Simplify Your Life: Eliminating Mail
It is an understatement to say that I am passionate about simplifying. Call it streamlining, optimizing, OCD, orderly, minimalistic- but the elimination of clutter in one’s life, especially in today’s day and age when we are inundated by it, is essential to a balanced life. It creates more free time, which I refer to as the ultimate commodity. It is this mantra that had a huge part in the creation of TICO*, but I apply it to many aspects of my life, including mail.
Mail is a huge problem in our country. Unless you make a cognizant effort to become a conservationist instead of a consumerist, mail will continue to be a problem for you.
Here are some interesting statistics:
- 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually.
- The average American household receives unsolicited junk mail equal to 1.5 trees every year—more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined.
- 44 percent of junk mail is thrown away unopened, but only half that much junk mail (22 percent) is recycled.
- Americans pay $370 million annually to dispose of junk mail that doesn’t get recycled.
- On average, Americans spend 8 months opening junk mail in the course of their lives.
It’s crazy! But there are steps you can take to segregate yourself from the masses of others who suffer from mail inundation.
For a long time, junk mail plagued me. To say that I hate it is an understatement. If I am receiving something via the postal service, it better be from someone I know. The institution does serve a purpose, even though I feel that the near future holds some dramatic changes in our country’s postal system; but that is another topic. Junk mail has poisoned the concept, and it is nothing short of a prime example of mass marketing intruding our lives and overwhelming us. To bring a stack of mail into your home, your sanctuary, at the end of a day is somewhat of a violation of your space. Your goal needs to be to operate under a system without the use of this marketing infiltration in your home. The good news is that there is an easy way to do this.
In order to get a firm grasp on what mail you have coming your way, you need to keep a pile of everything you receive for two weeks at a time, for about two months. The theory is that in the period of two months, every marketing list you are on will have sent you something. There will be other marketing lists that you are on that will re-surface, so naturally there will be some maintenance after you see through the below steps, but in either case, by following the practices outlined here, you will be able to reduce your mail by 80% or more. After two weeks, take you pile of mail and separate it all into four piles:
- Junk Mail – shit you don’t want
- Account Mail – bank statements and account statements
- Subscription Mail – magazine sand other stuff you subscribe to
- Personal Mail – letters and packages that your friends and family send you
Now take each pile and follow the steps outlined below:
For every letter, postcard, or magazine that you receive and never requested, you need to call them and politely ask them to remove you from their mailing lists. Their information will be on the packaging they send you. You may even need to search for their website in order to figure out how to contact them. When speaking with them, stress to them that you don’t want to receive anything from them or any other organizations that they represent. If you ask to only be removed from a certain publication, they will keep you on the other lists that they manage, so clarify to them more than once that it is all lists that you wish to be removed from. Remember that they are looking at your profile within their database- be nice to them so that they follow through with your request. Remember that they are just doing their job, and they are pretty much brainwashed at that point anyway. They will most likely say that it will take one to two months for your request to go into effect. That is normal within the industry, due to the delay in list purchases and receipt of said solicitations. Make sure to thank them, and later in this section you will learn how to ensure that your requests are followed through with.
Within this category, you are going to need to evaluate the subscription mail that you receive. Sometimes this mail is paid for and sometimes it is free, but in either case, you are the one who asked for it (or in most cases, failed to clarify that you didn’t want to receive it). In either case, it is up to you to address it. You can do so by contacting the sender and terminating the arrangement.
Try to access your desired information online versus print media so that you can work to eliminate mail.
Account mail consists of bank and credit card statements, as well as any other account-related mail that can be accessed and or delivered electronically. All mail in this category is easily eliminated, as they are usually services that you pay for, and any legitimate company will adjust the communication preferences to one of a ‘paperless’ structure where they basically never mail you anything. I also recommend having one email address that you use for all online accounts, to ensure that you never have an email address change occur that requires you to contact all of these vendors again in the future.
Personal mail is what mail was intended for; letters and postcards from friends and family. Packages containing something you are looking forward to receiving. Mail used to be like that you know. The postman was a popular guy as he brought with him a connection to the rest of the world.
Here are some other steps you can follow to decrease your incoming mail in the future:
I love this secret. It is really a cool trick that is so obvious and easy, you ask yourself why you never did it before. Did you know that you can actually write ‘refused’ on any mail that you don’t want, place it back in the mailbox and your mailman will initiate its journey back to the mass marketing distribution center, or wherever it came from? Pretty cool huh?
You need to not let any undesired mail invade your home. Your sanctuary. You can either take your marker with you to the mailbox or better yet Velcro it to the roof of your mailbox so you have easy access. Don’t just grab everything out of your mailbox and carry it into your home like a zombie or a drone that has been trained to subject itself to every piece of media that is delivered to it.
Taking the measures I have described here will eliminate 80% or more of your mail. You will go days without receiving anything, and I have to tell you how great that feels. I start to understand the excitement that our forefathers had at the arrival of mail that was intended for them. It’s awesome.
Yes, there are ‘virtual mail’ services out there that will take your mail, sort through it, and scan to you the important stuff, but I am not a fan of those. Their shortfalls aside, I view them as a bandaid- like a patch on the outside of a dam. Outsourcing your problems doesn’t eliminate them; it just costs you money to have someone else deal with them.
Go For It
I challenge you to embark on a journey to streamlining your mail intake. It will take a little time as well as just a little ongoing maintenance, but I promise you that it is well worth it. Keep me updated on your progress, I would love to hear from you!
Have you already embarked on this quest? If so, are there any tips or tricks that you learned along the way that you wouldn’t mind sharing?