TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter July 2010

Return to Archive

Happiness is an Empty Mailbox Mailbox

There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago, when I’d enjoy coming home to a stuffed mailbox. Forgetting about the bills for a moment, there’d be all kinds of goodies in there: letters from friends and family, picture postcards from faraway places, important correspondence, and lots of glossy catalogs.

Nowadays things are different. For the most part, people don’t send nice notes or letters anymore. I can’t remember the last time I got an interesting postcard, practically all my bills are electronic direct debit, and 99% of correspondence lands in my Outlook inbox, not the postal mailbox. So that leaves the catalogs.... I used to enjoy getting them but not any longer. I don’t know about you but I simply don’t have the time or inclination to leaf through catalog after catalog, searching for something I didn’t already know I needed. So most get tossed in the recycle bin unread. (And between you and me, I wonder if that paper is actually recycled once it leaves the curb...)

But there’s more to this story. Several years ago, I started to develop a general aversion to paper. I made a conscious decision to reduce my “paper footprint” both at work and at home. I’ve written articles in this newsletter on how to go paperless. For the most part, I’ve been successful in reducing my paper production by 90%. Now I’m hell-bent on reducing my consumption by the same percentage.Catalog Choice Logo

That’s why I was happy to discover a free service that I want to share with you now. It’s called “Catalog Choice.” If you are willing to invest a half hour of your time, you can dramatically reduce the amount of unwanted stuff clogging your mailbox. Catalog Choice is a clearing house and central aggregation point for controlling your mail preferences. After you indicate your personal preference regarding what you want or do not want to receive, Catalog Choice will notify the senders/vendors, coordinate communications, and follow up. It’s a nice system and the price is very right: zero cost (they are supported by voluntary tax-deductible donations).

Catalog Choice Home Page


Tip: As unwanted catalogs arrive, tear the back covers off and "batch them" so that when you sit down to enter info in Catalog Choice, you'll be able to work quickly.

Using Catalog Choice's service for the past two years, I’ve been successful in eliminating virtually all of the catalogs I don’t want -- while keeping the dozen or so that I do. Recently, they’ve expanded operations to help eliminate non-catalog “junk” mail such as pre-approved credit card offers (I HATE those), coupons, letter-size direct mail, and other unsolicited marketing detritus. In another “I don’t know about you but...” I have absolutely no use for Yellow Pages in all their various incarnations, let alone the White Pages.

However, I know not everyone agrees with me on the White Pages thing; especially Navin Johnson:

Steve Martin Phone Book

(1 min 14 sec)

However, unlike Navin, most of us are quite pleased to remain rather anonymous these days. If you still want to be findable in the paper phone book, I recommend listing just your name and town, omitting your street address (yes, you can do that.) That’ll reduce – but not eliminate – the amount of junk mail you get, and perhaps avoid being targeted by those with less-than-friendly intent.

For more on this subject, I refer you back to last month’s Urbach Letter article How to Keep Your Private Life Private

Maybe we’ll never reach the nirvana of a totally empty mailbox, but these tips may help ensure that the only thing you’ll find in there is the mail you want to receive. Oh, if you cut down on the heavy load of catalogs arriving during the “holiday season” (which seems to occur earlier and earlier each year), your mailman just might smile at you a little bit more.


Return to Archive

(c) Copyright 2002-2010 Victor Urbach
This article
may be reprinted with permission and attribution