Ok, the end goal that decluttering efforts have is to get rid of clutter over all. I'm generally a fan of anything that reduces the amount of stuff that you have in any form or fashion, and sometimes you can actually bring something into your home that will help. A paperwork shredder is near the top of that list for me - it's an item that is relatively inexpensive, improves your safety (identity, financial, etc), and helps declutter. As with anything that is brought into the home, you need to identify why you are bringing it into your home and how it will either help you get rid of clutter, serve a long term sentimental value, or be regularly used. In this case, a paperwork shredder will definitely help get rid of clutter!
How will bringing in a shredder help reduce clutter?
Good question - and something that we should ask of anything that will allegedly help us in our efforts. Even though it may seem straightforward, as in the case of a shredder, it is a good habit to get into and keep. With that in mind, here is a quick list of the benefits of having a paperwork shredder in your home:
- Safely dispose of personal documents (no personal info into the trash or recycling)
- Quickly deals with extra paperwork
- Serves one purpose and does it well
- Eliminates paperwork that would otherwise be laying around the home
Now that we have that answered, we can see that there are some real and tangible benefits to owning a paper shredder. I can speak from experience on these benefits; I have used several and recently purchased a medium sized version from Amazon for my home. The main improvements to paperwork clutter that I have found have been in the following areas:
- I don't let mail accumulate on counters or in my "inbox" (see this article for tips on dealing with mail). Even if you do put your mail into one central location it doesn't help much if you let it grow into a huge, out of control pile! With the shredder I can immediately go through the mail and get rid of anything with personal information that I don't want to toss into the recycling bin or garbage. Previously I had found myself occasionally thinking, "Oh, well this letter from the bank has private info on it, I will put that aside to be dealt with later and then tear it up or cut it up...". Nine times out of ten that resulted in envelopes and letters scattered on tabletops and counters - the exact opposite of what we want to have happen. For myself, this reason alone makes having the shredder worth it.
- My files and records are much thinner! Ok, part of this reason is due to filing away only the needed documents and scanning in the others. However, whenever I go through my documents and find something that needs to go I have no reason to hold onto it. I can safely dispose of it right away.
- Knowing that you have a good way to deal with private information, bank statements, and the like when you have a shredder will put you in the mindset of dealing with it correctly and right away. If you don't have that option you are much more likely to put it off and let it become another piece of paper or envelope that becomes clutter in your home...
I've used some good shredders and bad shredders over the years, most recently I went with the Amazon branded paper shredder and have been very happy with it. It is what I would call a "medium sized" shredder; it can handle several pages at once, but it isn't going to cut up a magazine or anything like that in one go! It has a few nice features such as an "auto" setting that detects when the paper is being input and turns on, shreds the page, and then turns off.
Alternatives to a paper shredder
What can you do if you don't want a paperwork shredder or don't think that it would be a good fit for you right now? I would advise you to follow the steps in my dealing with mail article and to set up a way to deal with letters that contain private information. Some common options are:
- Your workplace may have a shredder that you could use to securely destroy documents with private information (always ask before using for private documents!)
- A family member or friend may let you use theirs
- Cutting the documents by hand with scissors may work, although it can be tough to ensure all information is obscured by cutting into small enough pieces
Whatever your choice is when dealing with paperwork clutter, the bottom line is that you need to have a system in place to deal with it - starting over each time is tough and is the reason a lot of people have a difficult time dealing with clutter, there is no "system" in place to help them! So, make it easier on yourself and make sure you are ready to deal with this type of clutter before it becomes an issue.
Do you have a good way of dealing with personal documents with private information? I'd like to hear about it - especially if it's quick, safe, and low cost!