Services & Software

Yes, You Can Get Rid of Junk Mail

Most of it, anyway.

James Martin/CNET

This story is part of Try This, CNET's collection of simple tips to improve your life, fast.

Reach into your mailbox these days, and it's more than likely you'll pull out an avalanche of junk mail: ads, financial offers and useless coupons that go straight into the trash. Not only is excessive junk mail annoying -- it's also wasteful. The Sierra Club estimates that junk mail uses up 80 million to 100 million trees per year.

But it's not impossible to slow the flow of unwanted paper traveling through your mailbox, even if it might take a little persistence. Whereas telemarketing calls can be stopped largely through the National Do Not Call Registry, eliminating all junk mail requires a few extra steps. 

Here's how to halt those financial offers, stem the flow of endless catalogs and take yourself off marketing lists. (And here's how to track a letter or package you do want directly to your mailbox.)

@cnetdotcom Tired of endless #junk mail? Here's how to end it. #spammail#junkmail#howto#lifehack#trythis#usps#howtotok#advice♬ LoFi(860862) - skollbeats

How to stop credit card, loan, mortgage and insurance junk mail

A good place to start is with financial junk mail, since it's the easiest to stop. The consumer credit reporting industry maintains its own opt-out list at OptOutPrescreen.com.

Simply provide your name and address and you can stop preapproved financial offers for either five years or permanently. (You can also opt back in to these offers if you change your mind later.) 

How to stop receiving junk mail catalogs

You can always cancel the catalogs you receive one by one by contacting each sender. Or Catalog Choice can do it for you, for free. Catalog Choice is a project related to The Story of Stuff and is funded solely by donations.

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After you register for a free account, search for catalogs by name and then remove yourself or others at your address (such as former residents) from the mailings. Catalog Choice will either manage the cancellation requests for you or point you to the page on the vendor's site where you can remove yourself.

Catalog Choice also recommends registering with DMAchoice, a service run by the Data & Marketing Association that allows you to opt out of commercial mailings. It costs $2 for 10 years to request that your name be removed from direct-marketing lists in four categories: credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers and other mail offers. DMAchoice is also endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission.

PaperKarma is another paid service that can eliminate junk mailers. Snap photos of any junk mailer logo then upload to PaperKarma with the name you want removed, and the service will take care of the rest. PaperKarma costs $4 a month, $25 a year, or $60 for a lifetime membership.

Stop junk mail coupons and marketing offers

Those advertising flyers addressed to "Current Resident" and blue envelopes full of coupons you never use? They're harder to stop because of the USPS' Every Door Direct Mail service, which mail-bombs neighborhoods by address, not name.

You can make a big dent by taking your address off the biggest marketing lists. Just request to be removed from the mailing lists of major junk mail senders:

Here's the kind of junk mail you can't stop

These services can't stop people from walking around your neighborhood and putting flyers or coupons in your mailbox or on your front stoop -- even if you have a placard against soliciting. In that case, you may have to politely ask the person dropping off circulars to skip your residence.

For more tips, learn how to cut a cake with dental floss and how to remove contact lenses easily when traveling.