Category Archives: I’ve Got Mail!

Birchbox Review – June 2015

I think this illustration is so cute and I wanted to save it for something special but I got impatient/lazy and decided to use it today instead. Image from Birchbox app.

I think this illustration is so cute and I wanted to save it for something special but I got impatient/lazy and decided to use it today instead. Image from the Birchbox app.

My June box was my 16th Birchbox!  Here’s what I got:

Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels. This was my sample choice. These are made with Icelandic glacial water. (So bouge!) I appreciated that these are made with clean ingredients, but I didn’t see or feel any difference in my skin after using them. They did feel nice and cool, but so would a wet cloth. (So not bouge!)

COOLA SPF 50 Sport Sunscreen in Fresh Mango scent. This is a thin, lightweight lotion with a strong fruity scent. I am using and enjoying the sample but I don’t plan to buy the full size because it contains chemical (rather than mineral) sunscreen agents.

Temple Spa Good Hair Day Shampoo and Good Condition Conditioner. I was originally annoyed to receive more Temple Spa products from Birchbox but…I really like these. They smell like a fancy spa or an Aveda shop–that is, like rosemary, mint, eucalyptus, etc. Very nice! My hair feels clean and light. I would buy these.

Marcelle Mini Waterproof Eyeliner in shade Blue Lagoon. I just gave away a bright teal eyeliner during my Makeup Bag Makeover. I would have liked to try an olive green or burgundy or plum or navy liner instead. Teal looks little kid-dish on me.

Erickson Narrow Grab and Go Pony hairtie. This is a good hair tie–strong, thick, and grippy.

This isn’t the most exciting box I’ve gotten, but it’s not terrible. I will recoup $6 in review points, too, so that’s a bonus!

– Angela

Birthday Freebies!

Woot!  (Image from Sephora.com.)

Woot! (Image from Sephora.com.)

It’s finally June—my birthday month!

You know I love fun freebies, and MANY companies give away great birthday freebies and discounts! Just run a Google search for “birthday freebies” to find lists of the oodles of offers available from restaurants, retail stores, etc. You can get free appetizers/desserts/entrees, exclusive coupon codes, little gifts, etc. Most companies require that you join their rewards program well before your birthday to get the goodies, though, so start researching and signing up early.

A few tips on getting birthday freebies:

1. Sign up for the customer reward programs at least 60 days (2 months) in advance of your birthday.

2. Immediately log into your rewards account and confirm that your birthday is listed under your account details. If it’s not, find where to add it.

3. Confirm that the company has your correct email and home addresses.

4. Confirm that you are “opted in” to receive email and postal mailings.

5. Look for your goodies! Most come by email, but a few may arrive by postal mail.

I focus on getting the high-value, no-strings-attached birthday freebies. I don’t get jazzed about coupon codes that require a purchase, which appears to be the way many rewards programs are heading. Boo.

Anyway, off the top of my head (and according to some internet research), these are the best freebies I’m looking forward to this month:

SephoraNARS Mini Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in shade Cruella (a bright, matte red) and Mini Satin Lip Pencil in shade Rikugien (a shimmery mauve-y pink). Sephora has the best birthday freebie every year. It’s always a high-quality makeup item of some kind. To get this freebie, join Sephora’s free Beauty Insider rewards program and visit the store during the month of your birthday, or make an online purchase. (Sephora offers a men’s birthday freebie each year, too.)

Ulta – According to the interwebs, the Ulta birthday freebie will vary this year depending on the month in which you were born. Ladies who celebrated their birthdays in January through March received an Ulta-brand eyeshadow palette in neutral shades. I saw on Reddit.com that April through June birthday girls (that’s me!!!) will receive a travel-sized Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in the shade Voodoo, a purple. Cool! To get this freebie, join Ulta’s ULTAmate Rewards program and visit the store after you get an email alert that your freebie is available.

BareMinerals – Last year I got a pot of loose eyeshadow in a taupe-y shade. I can’t find any details online about this year’s freebie, though. Hmm. To get the freebie, join the BareMinerals FAB rewards program and look for an email.

Sports Authority – I signed up for the company’s The League rewards program recently and automatically got a $5 reward to spend in the next couple of months, plus I’m expecting a $10 reward for my birthday! I’m not sporty but I’m sure I can find a way to spend $15 in the store–maybe a fancy water bottle, headband, pair of socks, etc. Yeah!

StarbucksFree drink or food item of your choice! To get this freebie, buy a gift card (online or in store) of at least $5.00 and register it in the Starbucks reward program. Spend the money but keep the registered card for a free drink!

Dunkin Donuts – Free drink! To get this freebie, buy a gift card (online or in store) of at least $2.00 and register it with the DD Perks rewards program. You’ll earn a free drink for joining *plus* a free birthday drink! Not bad for two bucks!

I hope there are a few other good surprises this month, too! Whoo-hoo!

– Angela

P.S. – I don’t carry all these loyalty cards and account numbers around with me. I use the CardStar app on my iPhone, along with the Starbucks app and the Dunkin Donuts app.

P.P.S. – In the good ol’ days, Vera Bradley would send a $20 reward, and World Market’s Explorer Program would send a $10 reward.  They both sent lame coupon codes this year, though (only 15% off, I think).  Aveda used to send vouchers for nice treats, so I’m curious to see if they still do that.

Week Eight Update: Junk Mail War!

Vroom, vroom!  Image from ClipArtBest.com.

Vroom, vroom! Image from ClipArtBest.com.

It’s been TWO months now since I started my Junk Mail War, and I’m actually seeing a decrease now in the volume in my mail!

In particular, I know that I no longer receive a certain weekly sales flyer that really used to irk me. This was an especially obnoxious piece of mail. It was a mini magazine, really–i.e., many colored pages stapled together–and it always came sealed in a plastic sleeve holding other loose bits like coupons and perfume samples. But now I haven’t seen it in weeks! Yes!

To be honest, though, I still receive plenty of mail. I love getting mail. I always have several magazines, online orders, sample requests, bills, etc. coming down the pipeline. I hope, though, that opting out of my unwanted mail will help to offset the resources I use for my wanted mail.

I’m still learning as I go, but here are three new lessons I’ve picked up this month:

1. Keep a log of your removal requests. After a few weeks, it’s hard for me to remember which companies I’ve already contacted. If I were to do this project again, I’d keep a running list of the companies I’ve contacted, the date I contacted each, and the method by which I contacted each (i.e., phone, email, website form, returned mail, etc.).

2. Be wary of guest checkout options when shopping online. I recently made a guest purchase online with a store I’ve never shopped before…and then began receiving their mailer! How frustrating. In trying to avoid creating an electronic profile with a company, or in an attempt to not have to find or reset your password for an existing account (#hassle), you somehow authorize them to send you oodles of physical mail. Sigh. Moving forward, I plan to include a no–mail request whenever I see an “order notes” field.

3. Stifle the urge to attack the obvious junk mail that’s addressed to other (adult) members of your household. It’s not your mail, even if it drives you crazy. Just be a good example–maybe one day they will ask you for help with their own junk mail war!

I’m realizing that this war on junk mail will always be an ongoing battle, but I also know that my initial volume will continue to drop in the next few weeks–then I can just attack the odd piece as it arrives! I also plan to try to keep new junk away by including no-mail requests whenever I can when shopping online, opening new accounts, etc.

– Angela

Birchbox Review – May 2015

Image from Birchbox.com.

Birchbox + Cupcakes and Cashmere. Image from Birchbox.com.

So, my May box was just meh.

I complain about the frequency with which I receive lackluster monthly Birchboxes, but I don’t plan to give them up. The reward points program is just too good, plus I’ve found many great products through Birchbox that have become daily staples.

Birchbox partnered with Emily Schuman of the lifestyle blog Cupcakes and Cashmere for the May box, but there wasn’t anything particularly connected with the blog besides the artwork on the box and contents card. There was also a coupon code for Domino magazine and a recipe from Schuman for something I can’t remember.

Here’s what I got in my box:

PARLOR by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing Sea Salt Spray. Birchbox has really been publicizing this stylist and his new haircare brand, but I’ve never heard of him. This sea salt spray was nice—it gave some texture without being stiff or crunchy—but I’m not a fan of the scent at all and therefore won’t use it again.

LA FRESH Oil-Free Face Cleanser wipes, scented. I don’t understand wipes like these. They are never wet enough for my liking and I don’t feel like they are really cleaning. According to the packaging, this wipe “removes light makeup” and it got rid of my eyeliner with some rubbing but not my mascara. I like that the LA FRESH company uses clean ingredients, however, and the scent was okay (a very light fruity scent).

Cynthia Rowley Beauty Creamy Lip Stain in shade Poppy. I’ve gotten this product before but not in this shade. (Birchbox will occasionally send repeat products to you but never a repeated color). The color is too orange for me and I’m not crazy about the (mineral oil-esque) scent of this product.

Naobay Oxygenating Cream Moisturizer. Zzzzz. I’m so tired of boring lotion from Birchbox and the same three companies.

Dr. Jart+ BB Night Beauty Balm. I haven’t tried this yet but I will. This product does not contain sunscreen so it can be worn day or night (which is good, because why would you need a tinted cream at night?). I like to wear BB cream with mineral SPF during the day, and no creams at night, so I’ll wait to try this when my regular cream runs out or when I’m getting ready to go out one night. Interestingly, the balm is clear like a serum with little white flecks, and when you rub it in it becomes tinted. Magic!

Miss Jessie’s Original Pillow Soft Curls styling lotion. Grr. This is the second time I gotten this brand recently and I’m never excited by it. I’m loyal to DevaCurl hair products right now so I don’t plan to try this. I changed my Birchbox profile quiz after getting this—turns out I had “curly” and “frizzy” selected. Maybe that will solve the problem!

So, May was a bust, but I’m really looking forward to next month. According to the sneak peek video, every subscriber is getting an Eyeko liquid liner pen! Yay! They’re great. I got one in a past Birchbox and I’ve bought another since. Also, I canceled my subscription and immediately resubscribed with a code for a free BeautyBlender in my June box. I’m curious to see what all the fuss is about—is a pink foam egg really that great for makeup application? How on earth is it worth $20?!

– Angela

Update: Junk Mail War

A portion of last week's attack!

A portion of last week’s attack!

I started my junk mail war at the end of March, so I’ve been on the offensive for about four weeks now.

So far, I’ve been pretty consistent about returning mail and contacting companies. I usually gather the junk day by day and then I attack it in a batch about once a week (usually when I’m paying bills). I’ve found that I prefer to email companies rather than call whenever I can, too—it’s just easier and faster.

After these first four weeks, however, I have yet to see any significant drop in the volume of my junk mail. The main reason for this delay, I’ve learned, is that most companies prepare their marketing materials four to eight weeks in advance. This schedule gives them adequate time to plan and coordinate everything—the sales, their inventory, and the printing/mailing of the associated advertisements. I’ll keep getting mail from these companies, then, until the backlog clears. This makes sense, but the lag in results is disappointing. I suppose I will see more of a reduction in my junk mail in early summer.

Also, as I mentioned in my first junk mail post, I’m getting a lot of mail from companies with whom I already have an account of some kind. These mailings have nothing to do with my existing services but are instead trying to sell me something else. I’ve noticed that my cable company and certain magazine publishers are especially bad about this. I get at least one or two pieces of junk mail from my cable company each week “inviting” me (i.e., pestering me) to add (unwanted) services to my account, and magazines begin their campaigns to get me to renew my subscriptions MONTHS before my current subscriptions expire. I’m returning the cable mail as I receive it and I’ve contacted the company, plus I’m using the postage-paid reply envelopes from the magazine offers to send back notes asking them to remove me from their lists. I’ve been telling them that I’ll get in touch if I decide to resubscribe (i.e., don’t call me, I’ll call you).

As this past month progressed, too, I noticed that I got a LOT of local mail addressed generically to “Resident.” This includes charity pick-up notifications, coupon circulars, and restaurant flyers. This kind of mail is dead-end mail, too—I can’t return it to sender. I’ve been dragging my feet on contacting these companies because most will require phone calls instead of emails. My neighborhood also gets all kinds of non-postal junk—like doorknob hangers from nearby restaurants, community flyers stuck on the mailbox, and big plastic bags knotted around my porch railings. (The bags are from local charities, and come with an invitation for me to fill them with donations and leave them out for pickup.)

One piece of junk mail I received this month deserves a special mention here, too, in that it was especially wasteful. I got a big, thick envelope from a local car dealership that contained a poster-sized piece of glossy paper that advertised (in a chaotic, confusing way) some big sale and prize giveaway. The kicker, though, was that a gray, hard plastic case the size of a matchbox was glued to the poster. I pulled a plastic tab from the case to activate a BATTERY that lit a BULB that illuminated a little SCREEN that displayed my raffle number. Are you kidding me?

Hundreds of these mini-computers went straight into the trashcan.  Sigh.

Hundreds of these mini-computers went straight into the trashcan. Sigh.

Onward!

Birchbox Review – April 2015

The RPC Birchbox!  (Image from www.riflepaperco.com.)

The RPC Birchbox! (Image from www.riflepaperco.com.)

I got my April Birchbox last week! After a few months of ho-hum performance, I was super excited to see that Birchbox teamed up with Rifle Paper Company for the box design and some add-on goodies. The add-on goodies (or “plus items” in Birchbox-speak) were super cute but a little expensive (in my opinion). You could buy a Rifle tumbler and notebook set or an adorable canvas tote bag. I have plenty of tumblers and totes, though, so I resisted. (Birchbox also offered two different curated box choices for April to commemorate the final season of AMC’s Mad Men, but I wasn’t swayed by the non-retro contents.)

I really wanted TWO of the sample choices for April–the Jouer lip and cheek tint and the Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain.  I like how the Jane Iredale line uses all clean ingredients (Jessica Alba mentions the brand often in her book), but I was in need/want of a new cream blush so I went for the Jouer tint.

Here’s what I got in my (great!) box:

Jouer Tint in shade Petal – This sample is so cute.  It’s like a tiny black compact–about 1 inch square–that closes magnetically.  It just needs a little mirror inside!  I like cream blushes and have been using the same (messy) brand/shade for years, so I wanted a change.  The peachy-pink color is pretty and saturated.  I believe the formula is paraben-free, too–the FAQ page on the Jouer website says it’s paraben free but the (outdated?) ingredients list on the Tint page lists parabens.  I should inquire about that.

Beaver Professional Hydro Nutritive Moisturizing Shampoo and Repairing Conditioner – Hmm.  What an unfortunate name.  I’m pretty loyal to my DevaCurl hair stuff, but sometimes I use a sulfate-containing shampoo (like this one) as a kind of clarifiying shampoo.  This Beaver duo had sulfates, parabens, etc., which I try to avoid or minimize use of, but I still tried it because it smelled really good.  Other people commented on how good my hair smelled, too!

Liz Earle Eyebright Soothing Eye Lotion – I love my Liz Earle facial cleanser, so I was excited to see another Liz Earle product in my  box.  I was bummed, though, when I read the ingredients list–lots of parabens.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I will.  It’s supp0sed to cool, refresh, and de-puff tired eyes.  Sounds pretty good!

MDSolarSciences MD Crème Mineral Beauty Balm in SPF 50 – I’m loyal to the Coola BB cream with sunscreen that I discovered via Birchbox months ago, but it was great to try this one, too.  It’s a mousse-like cream that’s slightly thicker than my Coola stuff, with a higher SPF.  I could still feel it on my face by the afternoon, which I like to think means that my face was still being protected from sun damage.  My forehead felt a little greasy by the end of the day, but nothing major.  Thumbs up!

I know I complain about the limited number of “clean” products sent by Birchbox, and I know I could subscribe to one of the many eco- and health-conscious beauty subscriptions out there, but I love Birchbox’s low price and generous rewards system.  I’ve discovered a lot of everyday-use favorites through Birchbox, so I’m sticking with them!

This was a great box overall and it’s always fun to get a mix of products–something for my hair, my skin, and my makeup bag!  The Rifle Paper Company box will be saved and used for something, too–it’s too pretty to throw or give away!

– Angela

Five Simple Tips for Managing Email

I get stressed out just looking at this.

I get stressed out just looking at this.

My junk mail war is a new endeavor, but I’m already pretty good about managing my personal email. I shop online quite a bit and I like requesting freebies, so a few months ago I found myself constantly deleting junky new emails from my smartphone to clear the “new mail” notification. I picked a day and began tackling my incoming junk mail from that point on, and now I only get mail that I want (along with occasional stragglers!).

Here’s what I do to manage my email:

1.  Maintain two personal email accounts: a correspondence account and a business account. Use the correspondence account for communicating with friends, family, colleagues, etc. Use the business account for online shopping, marketing lists, hobby newsletters, etc.

2.  Unsubscribe from each unwanted email blast as you receive it (then delete the email). Look for the “unsubscribe” link buried in the fine print of the email. Commit to doing this for one or two weeks and your email influx will drop off dramatically. After the flood stops, you can tackle the odd straggler or new material as it arrives.

3.  Be judicious when signing up for new email lists when shopping online or requesting freebies. I always opt out of communications beyond those related to my accounts or orders unless I am already committed to or really curious about the company.

4.  Turn off email notifications on your smartphone, and reduce the frequency of mail server check-ins. Nowadays, most personal emails are by nature non-urgent. If people need to get in touch with you quickly, they will call or text you. I also set my smartphone to check for new emails only once an hour (which also saves battery power, I think).

5.  Don’t sweat the old stuff. Mark all your old emails as “unread” and move on with your life, or search by company name and delete most of the old junk in batches. If you really want a fresh start, you could always open a new email account.

A little time invested now will result in big benefits down the road. You’ll be less tempted to shop and less distracted by your phone, and you’ll spend less time wrangling emails!

The Honest Company – Mini Reviews of 25 Products!

My most recent shipment...

My most recent shipment…

I don’t remember how I got hooked into actress Jessica Alba’s book The Honest Life, but it was my introduction to the importance of “clean” ingredients in household and personal care products. Alba’s book really struck me and changed the way I shop for and use makeup, sunscreen, cleaning supplies, food, etc. As a result, my eczema is better than it has ever been in my life (for real) and I’ve been able to clear out so many sketchy chemicals from my house. I highly recommend The Honest Life as a first “primer” for people who are curious about the chemicals in the products that they use every day—or for people who are struggling with skin allergies. Alba’s book was easy to read and understand and it covers a lot of ground. I still refer back to it every now and again!

Image from Amazon.com

Image from Amazon.com

Because she was frustrated at the limited quantity and quality of clean household products for her home and family, Alba started a safe, all-natural, mail-order line of household, personal care, and children’s goods called The Honest Company. I’ve subscribed to the Honest Company’s discounted “bundles” for a couple of years now, and I order a new supply of goodies about every three or four months. I’ve tried quite a few of the Honest products by this point, so I thought I’d give some mini reviews. Read on if you’re interested…

What I Love And Regularly Purchase:

Laundry Detergent and 4-in-1 Laundry Packs. My clothes get really clean with the liquid detergent and the laundry pods, and neither has perfume or fabric softeners. My eczema really improved after I began using this for all the household laundry (towels, linens, etc.). Highly recommend.

Conditioner in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. This is hydrating and detangling and it smells like a Creamsicle. I use it as a great shaving lotion, but others in my family use it as a great conditioner.

Organic Lip Balm Trio in Sweet Orange Vanilla, Rosemary Mint, and Pure & Simple flavors. These lip balms are the bomb. The Sweet Orange Vanilla flavor is my favorite and I have one at my desk, one in my purse, and one on my bedside table. The balm lasts a long time on your lips and is very moisturizing. Works great during dry, cold winters.

Stain Remover in French Lavender scent. I hate the strong smell of most stain removers, so I really appreciate the lavender scent of the Honest version. This remover works just as well on clothes as other brands, plus I use it directly on carpet to clean up pet messes.

Organic Healing Balm. This is good stuff to use in place of petroleum (yuck) jelly to moisturize and waterproof skin.

What I Like and Sometimes Purchase:

Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30). This stuff works, but I find it thick and hard to spread, plus it’s expensive. My sister likes it a lot, however.

Oxy Boost laundry pods. Hmm. I didn’t see much of an effect from this on my laundry. The regular Honest detergents are very effective on their own.

Toilet Cleaner in Tea Tree Eucalyptus scent. The cleaner smells fresh, herbal, and pine-y. I like knowing that I’m not dumping chemicals into the water supply when I use it. However, I could probably achieve the same results—i.e., a clean toilet—with just my toilet brush and some baking soda. Note: This cleaner got thick/sticky/clogged over several months. Always close the spout after using it and aim to finish the bottle in a few months.

Bubble Bath in Tangerine Dream scent. This smells great and foams up decently. The bubbles are short-lived, but that’s okay with me. I’d rather have “clean” temporary bubbles than more persistent and chemical-laden bubbles. I use this more for the scent than the bubbles. Would be a great gift idea for kids.

Conditioning Detangler Spray in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. Smells great and works great. Personally, I need to wash it out before going a second day after using it or my hair looks greasy.

Hand Soap and Foaming Hand Soap in Mandarin scent. Smells good, rinses clean.  (I also use diluted Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap in the peppermint scent.)

Hand Sanitizer Gel. This gel is fine. I just don’t use hand sanitizer. The smell of sanitizer (including this one) is too strong for me.

Dish Brush and Caddy. The short, chunky shape of this brush is comfortable to use and the bristles are medium-firm. Inside the caddy, there’s a pierced platform mounted atop a spring, so you can add soap and water and then pump the brush up and down to produce bubbles.

Wipes. I don’t have a baby, but these are good wipes to have around. They are very large, thick, and soft.

What Did Not Work For Me and What I Will Not Repurchase:

Bug Spray. This did not work for mosquitos. I would spray my skin and then watch the mosquitos light on me right afterwards.

Air & Fabric Freshener in Orange Cypress scent. Ugh. This scent was very bitter and medicinal. Also, the pump-style spray nozzle was hard to use and there was no cap.

Organic Body Oil. This was too runny and greasy for me. Would probably be great for babies. I prefer the Organic Healing Balm instead.

Shampoo & Body Wash in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. This was drying to my hair.

Face & Body Lotion. I loved the original formula of this (it used to smell lightly like roses and absorb quickly) but I dislike the new version, which doesn’t absorb into my skin.

Dish Soap in White Grapefruit scent. This didn’t cut through grease for us. (We use Seventh Generation dish soap instead.)

Multi-Surface Cleaner in White Grapefruit scent. This counter spray didn’t seem much more effective than plain water for us.  (We use J.R. Watkins pomegranate spray instead.)

Glass & Window Cleaner. This is essentially vinegar and water. I could have made the equivalent on my own.

Toothpaste. Does not contain fluoride, which I prefer in toothpastes. (We use Tom’s of Maine toothpaste instead.)

What I’m Trying Next:

Spray Sunscreen
Stick Sunscreen
Dryer Cloths

For me, the discovery of the laundry detergent, lip balm, stain remover, and conditioner is more than enough to keep my subscription with The Honest Company. Let me know if you want more details on any of the products I’ve tried.

P.S. – You can find Honest products at Target now, too! Look in the baby section. I’ve also seen Honest toilet paper at Target!

P.P.S. – Honest also sends fun free treats every now and again. Once I got a baby tree in commemoration of Earth Day or maybe Arbor Day (sadly, it died after I planted it), and once I got an extra lip balm for Mother’s Day. Last Christmas, subscribers received organic sugar cookie mix and a snowflake cookie cutter, but I skipped that month. D’oh! 🙂

P.P.P.S. – This is just a reminder that I am not being paid or compensated by any company in any way. I just like this company and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Junk Mail War!

Just some of this past week's junk mail--ugh!

Just some of this past week’s junk mail–ugh!

I’ve been devouring Bea Johnson’s book (and blog) entitled Zero Waste Home. Johnson is a French-American wife and mother who began to completely overhaul her family’s consumption habits several years ago. After she and her family:

  1. refuse things they don’t need,
  2. reduce what they do need,
  3. reuse whatever they can,
  4. recycle whatever they can, and
  5. rot (compost) everything else,

they produce only a quart-size jar of landfill garbage each year. It’s pretty amazing.

Johnson has years of research and trial-and-error under her (secondhand) belt, and her book and blog are full of tips and tricks to reduce waste. I produce a LOT of personal waste, and my two biggest culprits are probably food packaging from (frequent) drive-thru visits and packaging/shipping materials for (frequent) online purchases. I’m inspired by Johnson, though, to take some steps to reduce my impact. For starters, I’ve decided to start a junk mail war.

When I moved into my house several years ago, I received TONS of junk (and legit) mail for TENS of people who no longer lived there. It was insane. The former tenants never must have completed formal change of address paperwork with the post office. I would mark everything “return to sender” and scribble a note about the addressee not living there anymore, and then send it all right back. I even wised up and made a few sheets of stick-on labels with the same language so I didn’t have to write the same messages over and over. The misdirected mail dropped off sharply after two or three months of this attack, but I still receive all the junk mail that’s properly addressed to my family. I decided to use a similar label method for my junk mail war.

This past week, I collected all of the junk mail we received, which was about 15 pieces. It doesn’t sound like much (and maybe it isn’t?) but each piece was a doozy–lots magazine-type advertisements with multiple pages stapled together, and big envelopes stuffed thick and full with paper. Seeing it all together made me realize, interestingly, that most of the junk mail my family receives is from companies with whom we already have an account. In other words, the bulk of our junk mail is not from “new” companies who want our business, but from companies who already have our business and want us to do something else with them–change pricing plans, order new products, etc. How annoying.

Anyway, I made two sets of labels with the following language (I couldn’t get all the language to fit on one label in a readable font size):

  1. “REFUSED – RETURN TO SENDER. Please remove me from your mailing list. Thank you.”
  2. “Please do not sell, share, rent, or trade my name or address. Thank you.” (The bit about “do not sell, share, rent, or trade my name or address” is Johnson’s suggested language, so I’m using it. She’s done the research and is nothing if not thorough.)

The labels I had were eco-friendly (i.e., the labels and packaging were made from post-consumer waste and were recyclable), but all label backing sheets are coated with a plasticky finish and are NOT recyclable (I learned this from Johnson’s blog). Sigh. Baby steps.

I then applied both labels to the front of each piece of mail. If the junk mail was from a company with whom I already do business , I wrote a note to the effect of “Please remove me from your marketing mailing list. Send account-related correspondence only.”

A couple of tips from Johnson:

  1. Do not open the obvious junk mail, because then you cannot return it for free.
  2. If mail is addressed to “Current Resident” or “Occupant” or another generic term, you have to contact the sender directly (via phone, email, or website) and ask to be removed from their list. This kind of mail does not include return postage.

I’m keeping my labels by the front door and I plan to keep up my attack. I’m curious to see how this will work!

P.S. This past weekend I also canceled three catalogs I don’t want/never asked for (via website/email), one recurring coupon pack (via website), and our annual copy of THREE different area phone books (via website). Yeah!

Birchbox Review – March 2015

Sigh.

I used to love getting my Birchbox, but lately I’m just meh about it. I haven’t had a good box since November and December. I’m keeping my subscription, though, because of Birchbox’s coupon codes, free shipping (as an ACE member), and reward points, but I may need to adjust my expectations for the actual monthly box.

I got my box later than usual this month—on the 17th—and my favorite thing about my March box is the actual cardboard box itself. The theme for March is Creativity, and the boxes are adorable with bright watercolor colors and mixed patterns. I plan to use some stickers or washi tape to cover the Birchbox logo and then use my box for giftwrap or storage. Here’s what I got this month:

It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product – This was my sample choice, and I got it because so many people (including my girl crush, Light by Coco) rave about this brand and product. It has parabens, though, and I have yet to try it.

Fekkai PrX Reparatives Shampoo – This shampoo has parabens and PEGs/PPGs, and Birchbox didn’t send the coordinating conditioner. I’m not crazy about the scent, either, and I don’t plan to use this.

Jelly Pong Pong Glow Getter Highlighter – More parabens! This is very sparkly but I think it could be fun to use sparingly. I’m not crazy about the application style. The highlighter is a thin liquid that’s housed in a nail polish bottle and applied with a nail polish brush.

Temple Spa Peace Be Still Calming Face & Body Balm – Sigh. I’m really tired of all the boring lotion I get from Birchbox—Bee Kind, Naobay, Gilchrist & Soames, and now Temple Spa. They all smell roughly the same to me (like diluted lemon-scented cleaning fluid) and all of these brands are owned by Gilchrist & Soames (except for the Naobay). I appreciate that this lotion has clean ingredients, but I don’t like the scent and don’t plan to use this.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (24-Hour Miracle Cream) – Now THIS I like. I used it after I washed my face this past weekend and it was great—decent ingredients, light and unoffensive scent (which is important to me in facial products), etc. My skin felt soft and clean and moisturized—not greasy or oily. I will definitely use the rest of the sample and might even buy the full-size tube!

Word on the street is that April’s curated box will have a Mad Men theme. I hope it’s good!