How to De-Clutter the Mailbox

Have you noticed that when you go to the store or open a catalog, you suddenly see all kinds of things you want? Things that you never knew you wanted?

De-cluttering the mailbox, both real-life and online, is more than just part of my Post-Consumer Life to approach zero waste (According to, each US adult gets an average an amount of junk mail equivalent to the weight of my seven-year-old). Stopping junk mail is also about cutting out the consumer messages that create desire.

Man, they’re relentless. In the mailbox. In the email inbox. On billboards. On blog banners. It’s impossible in our modern, urban environment to eliminate them completely.

But I can surely cut down a whole lot. Here’s one day’s mailbox worth, before I started de-cluttering my mailbox.


Now, each day when I go out to get the mail, I deal immediately with the unwanted catalogs and direct mail. That means, I don’t go get the mail until I have five minutes to put in some work immediately. Because what I don’t want is a pile waiting on my desk as another to-do list item.

I’ve already cut both my paper and electronic mail drastically by:

1. Calling

Nearly every catalog or mail piece has a phone number on it. It takes about 30 seconds to call and request to be taken off the mailing list. I’ve always gotten friendly people who don’t even ask why. This has been much more effective in stopping mail than or They’re great concepts and seem like noble efforts, but after trying for about six months, I found that they just aren’t as effective for about the same amount of effort as calling directly. And simplifying is the whole point.

2. Unsubscribing

Scroll down to the bottom of promo emails and click on Unsubscribe. Legally, all US email marketing has to have an Unsubscribe option. It takes a few seconds, and you’re usually off the list immediately.

3. MailStop

This is a $35 annual service that is supposed to take your name off lists that are rented out to marketers. This is different than getting catalogs directly, because in those cases, at some point I’ve given them my info by ordering from them or one of their family companies, or receiving a gift from someone else. I just signed up for MailStop, so let’s see if it’s worth it.

4. Streaming Amazon Instant Video

We used to get Netflix in the mail, which included a non-recyclable peel-off strip. Now we just stream movies to our TV.

This clearly takes some dedication. But I figure it just takes putting in some work up front for a worthwhile result. After putting in the work, it’ll hopefully just require occasional maintenance.



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