According to the U.S. Postal Service, the average American home receives about 150 mail and packages delivery visits per year. And while that may not seem like a lot, it adds up. If you’re anything like most people, you probably have a junk drawer in your kitchen or another convenient spot in your home where you can store all of those things that you don’t need right away but can’t stand throwing away. Whether it’s advertisements, flyers, coupons, or other unwanted mail, there are several good reasons to keep things out of the trash rather than throwing them away. After all, some items could have monetary value, while others might be useful for someone else someday. Even if they have no apparent practical use now, everything has potential later on down the road.
Is It Illegal To Throw Away Mail?
Yes, it is illegal to throw away mail. The United States Postal Service (USPS) regulates the delivery of mail and the disposal of unopened mail. It is illegal to dispose of, shred, or trash any unopened mail that is addressed to you or your business.
Why Is It Illegal To Throw Away Mail?
1. Unopened mail can be worth money.
It is illegal to throw away mail that is addressed to you or your business because it could have monetary value. Many items in the junk drawer of your kitchen could be worth money, but you may not know it until years later when you need to sell something. You might also have financial information in unopened mail that you need to access, such as a check that needs cashing or a loan payment that needs to be deposited.
2. Unopened mail can be useful later on down the road.
Unopened mail can be useful later on down the road, even if it’s junk now. For example, if you’ve received a coupon for a free product and decide not to use it but keep it in your junk drawer for years, then one day you might actually need or want the product. If you throw away unopened mail instead of saving it for future use, then there’s no way to know when you might need it.
3. Unopened mail can have monetary value to someone else.
Unopened mail can have monetary value to someone else, even if it’s junk now. If you throw away unopened mail that is addressed to you or your business, then no one will be able to collect the money that is due on the check or deposited into your bank account from the loan payment. However, if you save unopened mail and use it at a later date, then anyone who wants to collect on the letter or paper payment will be able to do so.
4. Unopened mail can be useful later on down the road because of other information in the envelope or package.
Unopened mail can be useful later on down the road because of other information in the envelope or package, such as a business card, directions for a product, instructions for paperwork, or an invoice that needs to be filled out and returned. Even if they are junk to know if it’s useful or not.
5. Unopened mail can be useful to someone else.
Unopened mail that is addressed to you or your business can also be useful to someone else. For example, the letter could contain information about a product or service that you need right now and don’t want to wait until you need it again to purchase it or learn more about it. Or the letter could contain a coupon for a free product or service that will come in handy later on down the road, such as an item at a thrift store that you might want to buy eventually and save for later use.
6. Unopened mail may have monetary value.
If there is no practical use for the item, then it has no monetary value, but some items do have unlisted monetary value. For example, if you receive a coupon from your local grocery store for $1 off milk and decide not to use the coupon but keep the milk in you’ll know when you might need the information.
How To Organize Unwanted Mail
Create a “To Be Opened” pile
You may want to make a special pile for mail that you want to open later. Try using a basket or bin for these items when they come in. Get in the habit of transferring mail from your inbox to the “to be opened” basket. This will allow you to stay on top of your mail and not let it pile up. You’ll also be able to quickly locate these items when you’re ready to open them. This is a good strategy for saving online purchases. You can also use a “to be opened” pile to hold important mail until you have time to deal with it.
Set up a shredding station
You might want to designate a spot near your mailbox for shredding mail as soon as you get it. If you have a high-capacity shredder, you can use it to shred everything. Otherwise, you’ll have to separate “shreddable” mail into different piles. Your “shredding station” can be a small table or a box near the mailbox. You can keep a basket there to hold mail you’ve already shredded. Be sure to shred anything that contains personal information or account numbers, including credit card offers. This will help to protect your identity.
Use a scanner to digitize important documents
If you want to get rid of paper forever but want to keep certain documents, you can use a scanner to digitize them. Scanning important documents like birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, and contracts can be a good long-term solution for dealing with unwanted paper. You can also use a scanner to save emails and send them to yourself as a PDF. This will allow you to get rid of emails without deleting them. You can store these documents in the cloud or on a hard drive. This will make them accessible whenever you need them while keeping them out of sight in your home.
Consolidate your catalogs
If you get a lot of advertisements in the mail, open your mailbox and look at the catalogs. If you don’t want them, simply rip them up and throw them away. This will not only save you some space in your mailbox, but it will also save your time, as you won’t have to sift through junk mail to find bills or important letters. If you get a lot of catalogs, you can also try to contact the companies that send them. Many businesses have a “take me off your mailing list” link on their website. They may send you a few more catalogs before they take you off the list, but after that, your mailbox should be quieter.
Simply throw away things you don’t want
If something is clearly a piece of junk mail, don’t even open it. Simply shred it or throw it in the trash. There’s no reason to spend time sorting through it or marking it for recycling. Just get rid of it as quickly as possible. You may also want to set up a “bulk mail” bin next to your mailbox. You can simply toss the bulk mail (magazines, catalogs, etc.) into the bin for recycling. This can help to keep your home and mailbox organized. You might also want to designate a drawer or box for things like warranties, manuals, and other items that you don’t need but don’t want to throw away. Simply put them in the drawer and forget about them until you need them.
Try a service that blocks unwanted mail
If you find that you get too many catalogs, you may want to try a service that blocks unwanted mail. These services promise to cut down on unwanted mail by placing a “no mail” sticker on your mailbox. You can also sign up for these services online. These services work by sending a signal to the postal service that your mailbox is full. This will cause the mail carrier to skip your mailbox, which will cut down on the amount of paper that comes to your home. Make sure you choose a service that is legitimate and doesn’t just take money from you without doing anything. There are a lot of companies that promise to stop unwanted mail, but don’t actually do anything. You can also speak to your local postmaster about this. They may be able to direct you to a legitimate service in your area.
There are several reasons why it’s important not to throw away mail. You may need to provide documentation in case you’re ever audited. You may have received a rebate check or other money, or an advertisement that you need to return or remember to call about. There are several ways to organize unwanted mail. You can clip, punch, or shred it. You can also use a paperweight or decorative box to store it or place it in a drawer or cabinet. Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to keep all of your mail for at least a year in case you need to refer to it later.