Like so many Long Island homes, mine had a basement full of paperwork filed in storage containers and crammed into desk drawers.
Along with the records of everyday life -- bills, bank statements, insurance papers -- was the output of a writer. I work off hard copies, printing multiple versions for reference.
I'm a printing junkie. My printing had consumed so many reams that I couldn't see the trees for the deforestation. The neatly organized paper graveyard that is my home office has a shredder, but there's just so much crosscutting that little machine can do.
I needed a professional.
I called a company in Jericho and a couple of weeks later, Billy of Safety Shred pulled up to my house in Bellmore in a truck the size of a small cement mixer.
He rolled a 64-gallon bin up my walkway.
"That's about two bins," Billy said, looking at my piles of paper teeming with Social Security numbers, bank account information and medical records -- stuff too important to toss intact, and too abundant to shred myself.
Billy emptied bankers' boxes, plastic bags and heavy-duty storage containers into the bin. He rolled the bin to the shredding compartment on the side of the truck, where hydraulic arms lifted it and dumped the contents into the interior shredder. On the exterior of the truck were dials and a split screen; one showed the rolling bin being lifted and the other an interior cone-shaped bin. The shredder -- like a wood chipper, but not as noisy -- crosscut my papers into confetti. Later, that would go to a recycling plant.
Billy explained that he cannot mix cardboard and paper, or plastic bags. Staples and even DVDs are OK, but not a three-ring binder.
Shredding is a year-round operation, though the beginning of the year is busier because people gather tax information and realize all the paperwork they've accumulated.
In this business, Billy's had to deal with hoarders who had dirty, old and dusty papers. And smart-aleck husbands have said, "Do you think I could put my wife in there?"
"I must have heard that 20 times," Billy said. "I deal mostly with females and never heard that about their husbands."
The screen on the truck showed the slow swirl of old tax returns, pay stubs and manila folders filled with canceled checks (remember those?) making their way to the gnashing teeth until the bin was empty. After the second shredding, a small piece of paper remained in the interior bin.
"I can't leave anything there," Billy said. He climbed up into the interior. On the video screen I saw his hand feed the lone sheet into the shredder's teeth.
It takes about six minutes to shred the contents of a 64-gallon bin. My two bins, about 300 pounds of paper, took less than 15 minutes and cost me $70, plus tax. Those numbers worked for me.
I was left with one small piece of paper, my receipt, titled "certificate of destruction."
After Billy filled out the paperwork, he waved my credit card receipt in the air and said with a smile, "I run this when I get back to the office, and then I shred it."
Reader Paula Ganzi Licata lives in Bellmore.