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Brothers offer a way to lighten your load at the mailbox

By John Kelly
Tuesday, January 5, 2010; B02

Last month, I wrote about the excessive junk mail that Fairfax's Jack French estimated he receives every year: close to 3,800 pieces from charities asking him to help fund this or that cause, or end this or that disease.

And that doesn't even count the catalogues that pile up. Why, just the other day I received a catalogue devoted to prom dresses -- and I'm not even going to the prom! (Oh wait, it's for my daughter.)

My former colleague Tracy Thompson suggested that Jack check out the Web site called 41pounds.org. It's named for the amount of junk mail the average U.S. adult receives each year, said Sander DeVries, co-founder of the site. Sander and his two brothers run a network support business in Ferndale, Mich., north of Detroit. In 2006, tired of all the direct-mail solicitations they were receiving, they researched how to get their names off the various lists.

"There wasn't a way just to do it in one fell swoop," said Sander, 26.

They had to visit various Web sites, fill in forms, send e-mails. Some retailers required a signed postcard. But they persevered. When they were done, they weren't receiving junk mail. They sent a cheat sheet on how others could do as they did to about 100 friends and family members.

Said Sander: "We got all these responses back: 'This is great!' "

No one ended up doing it. It was too much work. That's why Sander and his brothers will do it for you. Their service costs $41 and covers one address for five years, with as many names as there are at that address. So far more than 20,000 people have signed up.

"We guarantee that 85 to 90 percent of your junk mail will stop," Sander said.

Fifteen dollars of the fee is given to one of the charities you choose from a list of nonprofit groups that 41pounds.org works with, including Habitat for Humanity, Trees for the Future and the Carbon Fund.

Sander said it's an odd experience getting practically nothing in the mailbox and admits that 41pounds.org isn't for everyone.

"My grandma actually said, 'Honestly, I would sign up, but that's the only mail I get.' "

Here are some other services: Visit http://www.optoutprescreen.com to stop getting those preapproved credit card offers. Visit http://www.catalogchoice.org to reduce the number of catalogues. The Direct Marketing Association's http://www.dmachoice.org can help you control what sort of solicitations you receive.

Circling the drain

Several readers offered advice in the wake of yesterday's hair-raising (and drain-clogging) column. "Just buy (and use) a drain cover (any hardware store) to, um, cover the drain," wrote Don Hirschfeld of Temple Hills.

Well, sure. But I've yet to find a drain cover that stays tight during a shower. They have a tendency to migrate under the cascade of water. They are the best defense, but only if your particular long-haired teenager remembers to clean them. (It's her shower.)

Towson's Bill Moseley recommended pouring two cups of bleach into the drain and letting it dissolve the clot overnight. Perhaps, but I don't like the idea of chemical warfare, especially since it can make plunging or snaking unpleasant -- if it comes to that.

It came to that with our kitchen sink last week. Sadly, my puny homeowner snake was no match for the clog. I had to call a plumber, who set up his sturdy electric auger.

We're pretty good about not grinding too much in our disposal -- we even have a little compost bin on the counter -- but the plumber convinced me we shouldn't throw anything down there.

"I have two kitchens in my house," he told me as the auger churned away. "I can get any garbage disposal I want. My wife keeps asking me, 'When are we going to get a garbage disposal?' I won't have one in my house."

He charged me $300 to snake the drain. You can have his advice for free.

Helping Children's Hospital

Here's one list I hope you won't mind being on: The list of people who have helped Children's Hospital. To participate in our annual campaign, send a check or money order payable to "Children's Hospital" to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390. To donate online using a credit card, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/childrenshospital. To give by phone using Visa or MasterCard, call 202-334-5100.

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