Things that are awesome no. 2
A Sunday change of heart

The art of unsubscribing


Recently I've become very enthusiastic about eliminating unwanted mail - both email and paper mail. Yes, it's easy to just delete an email or to recycle an unwanted catalog but it doesn't get to the root of the problem. Pulling out a stack of junk mail from my mailbox is a stack of my wasted time because I have to sort through it and recycle it. And then there's the emotion of being annoyed by it and thinking, "Arg, I should do something about this!" It's the same with an inbox full of promotional email plus that can make it easy to miss important emails. 

And so, I've embarked on a mission of eliminating junk mail in all forms. It does take a little bit of time and effort to get rid of junk mail, especially the paper mail, but it is so satisfying. Getting rid of junk mail in all forms feels like a natural part of our effort to live simply and with intention.

If you'd also love to eliminate unwanted mail I'd love to share a few tips I've picked up...


+ Say "no" to notifications. Every social media or shopping site wants to email you for every. little. thing. Just say "no." When I sign up for a new service or social media (for example, I just created a Nextdoor account) I try to remember to set my email settings to "none." Or at the sight of the first unsolicited email I immediately go to my account and opt out of emails. The only notification emails I currently get are for the twitter accounts of my two podcasts. I don't check Twitter often and I want to be sure to respond to people trying to reach me that way.

+ Don't delete, unsubscribe! It takes barely longer to unsubscribe to a email than it does to delete so just delete! Most automated emails will have a teeny, tiny, sometimes hidden "unsubscribe" in the footer of the email. As soon as I get any kind of email from a company I am immediately scrolling to the bottom to unsubscribe. If there is no unsubscribe then I reply back to the email requesting that I be removed from all mailing lists. 

+ "Can I get your email address?" Nope. Most stores ask for an email at checkout so that they can bombard you with promotions; I always decline to give my email.

A note on receiving emailed coupons and our consumer culture: stores will always be having some kind of promotion or sale to entice you to buy more. And even if you are deleting the emails and not shopping every time you get one the emails are like a little voice saying "Buy! Buy! Buy!" Since I stopped getting emails from stores where I like to shop I'm less likely to buy on impulse because I'm told something is a good deal. Because really the best deal is to buy nothing for $0.

+ If all else fails, pick up the phone. There have been a couple instances for which, despite my emphatic selections of "unsubscribe," I continue to get unwanted emails. I finally had to pick up the phone and talk to someone to get to the bottom of the issue. It probably took all of 10 minutes.


My approach for eliminating paper junk mail has been to collect the mail that I want to stop and then to make a point to use one of my lunch breaks to go through the pile using the techniques below. 

+ E-statement, please. Whenever possible I opt for electronic versions of financial statements such as those from our bank, mortgage company, credit cards, retirements/investment accounts and the like. Just recently I finally set up an online account for a small stock account that I have and set my preferences to electronic statements. I've been receiving (and recycling) statements for that account for YEARS. With just a few minutes my life is free of that unneeded mail.

+ There's an app (and also a website) for that. PaperKarma is an app that lets you take pictures of your junk mail and they will try to stop it for you. This service used to be free but is now paid (around $24/year I think) or you have to share it with a bunch of people on Facebook (cringe) so I stopped using it. I do think that it helped stop the junk mail that I took photos of and it probably is worth a one year paid subscription if you were to be diligent about trying to stop all mail that year.

I also recently discovered CatalogChoice which is a (free) website that assists you in stopping junk mail. I like that for each company you choose to block that they give specific instructions. For example, for some companies you can fill out a form on CatalogChoice. For other companies they instruct you to call but provide a phone number and even tell you which options to choose in order to stop mail. I've submitted a few things on CatalogChoice but I can't tell yet whether it's made a difference, I'll let you know!

+ Use website chat features. In a couple of cases, before I was able to find a customer service phone number on a company webpage I was met with a friendly chat feature. I was able to chat with a representative and be removed from mailing lists without enduring hold music.

+ Go old fashioned and pick up the phone. Sometimes you just have to make a phone call. It definitely feels annoying to wade through a phone tree but once I finally talk to someone being removed from the mailing list is pretty quick.

Any other tips for me or fellow junk mail eliminators?