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No one likes junk mail. It’s a waste of resources, a hassle to deal with, and an invasion of your privacy. Imagine a world where companies no longer pester you with paper advertisements that you don’t need. A fantasy, you say, that can never happen! But it doesn’t have to be, and I’ll show you how to make it a reality.

Once I upgraded my diet, the weekly restaurant and grocery ads for fried, roasted, and grilled body parts were no longer relevant to me. I got tired of my recycling bin filling up with junk that I never asked for but was expected to tolerate simply for living in an addressed home. I remembered years ago that I had signed up for the national “Do Not Call” service for my phone and thought there’d be something similar for a mailing address. That was rather optimistic of me to say the least. I’m still trying to excise myself from this steely marketing matrix, but I have made some progress. Below are the steps I took (and a few I should have taken) to stop getting junk mail.

Be forewarned that this is a process and requires some persistence and dedication (and note taking) on your part, but with time and effort, you can drastically reduce the junk in the mailbox. I’m an optimist, so my goal is to get zero junk (only relevant advertising that I condone should/will come to my address).

1. Visit Do Not Mail

There isn’t a US national registry like “Do Not Call” for junk mail, but DoNotMail.org has a place where you can request a cessation from some of the largest offenders.

Make sure to sign the petition asking for a national Do Not Mail Registry to be created.

2. Contact the folks of your weekly circulars

Those weekly ads are usually bundled by one spam marketing group; the ads will actually be held together by a PennySaver or another sheet comparable advertisement. I’m officially not on their distribution list anymore, but since the mail carrier is used to chucking a bundle of that crap in every mailbox, I keep getting my neighbor’s stuff. Next, I have to educate my mail carrier about my discontinuation.

3. Suppress your information when donating

If you donate to different charitable or non-profit organizations, be sure to read the fine print about their privacy policy. Usually non-profits sell their member/donor information to other organizations. If you don’t wish for your information to be used in this way, make note of it during the donation process, or contact the organization afterwards.

4. Contact local businesses directly

In addition to the weekly mail, I also get stuff from Bed Bath and Beyond, Leslie’s Pool, and a bunch of other random, irrelevant businesses. When I BBB called asking to be removed, the woman I spoke with said I was the first person who had contacted her about the issue. I guess most people either really want the ads or simply put up with it.

5. Magazines, credit cards, and the like

Whenever you sign up for a subscription to a magazine or open a new credit card, you may be opening yourself to unwanted mail. These companies will buy and sell your information; legit companies will explicitly say so in their privacy policy, and typically will offer ways to opt-out. I know they’re long and not particularly enjoyable, but always read the Terms of Service or whatever 50-page form they ask you agree to. If you’re not actually reading it but sign saying you did, you’re a liar and deserve hell’s worth of spam. (Just kidding—but you really should read those contracts, or at least, skim for important headers like “Privacy Policy” or “Liability” and then read those sections).

While on the subject of credit cards, if you have one, be sure to visit OptOutPreScreen.com. It’s the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website for opting in (ha ha) or opting out of credit and insurance solicitation.

Also, when you order things online, you may automatically be added to a catalog mailing list. If you get one in the mail, don’t just throw it away—check for the contact info first and call/write the company asking to be removed—then chuck the catalog in the recycling bin.

6. Let them know you want this to end

This was in the first point, but it bears repeating: sign this petition asking that a proper registry be created to stop junk mail.

7.1 Keep track of who you’ve contacted

This part is very important. After you’ve requested a company to stop spamming you, make note of when you put in the request, who you spoke to, and how long it will take to be put into effect. This will be useful if you need to follow up or count down the days until the junk mail is history.

7.2 Wait 2–3 months before you actually see less junk

This is a subsection of the above point. You know how a company will charge you 4000% in late fees, ruin your credit score, and send bill collectors to your home if you’re a second late in paying a bill, but will drag their feet for 6–8 weeks (as they collect interest on their ill-gotten cash) if they owe you money? The same corporate-centricism applies to solicitation lists. Supposedly, it takes them about 2 months after you’ve requested them to stop to actually stop, sometimes up to 3 months! The reason (I’ve been told) is because mailings are created in batches for each quarter (i.e., 3 months). I suppose they won’t excise a name from the batch when it’s been requested, even though I never gave them permission to use my information in the first place.

That’s all I could think of. If you have any additional ideas that I missed, or tricks that have worked for you, post them in your comments.

Update: I found a few other great resources for stopping junk mail. This Do-it-yourself guide covers junk mail, email, and phone solicitation. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse also has a great Fact Sheet/Q&A section dedicated to helping you stop junk mail. Eco-cycle is a service that lets you control (and opt-out of) the catalogs, coupons, credit offers, phone books and other unsolicited mail you receive. They also provide an Unlisting Service that’s free for Boulder, CO residents (for everyone else it’s a donation of $20 or more) that will automatically remove your name from marketing lists. I haven’t tried this service, but if it feels like it would be a hassle to do the calling/emailing yourself, it may be worth it.

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