After following our tips and tricks on what to keep, what to toss, and what to digitize, you might find yourself with an intimidating pile of papers that you can't exactly throw in the recycling bin. Should you shred it yourself? Should you have someone else do it for you? Between all the different types of shredders you can buy and the shredding services you can use, we cut through the clutter to find the easiest, safest way to dispose of your sensitive documents.
How to Choose a Paper Shredder:
For DIYers or small households, shredding your own documents is easy and effective, and provides the most peace of mind. It also lets you shred as you go, rather than filling up a box first — for some procrastinators, it could be weeks before you actually do something with it.
When choosing a paper shredder, consider how much and what type of paper you'll be shredding regularly. Smaller deskside versions are capable of handling a few sheets at a time, while larger shredders can be fed dozens of sheets in a single pass-through. Some work best with thin sheets of paper, while others are heavy-duty enough to shred credit cards.
For best results, avoid strip shredders, which simply slice your documents into thin strips running the whole length of the document. These strips (which can sometimes be as wide as half an inch) are easy to reassemble for the determined and patient thief.
Go with cross-cut shredders, which are slower but more secure than strip shredders. Cross-cut shredders cut your documents into rectangular, parallelogram, or diamond-shaped shreds, turning them into fine pieces of confetti.
Micro-cut shredders take things a step further by nearly obliterating your documents into tiny, unreadable particles that are up to four times smaller than the shreds you get from cross-cut shredders.
How to Choose a Shredding Service
If you don't have the time or inclination to do it yourself, a shredding service may be the way to go. Most office supply stores like Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max offer secure shredding in their copy centers; they shred your documents into a locked box while you wait and watch. The fee is generally around 99 cents per pound.
For large-volume shredding, you may want to go with a professional document destruction service such as Shred-it, which operates hundreds of locations worldwide. These services usually also offer other types of sensitive-data destruction, such as pulverizing your hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and films.
A good way to search for reputable shredding services in your area is to Yelp or Google "shredding service" or "document destruction," then check out their reviews. Verify that the company is NAID AAA Certified (a security and procedural standard set forth by the National Association for Information Destruction) and has positive standing with the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau.
Depending on the service, you could have a mobile shredding truck come to your location and do all the shredding onsite, or you could drop off all your bags and boxes at their site.