getting rid of junk mail: follow up

After my last post, I spent a couple months using the PaperKarma app, and saw depressingly little reduction in junk mail.  It’s a neat idea, and it definitely had some effect, but a lot of catalogs just ignored it, as did all the circulars.  US Airways took me off their mailing list — and sent me a nice snail mail letter to confirm.  :)  I think a number of charities have taken me off their mailing list, but so many charities solicit me (and sell my address to yet new charities, or to the old ones who had me off their list for a while) that it’s hard to tell.  The app is too much effort to use given this.  Okay, you basically just have to take a photo of each piece of mail using your smartphone, but I get a lot of mail.  You also have to check that it recognized the mail correctly.

After giving PaperKarma a few months, I tried getting rid of circulars directly: Valpak, Pennysaver, and Redplum.  Sure enough — after about 6 weeks — I stopped getting their bulky ads.  This was excellent news!

I just used YellowPagesOptOut to opt out of 6 local phonebooks (theoretically — not confirmed yet).  I also opted out of credit cards for 5 years at OptOutPrescreen (as recommended by the FTC) — they also offer a permanent opt-out for people who want to print and mail a form, but I’m hoping that by the time 5 years are up, I’ll be able to do it online.  ;)  I tried DMAchoice (for catalogs, magazines, and other mail offers), but found it too onerous — they give you (sometimes inaccurate) contact info for each company.

Next, I’m going to try 41pounds, which costs $35 for 5 years.  Although I wanted to first evaluate the free options on behalf of everyone who would rather spend time than money, I have run out of patience with bad websites, and also with killing trees.  $7/year is definitely worth it to me if effective — and their self-reported impact is large.  I’m going to have to list all the catalogs and charities who solicit me — fortunately, PaperKarma keeps a record of my requests which will help me remember.  I’ll report back.

I’m still curious to hear the results of anyone else who has tried any of the measures I suggested — or anyone who knows of other good resources!

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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 41pounds.org 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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