Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tips and tools: Magazine management

I love to read and stay current in a few fields like music, movies and design. I also like to make collages out of colorful images and text. Magazines are a fun way to accomplish both tasks. However, between subscribing to them and also getting free alumni magazines, AAA and Costco publications, interesting catalogs and the Sunday paper's magazines, it can be easy to get overrun with so many magazines that you can't keep up with them anymore and they just pile up, a glossy pile of reproach.

Tip 1: Don't get them
The best way to solve this is to let your subscriptions to the magazines you don't read run out and request to be taken off mailing lists. I have only subscribed to one magazine every year since I turned 16, a biweekly magazine that I actually do read cover to cover (eventually). While buying magazines at the newsstands is hardly cost effective if you'll be reading a certain title every month, you can get so much information and so many of the articles online, there's really no reason to spend money and valuable coffee table space on more than your most beloved publications.

Tip 2: Contain them
If you do have more than one subscription, which is not uncommon (one member of my household has three separate car magazine subscriptions), you might be at a loss for what to do with the magazines before you have a chance to sit down and page through them. I recommend a sturdy, shallow basket or tray placed near where you go through your mail. The magazines collect there, and when that tray fills up, you're signaled that you need to read, recycle, or archive the contents.

Tip 3: Archive them
The same person who has three car magazines delivered to our home every month has every one of those magazines from the past fifteen years archived. He uses plain white magazine holders from Ikea, with cute labels pasted to the front made from the subscription cards that are stuck into the pages of the magazines to identify which title is stored in each holder.

If you must keep your magazines, I suggest you do something similar, if you have the space on shelves. Shallow plastic storage boxes area also a good option. The smaller the better, as a large plastic box filled to the brim with magazines becomes very heavy.

Tip 4: Reuse and recycle
Personally, I like to read the magazines, put them in a single magazine holder and when that fills up, make a project of flipping through them. I save a few notable issues every year, and the rest get turned into scraps for my collage projects and recycled. You can also pass on interesting magazines to friends, sometimes donate them to libraries or get rid of them on Freecycle. Magazines make great art project supplies, so ask at your local elementary school as well.

Don't feel guilt or anxiety at your unread magazine pile. Simply contain them and peruse them when it makes sense. No one will berate you for not reading the latest issue of Westways magazine, so just recycle it and be done (you can read back issues online anyway!).

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

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