Shred Your Way to a Cleaner Apartment

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Here's another to-do while prepping for your taxes: Take a close look at those boxes of old documents (tax returns, receipts, and more) that have cluttered up your apartment. Consider shredding your way to a cleaner, less cluttered space. Recommendations for IRS record-keeping vary for individuals but the minimum time to keep paperwork on hand in case of audit is from three to seven years for important documents like tax returns, W-2s and 1099s. Documents relating to a property sale need to be kept longer.

With the increased threats of identity theft, an at-home shredder is a must-have to dispose of those dead files, and importantly those with social security number or bank account numbers. And an in-home shredder is an effective way to de-clutter, too. The New York Times wonders if it's the new Spring cleaning essential. Or you can find a professional shredding service that will come directly to you.
Shredding is the safest way to dispose of important papers and private information. Los Angeles-based attorney Maybelline Efram (and former judge on "Divorce Court") has used a mobile shredding service for 10 years. In one hour, the company recently pulverized 25 boxes of legal documents she had stored.

"It's ideal for women, since there's no heavy lifting," says Efrem of the mobile shredding service that pulled up in front of her garage in Los Angeles. Efram utilized Paper Recycling & Shredding Specialists, a family owned firm, that not only cross-cut shreds documents but removes the debris for recycling. (The documents are most commonly recycled into tissue products like napkins and paper towels).

Don Weijland, president Paper Recycling & Shredding Specialists, finds there's an increased trend of individuals using his services. "Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S.," says Weijland, citing statistics and news reports from the National Association of Information Destruction. While it might seem far-fetched that someone would go through a building dumpster, all a criminal needs is your name, address and social security number to steal your identity. Weijland recommends shredding all mail (even circulars) that have your name and address on them.

But how to get started? Tax time is ideal for purging files, notes professional organizer Beth Zeigler of Bneato. She conducts organizing boot camps where clients learn what paperwork to keep and file and what to dispose of (via shredding, of course). "Paperwork is a universal problem, as stuff is always coming at us," says Zeigler who writes a helpful blog on getting your stuff together. She finds that when people get overwhelmed, they put off organizing. Her tips include how to set up an uncomplicated, user-friendly and practical filing system.

And once you're organized, start shredding those papers you're tossing out!


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