How to Declutter Your Mailbox

How to Declutter Your Mailbox  - good for the environment and your mental and physical health!  |  Fairly Southern

Let’s face it: Junk mail doesn’t spark joy for anyone.

Decluttering has become a major cultural movement as Marie Kondo’s tidying methods have swept the nation and more and more people are embracing minimalism. You may have already purged your junk closet and organized your clothes, but there’s one part of your home you may be overlooking: Your mailbox.

Our household reached a point last year when the junk mail had truly grown out of control. It seems that we aren’t alone. The average American household receives 848 pieces of junk mail per year!

Over 4 million tons of junk mail are produced each year according to the EPA. All of this junk mail means that A LOT of trees are being cut down, contributing to deforestation. And the processing of the paper is emitting waste and greenhouse gases. Indeed, the paper industry has the fourth largest carbon dioxide emissions level within the manufacturing industries. And at the end of the day, over 50% of this junk mail ends up in the landfill. Yikes!

In addition to being bad for the environment, unnecessary mail clutter may also be bad for your personal health. Research shows that clutter contributes to a low sense of well-being, unhealthy eating habits, poor mental health, and less efficient visual and mental processing.

If your junk mail is annoying you, stressing you out, or causing you concern for the environment (or all of the above), don’t worry. There are ways to declutter your mailbox! Here are four practical things I have done over the past year to banish junk mail for good:

1. Use CatalogChoice.

CatalogChoice is a nonprofit that provides a free mail cancellation service. After you create an account, you can search on the CatalogChoice site for a particular company that is sending you mail (not just catalogs!). Once you’ve pulled up the company, CatalogChoice will either submit an unsubscribe request for you or give you instructions to follow for how to unsubscribe yourself. That company is then added to a list on your personal dashboard, and you can provide feedback to CatalogChoice about whether or not the mailings have stopped.

I have personally used CatalogChoice to unsubscribe from mailings from 65 different organizations. According to the CatalogChoice website at the date of this publication, the nonprofit has saved 536,581 trees and 3,732,834,231 gallons of water and prevented 1,118,543,264 pounds of greenhouse gases, 427,123,262 pounds of solid waste. Pretty awesome!

2. Use OptOutPrescreen.

OptOutPrescreen is an opt-out service offered by the four major consumer credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax, Innovis, and TransUnion). These companies give your name and contact information to insurers and creditors who want to make offers of credit. That’s why you frequently get credit card offers in the mail!

Thankfully, you can request that these companies remove your name from the offer lists. By completing the OptOutPrescreen online form, your name is removed for five years. By printing off the form and mailing it in, your name is removed permanently. Mailing the form is annoying, inconvenient, and not exactly environmentally friendly, but I recommend going ahead and doing it so you never have to worry about it again and don’t have to deal with credit offers reappearing every five years.

I didn’t even realize how many credit offers I was receiving until they stopped coming. Doing this was the single best thing for clearing my mailbox!

3. Contact organizations directly.

If an organization isn’t covered by CatalogChoice or OptOutPrescreen, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and contact them directly. I suggest using one of the following methods:

Step 1: Check the company’s privacy policy.

Oftentimes, the privacy policy located on a company’s website will give specific instructions for how to unsubscribe from mail. There may even be a direct link to a form you can complete to unsubscribe. The privacy policy is always the first place I start!

Step 2: Email the company

If I can’t find anything in the privacy policy about unsubscribing from direct mail (or if the company doesn’t have a privacy policy), I reach out by email. I will do this by either completing the general contact form on the website or by finding an email address and emailing directly from my email account. I have a template that I copy and paste for unsubscribe requests to make it fast and easy. Here is the template in case you want to use it yourself:

Hello,

Please unsubscribe me from direct mail marketing communications. The mailing address you have on file for me is:

Name
Address line 1
Address line 2

Additionally, please do not rent or sell my name or address to other organizations.

Thanks!
Your Name

Step 3: Call the company

If you can’t find a way to email the company, or if you email and receive no response, it may be time to pick up the phone and call. I know, I know…it’s a pain in the butt. At this point in the game, though, you’re in it to win it. Don’t let shady and evasive companies pull one over on you simply by making it difficult to reach them. Call them up and politely but firmly ask that they remove you from their direct mailing list.

4. Don’t give out your address.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of a lot of your junk mail, you need to make sure you don’t inadvertently let it creep back in. Be careful about giving out your address. When you’re checking out at a department store and they ask for your mailing address, tell them that you don’t give it out because you don’t want to receive paper mail. When you make a donation to a nonprofit, make a note that you do not want to be added to their paper mailing list. Small, easy steps like this take little effort and ensure that your mailbox remains clutter-free.

Yes, It’s Worth It!

It may take some time for you to see results from your unsubscribing spree, as many direct mailings are printed weeks (or even months) in advance. Even after you have been removed from a mailing list, you may still receive a mailing or two that was printed before you unsubscribed. Just be patient. Results are near!

How to Declutter Your Mailbox  - good for the environment and your mental and physical health!  |  Fairly Southern

Since going on my anti-junk mail crusade, my mailbox is empty more days than not. In total, I have unsubscribed from mailings from 115 different organizations! It is a huge relief to open the mailbox and not be confronted with more crap that I don’t want but have to sort through anyway. And, it feels great to think about all of the trees and waste I’m saving!

Take the plunge and declutter your mailbox. You won’t regret it!

xoxo Laura

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