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Stop Junk Mail

How to Make Sure You Only Get the Mail You Want


Overflowing mailbox
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During 2010, a whopping 82.5 billion pieces of junk mail were delivered to American homes, according to statistics from the United States Postal Service. The Post Office calls it standard mail instead of junk mail; but it's the catalogs, marketing flyers, promotions and credit card offers we all receive each day. It's the mail cluttering our countertops and filling our trash cans.

What's the best way to eliminate junk mail clutter? Stop junk mail from ever entering your home in the first place.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and its mail preference service DMAchoice, is a great place to start.

The Direct Marketing Association

The DMA is the trade association for businesses and organizations who use direct marketing techniques, meaning they contact the consumer (you) directly. Most of that direct communication is through the mail.

In October 2008, the DMA launched its DMAchoice program. It's an online tool that helps you manage your direct mail preferences so you only get mail you really want.

  • Why? Why would the DMA want to help you stop junk mail? Because direct mail is only effective if you read it, and they want to make sure you receive the mail you want to read.
  • Does it work? Surprisingly well. There are 3600 member organizations in the DMA, many of whom are leaders in the direct mail industry. In order to maintain membership, they must follow all DMA guidelines. These include taking you off a mailing list upon request.

How Does It Work?

Based on input from the site, along with a few of my own organizational twists, here is a step-by-step guide for utilizing this unique service to stop junk mail.

  • Gather two boxes or baskets. Label one "keep" and the other "eliminate."
  • For a two-or-three-week period of time, pay special attention to the types of junk mail you receive. If it's something of interest to you or an offer you might have a need for, put it in the "keep" box. Everything else should go in the "eliminate" box.
  • Once you've conducted your research and sorted your junk mail, go to www.dmachoice.org.
  • Create a free mail preference service account. It's a quick and easy process.

Managing Your Mail

Once you log in to your account, you will be able to manage the mail you receive in the following four categories:

  1. Credit offers - to manage these offers, you are directed to another free site offered by the major credit bureaus at www.optoutprescreen.com. In a few easy steps, you can permanently remove your name from inclusion on credit card offer lists.
  2. Catalogs - within the DMAchoice site, you will have the option to stop receipt of all catalogs or you can use the alphabetized list to select specific catalogs one by one. If you decide to stop receipt on an individual basis, review the ones you've been collecting in your "eliminate" box. Choose your mailing options for each of these companies. In many cases, you don't have to choose between all or nothing. Many offer the option of simply reducing the number of times per year you receive each catalog.
  3. Magazine offers - managing your magazine offers works the same way. You can either stop all magazine offers or choose on a magazine-by-magazine basis. Review the magazine offers you've been collecting in both your "keep" box and your "eliminate" box when making these decisions.
  4. Other mail offers - includes a listing of all other mail offers that don't fall into one of the other categories above. These include offers from insurance companies, energy companies, financial institutions, and charitable organizations among others. 

In each case, keep in mind that it may take 30 to 90 days for your request to trickle down to the actual organization. You may still receive mail from them in the meantime.

All-in-all, it took me approximately one hour to manage my mail preferences and stop junk mail from cluttering my mailbox. It was an hour well spent as it will save me a lot of time in the future.


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