Here are the criteria you need to know when choosing to trash or shred documents when getting rid of paper piles.
And before all the recyclers jump on me, when I say the word "trash" in this context I just mean what items you can get out of your home, hopefully into a recycling bin, with the distinction of not having to do anything extra to it before it leaves.
The crux of what this article is about is to address two competing concerns many people have when decluttering paper.
On the one hand decluttering itself takes a lot of time. You sometimes have to go paper by paper deciding whether to keep it or toss it.
After all that effort it is tempting to just dump everything you've decided to get rid of into a recycling bin or dumpster and walk away. After all, adding an additional step to shred or otherwise destroy those papers makes the process of getting rid of paper clutter take even longer.
On the other hand, we are often concerned to get rid of any of our papers and documents because we don't want personal information to get out there, which can be a huge concern with identity theft and financial crimes that are perpetuated when someone dishonest gets this type of information.
It can seem simpler to just keep it all instead of worrying that someone will harm you if you've made an effort to clear out your home of all the excess.
So I hope this definitive guide to what does and does not need to be shredded or destroyed helps alleviate your concerns about these two competing interests so you can move past this roadblock and get rid of that paper clutter!
The FTC estimates that 10 million Americans are the victim of identity theft each year. Do what you can to avoid that statistic while decluttering by guarding your sensitive personal information.
Sensitive personal information that could be contained on documents include Social Security number, account numbers, your signature, date of bith, phone number, email address, driver's license number, passwords or PIN numbers, and medical, financial or legal information about yourself.
Often knowing what categories of documents should just be shredded (or otherwise destroyed) is easier than saying, "anything with sensitive personal information." So I've also come up with this top 15 list of types of documents to shred.
Please note that some of these items, like tax returns for example, should be saved for a number of years within your filing system before discarding. This is just a reminder than when it's time to discard some of this paper don't just dump it in the trash can, but take some additional steps first!
1. Preapproved credit card offers and applications.
2. Expired debit and credit cards (choose a shredder that can handle these plastic cards, or cut them up using a pair of scissors).
3. Credit card statements.
4. Credit card receipts.
5. Credit reports and histories.
6. Bank account statements.
7. ATM receipts.
8. Cancelled (and voided) checks.
9. Paycheck stubs.
10. Utility and phone bills.
11. Investment documents, including account information.
12. Insurance policy information and claims.
13. Tax returns.
14. Expired ID cards and passports (after you get the new one!).
15. Medical and dental records.
We're almost done now with the section of the series dealing with your accumulated paper clutter, and soon we're going to start focusing instead on building our systems and routines to keep the paper from accumulating so much again.
But before we do there is one final piece of the puzzle, as it relates to getting rid of all those paper piles. And that final piece is to know what dccuments to keep, and for how long, before they can be tossed. So that's what we're addressing next in the Paper Organization Series!
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I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!