Weekend project: Tackle newspaper and magazine clutter

If you’re looking for an uncluttering project for this weekend, consider organizing your newspapers and magazines.

  • Gather together all of your newspapers and magazines and set them on a flat work surface.
  • Toss into the recycling bin all of your newspapers that are more than a day old.
  • Recycle immediately any magazine that you know you will never get around to reading.
  • If you have read and flagged articles in any of your magazines, either scan them so that you have a digital copy or see if you can find an online copy and save it to your digital notebook (e.g. Evernote). Then, recycle the magazine.
  • Any magazine you haven’t read that you still want to read, write a due date, on the cover of the magazine with a magic marker. If you haven’t read it by the due date, recycle it on the spot.
  • Put the magazines you intend to read in a location where you’ll see them and read them. Then, as time permits, pick them up and enjoy the publications.
  • Finally, remove the unwanted newspapers and magazines from your home.

Although we use the word “recycle” in this article, we don’t necessarily mean sending magazines and newspapers into the waste stream. There are other options for these items. For example:

  • Animal shelters can often use old newspapers to line cages.
  • Charity shops may appreciate newspapers to pack fragile items for customers.
  • Waiting rooms in medical centers, seniors’ centers, and other care homes may appreciate recent magazines in relatively good condition.

Ask around in your community to see if there is a place to donate your newspapers and magazines.

If your newspapers and magazines are already in order, check out our list of other weekend project ideas.


This post was originally published in May 2008.

36 Comments for “Weekend project: Tackle newspaper and magazine clutter”

  1. posted by Karyn on

    How about the ultimate uncluttering tip for magazines and newspapers–don’t even subscribe or buy them. We haven’t taken a newspaper in ages, and I treat myself to one magazine a month. This greatly reduces our paper clutter and recycling.

    When we moved to our current house the previous owners had a newspaper subscription, and we kept getting the paper for a month or so after we moved in. While it was nice to have it as part of my morning routine, I quickly realized I didn’t really read more than 1/6th of the paper, and it was a pain to stack the old papers for recycling.

    If one has an Internet connection, the news is readily available online, and one can pick and choose what to read.

  2. posted by T on

    Or give them away – do people share magazines at your gym, for example? Any neighbors with new babies who are sitting around wishing for adult conversation in 4 minute chunks? Relatives?

    (If they’re not worth sharing, perhaps they’re not worth getting…)

  3. posted by Jessica on

    I have to second what T said. Don’t chuck the magazines in the recycling until you’ve tried to find someone else who might want them. Try doctors’ offices or people with kids who could cut out the pictures and use them for crafts or something.

  4. posted by Briana on

    To keep my magazine clutter organized on an ongoing basis, I keep them in a basket next to the couch. When the basket gets full, I go through it and recycle anything I don’t want anymore (generally, that’s anything I haven’t touched in a month or more).

    In addition to donating old magazines to gyms and doctor’s offices, you might want to take them to work and leave them in the breakroom for other employees to enjoy. (Wherever you take them, be sure to cut out your name and address first!)

  5. posted by Karen in the northland on

    I worry a bit about how our newspapers will survive if everyone cancels their subscriptions and just gets news for free online. Newspapers are cutting staff around the country. They haven’t figured out a way to make online news pay. Newspaper newsrooms are still the biggest source of original reporting today. If we eliminate them, where will we get our news? Just a thought.

  6. posted by Elaine on

    I’ve been trying to get rid of my fiance’s bathroom-reading stack of car porn to no avail. Seriously, how many articles about custom xenon headlights or how to put a combination playstation/toaster in your dash can you possibly read in the can? I did get him down to the 12 most recent, but I think he snuck in some more this week.

  7. posted by Tiffany on

    Karen, the pittance one pays for a subscription to a newspaper only covers the actual cost of circulating the physical paper. The newsroom staff salaries are paid by advertising and always have been. Cuts in news staff aren’t due to people getting their news for free online, since subscription fees are a break-even proposition at best. The cuts are due to a far greater amount of competition for people’s attention than they’ve ever seen in the past- 24-hour news channels, multiple papers being available online, etc. Newspapers are having to find new ways to compete with the variety of niche publications both on and off-line, and are having to cut costs in order to do it.

    If you’re concerned about what’s going to happen to newspapers, look at the ads on their websites. CLICK on those ads, and BUY. But it’s not our responsibility to prop up a dying print business model by consuming natural resources and cluttering our homes with a paper copy of the news that’s out of date already and that we aren’t going to read.

  8. posted by Neal on

    Another tip for saving newspaper and magazine articles: your local library may have access to a digital archive of the magazines. Many don’t realize that states and localities pay aggregators to give their citizens access to these documents. You may be able to sign in to your library’s website with your library card number, find the magazine in the archive, and download pdfs of full articles. Whether that is more convenient than scanning them yourself is up to you, I suppose.

  9. posted by Anne on

    I used to have trouble with magazine clutter at home. Even though I was only getting one magazine at a time, I still ended up with a stack I couldn’t seem to get to! I now keep my one magazine in the bathroom at work – this is great because I actually get to read most of what I want to out of it in a month and hopefully there are a few other people that enjoy it as well. 🙂

  10. posted by Babs on

    I am still working on clearing my dining room table, but I thought I would mention that my favorite thrift shop sells donated magazines for 25 cents a piece. That is at least one more degree of separation from the recycling bin.

  11. posted by H... on

    I do not subscribe newspaper which makes a huge difference. I can read newspaper at work or check latest news online. I am phasing out magazine subscriptions. I can buy ones when I feel like reading…

  12. posted by infmom on

    My husband never met a magazine he didn’t want to cling to. Especially the various technical journals he gets as part of his job. Somehow he never has enough time to finish one of those in one sitting, so he sets it aside to finish later.

    Except that “later” almost never comes. And with that technical stuff, if you leave the magazine lying around for months on end, how timely can the information be?

    I finally put my foot down to a certain extent. He can no longer put a tray table by his chair in the living room and stack magazines there. I check the dates on any that are left lying around and if they’re more than three months old, they get recycled. This caused a certain amount of sulking at first, but he’s beginning to get the idea. Even a 61-year-old guy can learn new tricks. 🙂

    The best place we’ve found to recycle magazines of general interest is the medical center waiting room. We cut our address off the cover and put the magazines in a brown paper grocery bag in an out-of-the-way spot till one of us has a doctor’s appointment, and then we take the bag in. We’re usually greeted with delight and “The magazine people are here again!”

    I can’t imagine not reading the newspaper in the morning. Online sources go for short summaries. The newspaper gives you the bigger picture. I am just not a sound-bite kinda gal. I just canceled “Women’s Health” magazine because it’s all full of short bits and no depth. The Readers Digest approach does us no favors.

  13. posted by Susan on

    For the last few years I have only bought a newspaper on Sunday. I don’t subscribe to any magazines but I still get the following publications free of charge through the mail: Heart Insight from the American Heart Association, Food and Family from Kraft Foods, Florida Monthly from our power company, Embody Health from the Mayo Clinic, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin from AARP and Myakka Livin Magazine from our local community center.

  14. posted by Thebe on

    You can also buy binders to store favorite magazines. One of my favorite magazines sells customized binders for old copies — $13 a binder. For $26 I’ve neatly stored two years’ worth of my favorite magazine. The binders sit on a bookshelf and I flip through them regularly.

  15. posted by Catherine on

    I like the idea of putting magazines out at offices, etc. where others might want to read them. I think I’d feel even better about it if I knew they ended up in the recycling bin when the 2nd/3rd/4th person was done with them.

    Hmm… Perhaps a “please recycle me” label on them….

  16. posted by Catherine on

    BTW, oddly enough, “Real Simple” is the worst magazine I’ve gotten, in terms of volume of paper vs. real content. I was actually *angered* by the size of their holiday issue, I believe it was, this past year. This huge thick wad of advertising with a handful of articles I was interested in was crazy!

    After a single year, I cancelled Real Simple. I’d love it, if every other page (literally) wasn’t an ad. It’s an embarrassingly wasteful amount of paper and ads for the articles in it… (Sorry Erin! )

  17. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Catherine — No offense taken! I think it’s a tough issue for magazine producers (and newspapers and websites and any publication). The advertisements generate the revenue that keep the publications running, so they’re necessary under the current financial business structure. But, it’s difficult to know where the line should be drawn between enough to sustain the business and too much to annoy readership.

  18. posted by Heather on

    I second what Tiffany said regarding newspapers. They’re also dying because people get their news from blogs. Sometimes (not always!) you get more accurate news from non-corporation controlled sources (e.g., Fox vs Daily Kos).

    I also second Catherine – Real Simple is oppressive with their wad of ads. I like the clean design of the piece, but the articles tend to be pimping products, which means even more of it is advertising than the ads!

  19. posted by Simple Zack on

    This is wonderful. I’m sending this to my parents right now. They have magazines from the early nineties laying around still.

  20. posted by pam munro on

    I find that the value I get from the daily newspaper in L.A. just in terms of information, more than compensates for the clutter of the old ones. I used to even be able to recycle THAT, but no one takes it anymore, alas. You can use newsprint to sop up spills on the floor & not use expensive paper towels – newsprint is very absorbant, but be careful about putting it on light surfaces, the ink can bleed. Sometimes I put a papertowel on the light bathroom linoleum and THEN put a layer of newspaper to sop up overflows. You can also use it to clean glass or other shiny surfaces – no lint.
    There are also valuable coupons with come with the paper – I use the fast food coupons to save there. Also sometimes chain restaurant deals! I even learned about inexpensive car ins. in L.A. through the L.A. Times, so don’t knock it!

  21. posted by Kari Thevenot on

    I guess I subscribe to a couple of different theories. One, you can always throw straight into the recycle bin if you are not entirely sure you’ll get around to reading the magazine/literature.

    I agree that recent magazines can be donated – check with your local hospital. My day job is at a pretty large hospital and they have a few drop boxes for magazines (they need to be RECENT though!) that they will place in waiting rooms throughout the facility – radiology, lab, oncology, etc. It’s always annoying to me if I’m waiting forever to be called back and there are magazines from over a year ago – people definitely appreciate the donations.

  22. posted by Chamberlyn on

    I subscribe to my one magazine, Real Simple (yes, the ads bug the heck out of me, too, but I love the articles, though they are few and far between). I buy a Sunday paper rather than having a newspaper subscription because that’s the only day I have time to read it plus I am a coupon clipper.

    My dad really needs to learn to purge his magazines. He has subscriptions to at least 20 magazines, most of which are related to fishing, nature, or hunting (he doesn’t hunt, by the way, so it makes no sense). The magazines stack up on the table next to his chair in the den, his bedside table, a 3-foot radius around his bedside table, and his fly-tying room. He goes through and tosses them about once a year, whenever my mom finally complains enough about it, or when the cat goes missing because he’s knocked them over on top of himself and can’t get out (yes, it’s that bad). Just think of all of the money (and trees) he could save by unsubscribing!!!

  23. posted by Lori Bruhns on

    As a former teacher I can tell you that schools appreciate old magazines(I made sure to rip out pictures that might have been inappropriate)I taught Spanish for close to 10 years we always were looking for magazines to cut up to do projects. The art class is always a great place to donate those unwanted newspapers & magazines. I keep a basket in each of my bathrooms. When a new magazine comes in an old one goes either upstairs to the get bathroom or out the door. The one in one out method of sorting always is a good solution (for almost everything) in my home

  24. posted by Lori Bruhns on

    Oops that should have been guest bathroom. Sorry

  25. posted by Cara on

    basically, i agree with Karyn’s idea..

    Ideally you should probably read news online and not have any hard copy newspapers. Then you could just save the articles, etc., that you wanted to keep rather than going to the trouble of scanning them. Plus you’d save the money of buying newspapers – well, some online newspapers might have a subscription fee for some stuff. Anyway. 🙂

  26. posted by Dream Mom DBA www.dreamorganizers.com on

    I still enjoy reading magazines and newspapers. While I admit, the first thing I do in the morning is check the internet for news that happened overnight, (plus I am subscribed to some breaking news e-mails), it’s just faster sometimes to have a physical newspaper to scan the headlines or to read different articles that I wouldn’t read in the on-line edition. What I rarely do anymore is watch the local news however. By the time it makes it to the local news, I’ve seen it on the internet and read about it there.

    As for magazines, I am inspired by them, although I try to limit them. I keep a small space for them and when it gets full, I get rid of them.

  27. posted by Tania on

    We have a Weekend Only subscription to our newspaper so our newspaper situation is under control (they actually get read and then recycled). MY (not my partner – can’t blame this on anyone but me) magazine situation is HECKA out of control. Books, CDs (and records AND tapes) and magazines are extremely difficult for me to part with. I can scan the article, but there’s something about touching a tactile object vs. reading yet another thing on a screen… this is a very difficult issue for me… 🙁

  28. posted by Tania on

    ^^^ I guess that Organizational Process article had some truth. It said I was a Kinesthetic/Tactile processor! haha!

  29. posted by Bex! on

    As someone who moved a box of old magazines (0 days to 2+ years) several times, I am proud to say I have succeded in bringing the situation under control. I gave in to my ‘need’ to read them all. However, I read them on the bus to work and over lunch, which left them in a state that fully counteracted the temptation to keep back issues. I also let several subscriptions lapse. If a month comes where I run out of magazines, I can hit the store for something additional, and the months where I don’t run out, they aren’t coming anyways and adding clutter.

    I still prefer physical magazines to getting everything online. I read magazines in lots of places where my computer isn’t!

  30. posted by Karen P on

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been clipping recipes from magazines for years and rarely try new ones. I’ve finally faced the fact that if I try a new recipe once a week (my goal), it will take me a hundred years to try them all. So, I’ve tossed all my clipped recipes, bought Yummy Soup! (mac), which lets me download new recipes from several websites (including my favorite magazine Cooking Light). My new goal is to download 4 a month, and if I don’t try them within that month, delete them. Wish me luck!

  31. posted by Chris on

    I drop magazines off at local laundromats where people have to wait around while they do their laundry. I used to save all my Vegetarian Times imagining I’d go back and try out the recipes. I never did so I dropped them off at my local natural food coop and they were snapped up.
    As for Real Simple–I like looking at it if I’m at a doctor’s office, but do think the editorial content and advertising content blend into each other too much. Kind of a consumerist take on simplicity. Too slick to be “real simple.”

  32. posted by lisah on

    i get rid of most magazines via sharing as soon as the next one arrives. for clutter purposes and guilt! nothing worse than feeling bad that you haven’t gotten around to reading that one magazine. life is too short for that sort of foolishness! when i give them away, i know someone who doesn’t have an addiction to magazine subscriptions will be able to enjoy them, too.

  33. posted by Shelly on

    I get the Sunday paper from the town 30 miles away where my DBF works. You cannot read this paper online if you do not have a subscription.

  34. posted by Charlotte on

    I subscribe only to Real Simple. However, when my local library has their annual book sale, I buy old National Geographics for 25 cents each. I enjoy looking through them while I’m watching TV. The articles seldom “go out of date.”

    When I’ve finished with them, I write on the cover with a marker: “FREE: take, read, and pass to another person.” Then I leave them on the ticket counter at the Greyhound Bus Station (after first getting permission).

    People who ride the bus, in general, have very limited resources. They probably don’t subscribe to anything, and buying a magazine may cost more than they have. In addition, they may have limited reading abilities. Therefore, NatGeos are perfect with all the pictures.

    The ticket-counter people know me now and are always happy to see me coming with free reading material.

    If you are still on mailing lists and receiving catalogs, those make good give aways, too — just remember to remove all your personal information.

  35. posted by WilliamB on

    “Toss into the recycling bin all of your newspapers that are more than a day old.”

    What a nice, organized life you must have, to know you can get your newspaper(s) each and every day, without fail.

    OTOH, I really like this idea: “Any magazine you haven’t read that you still want to read, write June 29, 2008, on the cover of the magazine with a magic marker. In a month, if you still haven’t read it, recycle it on the spot.” although in my world a month isn’t enough time.

    I had an interesting dilemma: I have the choice of giving my old news magazine to someone at work who would not otherwise buy the mag, or I could recycle it. To date I’ve been giving him the mag. Maybe I should tell him the “price” is to recycle it.

  36. posted by Cindy May on

    My local library also gratefully accepts magazines. People put them on the bottom shelf of the outer lobby free to whomever wants them. Sometimes I drop some off; other times I may pick up one or two from the pile that interest me. It’s a win win. I think the library may also discard its old magazines there too.

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