Days 365+54 NewspaperThe other day I had a doctor’s appointment. My custom is to take the morning paper with me to appointments since there is always some waiting time and this is a good way to spend it. The doctor saw me and said, “I didn’t know anyone read paper papers anymore.” So, how much news do we consume and is it healthy for us?

This is the first of a series of posts on taming the amount of information that comes into our homes and minds. Too Much Information (TMI) is becoming a burden. I want to be informed about family and friends, political issues, causes that I believe in, and generally what’s happening in the world, BUT it can be a time hog. I’ve been evaluating how I consume information and how it sometimes interferes with being present to people close to me and robs me of time. Consider the following kinds of information:

  1. Paper – newspapers, magazines, catalogues, junk mail, books
  2. Audio/Visual Media – radio, TV, movies, videos,
  3. Electronic Communication – email, social media
  4. Phone – solicitations, cell phone limits, smart phones
  5. Being Weighed Down by Too Much Bad News – wars, natural disasters, tragedies

Let’s start with paper because I think that’s the most tangible and easiest to tame.

Days 365+100 TMI trading news at doorWe get 2 daily national newspapers (New York Times & Wall Street Journal) and 2 biweekly religious newspapers (one national and one local). I admit that this is already too much to read. I read the front page, op-ed page, and perhaps another article or two in the NYT. Our daughter writes for the WSJ so I read anything she writes and compare headlines with the NYT.
A Step Forward: The one newspaper strategy that I’m most proud of is our daily newspaper swap. Several years ago we decided to discontinue the local daily paper but we still wanted to know basic local news. Our neighbor agreed to bring us the daily local paper after they’ve read it and we give them the NYT. Everybody wins.

Days 365+98 TMI New YorkerWe get 5 monthly magazines (2 of these I read pretty thoroughly – often in the bathtub). I skim 1. The others are primarily of interest to Jim.
A Step Forward: We used to get more magazines but cancelled most since we were getting enough news through the newspapers and radio. After skimming the New Yorker (It’s too long to read everything and I’m still trying to figure out many of the cartoons) we give it to a librarian friend for her school.

We used to get 15 catalogs (5 garden, 5 professional, and 5 clothing/household). Some were duplicates.
A Step Forward: I used Catalog Choice to reduce our catalogs to 6 since I can get most of the info I need online. Catalog Choice was pretty easy to use but it didn’t list one of the seed catalogs so I had to email the company directly. I like LLBean and didn’t want to drop this catalog but I was getting more than one a season plus sales and Christmas. When I called them, I was pleased to find out that they will reduce your catalogs to your specifications.

This includes preapproved credit offers, solicitations, campaign literature, and ways to save me money.
A Step Forward: I can’t stop campaign literature (Heck, I’m often the one going door to door distributing it.) but here are several ways to reduce (not eliminate) the others.

  • Direct Mail Association (DMAchoice) maintains a “do not mail” file of Mail Preference Service registrants. Members are required to remove the listed names from their rosters of prospective customers. I found it a bit overwhelming to try to choose among the many options so I ended up asking to be deleted from all the categories. I did this 3 months ago. (It sometimes takes up to 3 months to take effect.) So far I’m not aware of missing anything important. I haven’t noticed much reduction in my junk mail but then I didn’t get much anyway. No harm. Little gain.
  • Pre-approved credit offers. The Federal Trade Commission explains the practice of prescreened credit and insurance offers and refers to
    Opt-Out Prescreen (888) 567-8688 as the primary reference. I was about use this service but noticed that Opt-Out Prescreen asks for personal information including your home telephone number, Social Security number, and date of birth. Although the information  is said to be confidential, I became suspicious. After checking several websites including Snopes, it seems to be legit. Still, I think I’ll put up with this mail. Identity theft is just too prevalent.

As wonderful as books have been in my life, I don’t take the time to read many anymore. Mostly I’m an article reader. I get most of my books from the library. I’ve pruned many books from our bookshelves over the years. What’s left are mostly for reference and historical purposes. Read How Giving Away 1,000 Books Made Me Love Reading Again for inspiration.

Please add your tips and experiences.