Archive for June, 2012

getting rid of junk mail: tips & call for volunteers

Tired of the hassle and waste of junkmail?  Want to help me test some methods of cleaning up your mailbox?

I’m testing out an app called PaperKarma (free for a limited time – requires your address/phone/email). It is supposed to unsubscribe you from much of your junk mail — you just take a photo on your smartphone and it should do the rest.  I started this experiment by collecting all my mail from the last couple months and entering it all in a spreadsheet (43 pieces of mail in May, a quarter of which were bulky circulars from Pennysaver and the like).  PaperKarma actually tracks for you the pieces of mail you’ve entered and when you entered them — but with a spreadsheet I can more easily track how much my mail volume decreases over time (and compare categories of mail).

So far, I’m reasonably impressed with the ease of use of PaperKarma and its recognition abilities.  I took photos from various angles, of mail that was sometimes crumpled.  Sometimes I shot just a portion of the flier/envelope (the address or logo of the company), and sometimes the whole thing (which was sometimes a full-page ad with minimal company-identifying info).  In almost all cases, it dealt with these variations without trouble. However, it doesn’t seem to be able to identify some local businesses (e.g, some dentists who bulk-mailed me) despite my photographing the address very clearly.

There are a number of other methods for reducing junkmail.  I would love some help testing them out.  You don’t need to be as thorough as I am unless you want to.  Most of the methods are, in fact, probably less time consuming than using PaperKarma (even without additionally creating spreadsheets).

  • About to move?  EcoFuture suggests changing your address “temporarily” for less than a year (e.g., 9 months) to stop the USPS from selling your new address to lots of businesses.  (Your mail won’t get forwarded for quite as long, but hopefully long enough for you to identify and contact everyone that you do want to have your new address.)
  • Do a one-stop opt-out: Direct Marketer’s Association Mail Preference Service (US only; UK version here) — I’m especially curious about this one, since it’s an easy step to take, but it’s also voluntary for companies to comply.
  • Get rid of bulk coupons/circulars:  You can do this online at the sites for Valpak, Pennysaver, etc — Wikihow has a collection of links (see Step 6).
  • Tired of credit card offers?  Call1-888-5 OPT OUT and get rid of them for 5 years.
  • Stop getting phone books: See Step 11.
  • Pay for a service like or Private Citizen.
  • Follow some of the other suggestions here or here.

Let me know if you’re trying (or have tried) any of these methods, and how it works!  I’ll probably use multiple methods after I’ve experimented with just using PaperKarma for a while, but it would be great to have more data.  And I’ll let you all know how effective PaperKarma turns out to be.

Update: see follow up post for results.

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