Day after day, useless ads and junk mail get tossed straight into the recycling bin. Is junk mail cluttering up your life? With three easy steps, I reduced my clutter and protected myself from identity theft at the same time. Here’s how I did it.
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It seems like junk mail is just a necessary evil of our modern consumerist world. But the psychological effects from clutter can really pile up, overwhelming even the most the motivated homesteaders.
Not only is it wasteful and overwhelming, junk mail can also play a role in identity theft. Preapproved credit card offers can be stolen out of your mailbox according to this article, and junk mail with personal information on it can be fished out of recycling bins if not shredded first.
Over a decade ago I began taking charge of the barrage of junk mail, and it changed our lives!
Free Catalogs by Mail
In 2003, online shopping was really starting to get going. I found great deals in random catalogs that just showed up in my mailbox, and I was proud of the bargain Christmas shopping I did that year without having to leave my couch.
The trouble was that more and more catalogues started to show up. The volume of clutter was incredible, not to mention the increasing envy of seeing more and more items I didn’t know I needed. I imagined how I would spend my paychecks before they even arrived!
Luckily, I stopped that devil in its tracks. I began calling and emailing the catalog companies and requesting to be removed from their mailing lists. At the same time, I created a document on my computer entitled ‘Catalog Do Not Mail’ list, in which I record whenever I make a request to a company.
Sometimes the company isn’t compliant, and I can see 6 catalogs later that my request to be removed from their mailing list wasn’t honored. I then have supporting evidence if I need to contact the company again.
Between 2003 and 2013, I requested to be removed from 187 different catalog mailing lists! I’ve also followed this process for junk mail in my husband’s name, and have removed him from 30 catalog mailing lists in the last 5 years.
Since catalogs are usually mailed on a quarterly basis, we are effectively stopping 868 catalogs from hitting our mailbox per year, or 3-4 catalogs per day.
This is just for catalogs, to say nothing of the unsolicited mail from credit card and insurance companies, magazines, and other stuff.
Seeing the Forest through the Trees
Did you know that a forest area the size of 20 football fields is lost every MINUTE to paper production? And that only 4% of the U.S. forests remain in tact? Recycling only gets us so far – we need to STOP unnecessary paper production. We all know why forests are good and clear-cutting is bad, so let’s skip straight to what we can do about it!
1. STOP Catalogs, Magazines, and Other Mailings
Several years ago I was looking for a way to streamline this process. It’s tedious to sit down with 20 catalogs and email or call all of the companies. This is when I found the federal opt-out registries.
Go to DMAchoice and set up an account. You’ll be able to go to a separate page for each of the following categories: catalogs, magazines, and ‘other mail’ choices. Scroll to the bottom of each page and click on ‘Remove My Name’.
You will continue to receive mail from companies that you already do business with, while staying off the “prospect” list that marketers use to send unsolicited mail to. This request is good for 5 years, so expect every 5 years to renew your request to have your name removed.
Now that I do the DMAchoice opt-out, I am left with only a few catalogs per year that slip through the cracks. This year I contacted 15 companies. It sounds like a lot, but most of these catalogs are addressed to a former owner of our house. Unfortunately I can’t opt out for her.
2. STOP Credit Card and Insurance Company Mailings
Within your same account at DMAchoice, click on ‘credit cards’. It will take you to a page managed by consumer reporting companies. You’ll have the option to opt out of receiving unsolicited mail from credit card and insurance companies. Doing so will help protect your identity from theft and fraud. This opt-out is also only good for 5 years.
If you follow Dave Ramsey like we do, you’ll be happy to get rid of alluring credit cards!
3. STOP Phone Books
Opt out of these archaic wastes of trees! No need to say more.
Bonus: Save Junk Mail Envelopes
Save envelopes, write your grocery list on the back, and stash coupons and receipts inside the envelope. Makes shopping days easy!
I use a letter organizer like this one to keep my mail, coupons, grocery lists, recipes, and other assorted items organized all in one place in my kitchen.
Ultimately it is our responsibility to manage our consumer preferences. Reducing our junk mail is an easy way to protect our privacy and identity, reduce clutter, minimize our consumerism, and protect our remaining forests – values we can all get behind.
Have you made efforts to reduce junk mail?