Debunk the Junk: How to Stop Receiving Junk Mail

Living with Less Zero Waste

Junk mail: ˈjəNGk ˌmāl/



-unwanted or unsolicited advertising or promotional material received through the mail


I used to receive LOTS of junk mail. I wasn’t sure that it was okay to recycle, so I kept it in a box until I figured it out.

This is my junk mail box:

Gross I know.

Stacks on stacks on stacks.  

Ugh. It’s so annoying.

I kinda sorta thought it was just me. I thought I did something to deserve this cruel and cluttered fate.

But then the topic of junk mail came up in casual conversation with some friends (you know, as it does lol) and turns out, almost all of them had the same problem! Although it was a relief to know I wasn’t alone, I realized this was an annoying thing that was affecting a lot of people. Not only is it annoying, it’s wasteful and expensive.

According to the beautiful geniuses at ThoughtCo. * :

  • 5.6 million tons** of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually. AHHHH! That is the same weight as 28,000 blue whales!
  • The average American household receives unsolicited junk mail equal to 1.5 trees every year—more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined. WTF. Poor freaking trees.
  • Americans pay $370 million annually to dispose of junk mail that doesn’t get recycled. That’s a lot of Benjamins!
  • On average, Americans spend 8 months opening junk mail in the course of their lives. OMG waste of time much??

Just so we all are aware single stream recycling accepts junk mail, so there’s no need for it to ever be in the landfill!

I was getting so much junk mail that I would lose track of what was actually legit mail. I’d let the mail pile up into what I called “The Pile of Forgotten Things That I Need To Sort Through” and sometimes there’d be actual, important correspondence in there!

Some such items in this pile of doom:

  • A innocent $2 toll bill that turned into $45 because I didn’t notice the past sent notifications (like why?!)
  • A mail in ballot that was…never…mailed in (don’t worry, don’t worry, I still voted but had to go to the effing voter booth.)
  • A letter from a friend that I didn’t respond to for…8 months….whoops. Sorry Jasmine!

Things were clearly getting out of hand.


Something needed to be done (and it obviously had nothing to do with my organizational system lol) 😉

So I did a lil’ bit o’ research and found out






First thing I found was that unfortunately most direct advertising companies do not ask for consent or permission to use your name. So you need to actually track them down and tell them “no” in order to make the junk mail stop. Not cool.

I also found and tested as many different platforms as possible and here are some thoughts on the matter:

For those totes obnox catalogs and magazines:

  • Unsubscribe at Catalog Choice
  • Create an account (just with your email and name)
  • Then go wild in your unsubscribing frenzy
  • They have a really cute and user-friendly site
  • If you are still receiving these types of junk mail after unsubscribing, call the companies that are still bugging you. I did this at work because we get a bunch of equipment and supply catalogs. I called the company and asked if we could be taken off the list and they THANKED ME! They said catalogs are super spendy and if we are not using them, they’d so prefer not to send. Sometimes you just need to ask. 🙂
  • On catalogs, magazines, etc there is usually a “priority number” or “customer ID” so make sure you have those numbers when you call in to cancel!


To stop the direct advertising and marketing madness:

  • Sign up through DMA Choice
  • This is for most of the spam mail you receive
  • If you still are receiving junk mail after signing up through DMA, you can reach out to the companies that are still bugging you and tell them to take you off their list. Sometimes different versions of your name are sold, so it might take a couple tries and different angles to stop all of it.


To cease the endless insurance and credit offers:

  • Visit Opt Out
  • You can use this to opt out of offers for credit cards or insurance
  • They’ll ask for your address, SSN, etc.
  • This is the official Consumer Reporting Industry website so it’s safe (I also read a bunch of people’s reviews on it’s safety including a Reddit convo, a Safeweb review, a Fraud Guide report. They all affirmed that it’s cool and even the Federal Trade Commission references Opt Out on their website.


Interested in finding out more? Keep reading here and here!


And now once you’ve canceled all future junk mail, but still have a pile or two of junk mail lying about like me, here are six ideas on how to make the most of it:***

  1. Reuse the backs of envelopes and papers for notes, to-do lists, etc. If you need paper, might as well use what you have already and then recycle it!
  2. Recycle it!
  3. Use it as kindling when starting a fire!
  4. Stuff a pillowcase full of it and use it…for sleeping…of course!
  5. Pile it up and use it for a stepping stool for those hard to reach high places
  6. Use it as a pick-me-up when you need it the most 😀 


Have you found any amazing and rad ways to kick your junk mail overload? If so, let me know below! Or did you try one of the methods described and have a story to share? 

Thanks for reading! Peace and love and high-fives!




*You should probably read everything Thought Co. ever post because as I said before…beautiful geniuses. 

**While I was trying to find an animal that was this many tons I found out blue whales are literally 200 tons. TWO HUNDRED! So just thought I’d let you know that.

***If you couldn’t tell, I’m joking about 4-6. Junk mail stuffed pillow cases aren’t actually comfortable and it does not make the most stable base to stand on lol. 


3 thoughts on “Debunk the Junk: How to Stop Receiving Junk Mail”

  1. I have an idea not really mine but my boyfriend does it! HAVE WORMS! They’ll get rid of it and that will reduce your carbon print too! ( I believe it’s like that)
    COMPOST: when doing composting with wormies you will need a bunch of paper that you can just pass it through a shredder and voila food for worms, not only you will get rid of your paper but you will have some soil for Gardening!

  2. A—you are AWESOME 😘😘😘
    B—this is great info
    C—i wondered about the blue whales and if you did some sort of research about that…of COURSE you did:-)
    D—I love you
    E—so dang creative as well as helpful info

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