Is there a one-stop way to make snail mail disappear?
July 27, 2009 9:56 AM   Subscribe

On my list of everyday things that drive me up the wall, snail mail is right up there with cilantro. Please help me make my mailbox disappear.

I've read these threads, and was hoping that by now someone had come up with something a little easier?

I pay all of my bills automatically so there is really almost nothing that arrives via snail mail that's important to me. I've signed up for Green Dimes (which didn't really work), and signed up for e-payments across the board. I've also called Equifax and all of those guys. Yet the crap keeps on coming. There has got to be an easier way than spending half an hour on the phone with Pottery Barn and West Elm every other week... right??? (Also, I rent so I can't really just dismantle the mailbox, much as I might fantasize about it.)
posted by ohyouknow to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I keep a trashcan near the mailbox. Junk mail goes in the trash.

Takes about 15 seconds a day.
posted by wfrgms at 9:59 AM on July 27, 2009

Best answer: You could use earth class mail... it costs money but it's a great filter.
posted by pwally at 10:06 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here ya go.
posted by scratch at 10:08 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

So, I typically take all their junk, put it back in their free return envelope and mail it back to them. Sometimes I tear it up beforehand if I'm particularly angry with them. The junk mail stops coming soon after that.
posted by scrutiny at 10:12 AM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

It sort of depends what you're after, and what sort of lifestyle you lead. Pretty much the easiest way to not get any mail is to never give anyone your address, never buy anything online, never file a change of address with the post office and not have your name on anything that is linked to your address [phone bill, whatever]. So, that won't work for where you are now and realistically you are where you are. You can do a few things to minimize mail. You can not get rid of mail. You'll have to think, generally speaking, how much hassle you want to go through to be rid of the hassle of mail.

I don't get any mail at my house
. Literally, none. And I rent. This works for me because I set up a post office box when I moved in and nothing here has my name linked to where I live. I get my mail as often as I want to [and I like mail, so I am not you] but anything that is junk mail goes into the recycling bin at the post office and does not go to my house. This has its downsides.

- when I got an enhanced driver's license I had to get someone to fax to DMV proving where I lived, this was a pain
- a post office box costs money and has set hours that are often working people's hours.
- I'm engaging with my mail even more than usual because I have to make a trip to collect it. That said, it's more on my schedule.

So, you can do all these things. Most specifically you can fill out form 1500 to get a prohibitory order against people sending mail you think is explicit. This is sort of a dick move [i.e. the post office sometimes doesn't like it and it makes you look like a crazy person] but it does pretty much work. That said, I think this is more work, not less. That said, you might enjoy it. It's a little bit of a hassle to get the post office box/home address thing worked out. Some places won't deliver to a PO box. You have to wait in line for packages, etc. That said, I've gotten a lot of stuff delivered here over the years and it does not put my name on a junk mail list because, as I said, I get no mail at home.

You can make it into a full-time job really, stopping catalogs. I'm not sure what other combination of stuff I've done that makes this work for me but I'd suspect it has to also do with

- contacting people I DO do business with [bank, car insurance, credit cards etc] and letting them know that I don't want them to share my name/address with anyone
- telling people who want donations for projects that I'll give them a donation but not via the website they've given [the biggest offender in my life? Amfar, second biggest, EFF]. This is a pain and I feel like a spaz doing this
- ditto for philanthropy generally. I have checks with no mailing address on them [email address only] and people can take them or leave them but they don't get my address when I give them money
- any junkmail I get that comes with a postage paid envelope gets a note from me "please take me off of your mailing list" in that envelope along with all the paper trash they sent me. I'm aware this makes me seem like a crazy person.

And some of it may just be that Vermont may have stricter laws about junk mail. So, some of this you can put in place next time you move. Some of it you can do now. Some of it may have to do with adjusting expectations regarding how available you seem to have to be to live in the US. I totally feel your pain. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

This was posted to Wisebread today, coincidently. Probably overlaps with other links here, but seems pretty comprehensive.

How to Remove Yourself from Mailing Lists and Eliminate Junk Mail.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:28 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: wfrgms: I wish I could keep a trash can near my mailbox. That would make this situation much more tolerable. As it stands I carry all the mail into my apartment and it all gets dumped on the dining room table. Then I muster up the will power to plow through all the crap about once every other month. Which is problematic for a bunch of reasons.

pwally: That looks amazing and I'm checking it out now. How long did it take you to set up, and how much do they charge you each month? Do you still get catalogs? Thanks!

jessamyn: Yes, it sucks royally. I will definitely keep all those tips in mind when/if I move. I'm aiming for a one-stop no mail will ever reach me again solution, so my guess is that it is a service I will have to pay for (akin to pwally's suggestion). Per your link it appears that even with a Form 1500 I will still receive bulk mail.

jeffamaphone: That post led me to DMA's website, which then routed me to each individual catalog for purposes of opting out. Alas, as jessamyn said, it really can become a full time job.
posted by ohyouknow at 10:53 AM on July 27, 2009

I used CatalogChoice as part of my junkmail-busting regimen. I can't say for sure if it was helpful, as I was doing many different things at once, but I thought I'd mention it since I haven't seen it linked to yet.

As for being on the phone with catalog companies-- that was always my last resort. I did bulk mailing list removals first. Then I used the "contact us" links on websites and asked them to remove me and gave my address. (I would often say, "I love shopping at COMPANY X, but I run a paperless office and would prefer to shop online...") The last resort was calling in. I think I only had to do that once or twice. Just thought I'd mention it...
posted by sharkfu at 10:54 AM on July 27, 2009

Simple things get a lot more difficult without a physical street address. DMV, IRS, etc.

I have a tough piece of property and a PO Box. I tried to get rid of the mailbox entirely, and ended up missing several VERY important pieces of mail. They come from the city, and the state at random intervals, and use your street address exclusively.

Things like the bush voter buyoff *ahem* stimulus package check, tax assessments, court documents, etc.

So you can definitely minimize the volume using suggestions from above, but if you get rid of it entirely the post office puts a "inactive residence" flag on your address in their master file and that can cause problems you won't know about, possibly until much, much later.
posted by Aquaman at 10:54 AM on July 27, 2009

Why do you check your mailbox? I remove flyers and un-addressed mail and obvious junk mail from my mailbox every couple of weeks. I just leave that stuff on the little ledge under the mailboxes where all the other tenants leave their junk mail. I look through the rest of it and take any cheques with me (really, that's when I remove the flyers, when I'm expecting a cheque). Everything else I shove back into the mailbox and left there. I sort through the stuff that goes back in the mailbox 3-4 times/year, mostly when I need something (like to do my taxes).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:14 AM on July 27, 2009

I keep a cardboard box next to my front door for junk mail. It's one of my cat's favorite nap spots and when it gets full I take it down to the paper recycling bin and dump it out. I loathe junk mail, too, but this system makes it fairly painless.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:14 AM on July 27, 2009

Seriously, I know you said it isn't possible, but the garbage can is the best way to go. Even better if it's a recycle bin. You live in an apartment -- so do I. There's a shared garbage can right by the mailboxes. Since you obviously don't have this, put one there yourself. Get a cheap one from a dollar store and leave it there, and see what happens. Put your flyers in there first to get people started. You might have to be the one to empty it once a week, but thats better than your current solution. Of course, this doesn't work if the mailboxes are outside in the weather.
posted by cgg at 11:26 AM on July 27, 2009

Response by poster: If only I had a penguin... : The mailboxes are located outside and they're small enough that it creates a real mess if I don't empty mine out.

restless_nomad: I love this idea, but my cat eats mail. Seriously. He also eats cardboard boxes. I'd hate to enable this habit of his. But this might be the ideal lazy woman's shredding solution. Hmmm...
posted by ohyouknow at 11:33 AM on July 27, 2009

Response by poster: cgg: I'm going to give this a try. Yeah, the mailboxes are outside, but covered, so this may work. Thanks!
posted by ohyouknow at 11:40 AM on July 27, 2009

I recommend shredding any junk mail with your name on it instead of just recycling it. Never can be too cautious.
posted by corpse at 12:52 PM on July 27, 2009

My dad does something similar to scrutiny. He writes "take me off your list" on the return envelope, and puts something yucky inside (like the wrapper for a granola bar he's eaten, or some pencil shavings from the pencil sharpener... I'm sure you can think of more ^_^). Apparently this is very successful.
posted by Jacen Solo at 2:21 PM on July 27, 2009

I know someone who just never checks his. He told me he called all the companies up every 3 months and asked how much he owed them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:58 PM on July 27, 2009

Why don't you try putting a trash can near your dining-room table, then? You wouldn't have to muster as much energy to sort through your mail if you can throw it away before you set it down, and isn't that really the (or 'an achievable') goal?

Beyond that, if you're already plopping all of this stuff down on the table for days at a time, a trash can would certainly not look out of place on the floor or by the wall, corner, etc.
posted by rhizome at 7:20 PM on July 27, 2009

Sharkfu mentions CatalogChoice. I highly recommend it if you're plagued by a lot of catalogs you don't want. We used to get TONS of junk year-round because my Mom did so much shopping from catalogs. I signed up with them when it was still a new site, and we barely get any catalogs now. There are some catalogs that won't honor requests from the site, but it should still cut down on the amount of irritating phone calls to customer support.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:50 PM on July 27, 2009

Is this walk-by mail or actually addressed and mailed to you?

Here in Australia we have a "do not mail" register (similar to our "do not call" register) and also little stickers that go on the box saying "No Junk mail please" "Definitely NO Junk Mail" etc. Permanent marker also sees to work.
posted by titanium_geek at 12:01 AM on July 28, 2009

corpse: "I recommend shredding any junk mail with your name on it instead of just recycling it. Never can be too cautious."

Why? What can happen if someone finds an L.L. Bean catalog with my name and address on it?
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:27 AM on July 28, 2009

Response by poster: rhizome: my dining room (despite the large stack of mail on the table) is actually pretty fancy looking, so it would be odd to drag an extra trash can in there. But I like where you were going with this.

Mael Oui: I'll check that out.

Thanks everyone for the recommendations! I think I may bite the bullet and go with pwally's suggestion. Until then, I'm all about adding a recycling bin right by the building's front entrance.
posted by ohyouknow at 3:25 PM on July 29, 2009

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