The average person throws out 40 pounds of junk mail a year. That’s a lot of wasted energy to produce the paper, chemicals for the ink and U.S. Postal Service time to deliver it to your doorstep, just so you can recycle it.
But you can reduce or even eliminate junk mail, or advertising mailers, that you don’t want to receive.
Federal laws require that direct ad mail addressed specifically to you give you the option to opt out of receiving any more offers, but that’s easier said than done.
When a neighbor died recently, I telephoned more than a dozen of the companies sending her catalogs to have her name removed from their lists.
If you are opting out for yourself, you can also look for an “opt out” link on the mailer’s website. The downside is the junkiest of junk mail senders may not have a website. And, obviously, if a mailer’s website asks for your email address for confirmation, you’ll start getting junk email instead of junk snail mail. So be sure to use an email account with a strong spam filter. My service has a “block and auto purge” feature so the spammer doesn’t get into my computer again.
A simpler way, but not necessarily faster, is to put your name and address on the “do not mail” list of the Direct Marketing Association, which represents most, but not all, junk mailers. Registering online for the DMA Mail Preference Service costs $5; registering by mail is free. Either way, you’ll still get a couple of catalogs until the company’s computers cycle you out.
There are other companies to contact to get you removed from specific kinds of lists and cut the clutter. Most, including the Direct Marketing Association, let you opt out of everything forever, or until you choose to opt back in. They’ll also allow you to opt out of a particular category brand.
Be forewarned that your name and address is a commodity to be rented or sold without your knowledge or permission, and not just between junk mailers.
If you donate to a charity or buy an annual family membership at a nearby museum, that charity or museum might sell your name and address as part of its fundraising efforts. So it’s likely that you’ll receive direct ad mail as many as two to three months after plastering your name on every imaginable “do not mail” list, according to the DMA.
Do not put the unwanted catalog or value-pack coupons back in the mailbox market with “return to sender.” The USPS just tosses these in the recycling bin. They are not returned to sender.
However, my personal trick is to use a junk-mailer’s prepaid envelope, if there is one, to send everything back to them, with a note to leave me alone. Since the mailer has to pay postage to get its junk back, this is an effective way to opt out of future mailings.
Here are additional resources to opt out of junk mail:
- Valassis (Red Plum). Call 1-888-546-7605 or complete this form online to get fewer discount-club ads and trial samples in your mailbox.
Catalog Choice. As the name implies, this group represents catalog senders. This type of mail should stop showing up soon after your removal request is processed.
- Credit bureaus. To cut out credit-card and other financial offers, contact the three major bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and request that they no longer release your information. This should stop pre-approved credit card offers.
- Opt-Out Prescreen. This gets you out of credit-card and insurance offers. You can choose a five-year opt-out online or permanent opt-out, which requires you mail a form that the service provides. Call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPT-OUT) or go to the Opt-Out Prescreen site.
- Publishers Clearing House. Removal requests should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Val-Pak. Stop receiving the blue envelopes full of coupons and other offers by visiting the website for Cox Target Media.