I liken junk mail to an unwelcome fly or bug in your house. Not so bad dealing with one or two but more than that is crazy making. Defend yourself against those pests coming in in the first place!
You may have tried to escape the deluge of unwanted solicitations but junk mail seems to find its way into everyone’s home. The United States Postal Service took a poll in 2012 and found that junk mail represented 60 percent of all household mail. American households received 79.6 billion pieces of advertising mail annually. The postal service is handling approximately 100 BILLION pieces of junk mail per year. Unfortunately about 44% of junk mail ends up in our landfills, unopened. I’d like to think that most of us are responsible about recycling but it’s also easy to understand how overwhelming opening the mail can be. Whenever I work with someone who is really good at piling, not filing, there’s always a large component of junk mail making up a good portion of the piles. OK, so it’s obviously a problem but you can get a handle on it, it just takes a little bit of your time and attention but in the long run, it’s well worth it! Here are some of my favorite ways to deal with mail overload:
• Stopping the junk before it even comes to you is the best overall option for us all. You can check out Catalog Choice.org, DMAchoice.org (Direct Marketing Association), YellowPagesOptOut.com and yellowpagesgoesgreen.org. You can opt out of firm offers of credit or insurance via Optoutprescreen.com., 1-888-567-8688 (that’s 888-5OPT-OUT), and the National Do Not Mail list by going to DirectMail.com. Now some of these options will put a freeze on your name for 5 years and you have to start the process again, annoying indeed. Sometimes you can be deleted from databases forever. 41pounds.org is a paid service. For most people, they’re willing to take the time to try the free route first.
• When catalogs come in that I don’t want I call the customer service phone number that is usually listed on the back page. Some catalogs even have a number command for those who would like to be removed from their mailing list or you can speak to a representative. Ask to be removed from the mailing list and they’ll ask you for a customer or promotion code # which is also on the back of most catalogs. Know that it usually takes a few months for you to be dropped completely off of their list as most of the mailings are pre-printed. I keep a list of the catalogs I’ve contacted with a date so I don’t waste my time calling them more than once and to check to see if I’ve really been dropped after a few months.
• There are some types of junk mail that are really difficult or impossible to stop such as grocery circulars, one time promotional products or services and political advertisements but if you see any of the following phrases near the address label such as: return service requested, forwarding service requested, address service requested, or change service requested, you can write “refuse, return to sender” and hopefully that will stem the flow.
• You know the deal; you’ve given money to a charity and now you get oodles of solicitations all year long that make you wonder how much does the charity spend on postage! You can request that they limit how many times a year they send you solicitations and of course, you can ask to be removed from their list completely. You can call, email or send them a request via the envelope they typically enclose.
• So you’ve gone through the motions of trying to keep the junk from even coming into your home but it often takes some time before you notice the amount diminishing. In the mean time, try to create habits that will benefit you no matter how much junk you get. If you have a P.O. box and you can put unwanted junk in a recycle bin that they provide then do it right there and then! If you get your mail delivered or there is no recycle bin in the post office where you pick up, then get into the habit of sorting your mail right next to the recycle bin, the minute you step in your front door. If there’s room you can keep a basket or bag for shredding or a shredder right there next to recycling. Sometimes I have just one piece to shred so I’ll rip up the credit card offer and put half in the garbage and half in the recycle bin, mind you I’m not advocating that as standard operating procedures.
• What kind of unwanted mail should you shred? Pre-approved credit card offers, pay stubs, cancelled checks, bank or credit card statements, anything related to taxes, utility bills, basically anything with an account number on it. Some people think they should shred anything with their name and address on it however that information is usually already out there, in the world, especially if you have mail delivered to an unlocked mail box. A thief won’t spend time digging through the recycling when they can just open your mailbox and pull out financial statements and credit card offers. Sadly, most identity theft these days happens online or through security breaches that are out of our control. In the end, whatever makes you feel comfortable is what you should destroy.
• Let’s say you can’t shred or burn sensitive information. There are “Guard your ID” ink blotting stamps that can be purchased through most office supply stores. Some communities will host free shredding events and you can bring your shredding to some office supply stores as well as some UPS and FedEx stores where they charge by the pound. Home shredders are ok for occasional shredding but I encourage people to utilize bulk shredding for anything over a ½ ream of paper. When a client and I have done massive purges, they will sometimes have a small moving box or a brown grocery bag worth of paper to shred. That’s a LOT of your time and will stress a home shredder if not fry it completely. Bulk shredding may cost a few bucks but that’s cheaper than buying a new shredder every few years.
With a little bit of perseverance, we can all make a difference in how much junk mail is out there in the world and this definitely benefits us all!