UNITED STATES—We all have it, and many of us have a place in our home where we stuff all that junk mail that we receive on a daily and weekly basis. I used to be exceptional at opening junk mail and discarding it in a timely fashion. However, lately that has changed, because it seems when I get the junk mail I just stash it somewhere. What is the problem with that? I have a ton of mail sitting on the dresser and I now have to decipher how to get rid of what is not important and ensure I keep what is important.

What has delayed the issue? My paper shredder which I think I have had for years abruptly broke and I am now on the hunt for a new one. Yes, I shred junk mail, old credit card statements and things of importance that I don’t want other people getting their hands on. I have even shredded old credit cards (multiple times to be honest) to discard any traces. I hate to be paranoid, but you do have people out there who will sift through a person’s trash to find any and everything they can utilize to steal a person’s identity.

Yes, it sucks to say that, but until you have your identity stolen you have no idea of the frustration that comes with that. I mean you credit cards are compromised, your credit reports, your tax refunds, it is just an absolute and utter mess, plain and simple. I know people who were placed in situations where someone attempted to file a federal tax return using their social security number. As a result, their refund was delayed and they had to wait nearly a year, yes a year before they could get the funds that they were owed by the government.

So this is where it becomes important to ensure you don’t allow ANYTHING of importance to float out there in the world. If it has your name, telephone number, address, social security number, credit card details, ensure you properly destroy or discard it so others don’t have the opportunity to get their hands on it. So where does one start with junk mail. At this point, you probably have a good idea of typical junk mail; I’m referring to those things that you get in the mail EVERY single week. This is usually in reference to those inquiries to take out a loan to eliminate credit card debt or those constant inquiries from credit card companies hoping to get you to sign up.

Don’t allow the notion of having more spending power impact your ability to sign up for something that you will regret in the future. Is there such a thing as having too many credit cards? Without a doubt, but at the exact same time, you have to find a way to adjust your situation where even though a piece of junk mail can be tempting its sitting there for a reason. If it was of utter importance you would have opened it right away and not delayed the process.

Now, if you’re going to start shredding things I would highly recommend at least a 10-page, diamond cut shredder. Yes, 6 is the norm, but 10 allows you to shred more in a timely fashion and the diamond cut ensures the paper is decimated to the point that it is very difficult to piece together. It might be paranoia, but it is better to be safe than sorry in my personal opinion; take it or leave it. In addition, after I have shredded everything I want to discard, I take it a step further and totally soak the trash bag with the shredded documents with water. If the paper is matted and curdled up, you really won’t be retrieving anything if you dig in my trash. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Once you’ve significantly cut down that load of junk mail, make sure you make it a pattern to make it a habit. Rather that is once a week, once a month, once every 2-3 months that you shred junk mail and reorganize your paperwork, so anything of importance is not lost or discarded in the mix. They do call it junk mail for a reason, but at the same time your identity is on that junk mail, don’t just allow it to fall in the wrong hands.