You've probably already read my popular article on how to put your mail on vacation hold. One of the top tips was a recommendation to significantly reduce the junk mail received at home. You do not want to undo the positive effects of a relaxing vacation by returning home to an enormous pile of junk mail. For many years I was too lazy to figure out how to stop getting so many catalogs and be solicited for offers of every product imaginable (whether seen on TV or not). It is totally worth it as cutting down on snail mail is an important strategy for work-life-vacation balance.
My other big worry about junk mail was all those credit card and loan offers that keep showing up. When I want a new credit card like to get frequent flier miles or travel rewards, I am perfectly capable or researching and applying online. The last thing I want is a mailbox full of credit offers that I need to shred to avoid identity theft. The amount of money these financial firms spend trying to get me to extend my credit is insane and I don't want to support it any longer.
So how do you cut down on junk mail and stop receiving unsolicited offers of credit? Here are the official ways to go about it. I only suggest free and legitimate ways to get off mailing lists so please avoid sites that promise to help you for a fee. By taking action you can gain more time off for family and travel and return from every vacation without the junk mail burden.
Choose to Remove - Catalogs and Direct Mail
To request to be removed from bulk marketing mailing lists, go directly to the official DMAChoice website. This organization represents many of the companies that send out catalogs and similar direct mail pieces. It is a noble industry effort to give consumers choice by allowing them to "makeover your mailbox in 3 simple steps." There is no cost to use their service.
What has been your experience trying to get off catalog and direct marketing mailing lists? This site may not represent all source of junk mail, but it is a an essential first step to fight back against it. Plus by opting out you are helping the environment in the process. Think about the ridiculous amount of printed paper (and ink too) that goes straight into the recycle bin each week.
Contact Junk Mailers to Request to Be Removed
The other piece of advice to cut down on junk mail is to contact those offending companies one-by-one to ask to be removed from their mailing lists. The DMAChoice website covers participating industry members only, so you'll need to go one step better to fully stop catalogs and shopping mail. All honest businesses will have an official way of requesting to have your name taken off their marketing database. Use it!
Quite often a mail piece will include specific how-to-remove instructions in a similar way as email newsletters do. You may be asked to call a special number, send in your request by postal mail, or visit a web page to input your customer number and submit. Try not to get annoyed as I sometimes do when the process is overly complex.
For example Pottery Barn has a dedicated web page to reduce your catalog mailings or stop them entirely. Searching Google for the name of a online store or retail brand plus the terms "remove" and "mailing list" will help you find these opt-out pages. The ubiquitous Publishers Clearing House also has a FAQ on how to remove your name and address.
While it can be very time-consuming, contacting direct marketers it is another necessary task to get rid of excess catalogs and unwanted solicitations that are clogging up your mailbox. Make a pile as you receive them and spend a free hour to check each off your do-not-mail list. Its costs time in the short run but saves time in the long run.
Remove Before Christmas Shopping Season
My final tip is to be proactive and get off these mailing lists well before the Christmas shopping holiday season. You surely know that is when an onslaught of catalogs and products we don't want to buy start to fill up our mailboxes. It's also a time when many Americans travel to visit family and put their mail on hold. This is your reminder to take back your precious time by reducing your junk mail now.
Stop Credit Offers Reaching Your Mailbox
You may have heard about the website OptOutPrescreen whose purpose is to let consumers opt out of receiving offers for financial services such as credit cards, loans, and insurance products. These offers are usually sent in response to a check of your credit report which contains your outstanding credit balances, payment history, and contact information. This is why Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are involved.
By making your preference known to the credit bureaus, you can prevent your credit score from being used to solicit you to borrow more (often beyond your means). Do you receive letters with "preapproved" offers of credit way too often? Use this free service to opt out from those offers that are not wanted.
This site worked well for me as I went from getting multiple credit card offers a week (not to mention the occasional car loan offer or low-interest line of credit) to almost none. Plus do you really want unsolicited credit card offers sitting in your mailbox when you are out-of-town? That sounds like a recipe for identity theft in my opinion.
Your mailbox will thank you when it rarely overflows with junk and unsolicited mail. When I come back from being away for a few days, I only want to see important letters and bills (OK, I'm not excited about the bills) and critical notices from companies that I do business with. And when I go on vacation and put my mail on hold, I don't want to have to bring a forklift to my post office to transport a massive pile of unwanted mail home. I hope it helps you enjoy more time off as a result.