Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ceremony of Transition

I've been working (on & off) on this year's big downsizing purge.  The first thing I addressed was a glut of old documents, documents that have accumulated since I moved into this house at end of 2002.  That's over 14 years.  Long enough.

Back in 2007 (I think - can't find the old photos) I girded myself and finally shredded all documents pertaining to my OLD house.  Yep.  I always worried I'd have to prove to a bank, a vendor, a tax collector, etc., that things were OK.  Shredding that up took me using my little home shredder and I ended up with bags and bags of paper to recycle.

I decided not to go that route this time around.  Instead, I took time to go through a lot of business and personal history, set aside sentimental/important items and put the rest in file boxes after I removed all clips, bands, clamps, covers, spines and folders.  What went in the boxes were straight paper.

Ended up with 5 heavy boxes I could not lift (shoulder) so a friend took them downstairs and loaded them into the car.  Yesterday I drove the lot to a professional, secure documentation destruction facility about 10 miles south.

I got lost and had to phone them for help.  They were so friendly (U-Shredd-It - kind of a misnomer as THEY shred it).  They were waiting for me outside by the door (waving and smiling) with a security bin when I did arrive.  They unloaded the boxes, dumped them into the bin, and we all walked it into the building where the bin went into the shredding room and I went into the observation office.  I watched in silence.  Everything older than 3 years: bank statements, cancelled checks, utility bills, investment documents, business transactions.  Medical & Rx info. Defunct insurances. I got emotional thinking of the years of pay stubs, printouts of some of my best computer programs, technical/training manuals I'd written.  I even let go (after a final reading) of wonderful job evaluations from bosses and colleagues.  Old bank/savings accounts, long closed, when I was saving for the new house. There it all went.  Over 135# of it.

I apologized for the sniffle to the associate who was watching with me while she prepared my invoice.  But to me it was a ceremony, I had needed to find a facility that had a viewing station.  I didn't want to just leave my stuff at a free shredding place, locked or not.  This paper had meaning.  History.  It's destruction had to be witnessed.  Because now I'm at a place in my life where I COULD let go of paper that said I was good at my jobs, that I was financially acute, that I pay my bills, that I had managed to pay off 2 houses in my life.  I was ready to let go the dusty evidence, free up the space (mentally and physically) and live more in the now.

The associate said business witnesses come for security reasons when they watch.  But most regular folks (like me) are there for emotional reasons: loss of a family member, someone going into assisted living, downsizing, etc.  Like me, they find comfort knowing this stuff is not just going to trash, but being efficiently destroyed, compressed, baled and recycled into useful things like cardboard, etc.  Circle of life.

Anyway, Terry (the owner) wouldn't allow me to bring home even a small handful of my shedded material due to strict HIPPA security laws.  He did, however, shred up some unimportant paper I brought along so I could show you how well the process works.  (see bottom center pic)

I will use this facility again in the future when I start divesting myself of a backlog of old computer equipment, because they have machines that destroy computer data storage items like harddrives, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, VHS backup, etc.  These items are shredded into bits, then melted down for recycling.  

Bottom line, watching the shred was a good experience.  Safe, secure and, comforting.  I, personally, needed closure.

Okay, off to sorting books.  At least I know after going through a dozen boxes (never opened since I moved here) anything that doesn't make the cut can go right to the local Friends of the Library group for their annual book sale.  Much less emotional to be sure.  I'll let THEM decide what is saleable and what should be recycled.

How about you?  How do you deal with these situations?  Do you just pitch stuff?  Worry about security? Any emotional involvement?


Hey, found the old 2007 Jan photos of that shred.  Impressive, no?  And it took me days and days.  The trip to the shredding company VERY worthwhile! 


  1. I am pitching more freely than I used to. I think I have a box of records that are 30 years old with old checks and stuff. It is all going as those memories written on checks are long gone. I am evaluating the need for a lot of stuff as I see a big move coming up in my life.

    1. Don't know about you, Larry, but I really have to be 'on my game' when I start sorting stuff else I falter and put it off. If you're coming up on a move, now is the time to start. I did it wrong. I brought all my stuff WITH me when I moved and had to deal with it later. Good luck on your project. P.S. I keep all my creative writing - even back to high school. That stuff is priceless to me.

  2. Anything deemed "private" gets burned.
    I'm sitting with 3 old laptops that I'm afraid to get rid of because of all my personal info on them. I don't know of any local places to take them and don't trust anyone.
    Not paranoid--just careful.
    I am starting a slow cleanout of books---I have over a thousand. I am rereading every one and FINALLY getting rid of the ones I just don't LOVE. I probably have 200 books I could never part with--the ones I reread every winter or use for reference.
    Good luck on your continued purge. It sure feels good, doesn't it?
    PS--Its supposed to be 56 today. Did I die and not know it? Feels WONDERFUL out there!!!

    1. I won't burn paper in my fireplace - it soots up the chimney and we aren't allowed trash fires due to EPA. Shredding is the way to go. Bet I also have 8-900 books. I'm weeding ruthlessly knowing the rejects will go to good homes (hopefully). Almost 50F here, sunny. Too windy though. Been days of high winds and it's annoying.

  3. Bonfires! and we need to get one going soon. MIL gave us a yard bag full of her things. I do regularly shred bank statements deskside.

    1. Nope, no bonfires allowed here. From now on I'll keep the obligatory 3 years of stuff and shred the 4th year from now on.

  4. Interesting post. i thought it especially odd about not being able to take a bit of your own shredded information due to HIPPA security laws. But then, application of many laws make no sense, even though the spirit of the law does.

    1. I'm glad they ARE so strict - one way in, and only one way out - shredded and bailed and off to be recycled/reused. Better than burning - no air pollution and materials are recovered. Will use them when I've sorted out old HDs, CDs, floppies, etc.


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