The holidays are nigh. I can tell by the surge of junk email in my inbox and all the catalogs I don't want in my mailbox. I mean, seriously: I bought a friend's daughter a Christmas gift from the American Girl catalog once, years ago, and that damn catalog still arrives at my door every year.
All this unwanted stuff is overwhelming, but I found two useful apps that help cut down on clutter.
Unclutter that inbox with Unroll.me
Unroll.me is a new, attractive, easy-to-use iOS app that makes it simple to unsubscribe from email updates, such as airline deals and social media notifications. (Unfortunately, Unroll.me is not available for Android.) It works with most popular email providers, including Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com, iCloud email, Hotmail, MSN, AOL and Windows Live. Best of all, it's entirely free, and it doesn't have ads.
After you launch the app and create an account, the app scans your inbox for recurring messages from the same sender, and then presents each message as a "card." You can swipe left on a card to unsubscribe from future email from that sender; swipe up to add senders to your daily "rollup" digest; or swipe right to keep an email subscription the way it is. The app also has icons you can tap to perform the same functions.
If you change your mind about a card, you can reverse modifications by clicking the app's pencil icon. The app doesn't send unsubscribe notifications until 24 hours after you make changes, the developer says, in case you unsubscribe accidentally or have a sudden change of heart.
You can choose when to receive your daily rollups: morning, afternoon, or evening. (I prefer to mindlessly skim email updates while waiting for my caffeine to kick in, so I chose the morning.)
Unroll.me's Web app offers a bit more functionality than the mobile software. For example, you can categorize email subscriptions you add to your rollup via the Web, but not on iOS. This makes it easier to scan your daily digest, however, you can't create custom categories.
Worried about security and privacy? "Whenever possible Unroll.me uses authentication services, such as Gmail's OAuth, to access its users' data," according to the developer’s FAQ page. "However, if authentication is not available in another form, Unroll.me takes exceptional care to protect the user login information it does have access to. In short, if you have a Gmail or Outlook.com account, we never have access to your login info. If you have a Yahoo, AOL, or iCloud account, we do."
Assuming you're OK with that, Unroll.me is a quick and easy way to clean up inbox clutter. SaneBox, a similar tool, is also worth a look, but it costs $7 a month, following a free trial.
Emancipate your mailbox with PaperKarma
I used to receive mountains of unwanted paper catalogs in the mail, but PaperKarma, a free app for Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices, helped me seriously — but not completely — whittle down the pile.
I've raved about PaperKarma before, I still use it regularly, and I highly recommend the app. To get started, you snap photos of company logos or return addresses on the unwanted mail, enter or select your own name and address, and then click the big "Unsubscribe me!" button. Most of the time, that's all you need to do.
However, the unsubscribe process isn't always successful. For example, I sent an unsubscribe request to Hello Direct, and PaperKarma indicated the unsubscribe was successful. But I continued to receive the headset company's catalogs. If this happens to you, you can tap a button in the app to let PaperKarma know a company is still sending you mail. (I just recently zapped that dastardly American Girl holiday catalog, so hopefully this is the last time I get one.)
You can get unlimited PaperKarma unsubscribes for $2 a month, or $10 a year. Despite its less-than-perfect success record, PaperKarma is still a great way to get rid of unwanted paper mail. CatalogChoice is another, free option, but it requires more manual steps and doesn't have a mobile app.