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REading Room

Printed material is one of the biggest organizational challenges I encounter in my work. Many of us have unreasonable ideas of how much information we should be able to read and retain. So stacks of books, newspapers and magazines grow up around the home like oaks out of acorns — very tough to pull out once they’ve taken root. Have you ever tried to get someone to part with their collection of National Geographics?

Magazines and newspapers are major culprits in paper clutter. Who doesn’t love magazines? They are bright, shiny, portable distractions that keep us occupied while we’re waiting for the doctor or the mechanic or while we’re procrastinating on something at home. 

Most people who have stacks and stacks of magazines simply haven’t figured out how best to store the one or two ideas or pieces of information the publication contains. Since ads make up more than 75 percent of most magazines, saving the entire thing, unless it’s a collectible issue, is a waste of space.

As a big believer in reference files, my favorite way to handle magazines is to read through them once and turn down the corners of anything that seems relevant to my life that could add some benefit: a recipe that sounds easy and healthy; a great dress; a yoga regimen; ideas for organizing, etc. I then take a look at all the turned down corners and decide if the item is really something I’m going to follow up on. If it is, I tear out the page and file it.

For a recipe you’d like to try, a common reason people save magazines, tear out the page and file it under “Recipes.” Or you could put it in a clear sheet protector and store it in a binder, creating a personalized cook book of great recipes. This has the added benefit of protecting the recipe from cooking splatters.

Newspapers have a much shorter lifespan and should be recycled regularly. Daily newspapers are especially tough to keep up with, so try to set aside half an hour early in the morning to peruse them, clip anything of interest to read with more attention later, and recycle the rest.

One of my favorite organizing tips is to carry your personal reading material with you at all times. There’s no reason to read the mangled copy of Car and Driver when I’m getting my car maintained if I have my personal copies of Vogue and Real Simple to enjoy. 

If you are overwhelmed by stacks of newspapers and magazines, it’s time to close your eyes, open the recycle bin and pitch. Anything older than one week for newspapers and anything more than two or three months old for magazines needs to go. Give yourself a fresh start in this area and resolve not to let old publications take over your space.

Remember, almost anything in print is available online where you can access it — without having to store it.