Picture it: you get home from work, from picking up your kid, or running an errand, and you see the mail arrived! You gleefully grab it and sort through it, hoping that there is something fun. But alas, your mood quickly shifts as you see it’s all…JUNK. Junk that you now have to sort through, shred, and/or recycle.
You may find yourself asking:
“How to get rid of junk mail?! STOP THE JUNK MAIL!”
Ok, so maybe this scenario is sliiiiiiiiiiiiighty dramatic, but I think you get the point.
Junk mail sucks. It’s annoying. And honestly, I personally dislike it because it means that I now have to do something with it. When I didn’t even want it in the first place.
And if I don’t? Hello paper clutter. Which I also don’t want.
Related post: How to eliminate paper clutter
And let’s not even talk about the trees and other resources that went into making the junk mail.
Actually, let’s talk about it in case like me, you’re more motivated by seeing some data.
The problem with junk mail
*The Average American receives 26 pounds of unwanted junk mail a year
*That 26 lbs translates to 21 pieces per week
*41% of those pieces are never even read
*Over 100 million trees are used to produce junk mail
*250,000 homes could be heated with a one day supply
*53% of people buy something they saw from junk mail – which makes sense as to why companies still produce it. However, if you’re trying to reduce consumption from a eco-minimalism lense, even more reason to stop junk mail
(source for all above bullet points)
I don’t know about you, but those are enough to make me want to shout this from the rooftops.
But first, let’s start with your own home. Once you’ve done that, I also share ways to be proactive about keeping junk mail out of your home, AND, tips for what to do with that junk mail when it does come into your home.
Quick side note. These opt-outs aren’t usually a one and done type of thing, unfortunately. Many have time limits (typically ranges from 2-5 years.) Keep this in mind.
Additionally, are you moving? Or are you getting a new roommate? You or they will likely have to resubmit to some of these organizations.
How to get rid of junk mail, once and for all
If you only have time to do ONE thing to get rid of junk mail right now, make it this:
Effective in getting rid of almost all types of junk mail. Plans start at $3.99 a month, or $25 yearly.
*Exceptions include any mail that has a generic recipient (ex. To: current resident), any company you have made a transaction with, and political mailings.
How it works: It’s super easy to use, and only takes a minute per piece of junk mail. You snap a photo, select the address to be removed, and submit. That’s it!
Someone on my Instagram feed clued me into this app, and said that it was super quick and effective. They had signed up for a free trial, but it worked so well for them that they ended up subscribing.
Find the free trial here (you can import four pieces of junk mail with the trial).
Find out more information or to sign up and stop junk mail here.
General, “catch-all” resources
These resources cover a wide range of junk mail categories instead of just one or two. Some of these are apps that specifically help you unsubscribe from junk mail as you receive it, so you don’t have to worry about contacting individual companies. Prices are valid at time of publishing.
*The National Do Not Mail List: Stops unwanted advertisement-type mail. Free.
*Junk Mail Resource by State/City: This is a fantastic guide based by state and city on how to reduce junk mail on a local level. Free.
*Traveling Mailbox: Access your mail from anywhere in the world. This site will scan, manage, organize, and unsubscribe from junk mail. Plans start at $15 a month.
*iMail App for Android and Apple: Helps you to get rid of junk mail and paper clutter in an attempt to be more eco-friendly. Free.
*USjunkmail.com: Helps eliminate unwanted junk mail, email, and spam phone calls. $2.95 a month.
*catalogchoice.org: You may recognize this organization from the documentary ‘Story of Stuff’. While they have ‘catalog’ in the name, this org helps to get rid of junk mail from over 10,000 companies, charities, clothing brands, and more. While it won’t stop all junk mail, it can certainly help you make a dent. Free.
Related post: 11 Ways Minimalism and Zero Waste Living Are The Same
Credit Card and Insurance Offers
Opt Out Prescreen is the main resource for unwanted credit card and insurance offers. It is a good idea to opt out of these not only for the environmental and clutter reasons, but also because these can be a security risk to your personal information.
Optoutprescreen.com (options for five years or permanently)
You can also call: 1-888-567-8688 (that’s 888-5OPT-OUT)
Or you can write to the three major consumer reporting companies via the addresses below:
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374
Innovis Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 495
Pittsburgh, PA 15230
Note: you are not required to fill out the SSN or birthday fields!
Additionally, you can contact companies directly and ask to be removed.
Mail list brokers and marketing associations
There is one main resource for mail list brokers and marketing associations. Simply visit dmachoice.org and fill out the online form (costs $2 for 10 years).
Or, you can write ($3 for 10 years):
Data & Marketing Association
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
National mailers (coupons)
You know these; those envelopes packed with shiny paper coupons that mainly consist of home repairs and local restaurants coupons. Perhaps the local restaurant coupons come in handy, but the rest is usually junk mail. There are a few ways to get rid of this type of junk mail. First, you need to know who is the main company behind these envelopes and contact them via the links below:
1 Valpak Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
Valpak Phone: 1-727-399-3000
Valassis Direct Mail, Inc.
PO Box 249
Windsor , CT 06095
Related post: Eco Anxiety and Guilt: The What and The How (to Manage)
Is there a more prominent time that you wonder how to get rid of junk mail than during political season? Maybe that’s just me.
Here are some tips:
*Look for a number to call on the flyer or in the envelope, and call and ask to be removed
*Search the website/submit a contact form and ask to be removed
*Is the political party or person asking for a donation? Pop that return envelope in the mail asking to be removed.
I don’t know if I can pick which type of junk mail annoys me the most, but phone books are probably up there. Does anyone even use them any more for anything other than a seat booster? Is that even a thing anymore?
If you’re still getting a phone book, here’s how to opt out:
There are a number of generic marketing firms that work with different catalog mailers to send you junk. Here are some of those firms, with resources on how to stop this type of junk mail:
*Abacus: Abacus is a marketing firm that specializes in direct mailings, catalogs, and other types of promotions. I wasn’t able to find specific companies they work for, but if you want to cover all your ‘how to get rid of junk mail’ bases, you can email them: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to them:
PO Box 1478,
Broomfield, CO 80038
And ask to be removed.
*ADVO: ADVO is another general and widespread marketing firm that sends out over 18 billion pieces of junk mail (my words) each year. Their address list is said to contain almost every household in the US. The company makes almost $700 million a year. (source)
To be removed, visit this website or call: 1-888-241-6760
*Reader’s Digest is another one that may just start showing up in your mailbox. To remove yourself from their list, simply email: email@example.com
Additionally, if you get a catalog in the mail, you can contact the company directly and ask to be removed.
You know the commercials, and maybe even dreamt of having Ed McMann or one of his colleagues show up at your house with a million dollars. But…I’m guessing you may not want the mail.
Here’s how to stop Publishers Clearinghouse junk mail.
How to get rid of junk mail via USPS (or Can you write return to sender on junk mail? Can you refuse a piece of mail?)
Those solicitations, church bulletins, or realtor guides that have the generic ‘to’ on it are usually tied with the USPS. There are few things you can do to try stop this type of junk mail, but from what I’ve researched, it is the hardest kind of stop.
According to the website ‘Ecocycle’:
“…look for any of the following phrases:
-return service requested
-forwarding service requested
-address service requested
-change service requested
If you find any of these phrases, write “refused, returned to sender” on the unopened envelope.
Mail sent to “Resident,” “Current Resident,” or “Current Occupant” can be refused if it contains one of the above endorsements, or is sent First Class.”
Additionally, you could talk with your mail carrier and see if they are able to simply not deliver one of the generic mailings to you, or if they have any suggestions on how to stop receiving them.
The important thing is to not place the burden on your mail carrier, because they have no control over these types of mailings. They have a job to do – they’re not trying to force junk mail down your throat. If they can’t accommodate, consider calling your local postmaster for more information.
No soliciting sign on mailbox
While this may not stop those generic mailings talked about above, it can potentially stop random solicitations from people walking through your neighborhood. I don’t know about you, but my house gets hit with a lot of restaurant takeout menus (which in my area of Minnesota, is technically illegal, but it still happens). This step doesn’t take a lot of extra effort, and may have positive benefits, so it’s definitely worth a try in my opinion.
Still getting mail for the previous homeowner/tenant? Yeah, we’ve lived in our house for five years and are still getting mail from someone who lived here back in the 90s. Contact your post office and/or usps.gov for any mail for former residents. If it is just one or two pieces, you can make a note on the envelope for the mail carrier to pick up and return.
Any providers that you pay bills to/bill statements – While this may not be considered junk, most companies offer paper free communications through email or your account on their website. Visit each company’s website and enroll.
Having trouble with a company not taking you off their list? Or can’t find an opt-out form on their website? Consider tagging them or privately messaging them and ask to be removed.
Preventing junk mail in the future
Like all things related to clutter and eco-friendly living, refusing is the first step in preventing the dreaded ‘clutter creep’ (aka – junk coming back in). After putting in all the work towards getting yourself off of mailing lists, the last thing you want is to be added back onto more!
Here are some tips for preventing that from happening, so you’re not once again wondering how to get rid of junk mail two years from now.
Don’t provide your address for contests
While it may be tempting to fill out a bunch of contest forms for a chance to win that shiny new car or trip, you likely are going to end up on a mailing list of some sort.
Unless you have a really good feeling about winning, consider skipping entering all together, OR, if you have to enter, write ‘do not rent, trade, or sell my information’ or ‘do not add me to your mailing list’. While this isn’t a 100% guarantee you won’t be added, it may help.
Buying online – OPT OUT
Whenever you have to create an account online (or even if you checkout using a guest account), chances are you’re also opting in for a mailing list. Most legit websites will have an option to opt out or onto their mailing list, so be sure to look for that before placing your order.
Donating to Charity
Supporting a good cause? That’s fantastic! But also…eek. Now you’re probably on the charities’ mailing list.
If you are making a donation online, look for a place to opt out. If you can’t find one, immediately send an email to the organization mentioning you just made a donation but don’t want to be added to the mailing list.
If you’re mailing in a donation or making one over the phone, write or tell the person helping you that you don’t want your information sold, rented, or traded, and you don’t want to be added to their mailing list.
Warranties or product registration
This one was kind of an ‘aha’ for me, because it was something I wouldn’t have thought of. If you buy an item that has a warranty, or has the option to register the product, you’ll likely end up on a mailing list. Turns out in most situations, you don’t have to fill out the warranty or product registration card! Of course, double check this before skipping all together, but it could be a great way to avoid being added to lists.
Buying tickets or registering for an event
I may have a little bit of inside scoop here, because I’ve worked in the events industry for over 10 years. And here’s the thing, unless you specifically specify otherwise, if you buy tickets, you’re going on a mailing list. And many arts organizations and other venues trade mailing lists to cross promote.
So, if you buy tickets to something, and have to provide your address (required for credit card purposes), be sure to opt out of future mailings, or if you’re not given the option, reach out to the company immediately after and tell them you don’t want your information sold, traded, or rented, and you don’t want to be added to the mailing list.
Alumnus of a College or University
Those alumni societies miss you! They want your money! They want you to stay connected to the University or College, and they’re not afraid to reach out and let you know that. Here’s another thing: alumni associations (at least for large Universities) keep track of any interaction you have with that specific organization, and will solicit you based on your activity. Yep, it’s kind of creepy. Long story short, if you’ve graduated and don’t want to receive communications and/or want them to sell, rent, or trade your info, let them know.
What to do with junk mail?
After doing all of the above, and being super proactive about keeping your name off of lists, chances are, you’re still going to receive junk mail on occasion. Here are some things to do with it to try and avoid the landfill.
*Recycle: regular, consumer-type & magazine-esque papers can be recycled in most curbside bins. If the paper is really thick and shiny (like those coupon flyers), trash or reusing is your best option.
*Compost: If you have paper like described above that can be recycled, chances are in can also be composted. Tear into small pieces and throw it in your bin.
*Shred & safely dispose: If you have paper that has confidential information on it, shred and drop off somewhere that accepts that type of mail for safe and secure disposal. If you ensure that the paper is all recyclable/compostable, you can also do either of those.
*Wrapping paper: Sometimes you may get some colorful junk mail. If that’s the case, consider using it as gift wrap!
*Make envelopes: Same as above. I once turned a floral catalogue that arrived (that I didn’t want or ask for) into fun flower-type envelopes. You can find my instructions here.
*Packaging materials: If you have non-confidential junk mail, you can save it (or some) for wrapping breakable items in your home, or as shipping packaging!
Trying to figure out how to get rid of junk mail can seem overwhelming at first. But with a little time and effort, you can be on your way to stopping junk mail before it even hits your mailbox.
What resources have you used? What would you recommend? Any missing here?
Want to learn how to adopt a reduction based lifestyle (through mindfulness, minimalism, anxiety management, and zero waste living but not sure where to start?
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