did it because that’s what they did. No one ever told me how long to keep these papers, so needless to say I had quite a bit that I had been storing for many years.
Fast forward to now, the digital age. So many business transactions take place online, over the internet. We use credit and debit cards instead of checks or cash to purchase products and services. There are also intangible payment mechanisms such as Pay Pal for online purchases, or to pay for services and donate to our favorite charities. Many businesses have membership cards or rewards cards to save us money on purchases. There are also apps on cell phones that can be shown to receive discounts, or as airline boarding passes. Most product and service providers give you the option of going paperless by paying bills, and viewing statements and user’s manuals online. Because of this, the amount of paper we need to keep has been dramatically reduced.
Future generations will not have a backlog of papers that their parents and grandparents collected over the years. They will likely store most, if not all their business transactions in some digital form. They will need a way to organize all this digital data, but we can talk about that another day. Today I would like to help us older folks deal with all the papers that we need to discard.
It would be great if we could just pull up a dumpster, throw all these old papers in it, and have someone haul it away. Wouldn’t you agree? Ahh, but of course it’s not that simple, security being the number one reason. Those old papers likely have a lot of personal information on them that identity thieves would love to get their hands on. We also want to be good stewards of the earth by recycling to reduce our carbon footprints.
Shredding is the best strategy to purge old papers that contain personal information. You can also burn your old papers. If you decide to go this route, I recommend that you use an indoor fireplace instead of outdoors. The wind can carry bits of paper away to potentially fall into the wrong hands. The list below shows options to shred your old papers to keep your personal information out of the hands of identity thieves, and free up storage space.
This is the most economical yet time consuming option. Most of us have a paper shredder in our home office or other area of our home. I’m told crosscut shredders are the best; other types create long strips that could potentially be taped together. There is something therapeutic about shredding papers, however, you can get burnt out quickly if you try to do it all at once. Pace yourself, do a little at a time.
There are a number of companies that provide secure shredding services for a fee. They vary on charges but typically charge by the pound. Office Depot/Office Max stores provide shredding services. A local St. Louis company, The File Room provides a variety of document services that includes shredding.
Banks & Credit Unions
Some banks and credit unions have data destruction boxes onsite for their customers. You could take some papers with you each time you visit the bank. It could take a long time but you could get it done securely for free.
Local Shred Events
Typically in the spring, many local banks and credit unions conduct free shred events to securely dispose of personal information. They schedule a shredding company to bring a truck to their parking lot for a few hours. It’s free for a box of paper with a maximum weight limit that they set; you have to pay a fee for additional papers.
Do you use another way to securely purge your old papers?