Junk mail is just one of those perpetually annoying things, but it doesn’t have to be! Take these easy steps and simplify your life by finally ditching the junk mail.
There are some things in life that may not be overly stressful on their own but added up over time, they slowly accumulate into a big deal. For me, junk mail falls into this category. A couple pieces isn’t a that bad but after collecting a week’s worth of it, I realize how much I receive and how much time I spend shredding it. It all feels like a huge waste of resources.
In fact, New York University says that junk mail destroys 100 million trees a year. On top of that, EcoCycle.org estimates that we could spend up to 8 months of our life dealing with junk mail. Yikes!
Since Earth Day is just around the corner, I decided this was a good opportunity to take an actionable step to reduce my carbon footprint and also help simplify my life in the process. However, I soon discovered this was not an easy task. There is no central place to unsubscribe from junk mail, like you can with phone solicitors. So, after doing a lot of research, here’s the tactics I employed to cut back on the unwanted mail. Buckle your seatbelts and grab a snack because it’s going to be a long ride!
Direct Marketing Companies
My first stop was visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s website to see what the government recommended and what services were available regarding how to deal with junk mail. There wasn’t a ton of information available but the FTC does list DMA Choice as a way to reduce your unwanted mail.
For a $2.oo processing fee, which covers you for a period of 10 years, you can go through and unsubscribe from all catalogs, magazines, and “other” mail offers. Or you have the option of going into each individual category and unsubscribing from specific publications if you prefer. You can also search for specific catalog if you know which ones you frequently get in the mail. Finally, you’ll also see the option to opt-out of credit offers but this section takes you to OptOutPrescreen.com which I outline below.
Opt Out Prescreen
Visit OptOutPrescreen.com to update your preferences on receiving prescreened or preapproved credit and insurance offers. On their site you can opt-out of all 4 Consumer Credit Reporting Companies; Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and the lesser known Innovis.
If you submit the form online, the opt-out period lasts for five years, but can be permanent if you confirm your request by mail. Credit card offers are the most frequent type of junk mail I get. So for me, it wasn’t much more effort to print out the confirmation they create and mail it in for a more permanent solution.
Just a heads-up, OptOutPrescreen.com does require your social security number to complete your request online but it does not get printed out on the mail-in confirmation.
Epsilon Data Services
Epsilon is a direct marketing company and houses information other companies can leverage to advertise products or services to you. They get this information comes from catalog and publishing companies and you can actually see what info Epsilon has on file about you. Fill out their online form and they will send you a copy of their report in the mail.
Since I wanted to bypass the whole creep-factor of seeing what data they had on me in print, I just decided to opt-out of their marketing services. To do so, send an email to email@example.com with opt-out or do not share in the subject line. Be sure to include your name and address in the email so that they can verify you are the correct person in their database. Also, be sure to include any variations of your name and/or address if you’re getting junk mail under it.
Data brokers collect and compile consumer information and then sell or share it with other companies for marketing purposes. Axiom is one of the largest data brokers so unsubscribing from their database can go a long way in reducing the amount of junk mail you receive.
Unfortunately there are over 300 data brokers out there and it may not be worth it to go through and try to opt-out of them all. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a very extensive database of data brokers if you do feel like trying to whittle down the list.
RetailMeNot Everyday (Formerly RedPlum)
Do you ever actually use any of those RedPlum coupons you get in the mail each week? Okay, maybe I have once or twice but it’s certainly not enough for me to justify this as a valuable service. I didn’t even know you could opt-out of receiving these coupons until I started doing some research! To unsubscribe, you’ll want to have the coupon packet handy so that you can enter your address on their form exactly how it is printed.
Visit Valpack’s website to unsubscribe from the little blue envelope of coupons they mail out each month. To opt-out, fill out their short form with just your name and address. They recommend you have your current Valpack to make sure your information is the same as what they print on the envelope.
Publishers Clearing House
Fill out the Remove From Mailing List form on Publishers Clearing House to opt-out of their mailings. Just be sure to submit individual forms if you are receiving multiple mailings variations of your name or address.
Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes
Unfortunately removing your name from the mailing list of Reader’s Digest requires either an email, a phone call or a printed letter (there’s no simple form). You can find their address and phone number on their website or you can submit your opt-out request via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
My last phone book went straight from my front porch into the recycle bin so the Yellow Pages isn’t a great resource for me. But believe it or not, there are people who still use phone books so it is nice tool for them, just not something my household needs.
If you’re like me, you can create an account on the National Yellow Pages Opt-Out Site to get off the distribution list. Just plug in your zip code and you’ll see a list of phone books available in your area. From there you can opt-out of one (or all of them) with just a couple clicks.
There’s not really a great way to unsubscribe from charity requests aside from writing the individual charity and requesting they remove you from their mailing list. The non-profit CharityWatch.org recommends submitting a letter along with your donation to outline the terms of how often they can contact you and also to keep them from renting or selling your info to other organizations.
Mail for Previous Residents
A lot of companies rely on you to fill out a change of address form with the Post Office when you move because it helps to keep their records clean if they choose to do a mailing through a mass mailing house. It’s not like a company wants to waste their money sending mail to the wrong person so most legitimate business tend to want to keep their records clean.
But here’s what you can do if the previous resident wasn’t so great at updating their information. Every time you get a piece of their mail, write return to sender or not at this address on the front of the envelope. Drop it back in your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up the next time they come by. Just be sure to cross out the barcode if it has one so that the mail gets processed by a human being and returned to the sender instead of sent back to you.
There are a lot of mail fraud schemes and the really bad news is that once you become a target, it can be difficult to get off the hit list. The type of scam these cons come up with can vary greatly but some might include fake charities, fraudulent sweepstakes, investment scams, and work-at-home schemes just to name a few.
Junk Mail Removal Services
Catalog Choice is a non-profit service you can use cancel unwanted catalogs and other types of paper mail. They provide the option of handling the opt-out process for you – for free! After you create an account, gather the catalogs you no longer wish to receive, and Catalog Choice will provide you with options for how to opt-out of that particular mailing.
For about half of the catalogs I searched for, Catalog Choice was able to handle the opt-out process for me. As for the remaining ones, they provided me with a link to the unsubscribe form on the company’s website or provided me with a phone number I could call.
I really appreciated the fact that Catalog Choice would walked me through what information they needed to handle the opt-out process themselves. It was far easier than spending the time to draft an email to a customer service person. Even better? You can track the status of your request and the responses in your dashboard.
Cost: Free (donations accepted)
For the tech lovers out there, Paper Karma is an app that allows you to snap a picture of your junk mail, press send, and they’ll handle the unsubscribe process. The app is available on Apple or Android devices but it does come with a subscription fee after your 4 free requests run out.
I’m the kind of person who likes to roll up their sleeves and handle business so to me, the cost wasn’t worth it. I can see why people love it though – just whip out your phone and snap a pic of the offending piece of junk mail and you’re done. Paper Karma handles the rest of the process so it can be a big time saver.
Cost: $1.99/month or $19.99/year
Some of the most important things to keep in mind when dealing with junk mail is to have a lot of patience and also a lot of persistence. Most of the websites listed above estimate that you’ll start seeing a reduction of unwanted mail within 6-8 weeks. Some say it can take up to 3 months because mailings have already gone to print.
Whatever the case may be, if all of the above methods fail, there’s nothing like getting out your phone and giving the offending company a phone call to be removed from their mailing list. I believe that reputable companies want to keep their mailing lists clean because it saves them time and money. And that’s what this whole junk mail game is about if you think about it…making money.
Be sure to let me know if you’ve had any success lightening the amount of unsolicited mail you receive. I know there is quite a few other paid services out there and I’d be curious to know if they worked for you.