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.  The service is a joint venture among Equifax, Experian, and a few other consumer credit rating agencies.  You can select to keep your name off their lists for 5 years, or permanently.  The only information required to opt-out is your name and address - you can ignore the other fields. 

  2. Yellow Pages: The official opt-out service for commercial phone directories.

  3. DMA Choice:  This inexpensive paid service from the Direct Mail Association removes your name from their members' direct mail lists for a decade.  Their members include thousands of major brands, from West Elm to Pet Co.  Removing your name from all categories –– Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers, and Other Mail Offers-- takes just a few minutes, despite the outdated-looking website. A credit card is needed to sign up, DMA Choice costs $2 for 10 years of service-- twenty cents a year.  

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

Step 2: Target the Remaining Junk

Collect the junk mail you're still receiving, this helps to gather the specifics on who's sending the junk and will provide the exact name and address they have in their database - including any misspellings, and abbreviations. 

With junk mail in hand, pick a couple of these methods to focus on what's left: 

  • Look for opt-out info on the envelope or label.  Call or email them and request that they do not contact you again.  Unfortunately, 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.

  • 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:

 Image from restorationhardware.com

  • To halt the delivery of a wide range of catalogs, Catalog Choice is the go-to. This free service will send an opt-out on your behalf or lead you to the opt-out process on the company's website.  Gleefully, unsolicited catalog deliveries seem to be on the downtrend, as noted by the Ikea and Restoration Hardware have stopped producing their thick catalogs 

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 that 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. 

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