Going Paperless 7 – Junk Mail

It’s been over a year since I started on the paperless path and my life is still full of paper.  I’ve spent this Sunday shredding files with personal information.  When I started this project I was mostly concerned with the tons of magazines I was getting in the mail each month.  Now my mailbox is mostly magazine free, but my paper recycling bucket has plenty of paper in it every week.  After canceling magazines I loved, my mailbox is still full of crap that I never wanted.

Since we bought the house my wife grew up in, we get mail for her dead parents, and after my mom died, I had all her mail forwarded here, and between our five names we get piles of unwanted mail.  Hell, we got a letter the other day for a man who lived in the house before my wife’s folks bought it in 1961.  We also get mail for my wife’s two brothers and several of their children.  And we get mail for two very special people: occupant and resident.

I’ve tried to write some of the regular senders and inform them about the deceased, but many types of mail we get are due to our names being on endless lists.  Lists that are sold from one marketing company to another.  It’s harder to fight junk mail marketing than unsolicited phone calls because there is no official federal do not mail registry, like the National Do Not Call Registry.  (There is a campaign, Do Not Mail, that’s collecting signatures for a petition for the federal government to create a Do Not Mail service like the National Do Not Call Registry.)

The Direct Marketing Association does offer DMAchoice.org.  Of course, these are the people trying to help businesses sell you stuff, but they claim they want to develop good relations between customers and sellers, so you can register for what you don’t want or what you do.  However, many marketing companies do not belong to the DMA.

I have found a number of other web sites with good advice on how to reduce the flow of junk mail:

There are pay services that will do some of this work for you, but I couldn’t find enough information about them to risk hiring them.  All these advice sites require work, and some of the advice requires contacting agencies and giving them your SSN.  I’m still mentally debating that.

I have joined DMAchoice.org but it’s not simple to use like the National Do Not Call Registry, but it is helpful.  DMAchoice divides junk mail into four categories:  Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers and Other Mail Offers.  This service helps you to add or remove your address from hundred of member companies mailing lists, or it helps get you onto lists that warns companies not to market to you at all.  But it’s not perfect.  Any company that you buy from, or subscribe to, will continue to send sales offers to you.  For example, I buy from L. L. Bean, and I get catalogs all the time in the mail, and emails about specials.  And my wife would probably get mad at me if I canceled the J. C. Penny’s sale catalogs.  DMAchoice.org expects you to take notes on what you get in the mail and work carefully to thin things out.  Also, DMAchoice.org has a service to stop junk mail to deceased recipients.

I get a lot less mail than I did a year ago.  Because I quit subscribing to magazines, I get far fewer offers in the mail.  I’ve even had a rare day of getting no mail whatsoever, and on many days my red Netflix envelope is the only thing in the box.  I bet my mailman loves me, if he’s not worried about losing his job.  If only I could only convince him not to deliver those weekly bundle of local ads.

Going paperless takes work, a lot of work.  Maybe a year from now I’ll have the junk mail under control.  Not only will that save trees, keep carbon out of the atmosphere, but it will save me time.  I’ve already saved a lot of time by paying bills automatically through bank drafts, so most of the mail I do process now is junk mail.  However, I still get lots of printouts from Blue Cross Blue Shield after each doctor’s visit, and those monthly statements from my banks.  And some companies that I pay by bank draft want to send me their statements anyway, which is a total waste.

My paper recycle bin will always have paper in it because of product packaging, but the amount I put out by the curb gets smaller over time.  In today’s society where most people have a computer, there’s little reason to deal with the printed word.  Email has replaced the letter, and now the web is replacing catalog shopping.  I read far more news stories on the web than I do in magazines and newspapers.  Instead of printing out copies of things I want to save, I just make a .pdf and file it away.  Eventually, I think most of the communications we get in our mailbox can be processed digitally, including any junk mail that we might actually want.

JWH – 3/29/9

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