by Sarah Beckham
Remember back during the holidays when the mail brought cool things like cards and packages? Trips to the mailbox just aren’t as much fun now that we’re back to just getting credit card offers and catalogs we’ve never heard of.
Unwanted mail is a pain in plenty of ways says professional organizer Lorie Marrero creator of ClutterDiet.com and author of “”The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life.”” Staying on top of it takes time and if we don’t stay on top of it it clutters our homes. “”Paper is the No. 1 problem that people report to us Marrero says and mail is a big part of paper clutter.
One type of junk mail pre-approved credit card offers can be worse than annoying: If your mailbox isn’t secure thieves can swipe pre-approved credit card offers and steal your identity.
We consulted Marrero and Lydia Hekman media and public relations manager for the Better Business Bureau in Austin for ideas on how to make sure that only the mail you want gets to your mailbox.
Let’s start with those pre-approved credit card offers. If you want to stop getting them Marrero and Hekman say to visit optoutprescreen.com or call 888-5-OPTOUT. The service operated by the three major credit reporting bureaus will ask for information you should normally be leery about giving out including your birth date and Social Security number but the BBB says it’s safe to share these details and that they are kept confidential. If you’re using the optoutprescreen.com web site be extra-careful typing the URL so you don’t accidentally end up at a copycat site Marrero says.
Hekman says that if your mailbox is stuffed with catalogs from companies you’ve never bought from or never even heard of chances are your information got shared by a catalog from which you did order. You can get off the list kept by Abacus whose members are catalog and publishing companies. E-mail [email protected] or write to Abacus Inc. P.O. Box 1478 Broomfield CO 80038.
A key step to reducing mail that’s pitching you products is visiting the Direct Marketing Association’s website at dmachoice.org Marrero and Hekman say. You can request to stop receiving mailings from DMA members but companies can take a while to remove your name from their lists the BBB cautions.
If you don’t want to go through all of these steps to stopping unwanted mail there are services that will do the work for you but they will cost more than taking care of things on your own.
“”The easiest yet most expensive is 41pounds Marrero says. “”What I like about it is it’s the most comprehensive solution.”” The nonprofit group charges $41 to stop unwanted mail for a household for five years. Learn more at 41pounds.org.
Even going through all these steps or using a comprehensive service won’t entirely free you from unwanted mail. Anytime you provide your address find out whether you’re also signing up for mailings and whether you can opt out Marrero says. She also recommends having a general system for processing your mail. Sort it daily into the categories of action (things like bills) reference (things you should file) and trash. Don’t automatically send junk mail to your trash pile though. Is there an action you can take to stop it such as calling a toll-free number that’s listed on the mailing? Your vigilance will pay off in a mailbox that stays de-junked.
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