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When Shredding Sparks Joy and Teaches Lessons


Photo by Christina Bailey

In the spirit of the KonMari craze that seems to have overtaken Netflix and everything else, Christina and I have been decluttering our home. I guess we're supposed to get rid of everything that doesn't "spark joy," which is why our office file drawers were the perfect place to start. If there's ever a pit of darkness that triggers a person's most depressive instincts, it's in the folders upon folders of miscellanea that pile up in an office until the end of time.

We came across stacks of confidential documents that contained former clients' personal information and concluded we no longer needed to keep them on file. They no longer sparked joy, but the thought of shredding them into oblivion sure did.

Once the shredder started whirring, it didn't take long for the kiddos to crowd into the office hoping to help with the destructive process. Children gravitate towards destruction. And when they aren't busy being destruction's agents, they are its most loyal spectators.

We were tempted to send them packing and do all the shredding ourselves, but I reminded myself that parents have the awful habit of not allowing children to help them work when they show an interest in what we're doing. We think to ourselves that it's too much trouble to have to teach them, and then we wait until children no longer want to help us before conscripting them as members of our chore squadron. Fortunately, I was thinking long-term and invited them to shred and shred some more.

When the kids noticed that we were shredding some documents and not others, rather than brush aside their questions and telling them to do as they were told, we took the time to explain that there's no need to shred something that doesn't contain confidential information. We also told them that there are people who go through garbage to find personal details like dates of birth and social security numbers.

Telling your children that people sift through garbage for valuable personal information felt a little over the top, to be honest. I kind of felt like I was scaring my kids with stories of the boogie man, but they took it in stride, so no harm done. Still, I'm at least a little worried that they'll start running into my bedroom at 3:00 a.m. to tell me they think they saw a prowler run off with my credit card number. For the sake of not keeping my children in ignorance about this cold, cold world, I'll take the risk.

In the end, what felt like not too tall a stack of documents turned into five large boxes of paper shreddings that would have made Enron proud. Even though I have nothing to hide, the whole thing felt suspicious. In fact, when I took the boxes out to dispose of them, there was a patrol truck just across the street from my house facing my direction. I wanted to stare the cop down for effect but am glad I didn't. Why tempt fate? We still have the basement to sort out.

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