How to Reduce Incoming Paper

Postal worker delivering the mailOne of the steps I mentioned in my post “10 Steps to Organizing Your Paperwork” was to reduce paper coming into your home.  After all, paper that doesn’t exist won’t lead to more clutter!

One obvious way to reduce the paper coming in is to sign up for online bills and statements.  Many people that I’ve talked to are already doing this, reducing their incoming mail significantly.  Besides saving paper, combining an online bill with automatic payments also makes it much easier to be sure bills are paid on time when you’re away from home, eliminates having to write a check, and saves on postage too.  Of course, if you turn around and PRINT OUT your online bill or statement, then you’re taking a step backwards as far as reducing paper.  Ok, guilty as charged!  As a person with an accounting background, I still print out most credit card and bank statements so that I can check them against my receipts.  It’s a longtime habit, and has some benefits, but isn’t helping to reduce paper.  Whenever possible, however, I do try to just save the statements in PDF form without printing them out.

Even if you’ve got the bills and statements under control, there is still a lot of junk that makes it into our mailboxes every day.  I’m not talking about our email boxes (although that can be a problem too); I’m talking about that good, ol’ fashioned snail mail.  Catalogs, magazines, credit offers, and the like.  (When my son first took the PSAT, I noticed a huge spike in mail as hundreds of colleges seemed to think they should send him something– nearly all of it unread and tossed in the recycling bin!)

There are various ways to get off these lists, but rather than try to list them all here, I’m going to provide a few useful links:

1) The Federal Trade Commission lists ways to eliminate credit offers and how to contact the Direct Marketing Association to stop receiving unsolicited mail from large companies.

2) The covers some of the same information, but adds more on how to stop receiving advertising supplements (i.e., Red Plum, Pennysaver, ValPak coupons), catalogs, phone directories, charitable requests and many other types of mail.

3) At , much of the same information is provided in a handy downloadable PDF.  In addition, they include a sample letter to send to catalogs and actual forms that can be printed and mailed to remove your name from direct marketing lists.

4) Catalog Choice can help you receive fewer catalogs, phone books, credit offers and more. They offer the convenience of being able to opt out of a variety of publications all at once.

5) Finally, if you have a smartphone, of course there is now “an app for that.”  PaperKarma allows you to take photos of the junk mail you wish to stop. Snap a photo and you’re done.

Unfortunately, there is not a magic wand that is going to make all your junk mail disappear.  My search for solutions didn’t come up with any specific way to get off the college lists (although I’m hoping they will drop off after a period of time.)  But by setting aside some time to educate yourself on how to get off of the most common types of mailing lists and implementing a few of the suggested measures, you can definitely make a dent in it!


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  1. The “Less Paper” Challenge
  2. Are You a “Paper Stasher”?
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