Reader Nia submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
My husband and I are both not great at keeping clutter under control, but I am the worse of the two of us. I am especially guilty of magazine clutter. Why am I unable to throw away magazines? It’s seriously painful for me to get rid of them. The only plausible explanation I’ve come up with is that the magazine has done such a good job marketing themselves (all of them have, mind you) that it embodies a lifestyle and not just a pack of paper. By seeing that magazine, I feel like I’m living the lifestyle. I know it sounds silly, but I think this is the truth. Anyway, I don’t want to trash all my magazines, but I need to be able to part with a good chunk of them. Any advice for a magazine hoarder?
I have this problem with Dwell and Atomic Ranch. I don’t know why, but recycling them is difficult for me — even knowing that the majority of their content is available for free online a couple weeks after the magazine hits newsstands. They definitely promote a lifestyle, as much as eye candy and design inspiration.
My way to process magazines has actually changed a little bit in the past year, so I’ll walk you through the process. Also, be sure to check the comments to read how other people also work to keep their magazine clutter under control.
When a magazine or catalog comes to the house, I write its arrival date in large print on the cover with a black Sharpie. If you plan to donate your magazines to a doctor’s office or nursing home after you read them, go ahead and mark out your name and address at this point, too.
I then put the magazine or catalog straight into the magazine holder. If the previous month’s issue is still in the holder, I’ll immediately remove it from the holder and toss it into the recycling bin or donation pile. If I haven’t processed the issue in a month, I’m not going to get to it.
Each morning when I get my cup of coffee, I’ll grab a magazine out of the holder to peruse while I sit and sip on my caffeinated miracle juice. Anything that I might want to read again or sparks my interest, I’ll crease down the top page corner.
On Saturday mornings while my son is taking his nap, I’ll scan the pages with the creased corners and save them as PDFs to my computer’s hard drive. Some of the articles or images I clip are saved to folders for work inspiration, home decor ideas, trips I might one day want to take, etc. I use DEVONthink for my scanned document management. My scanner has optical character recognition (OCR), so any text in the articles is also searchable. (I use Google Desktop for an improved hard drive search.)
If you plan to donate your magazines or catalogs to a group instead of recycle them, you’ll want to use a flatbed scanner instead of a scanner that requires you to rip the pages out to feed through the machine. If you don’t have a scanner, you can wait until the content appears online (usually the first day of the month) and then create a bookmark of the article online and save it to a folder by type (work inspiration, home decor ideas). This is also a good idea if you have limited hard drive space. An add-on like Scrapbook for Firefox allows you to save annotated notes on the bookmarked web pages.
No matter what method you use, you need to get in the habit of never having a magazine or catalog in your home that is more than a month old. It will be difficult in the beginning, but once you see that you can access the information again, your mild anxiety will likely fade.
Thank you, Nia, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Good luck!
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.