Why I Canceled All My Subscription Boxes, and You Should Too

published Dec 26, 2023
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Front Door of House with Stack of Delivery Boxes from Online Ordering and E-commerce
Credit: Jennifer J Taylor / Getty Images

After the chaos of the holidays and in preparation for the fresh start of a new year, there’s nothing quite like a great declutter — a clean-out of your email inbox, of that closet you just opened for the first time in far too long to retrieve seasonal decorations, of relationships with family members you have spent far too much time with over the past month (kidding!). But there’s one part of life in particular that is prone to disarray and yearns for attention it rarely receives, even this time of year: your list of subscriptions.

I’m not talking solely about digital subscriptions, which I’m also guilty of mindlessly paying for. (About every six weeks I discover a recurring $4 charge for some niche streaming service add-on I used one single time.) It’s always a good time for a digital cleanout, yes, but what really leads to clutter in the financial, administrative, and physical senses all at once are the dreaded subscription boxes

I used to be a pro at mindlessly subscribing to makeup boxes that I found joy in at one time, but now barely use products from. For years I had a monthly book box delivery that led to a To-Be-Read pile that I could barely see over, and I reached a point where I wasn’t even excited by the selections I had to choose from. And there are plenty of other beloved services that deliver candles, workout gear, razors, and other self-care items that are wonderful to have, but unlikely that you need an endless stream of.

Ultimately, I was accumulating stuff simply because it was already set up to be delivered to my door for a spare $12 or $16 or other amount of money that would add up over a lifetime to a shameful sum but was not immediately noticeable when it was removed from my bank account. Half the time, I went beyond indifference when the packages came. I’d sometimes be truly annoyed with what I was receiving. But I clung to those subscriptions, even despite the clutter they were creating in my home because I had faith that they would one day pay off. I naively hoped that I’d get the next great American novel in the mail before anyone else caught on, or that I’d find my holy grail makeup product from a tiny sample an algorithm picked for me without any work on my behalf.

To this day, some of those books remain uncracked, and lip glosses remain untouched. But I finally reached a point where I had had enough. As I sat surrounded by things I’d paid for but had no meaningful hand in selecting, I had an epiphany: I realized that I was barely saving money on books with my subscription box and that I enjoyed browsing my indie bookstore and supporting them much more. I realized that when I took the time to research, test, and experiment with different makeup more mindfully instead of using whatever was sent to me, I was far more likely to find products I loved. 

Most importantly, I realized that by receiving these boxes despite all this, I wasn’t just cluttering my home — I was also being the laziest and most wasteful kind of consumer I could be. So I canceled them. My bookshelf now is tidier and full of things I truly find interesting. My makeup bags are no longer bursting at the seams with tiny samples of colors I would never choose. And I now enjoy carefully selecting the items I do choose to bring home.

If you actively make the most of your subscription boxes, which I’m sure many people do, please keep them. But if you have fallen into the inertia of receiving products for the sake of receiving products, the end of the year is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. Make 2024 the year of decluttering, of avoiding the accumulation of things you don’t love and use, and of pocketing that extra cash to spend on something truly special instead.