What if I told you for the last 2 years, I have not needed to throw away one piece of junk mail, have hardly handled any mail myself, and have not even had to go to a bank to deposit checks for that matter.
How did I go about doing that you ask? Keep reading and I will show you how to lead a virtually paperless existence using the services of Virtual Post Mail (VPM).
I didn't know about such services until I began researching solutions for common problems for long-term travelers so I'll first explain why such a service would be helpful to you.
If you take a 1 or 2 week vacation, typically you would notify the post office to hold your mail so that your mailbox does not get completely full. You do this also as a security precaution so that people don't know that you are not at home for an extended period of time. The USPS will provide this service as a courtesy for up to 30 days. But what if you are traveling for longer periods of time, you are going on a GAP year or sabbatical and have completely moved out of your house, or have decided to become an ex-pat and live in an entirely different country altogether?
First, you can have everything sent to your parents which many people do. But like everyone else, your parents lead busy lives themselves and probably travel as well. I didn't want to burden mine with opening all my mail, figuring out how to scan important documents and then emailing them to me through insecure means. The same goes for forwarding your mail to a trusted friend. I had a good friend who volunteered to receive my mail but I didn't want to inconvenience him anymore than I had to (as he was already storing some personal belongings for me).
So I began searching and wondered if there was a company out there that would do the following:
- Provide me a permanent address in the USA.
- Scan the front of the envelopes of all my incoming mail.
- Email me whenever I received new mail.
- Open any mail that I deemed important and scan the contents.
- Allow me to download the contents of my mail as a pdf document.
- Forward any mail or packages that I physically needed to any location in the world.
- Deposit my checks for me.
- Do all this in a secure and safe manner.
I also never wanted to fill out a change of address form again. Every time I moved I had to worry about changing my address for all the various companies I did business with and whether I had remembered all of them.
Incredibly there's a company that does all this called Virtual Post Mail.
How does it work?
First Virtual Post Mail receives your mail at their California facility. Each customer is assigned a unique mailbox number. VPM scans the front of the envelope and sends you an email with this image.
a. You can request to have it opened and scanned or you can download the image of the front of the envelope as a PDF.
Once you have chosen to have it opened and scanned, it usually takes one business day. The following day you will receive an email that your mail is ready to view. Log back in and the images will be presented to you, starting with the front of the envelope and then the contents of the letter.
If you require the mail or package to be forwarded, you will be presented with options for shipment. You can then select where you would like to have it shipped, different shipping methods and will be given the cost for doing so.
Another great service that they provide is the ability to deposit checks for you. Most major banks have mail-in deposit service. This saves A LOT of time not having to worry about making a trip to the bank and waiting in line or at the ATM machine. There is a nominal fee for each deposit you make but it is worth it to me to have my checks deposited easily while I'm traveling. A full breakdown of this service is located here.
Also in order to use the service, your identity must be confirmed and a USPS Form 1583 must be filled out and notarized. An explanation of Form 1583 can be found here.
How to complete the necessary forms and why they are needed is located here.
Basically, you are agreeing to have VPM receive your private mail and so the USPS as well as VPM need to make sure everything is done safely and securely to protect your identity. It only took me about an hour to fill out the documents, provide the necessary identification, get everything notarized and faxed into VPM.
For each package you are able to receive and scan up to a certain amount of mail. Anything over that amount, there will be an additional charge per item. If you're not sure how much mail you will receive, my suggestion is to start with a mid-range package and then downgrade or upgrade depending on your needs. You can change your level of service at any time.
Also, before signing up, make sure to get as many of your bills on electronic delivery (e-delivery) as possible. Most banks and utilities offer this service free of charge as it reduces their paper mail burden. The companies will email you when your statements and bills are ready and then you can view or download them online when necessary. This is something you want to do anyways to avoid unnecessary mail and clutter. I have eliminated about 95% of my snail mail by this method alone.
VPM has an option to test out their service before purchasing by using this demo.
If all this sounds good to you and you're ready to eliminate paper clutter in your life, learn more by visiting Virtual Post Mail!