close up of typed paper gone through shredder

Dear Andrew,

I love your ideas!
Should basic personal info like addresses be shredded or can things like addressed envelopes and magazines be recycled? It would help if I didn’t have to tear addresses off for shredding as some folks tell me I should.
Thanks for all your free support.
Juliet N.

Dear Juliet,
Thank you for your email and I’m glad you’re enjoying the resources!

I always shred offers for credit cards or other correspondence with account numbers on it.

I rip all envelopes in half and half again when I toss them in the recycle bin—it’s faster than shredding and I like using my hands.

I subscribe to one trade magazine. I get catalogs even though I try to suppress them—I tear of the page with my address and recycle the rest.

It is inconvenient, to say the least, to unravel ID theft—better to err on the side of being conservative.

The bigger action here is to eliminate ALL unnecessary paper coming into your home.

  • Get yourself off every list that sends a catalog or unwanted solicitation.
  • I keep a basket for junk mail that needs my attention.
  • I only save the letter or catalog cover that includes my information and drop it into the basket.
  • Then once a month I schedule 30-60 minutes on the calendar to reach out and get off specific lists.
  • It takes a little time but it’s well worth it to avoid the deluge of junk coming in.

Here are four more online resources to help manage junk mail and telemarketers.

OptOutPrescreen This website is hosted by the credit agencies and allows you to opt out from prescreened credit card offers for five years. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 ensures that they must let you opt out of mailings generated solely by your current credit score. Sign up online or by snail mail. Online lasts five years—snail mail is supposedly permanent.

Do Not Call Registry The Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003 doesn’t have the teeth we as consumers would like but it does seem to SLOW things down. Go to and add all your phone numbers: landline and mobile. After you’re on the list for ninety days, solicitors supposedly can’t call you unless you’ve already opted in on the phone call in some fashion. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to ask telemarketers who is calling before you affirmatively reply when they ask you to identify yourself. I then ask them to remove me from their calling lists. Mail Preference Registry’s registry lets you get off the mailing lists of direct mail marketers. It costs them money to send snail mail so fortunately, leveraging their self-interest actually serves us consumers.

Do Not Mail Registry Run by nonprofit, this is worth checking out, particularly if you want to funnel some of the pent-up frustration you feel at the loss of time and natural resources direct mail marketers cause in the world. A great way to turn anger into action!

Photo: Ryan Hyde | CC License

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About The Author

Andrew Mellen's picture

Andrew Mellen is an organizational expert, public speaker, and the #1 best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!

Andrew has helped tens of thousands of people worldwide to declutter and simplify their lives while regaining time for the things that matter.

A sought-after authority on organizing and productivity, Andrew's addressed audiences from The Great British Business Show to TEDx. 

Corporate clients include American Express, Genentech, NetApp, Time, Inc., and the US Depts. of Education and Homeland Security.

The media has dubbed Andrew “The Most Organized Man in America.” He writes a featured column called “Ask The Organizer” in Real Simple. In addition, he has written for and/or appeared in: The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, America Now, The Lisa Oz Show, The Nate Berkus Show, Oprah & Friends, Martha Stewart Living Today, ABC, NBC, CBS, CW11, HGTV, DIY Network, LiveWell Network, KnowMoreTV, Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day, Family Circle, USA Today, GQ, InStyle, All You, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Healthy UK, American Way, numerous trade and travel publications, and NPR.

He leads workshops and speaks internationally while maintaining a private practice working with clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, and non-profits to CEOs, award-winning filmmakers, and authors, as well as overwhelmed parents everywhere. 

In 2013, Andrew founded Unstuff U®, the world's first completely virtual personal organization training center, offering classes, workshops, and other online resources for businesses and individuals. 

Andrew is a member of the Experts Collective and serves on the faculty of the New York Open Center in New York City. He speaks frequently on the intersection of spirituality and organization at places including Omega Institute, San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara, All Saints Church, JCC Manhattan, and the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, among others.

Previously, Andrew was an award-winning playwright, actor, producer, and director and the former Artistic Director of Alice B. Theater (Seattle), DC Arts Center (Washington, DC), and Shuttle Theater Company (New York). He is a contributing author to Yes Is the Answer: (And Other Prog-Rock Tales).

Andrew lives by his motto: More Love, Less Stuff!® 

Find him on the web at

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