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USPS letter mail is generally divided into First Class and Standard. Generally, Standard mail does not get forwarded if you do a change-of-address -- only First Class does.

Most of the letters that are sent with Standard postage can generally safely go straight into the recycle bin without even having to be opened.

When doing extended travel, it may be beneficial to have Standard mail discarded, and only have the First Class mail delivered into one's mailbox -- is there a way to instruct USPS for such an effect?

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    This sounds like a spam-filtering technique that would be useful for non-travelers, too, if it's possible. – Flimzy Oct 24 '14 at 11:11
  • There are services that will scan your mail and allow it to be viewed online, and allow you to be somewhat selective about what is scanned. – DJClayworth Oct 24 '14 at 13:49
  • After visitin www.usps.com, it does not appear that this is something they will do. They offer Hold Mail and Premium Forwarding Service. The former holds all mail at your permanent address' local Post Office. The latter forwards all mail to a temporary address, once per week. Their FAQs do not indicate any kind of mail sorting offered in either case. – CGCampbell Oct 24 '14 at 13:54
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    For what it's worth, I used a mail scanning/forwarding service when I traveled for a long time. You basically get an inbox view of your mail online (like email) where you can select "open envelope and scan", "shred", "forward to any address in the world (for a cost)", etc. Companies that do this include EarthClassMail and MailboxForwarding.com – Eugene O Oct 24 '14 at 17:23
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    @CGCampbell: But the OP is right that when you file a Change of Address (permanent mail forwarding), Standard mail is not forwarded (it is either returned to sender or discarded). This isn't considered tampering with the mail: the sender is supposed to know and agree that this is a possibility. If they want their letter to be forwarded to you, they have to use the more expensive First Class. (Note that mail sent by individuals, e.g. a letter with a regular stamp, is almost always First Class anyway.) – Nate Eldredge Oct 25 '14 at 15:32
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Much of the mail classified as standard mail tends to be catalogs, flyers, and other advertising materials.

You can proactively remove yourself from the big mailers lists by visiting DMAChoice, a tool offered by the Direct Marketing Association. The opt-out process is a bit tedious but worth it if you are getting tons of ads you don't want.

This would stop much of the standard mail from getting sent to you while you travel. When you return, you can sign up selectively with the vendors you do want to get mail from again.

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