Dear Readers: If you are like most people, you are surrounded by papers at home and at work! Between mail (especially junk!) and important documents, it’s sometimes daunting to know what to keep and what to throw out. Here are a few examples of PAPERS that should not just be thrown in the trash, but need to be shredded to protect your privacy:

* Old, canceled checks and pay stubs. (Keep checks relating to property purchases, etc., until no longer needed.)

* Anything with PIN (personal identification number) or financial-account numbers.

* Tax-related paperwork and W-2 forms. Three to seven years is the general guideline, but not for the actual income-tax form itself — keep your federal and state income-tax filings forever.

* Papers with birthdates, Social Security numbers or signatures should be shredded before being placed in the trash.

* Medical records or receipts you no longer need.

* Unsolicited mailings for credit cards. What a waste of paper and resources!

-- Heloise


Dear Heloise: You recently wrote about the dangers of having lit candles unattended. I had electric candles in all of my windows during the Christmas season. Returning home following Christmas service, one of the candles had fallen from the window to the floor and burned a hole in the carpet. I didn’t realize that such a small bulb would do that much damage. Perhaps you would like to warn your readers. -- Irene H., Douglassville, Pa.

Yikes! Thanks for the note of caution. The “no flame” candles with a bulb are a very good, safe alternative to a real candle with a flame, but do take care. It’s probably best to unplug or turn them off when leaving the house. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I make my mother’s cornbread dressing recipe for Thanksgiving. Since there never is enough oven space to bake the turkey, vegetable dishes and hot rolls at the same time, I began “baking” my dressing in a slow cooker for three hours on the “high” setting. I stir it several times while it cooks. It is always moist on the inside and crusty on the outside, just the way we like it. -- Cindi C., Longview, Tex.


Dear Heloise: While looking for something to hold her earrings, my sister saw a pretty wire mesh in a frame, but it cost quite a bit. She looked around and found the perfect holder: a kitchen splatter screen.

I added the idea of using ornament hooks, sold at Christmastime. They can hold necklaces and bracelets. Also, since the splatter screen has a hole in the handle, it can be hung on a wall to show off or display your lovely jewelry. -- M.H. in Dallas


Dear Heloise: Don’t throw away those shoulder pads that you remove from garments. I use them to pad the “shoulders” on my hangers when I hang up my sweaters. No more bumps on the shoulders! -- Peggy R., via e-mail

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or e-mail it to

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