Stopping Junk Mail
Sick of all the junk mail piling up in your mailbox and home? While it's virtually impossible to stop all unwanted mail and catalogs, there are ways to seriously curtail the onslaught.
It's worth the effort, when you consider that junk mail is a colossal waste of time and resources (paper, energy, etc.). The average American household gets 848 pieces of junk mail a year, and we'll each spend about eight months of our lives dealing with it.
The easiest and cheapest solution to stopping junk mail doesn't exist yet: A national Do Not Mail registry (similar to the Do Not Call list Congress created in 2003).
In the meantime, here are some options worth trying while we wait for the government to take action. You'll have to decide for yourself how much time or money you're willing to spend and adjust your expectations accordingly. Don't expect to see significant results for the first 2 to 4 months.
Free services and DIY strategies
- Catalog Choice helps you control how many catalogs you get. The free service has a huge database of retailers that have agreed to honor requests. Some companies (Garnet Hill, Gaiam, CB2, and more) allow you to choose how many catalogs you'd like to receive in a year. So if you like flipping through catalogs featuring sale items or holiday gift ideas, you can still get them. It took me about 15 minutes to create an account and cancel a medium-sized stack of catalogs, although I'm pretty sure I'll have to do this again. I won't mind, since it was relatively painless and I felt a huge sense of satisfaction when I was done.
- ForestEthics helps you do the legwork yourself by giving you a relatively short list of direct mailers to call or email. Click links to the Direct Marketing Association, Val-Pak, and OptOutPrescreen.com (to put an end to all those preapproved credit card offers), where you can request to have your address removed from various lists. Some large junk mailers require you to make removal requests via U.S. Postal Service. Enter your name and address into this form to download request forms for each one. I printed out the PDF form, signed 18 pieces of paper, slipped them into envelopes, and popped them in the mail. Total time spent: 30 minutes (not including expected follow-up). Estimated cost for supplies and postage: $10.
- Eco-Cycle and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse also offer their assistance in helping you tackle junk mail on your own. Although I found the combination of Catalog Choice and ForestEthics to be easiest for me, these might be easier for you.
Services you pay for
- 41pounds.org, named for the amount of junk mail the average adult receives in a year, is a nonprofit that says it will get rid of 80 to 95% of unwanted catalogs and junk mail. Everyone in your household is covered for 5 years, even through name changes and moving. If you're not satisfied with the results, you can ask for your money back. Added bonus: $15 of the fee is donated to a charity of your choice. Cost: $41 for 5 years ($8.20 a year).
- MailStopper (formerly GreenDimes) says it will stop up to 90% of your junk mail in 90 days. Includes catalogs, grocery store circulars, credit card offers, and more. Added bonus: The company plants five trees when you join. Cost: $20 for 1 year.
- Stop the Junk Mail claims that it will reduce your junk mail and catalogs by up to 90%. Added bonus: One tree is planted for every new subscription. Cost: $19.95 for 1 year.