Get rid of junk mail, both physical and virtual.

Inundated with phone books, catalogs and direct-mail marketing offers? Catalog Choice can help – for free.

Despite its name, the nonprofit will help you opt out of solicitations from more than just catalogs. It can de-list you from some 4,000 companies that spam you with phone directories, credit-card offers, circulars and coupon booklets.

Bonus: Getting off their lists will keep them from sharing (i.e., selling) your name to others.

That’s the free service. With an annual donation of $20 or more you can get a premium version that works to get your name out of third-party-marketing databases. Those are the folks who sell your contact info to companies that push carpet-cleaning services or real-estate seminars.

Business owners can use Catalog Choice, too. Ever think about how much time and money go into receiving, sorting and ultimately disposing of catalogs or other mailings directed to people who no longer work for you?

Other ways to de-junk your life

As I noted in a post about how to get rid of credit-card and insurance applications, you can opt out of such mailings for five years or permanently. That info bears repeating: Call the opt-out number, 1-888-567-8688, or visit www.optoutprescreen.com.

You will be asked to provide some pretty personal information, such as your Social Security number and date of birth. That’s so that the major credit reporting companies that operate the phone number/website are able to confirm your identity.

You can also opt out of many unsolicited offers by registering at the Direct Marketing Association. Go to www.dmachoice.org to have yourself put on a “delete” list for the next five years.

That DMA site will also let you opt out of unsolicited commercial e-mail, too. Use it.

Reducing the waste

Again: This is not a 100% fix. You will likely still get unwanted mail, both from non-member companies and from charities, religious groups, local merchants, alumni and professional associations. Deal with them individually and directly.

But do deal. When I registered at Catalog Choice and hit the “phone books” option, six different kinds popped up. It took about 90 seconds to rid myself of all six.

As the former manager of the apartment building I have unpleasant memories of multiple phone books dumped in front of each resident’s door. If they stayed there for more than two weeks I’d carry them to the recycle bin, resenting the waste of paper and resources it took to make a product that people no longer seem to want.

When I get back from this trip, a month’s worth of mail will be waiting. As I weed through the junk I’m going to use the above-mentioned options to eliminate the steady stream of unwanted, unneeded postal deliveries.

Some of it I’ll actually miss. For example, I like the photos and stories in the Heifer International catalog. But it costs them money to send that to me — money that could be going to the families they serve.

Thus it behooves me (as it were) to view these narratives on the HI website. Incidentally, a Heifer gift is great for the folks who already have everything. It’s just plain fun to discover that your mom bought you a water buffalo that you won’t have to feed or clean up after.

Can’t say that I’ll miss those invites to the flip-this-house or precious-metals seminars, though — even if they do offer free lunch and a keychain.

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  1. I don’t know Donna…I must be strange. BUT I love junk mail. I use the blank sheets of paper to print coupons, save the rest to burn in woodstoves to heat my house in the winter and take the “shiney” brochures and magazines to the paper recycling box at DW’s church which uses the proceeds to offset their utility bills. Seems like a “win…win” to me AND we keep our postal workers employed….Just my 2 cents…

  2. I don’t like to pack or wrap anything in newspaper because I then have dirty hands and touch other things. Washing hands between wrapping and packing items is more than I can abide. It’s a real pain to have to wash items once unpacked. I use the colored shiny pages, crumpled for packing. Now, nothing goes to waste, even junk mail. For the time being, I don’t resent it at all.

    Jestjack, I find lots of uses for the paper–notes, lists. It comes here and I use it. However, I get little of it lately. I’m not sure why.

  3. Patti

    Hey Donna! I did this after you posted this last year and greatly reduced my junk mail! I’ve been passing the link along to friends. Thanks very much!!!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Patti: You’re welcome. And thank you for passing it on.


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