Photo by Telstar Logistics
The most successful 30-day challenge we ran at the Kohler household in 2008 was to unsubscribe from the dozens of print catalogs that were clogging our mailbox.
I buy a lot of things for our household online because it’s very convenient and often cheaper. However, one side effect of this over time has been the addition of our names and address to many catalog retailer’s mailing lists.
It turns out that just because we purchased something from a company doesn’t mean we want to form an ongoing monthly or quarterly print relationship with that company.
Looking back at this, it’s pretty clear that one of the unforeseen problems was caused by shopping on Amazon.com. Amazon doesn’t spam us with catalogs, but quite a few items purchased through Amazon are shipped directly from 3rd parties. For example, a few bike tubes I purchased on Amazon were shipped by Bike Nashbar. That’s not a problem until Bike Nashbar considered me a customer of their company based on that purchase, thus catalog worthy.
In many cases, we ended up on more than one catalog from the same company such as their separate catalogs for mens and womens clothing.
I decided to make an effort to unsubscribe from as many catalogs as I could over 30-days. I stacked them on a table as they arrived then set aside time to unsubscribe from them in batches. I also joined catalog unsubscription services such as GreenDimes figuring that they may help and likely wouldn’t hurt.
Many companies, when contacted directly through their online contact forms (few have specific forms for unsubscribing from catalogs), would reply to confirm my unsubscription requests with a warning that we’d likely receive 2-3 months worth of additional catalogs due to their printing and mailing scheduling systems. At least we were making progress.
After a few months, we actually started to notice a drop off in the amount of mail we received daily.
Then a strange thing happened. We started to enjoy checking the mail for the first time in a long time. Our mailbox was longer viewed as a six times a week chore of filtering through junk mail for the few items we actually needed or wanted such as checks or bills. The sound of our mailman Pat dropping of mail became a pleasant reminder that people and businesses we wanted to hear from were contacting us.
On some days, we didn’t hear anything at all. Our mail load dropped so much that we started to go days without receiving a single letter.
Of course, now that we’re in the holiday season, our mailbox is rarely empty. Instead, we look forward to receiving cards from friends and family rather than last-minute pleas to spend money on things we don’t want or need.
Lesson learned: You can control what arrives at your home’s inbox. While it does take time to unsubscribe from catalogs, turning checking your mail back into a positive daily ritual has many rewards including time, money, and the environment.