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It's me doing a little posing while taking a break at the Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree in 1995.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Nature of Junk Mail: Trends Over 15 to 20 Years

I'm not the kind of guy who always keeps up with things. “Things” being those niggling chores around the house. I'll kick into high gear when I know company's a'comin', but otherwise, a little dust here or some clutter in an out-of-the-way spot where I don't have to constantly look at it there gets a pass.

Spare bedroom renovation continues: The new closet is now primed.
Cleaning out my upstairs spare bedroom of the life's flotsam collected there over the eight years I've lived in Greenville has been part of that room's refurbish. The room has admirably served as a storage area for unpacked boxes, still partially filled cardboard wardrobes and assorted brick-a-brac that mysteriously accumulates over years of indiscriminate keeping in lieu of selective tossing out. It didn't quite attain the level of a hoarder's lair, but there was a lot of crap in there that I didn't need, never used and should never have held on to in the first place.

Several boxes of stuff I may use again someday, such as Christmas decorations, I transferred to the new shed. A couple of unopened boxes that managed to survive a series of moves over the course of four decades, were opened, weaned of worthless items and consolidated into one box before the trip to the shed; no doubt not to be looked at again until some poor relative sifts through my puny belongings after my passing. Still remaining in the room are a few odds and ends, whose fate is stalled by my ambivalence. I'll deal with them one way or another once the room is finished.

Squirreled away amid this mass of junk was an industrial trash bag stuffed with mail, papers, financial odds and ends, and other items displaying my contact or personal information. In other words, stuff someone could use to burgle my identity – for all the good that would do them. It was easily 20-to-25 pounds of paperwork. Some of it moved with me from Florida. The rest accumulated here during those periods when I was without a shredder.

This mountain of trash had to go, but where and how? I have a shredder; but not only would shredding it take days, no every-day home shredder could possibly hold up under scores of hours of relentless shredding. I could always haul the bag to a commercial shredder. However, I'm just paranoid enough not to trust someone else with my financial info – I mean, that was the point of holding onto this sea of paper in the first place – and besides, I don't like paying someone else to do something I am perfectly capable of doing myself.

My solution was to burn the offending materials in my fireplace. So far I have conducted three burns and still roughly one-third of it remains.

Working through 15 years of mail is as revealing as an archaeological dig. As I have burrowed down from the more recent mail to the older, I've discovered major shifts in the types of junk mail I've received over the years.

Today my junk mail consists mostly of solicitations from TV providers. A tidal wave of paper from Direct TV, Dish TV and Charter Cable fills my mailbox on nearly a daily basis. I can't even estimate the tons of paper these services destroy each year trying to poach my business from ATT Uverse. Eighty percent of the mail I currently shred is related to TV-content providers. This was also the case with the most recent layers of junk mail in my junk-mail bag.

As I have worked my way back in junk-mail time, however, I am reminded of a happier era before there was much in the way of TV-content-provider choices. My junk mail from a decade ago is mostly financial in nature. Credit-card companies vying for my business provided the bulk of my junk mail. “Pre-Approved” stamped in red ink decorates the front of many of these envelopes. “Transfer Current Balances” coaxes opening headlines of the letters the envelopes contain.

Yes, times have changed and with it the nature of junk mail. But come it still does. Thankfully, though, today's junk mail is more likely to be in the form of e-mails. I delete at least 20 e-mails each and every day from sources and on topics I don't give a hoot about.

Although not happy about the daily “delete” ritual, at least the only thing wasted is my time: not paper. And, I don't have to shred the damn things.

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