Thoughts on Shredding

I got to thinking about shredding today because I need to clean up a lot of paperwork and old mail and I wondered if I really need to shred anything with my name and address on it. I usually do this with everything that goes into the recycling or trash.

I shred any paperwork with identifiable information on it: medical, financial, school or employment related stuff with my name or address on it. But I also rip the address section off of catalogs, magazines, and junk mail and shred that. That’s an awful lot of fussing around with stuff you really just want to throw out, so I decided to look online to see what is recommended.

All of the security type sites encourage people to shred anything at all with their name and address on it. Other sites where people are just discussing it are more varied. A lot of people question the purpose of this caution, and what I gleaned from this is that it makes a difference what someone could learn from what you are throwing out. Knowing that you get an L.L.Bean catalog or subscribe to a news magazine probably isn’t of any use to anyone. However, knowing that you went (or go) to a particular high school or college actually does help to identify you. So does knowing where you work, and of course who your relatives and friends are.

My conclusion is that I will shred anything that really says something about me. If it is an affiliation like schools, employers or groups I’m a member of, I’ll still be removing my name and address and shredding that. For junk mail that everyone gets that says nothing identifiable about me, I think that can just go in the bin intact. And catalogs and magazines that don’t identify my school/work affiliations can also go without shredding. Of course I’ll still be shredding the obvious things like financial and medical documents, and cutting up old credit cards etc. Also any credit card offers in the mail. One thing I was reminded of when I researched this is to shred your signature on anything too.

What do you think? Am I being overly cautious or not cautious enough?

My ancient decrepit shredder

My very old, very simple shredder

My old strip shredder is probably sufficient for me because I bag up and deliver my shredded paper directly to the Zero-Sort recycling bin at my local transfer station. I think if it went in the garbage or a bin for pickup at your home, a cross-cut shredder would be more secure. To further confuse the issue, recycled shredded paper is less valuable the smaller the pieces. But that’s just another reason not to shred everything (and certainly an argument for composting shredded paper)