Purge Your Apartment of Junk Mail

I’m reading Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff at the moment, and was reminded of the everyday waste that is junk mail. The amount of junk mail we create is staggering. I couldn’t find any well-cited facts for Canada, but the average American household receives 848 pieces of unwanted commercial mail a year. That’s more than a billion pieces of junk mail a year.

I finally got around to creating a little sign that enables us to opt out of junk mail we receive in our mail box.

I made a sign for my mailbox. Then it occurred to me that it would only take me ten or fifteen minutes to make a bunch of signs to enable my neighbours to opt out as well. Here’s what I ended up with (click to enlarge):

I came down the next morning and all the signs had been removed off my poster. Unfortunately, about half of them had been stuck on the outside of mail box doors, instead of inside:

Speaking as somebody who’s written a lot of instructions in my life, humans are universally lousy at following them.

Make Your Own Signs

Want to do this for your own apartment? Awesome. I updated my poster so that “inside” is bigger, and post a template for the signs and the poster itself on Doc Stoc. Just click through and you can download the PDFs. I recommend printing them out, cutting them up and attaching tape to each sign like I did. The more work you can do for people, the better.

If you do this (or already have), leave a comment and let us know.

UPDATE: Incidentally, you can also opt out of junk mail from Canadian Marketing Association members. I suspect that this represents just a small amount of the total junk mail I receive, but I’ve emailed the CMA to confirm that.


  1. We have had these for years, the government gives them to you for free if you ask. There are 2 versions, “Ja/Nee”, (Yes/No) if you do want ‘informative’ local free newspaper, but no pure commercial junk, or “Nee/Nee” if you want nothing at all. And they work.

    This is accurate: http://www.expatica.com/nl/essentials_moving_to/country_facts/ja-nee-stickers-the-solution-to-junk-mail-638.html

    Picture: http://www.milieucentraal.nl/Domeinen/algemeen/Images/Overig/ja-nee-sticker.jpg

  2. This is a peeve of mine too. One challenge is that a ton of the junk mail people receive falls into a gray area where a business relationship has been established through an online order, loyalty program enrollment, etc.

    In those cases, it’s usually necessary to contact the sender to get off the list. But hardly anyone does. Instead, they keep throwing away the catalog they receive monthly, the quarterly postcards, etc.

    I’m creating a service aimed at this where people can take pictures of their junk mail (a camera phone works fine), send in the photo, and have someone contact the sender on their behalf to unsubscribe. It’s an attempt to take some friction out of the opt-out process. So far, people are really liking the service, and it really does work.

  3. I did this a few years ago. It doesn’t work! I still get junk mail anyway. I complained at the post office and was told they are obligated to deliver the junk?

  4. Thanks for the template! Will be getting on that…

    By the way, the Canada Post is obligated to deliver anything that has your name/address on it…

    They will stop delivering generic flyer, etc. but anything that has your name/address on it will still be delivered (i.e. credit card offers specific to you).

    There are a few categories of flyers/”junk” mail that they are required to deliver by law–mainly political newsletters from your MP or voting information.

  5. It’s better if you write “ad mail” as this is the specific category of mailings that they will block. But, as noted above, they only block the ad mail and not the addressed mail. That’s because they have no idea what’s inside envelopes and, honestly, they don’t want to be in the position to start filtering addressed mail.

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