Junk The Junk - The Ultimate Guide To Stopping Unwanted Mail

Direct mail, aka junk mail, has been flooding our mailboxes for decades, cluttering counter tops, and wasting countless resources.  Ever wondered just how much junk we’re receiving?

Over 4 million tons of junk mail are produced each year in the U.S. That's over 60 pounds of unsolicited mail for every household. Although junk mail is recyclable, a better option is to never receive the stuff in the first place. 

Here's our tried and true three-step guide for cutting the junk and reclaiming your mailbox.  

Step 1: Hit These Biggies First

Unlike the Federal Government “Do Not Call” list, there's no official “Do Not Mail” list for direct mail, so you'll need to register with several services. The three below have the broadest reach, and represent multiple direct mail producers. 

  1. Pre-approved credit and insurance mail:  The official website to opt-out of “pre-approved” credit card or insurance mail. Opt out for 5 years with this form, or opt-out permanently by mailing in this form
  2. Yellow Pages: The official opt-out service for commercial phone directories.
  3. DMAChoice.org:  This inexpensive paid service from the Direct Mail Association removes your name from their members' direct mail lists.  Their members include thousands of major brands, from West Elm to Pet Co.  Removing your name from all categories takes just a minute or two, despite the outdated looking website. A credit card is needed to sign up, DMA Choice costs $2 for 10 years of service.

Stop magazine, catalog, and other direct mail offers - Image from DMA Choice 

Step 2: Target the Remaining Junk

After a few months, start collecting the junk mail you're still receiving. This helps gather the specifics on who's sending the junk, and the exact name and address their sending it to. Is your name spelled wrong? Did they write “Apt 1” or “#1?”  

With junk mail in hand:

  • Use DMA Choice to search for the companies in your stack. This is the quickest way to get off the mailing lists of their members.  If you'd previously opted out of all categories through DMA Choice,  you don't have to go back. You're likely receiving junk from companies that aren't DMA members.  
  • Search online for opt-out forms. Try searching for the brand name plus terms like "stop catalog delivery" or "direct mail unsubscribe".  Not all companies make this information easy to find or even available online. These guys do:
    • Penny Saver 
    • ValPak coupon
    • Restoration Hardware
    • IKEA - This one is not so easy to find. Scroll down to the bottom of the 'Request an IKEA catalog' page, and click the small blue type under the 'submit' button that says "Stop receiving the IKEA Catalog by mail" (see blue arrow below).

 Image from ikea.com

  • To halt delivery of a wide range of catalogs, Catalog Choice is worth checking out. This free service will send an opt-out on your behalf or lead you to the opt-out process on the company's website. 
  • Pick up the phone. Is there a phone number on the mailer?  Go straight to the source and ask them to stop sending you unsolicited mail. There are no federal requirements that force individual companies to comply, but they generally do because it saves companies money in the long run, and it's just good business.

Step 3: Prevention 

Stop the cycle. Take steps to protect your private information from being sold or “rented” to more direct mail marketing companies. 

TIP:  Go 'paperless' and avoid the waste altogether.  Most regular snail-mail communications can be done away with in favor of email. Many doctors, accountants, and even vets offer paperless billing and communications. Paperless communications can also make payments more convenient too. 

  • Call your credit card companies and tell them you do not want them to share your information through “affiliate marketing.” This will tell your credit card company not to share your personal information with other companies for up to 5 years. The number to call for will be listed in your credit card’s Privacy Policy.  
  • Be cautious about signing up for "free" rewards cards. Your personal information can be sold to marketing companies who will "reward" you with more junk mail. Read the fine print or consider passing. 

Well done!

You just junked the junk and stopped a whole lot of waste.  It's going to take a few months before the full effects kick in, but the wait will be worth it. 

Resources:
EPA
Zero Waste Home 

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