How to stop getting wasteful direct mail that jams up your mailbox (in the USA)

This is a summary of the journey I took to significantly cut down on the amount of junk mail and flyers I was receiving. There is a lot of information out there and I was wary of it in case I was inadvertently giving in to scammers. All the options below are tried and tested, and took a while to figure out.

First a bit of background. I didn't know when I embarked on this journey a few months ago that my bank, credit rating agencies (like Equifax and TransUnion), and any business I may have purchased an item from and/or shared my home address with, get to sell not just my address, but my other juicy demographic and financial details with other businesses or directly through third-party exchanges. 

Privacy is a luxury these days. I know that. However what irked me were the dozens of useless, irrelevant, and FAT catalogs (with THIN models on them) and flyers I kept getting in my USPS mailbox that are not only a ****ing nuisance, but a waste of this planet's limited resources and a strain on my municipality's recycling and waste management system. This is what I did to cut it down by 95% or more.

Stopping Direct Mail and Catalogs - Use DMAChoice - https://dmachoice.org/

Ironically the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) which acquired the Data & Marketing Association (formerly the Direct Marketing Association) and makes its money from selling your information, also offers a way to stop the direct mail its business creates. 

By either paying a total of US$5 online or US$6 by mail, for 10 years, you can reduce "promotional mail offers from companies you don't have a business relationship with" and "reduce the overall volume of prospect promotional mail offers received". 50c or 60c a year is a very affordable price to pay for this privacy and to stop this waste. These prices are as of January 2024.

Full details can be found at https://dmachoice.org/static/consumer_choice_tools.php 

I created an account, used PayPal (to keep my credit card information secure) to make the payment, and entered my name and address information into an easy, simple form. Within days I found the number of catalogs showing up in my mailbox reduced significantly. It's been a few months now. No longer am I receiving  glossy mags from companies with names that sound like strange fruit showing very, very thin 20-year olds modelling aspirational outdoor gear and lifestyle choices that I could never, or would never, fit into. 

Furthermore, once you create your account you can, at no additional cost, add multiple names and addresses to the same account to protect other members of your household or stop mail at other addresses you may be receiving junk mail at (code for you can use this membership to stop junk mail for more than just your name and address). The DMAChoice page also provides you other handy information on opting out of junk emails, and how to manage marketing mail opt-outs for deceased individuals.

Stopping Pre-Filled Offers from Credit Card, Insurance and Financial Companies - Use Opt Out Pre Screen https://optoutprescreen.com/

This was eye-opening. Receiving pre-filled offers from credit card companies, banks, and insurance companies seems like an invitation for a thief to steal someone's identity by going through their recycle bin. It's always bothered me that these companies do this. What surprised me was that it's actually the four credit monitoring companies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, and Innovis) that appear to harvest and sell this information about us to these banks and insurance companies. Like the unholy DMA/ANA nexus above, for better or worse, the four of them also control the opt-out process.

The Federal Trade Commissions Consumer Advice page on the topic that also had a link to the OptOut webpage, gave me the assurance I needed to try this option.

It was actually easier than I thought and you don't need to create an account. You can go to optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) and immediately opt out of getting your private and confidential personal and financial information sold to other parties for 5 years. By taking an additional step and downloading, printing, signing and mailing the organization a computer-generated, pre-filled letter from their site, you can (and should) make this request permanent.

Do this right away. It's so easy and takes just a few minutes. You have no excuse to not do this, especially given the increasingly frequent identity theft and online financial fraud stories we hear about. It's sad that it's our own information that we have to ask not to be sold, but that is a conversation for another time.

And for most of the remaining pieces of marketing mail that still come into my mailbox despite the steps above...

There will still be a (very) few that come into your mailbox- maybe a charity you donated to, or a business you bought something from in the past- that legitimately got your address from you and genuinely think you may want to hear from them.

I found that in some cases I actually wanted to keep getting their mail. For those that I didn't, I found their contact email address on their website and sent them a short email with a photo of the mailing label and asked them kindly and politely to stop sending me hard-copy, direct mail. Some companies even have online forms you can use to remove your name from their mailing list. These webforms can be easily found using a google search with the name of the company and terms like "remove from mailing list".

In most cases that I emailed them, I received an equally kind and professional email reply in a few days acknowledging receipt, and confirming removal of my name and address from their mailing list. In all cases, the mailings stopped. 

It took just a few hours of time to take the steps I'm recommending above. It felt cathartic, and most importantly it worked!


Some of the resources I used for my research:

  • https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-stop-junk-mail
  • https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/prescreened-credit-insurance-offers
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/08/smarter-living/how-to-cut-down-on-unwanted-junk-mail.html

Note: Some resources suggested using CatalogChoice to reach companies individually. This option seemed legitimate enough, but also involved a few steps, and at the end of the day I did not use them because I worried that using yet another third party broker would mean giving them information about me, and who knows what they would do with it. If any of you do use them though, let me know how it worked for you, and I will update this post accordingly.

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