Paper! That slender, seemingly innocent descendent of papyrus that can all of a sudden bite you like Cleopatra’s viper. Most hoarders I have worked with have more trouble with paper, specifically newspapers and magazines, than any other category of material goods. Why is it so hard for some people to get rid of old daily and monthly publications? When is it ok to save publications and how should you organize them?
For many of us, newspapers and magazines represent valuable information. Who among us has not purchased a shiny magazine thinking it held the answer to living an inspired month, or even life?
The most important habit to develop when dealing with printed matter is to stay grounded in reality. Magazines, especially, are supported by advertisers who want to sell us things we don’t need and would have never known existed. They are cultivating desires and cravings for things like sunglasses adorned with golden monkeys or pants cuffed with a fringe made of mink tails. Stay in your power center as you enjoy the colorful images of airbrushed bodies and impeccably staged kitchens.
Reality check number two is that magazines are not valuable. Very, very few magazines will be worth even what you paid for them. They are meant to be enjoyed in a timely manner and then recycled.
Newspapers, hopefully, are not creating ad-driven illusions, but are simply cheap information disseminators. They exist to be consumed in one day, then discarded. Trouble starts when a person gets behind on their reading and feels a somewhat obsessive urge to absorb every single article in one or more newspapers. This is how stacks are born.
For hoarders, stacks line the walls, then they encroach inward, sometimes creating floor-to-ceiling warrens. For a very entertaining fictionalized account of the famous newspaper hoarding Collyer brothers, read Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow.
Remember to stay rooted in reality. Yesterday’s newspaper should line a bird cage, not be added to a stack in the bedroom. Do not beat yourself up if you can’t get to the paper each day. The articles, like the paper itself, will be recycled. You will be able to find out how to prune roses and that recipe for cauliflower pizza crust again, I promise you.
People always ask, “If I’m saving the article, should I save the whole magazine?” My answer is a resounding “No!” Cut out the article and file it where it makes sense—fashion, recipes, travel, whatever. If it is an article on YOU, I would also suggest saving the cover so that you have all of the relevant publication information.
Always date with a pen any clippings. If you find that in a year or two you see the clipping and it is no longer relevant or you never got around to reading it, then toss it. The date while speak volumes about the quality of the information.
If you are printing articles from online publications or clipping ideas and articles from print publications, create a system for filing them that makes it easy to find. Keep the categories as broad as possible but as specific as you need to. If you are clipping holiday ideas and your file grows to over a hundred pages, you will need to break it down into Valentines, Christmas, Passover, Fourth of July, etc.
If you clip articles that you would like someone else in the family or a friend to read, be sure to send them on as soon as you can, in fact, if you regularly clip articles and ideas for others, have your stamps, envelopes and address book beside you as you read and send them along in a timely manner.
My new hero Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Workweek and podcaster-extraordinaire, suggests fasting completely from news consumption every now and then. By consciously choosing not to read any news publications or watch any news broadcasts, you can start to feel the impact—positive or negative—the flood of information (and your feelings about processing it) have had on your space and your productivity. In light of the election shenanigans of the last few months, a news fast sounds like a wonderful idea.