Organize and Reduce Magazine and Catalog Clutter


homemakingIf there’s one thing that has a tendency to pile up at my house, it’s magazines and catalogs. Before I know it, I have stacks of the darn things tucked away in every corner. It’s maddening! The worst part is, like laundry, they just keep piling up! Every time I get the mail, there’s another one!

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This to This

My recycling bin, crammed full of the magazines that were cluttering up my house and the two folders I condensed useful articles into.

To make matters even worse, my mother brings hers once she’s done with them. That, in itself, is a great way to get rid of them. Now I have to deal with her catalogs and her home is clutter free! After returning from a vacation, my mother brought me some souvenirs and a massive pile of magazines/catalogs. I looked around my house at all of the places I’ve stashed mine and decided that something had to be done! In a single day I took myself from piles of clutter (some of them were two+ years old!) to a pair of neatly organized folders, full of articles I wanted to save. After that, I worked on perfecting the art of keeping the magazine induced clutter to a minimum. Now, I’m passing that on to you! Let’s get organized!

Where do they come from?

And how to make them STOP!

Magazines and catalogs come from all over, it seems. Some you subscribe to, others you get added to. Much like that annoying author who suddenly spams you with newsletters because you agreed to share one thing for them once, (rest assured, nobody is added to my author newsletter without signing themselves up!) catalogs have a tendency to do the same. I bought something from Pottery Barn (love them!) once and the next month I found Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Bed & Bath, PB Teen, and PB Kid, on my doorstep. Four catalogs, three of which I didn’t ask for – not that I think I originally wanted the first one. Then I moved and the previous owner’s catalogs were still arriving. Four years later, they were still coming… How many of you can say you’ve ever called the senders from catalogs after you move and cancelled them all?

And then you’ve got those magazines you do want and the ones you don’t reeeeeeallly want, but you subscribed because you got some sort of a 2-for-1 deal or something. You know the ones.

The first step to reducing and organizing the magazine/catalog clutter around your home is to limit what’s coming in!

Take stock of what’s arriving in the mail. Are there catalogs you never order from? Catalogs from the previous home-owner? Catalogs that you got added to because you bought something from the sister store? Call them and ask to be removed! I’m the first to say I’m busy. I have a kid, a dog, and I’m often so busy helping run two publishing companies and formatting books that I don’t even have time to write, let alone call people. But, you know what I realized? It’s not that hard to find the time if you commit to making it! Call on your way back from the mailbox. I find a catalog I don’t want and amble from the end of the driveway up to my door on the phone. By the time I’m inside, I’ve cancelled one of them. Even if you do that once a month, you’ve cancelled 12 catalogs. You can find the time to make one phone call a month. A year later that’s 144 less that are being delivered to your door! Imagine how much that will cut into your clutter!

As for magazines, do you really read them all? Unsubscribe. Don’t renew it. Identify the ones you never really wanted and cancel! They can’t stack up in your house if they never arrive!

And last, think carefully before buying them. I confess, I used to grab decorating magazines in the checkout line all the time. Did I keep a single one during my purge? No. Have I ever used any of the advice in them enough to make the purchase worth it? No. Can I find pretty much everything online? Yes. So, I stopped buying them. Sure, there’s something pleasurable about flipping through a physical magazine, but it’s not enough to be worth the expense and the extra clutter. The same goes for subscribing to new ones. There’s nothing wrong with subscribing to a magazine to give you a few quiet minutes to relax when it arrives each month. Just don’t fall into the trap of keeping it or subscribing to five when two would do.

Organizing the Magazines and Catalogs Once They Arrive

Do you keep them? Why? Sometimes I mean to read them and end up with an ever-growing pile of unread magazines. It seems the more I get, the more daunting starting them becomes. Don’t let them pile up in the first place! I set a goal for myself: finish them before the recycling comes. When I come in the with the mail, anything I have no intention of looking at goes straight into my recycling bin. The catalogs I do want are put somewhere where I’ll read them right away. If I find any articles I want to keep, I remove them (more on that later) and into the recycling bin the rest goes.

Don’t have the time? Yes, you do. You so do. Come on, you got this! Stick one in the bathroom and flip through a few pages. Nobody will begrudge Mom an extra minute or two in the bathroom. After a few days, you’ll be through it and able to toss it with the rest. Or put one in the kitchen. Read while you wait for the water to boil. Or stash one upstairs. My husband’s bed-time routine is roughly ten minutes long. That’s more than enough time for me to get through a magazine in a night or two, just sitting in bed and relaxing. Flip through one with your morning coffee. I promise, you can carve out a few minutes here and there. It doesn’t matter, as long as you can get that magazine out of your house by recycling day.

Now, this is all assuming you aren’t keeping them. So, I ask again, why would you keep them? If you’ve already read a magazine or flipped through a catalog, why keep it? Ask yourself what you want with it. I’m guilty of saving a magazine because of a recipe or advice. Sometimes I tear the page out, sometimes I keep the whole thing. That’s how I ended up with piles of magazines and torn out pages! I talked to myself and agreed that, no, I am not going to need that specific article in the near future. Half of the parenting advice I’m tempted to keep is on the internet. I promise you, neither you nor I am going to go rummaging through a magazine pile to find “that article about the thing my kid is doing now, that I saved three years ago”. No. If your kid has a problem, you’re going to Google it, not read it in a dusty magazine you stashed in your desk.

I went through over two dozen magazines that I had kept over the years and determined that there was nothing in them that I couldn’t find on the internet if I needed it. I clipped a few recipes and things, but less than half of the magazines I kept yielded anything. Ever since my massive magazine purge I have found very, very few things worth clipping. 90% are recipes which, honestly, I could probably find on the internet too. And to this day, I have still actually cooked less than a quarter of them.

If you absolutely must keep them, do so sparingly.

Get rid of what you don’t have to have and find a dedicated place for the rest of them.

To continue to keep them organized and minimize clutter, give their dedicated place a size limit. Buy a magazine holder or pretty basket, for example. Once those are full, you need to throw out some. Check out the dates. Has it been more than a year since you opened it? Two? Are there magazines you kept you realize you don’t need? Make a deal with yourself that once that holder is full, you can only keep a magazine if you throw an old one out. Don’t hold onto them for the sake of it.

How Can I Get Rid of Them?

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

The easy answer is to recycle them. Please, don’t throw them in the trash, don’t waste them. Recycle. Lucky for you, there are alternatives! Check with your local library and see if they want any that are in good condition. Ask your doctor if they want any for their waiting room. Tear out the pages, crumple them up, and use them to pack boxes if you’re mailing something or moving. Take some (kid friendly please!) and ask if the art teacher at your local school could use some for projects. I remember cutting a ton of pictures out of magazines for class projects as a kid. Or, be like my mother and give them to a family member or friend and make it their problem.

In Summary…

  • Minimize the source of the clutter by cancelling and unsubscribing

  • Get rid of what you won’t read the moment you get it

  • Set a limit for how long you’ll keep unread ones – such as until the next recycling day and stick to it

  • Think twice before you keep any and limit how many you can have

  • Get them out of your house – recycle, up-cycle, and donate – get them gone!

How many catalogs and magazines do you find piling up? Are you a read-and-toss or a hoarder? Do you have any tricks for dealing with the mess?

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