mnmlist: the sweet science of less mail

While paper letters (though cool) have become mostly outdated, most people still get a lot of mail. And it piles up, sitting unopened or unfiled or unacted upon.

The answer to this flood of mail isn’t in better handling methods (though this is also a good thing), it’s in getting less mail.

So here are my recommendations — though they won’t work for everyone, and they’re not comprehensive.

It’s simply a process of systematically stopping the mail at the source.

Look at all your mail, both personal and business, and figure out how to stop it from coming. Some examples:

1. Catalogs. Email or call the company, request to be removed from their mailing list. Takes a few minutes each, so just do a few each day until you’re done.

2. Junk mail. This is a tough one, but here’s a good guide.

3. Bank or other statements. Go to the bank’s website and request for electronic statements or call the bank and request that they stop sending statements. If you do your banking online, as I do, it’s always available.

4. Bills. Set up autopay, where the utility or other company bills you straight from your bank account or credit card. Failing that, pay the bill in advance as far as you can. Request e-bills or no bill at all if you autopay.

5. Checks. If you regularly get checks from a company (and if you do, congrats!), ask them to direct deposit into your account, or send via Paypal.

6. Contracts. If you get sent contracts to sign, ask the company to use an online service for e-signatures. They’re faster and perfectly legal — I’ve used them many times.

7. Invoices. Ask the company to email the invoice or use an online invoicing service.

8. Correspondence. Umm. Email? Not sure why some companies still use paper business letters instead of email, but ask them to email you instead.

9. Magazines and newspapers. Cancel your subscriptions, read online.

There are probably many other types of mail I’m missing, but you get the point. For just about every type of paper mail, there’s a digital alternative (or, you might not need any alternative — just stop it from being sent).

I haven’t completely eliminated incoming mail. Some companies are just slow to adopt electronic alternatives. But I’ve eliminated most, and it’s been a huge relief. I highly recommend it.