Before and after my maternal grandmother passed away a couple of years ago, my mother had the joy of trying to cut down on my grandmother's junkmail. This was to lessen the burden my grandmother felt to help each and every PAC or charity that came along, but also to allow the important mail to be seen. Here is her experience.


For the last month or so, you have probably been receiving a flood of mail order catalogs for gift-buying for the holidays. It can be such a convenience to shop from the comfort of your home, with various catalogs from which to choose. Be aware, however, that with each order, you may be added to many more mailing lists. Most people are aware that companies sell their mailing lists to other companies, but sometimes they aren't aware of how prevalent the practice is. And mail order companies aren't the only sources of what we call "junk mail".

When she was alive, my mother, a generous person, enjoyed being able to make contributions to various charities and political action committees. Mom was always very sharp about financial matters, but she wasn't very discerning about which ones she was contributing to. Since it was HER MONEY, and she wasn't really incompetent, we didn't want to take legal steps to curtail her freedom to spend her own money.

My sister and I were concerned, though, that she would be taken advantage of, especially by telephone solicitors who would call and volunteer to come and pick up her check immediately. When it became available from her telephone company, we convinced her to subscribe to a screening service that refused calls from solicitors, which helped a lot. The recorded message went out to everyone who called, though, and some of Mom's older friends, who didn't hear well, thought they had gotten the wrong phone number and were frustrated by it. To accommodate them, I programmed all "preferred" callers (family & friends) into the system, so they wouldn't get the message. That made her friends happy and still screened out unwanted callers.
Solicitations received through the postal service were a different story, though. I had legal Power of Attorney, so I tried to get the post office to throw away all "bulk mail", so she wouldn't even receive it. However, they have certain rules they have to follow, and one of them is that they cannot just throw away mail, since others had paid to send it.

When I was trying to get my mother's name removed from numerous lists, I was told that many mailing lists are updated quarterly. So, if a name is removed, but the person makes additional donations, enters sweepstakes, or even orders something from a mail order catalog, the person's name will again be put on lists. So even if you succeed in getting a name removed temporarily, it takes the person's cooperation to STAY removed.

There are several places you can go, online, to get information about where to go, to get off bulk mailing lists. One is the Federal Trade Commission (Where to Go to "Just Say No"), where they give websites, phone numbers and addresses you can use to cut down on unsolicited mail, telemarketing and e-mail. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a Direct Marketing section for Sample Letters, Do Not Call Registry and Opt-Out for Pre-approved Credit Cards.

Do-It-Yourself: Stop junk mail, email & phone calls has some techniques and a free online guide to reduce unwanted or intrusive advertising and specific types of unwanted paper mail. is also a comprehensive site, with numerous addresses to which you can write to have your name removed from lists.

For a while, to avoid spending money on stamps, writing to these places, I tried using a solicitor's own postage-paid, return envelopes to send removal notices. I don't think they accomplished the desired affect, though, maybe because they went to the solicitation or donation departments.

However, sometimes I would cut up a large part of their solicitation mail and put it in their return envelope, along with the portion containing my mother's address and a "Remove from your mailing lists and data bases" note. The hope was that the torn up mail would get their attention, causing them to "get the point" that if they didn't want to pay to have all their papers mailed back to them, they would remove her name from their lists.

You probably won't find them very often, but sometimes the solicitation material will contain an 800 number which can be used to have your name removed. More often, you might find an internet address on the solicitation, and you can use a contact link at the site to request a name removal.

When there is too much junk mail to deal with individually, go to the Direct Marketing Association for Consumer Assistance on How & Where to Find Help in getting off mailing lists, telemarketing lists, and e-mail lists.

If you want to have a little fun with a telemarketer, while being removed from their lists, go to the Junkbusters Anti-Telemarketing Script, print it out, leave it beside the phone, and refer to it when one of them calls. It turns the tables on the telemarketers, a bit.

To remove deceased individuals' names from marketing lists, there is also an online Deceased Do Not Contact form (there is a $1 charge for the service). It also tells you what you need to know before you enter sweepstakes, and information about mail and telephone orders.

You can still choose gifts from mail order catalogs, but one suggestion I read was to write in bold letters across the bottom of the order form, "Do Not Sell My Name To Any Mailing Lists". It may not do any good, but then again, it might help!


  1. Unknown // Friday, December 12, 2008 9:25:00 PM  

    Are you back? Google wiped out the original "Frugal for Life" posts with an "obsolete Feed" message. I'll be adding this RSS to my home page.
    Sue L

  2. Dawn // Friday, December 12, 2008 9:30:00 PM  

    Yes I am back - I have had some weird problems with the feed, hopefully this will be the working one. Thanks for continuing to read!

  3. Anonymous // Saturday, December 13, 2008 7:33:00 PM  

    My husband and I bought our house a few years ago from an older couple, and we got a TON of catalogs with their name for a long time. I've been able to remove us from most of the mailing lists just by looking up the companies online and sending a quick email. It takes a little bit of work but it's WAY worth it.

  4. Dawn // Saturday, December 13, 2008 7:40:00 PM  

    When it comes to magazines I have found that looking in the editorial info area works for giving me a phone number or an address to contact and have my name removed.