Organizing Magazines: Periodical Peculiarities

Aunt Alys 1933 Magazine Cover

Here’s one magazine I wish I had: My Aunt Alys on the cover of Health and Strength, 1933

The nature of magazines makes them challenging to organize. Unlike books with an index, trying to find a certain article, recipe or idea usually means thumbing through the pages. Even that has its limitations. If you buy or subscribe to several, you’ll quickly lose track of the content. Magazines are peculiar periodicals. Trying to organize them is time better spent on activities you enjoy.

My advice for organizing magazines is…don’t.

Magazines are topical in nature. Weeklies cover current events, whether its news, entertainment or both. They’re meant to be read and tossed. If you can’t bear to toss it, consider sharing it with a neighbor or co-worker. If you know you’ll be passing it on, you’ll take the time to read it. When we’re busy, news magazines may sit for weeks because we don’t have time to read them. If you can’t read it now, chances are you won’t read it later. Why? Because its old news. My advice is to read it and toss it. If weeks go by and you still haven’t read it, out it goes. If it’s habitual, is it time to let the subscription go? Consider following one of the news organizations online or via Twitter instead.

Monthly magazines generally have more content, and don’t always have a ‘shelf life.’ Recipes, decorating ideas or an inspirational article have tremendous appeal. Hobbyist magazines share the latest tips for horse grooming, new garden ideas, or craft patterns along with tips and advice. But consider this: according to Ad Week, advertisements make up 45 to 50% of the pages in an average magazine. This means that for every magazine you store, you’re dedicated half of your storage space to preserve ads. Without a proper index and only half the pages filled with content, keeping monthly magazines long-term is a losing proposition.

Here are some ideas instead.

Limit your subscriptions.

I love reading magazines myself, so I appreciate their appeal. I have many interests, including gardening, crafting, movies, books, and household DIY. It’s fun looking at the latest fashions and I enjoy reading news from my industry.ย  That said, my time to read is finite *because* I have so many interests. I subscribe to two paper magazines: Entertainment Weekly and Real Simple. I read them cover to cover, setting aside the time to really dig in and enjoy them. Entertainment Weekly covers books, movies, music, television and trends in all those industries.ย  Real Simple covers fashion, organizing, home decorating, gardening and cooking with a clean editorial layout that I enjoy. I stay current on my industry through an online forum. And if I’m really craving gossip, I can always find it online or in the lobby at my next dentist appointment.

Save what you’ll use, then toss the rest.

If you like to collect and try recipes, then tear out the one that appeals to you and put it in an organized binder. I have a simple binder organized by soups, salads, main courses and desserts. After you try the recipe, you can decide if it’s a keeper. If not, out it goes. Pinterest is another great way to sort and store recipes and its all online. Then you’ll always be able to access it from there.

If you’re saving decorating ideas, consider scanning the pictures and creating a digital folder. Or do what Marlene of In Search of it All does: take a photograph of the idea you want to save and let go of the rest. You can also scan the pages and store them digitally for easy retrieval or using a scanning service to do the same.

Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.

Some of us are tactile. Reading a magazine online is not the same as holding it in our laps, turning the pages and referring back to the inside cover to see what we missed. My friend Donna goes to the library on the weekend and thumbs through dozens of magazines. She gets the tactile and visual pleasure at no cost and without the burden of storing them. If she sees something worth saving, she can take a picture with her phone or make a photocopy at the library.

Boxes and bags and baskets, oh my.

So what do you think? Are you ready to reclaim some space and your sanity by sending those magazines back out into the world. Here are a few ideas:

Donate your magazines to a thrift store. A few of our charity shops sell back issues from the past year.

Leave a few at a bus stop: My mom used to do this. When she finished her paper or magazine, she left it at the bus stop. Someone always picked it up to read it.

Ask your child’s school if they want them for art projects. We’ve been asked many times over the years to donate magazines for class projects. (Always double-check for appropriate content).

Recycle. Put that paper to use for a second time.

Enjoy all that new-found storage. I’ll bet you’re feeling lighter already.

Thank you Sheryl at Flowery Prose and Marlene of In Search of it All for inspiring this post.

Of possible interest:

25 thoughts on “Organizing Magazines: Periodical Peculiarities

  1. Thank you Alys for the mention. I was so inspired by you to get organized that the idea of photographing the patterns I wanted and putting them in one file on my computer just popped in my head when I was offloading some that had been around for more than 8 years. I donated some to the thrift store, some to the senior center and for years left them in doctors offices. I only have one subscription left and may go digital on it again as I did when homeless. That was the tiny “Angels on Earth” magazine the comes out bimonthly. That one I pass on to my sister-in-law and she in turn donates them to her local hospital. I have fallen prey to a lovely Daphne’s Diary but walked away from the last one. Like you, my time to read is finite. How can that be? I’m old and unemployed??? Still not enough time to read all I want. Good suggestions about digging in and finishing them to pass on right away. My library carries very little in magazines. I’m sure if I went to a larger one but who needs that kind of indulgence. I have enough right here. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Hello Marlene, Are you writing from your LazyBoy chair? I certainly hope so. You deserve to keep your feet up for a spell.

      I love that you’re sending out magazines to so many thoughtful places and that you have others to share with family. Storing all your saved ideas on your computer makes so much sense. Now you can retrieve them with ease. The act of taking the photos, too, probably made your really think “should I save this or not?” Well done, well done.

      As for being ‘old and unemployed’ I disagree with both. Old is a state of mind and you are most certainly not there. You may not be drawing a paycheck, but you haven’t stopped working since the day you bought your new place. Throw in some sewing, quilting, cooking, packing, moving and the odd field trip and it is a wonder you get any sleep.


      Liked by 2 people

      • You make me laugh. I am sitting in my lazy boy. The kid is still trying to find something to help with the car repair. I’m staying out of the way today. When the sun goes down out back, I’ll go back to work. I follow the shade. My neighbor asked if I’m always working. I said yes, even when I’m sitting down. Been organizing photos on the computer. Open a box of photos and you have a blog post at your fingertips..:) I got rid of tons of old photos as well. Both kinds. If they aren’t relevant, they are gone. Not leaving a mess for my kids to clean up. This is my year to organize. Haven’t been able to sell the antique lamps yet but some other things are on their way out the door s soon as time permits. I have a plan.:)))

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hurray for plans! Hurray for photo sorting! Hurray for tossing things out! You’ve got the organizing bug, Marlene. You are also one of the few people I know that realizes what a burden it is to leave so much unfinished business for their children when they’re gone. I applaud your efforts. Further, I know *you’re* enjoying the feelings that come with a big purge.

          I too follow the shade. It’s the only way I can garden. I know the areas of the yard that stay in the shade. The rest must wait for sundown.

          Are you selling on ebay or in an Etsy shop? Best of luck either way.


  2. Like Pauline, I am not a magazine buyer, but, still, a few seem to end up in my home. I move them on as quickly as possible. Now, books! Books are another story altogether. I have far too many.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I rarely buy magazines and always craft ones with ideas for things I could make, when I grow more thyme ๐Ÿ™‚

    I used to buy Mary Englebreit’s magazine, Home Companion, which I still have and treasure. She was forced out of print by her publisher in January 2009 and went online, but I rarely go there. I’m a real “hold ’em” person, sadly. I also have at least two boxes of skateboard magazines from when my younger son began selling his photographs. I had to give it up after a couple of years, as he was in so many magazines. I’ve offered them to him, but I think he has copies of all his work, so I may just cut out his pages and let the rest go; the jury’s still out on that one.

    I have to say that not all kids find it a burden to care for what a parent leaves behind. I won’t be doing that here, but I spent a year taking care of an elderly friend’s estate. She and her mother had lived in the house for 40 years and the downstairs rooms were packed to the ceiling. She never married or had children; she was a very educated woman who returned to Ann Arbour every summer to take courses (she was a high school teacher) and had several degrees. She was a wonderful woman who walked the talk and it was ah honour to do that for her (and also very exciting at times). I made sure not one niche, nook or cranny went unexplored and it was very rewarding. I found several thousand dollars hidden in various places (that went to the estate, of course). She had lived through the depression and wasn’t about to trust the banks with everything! The most exciting thing I found, though, was an old two-quart blue glass Horlick’s jar. The threads that once held the lid on were sloped inward from the shoulder of the jar; I’ve never seen one like it. I was allowed to keep that, also the wooden rack with its ropes and pulleys where we used to hang her laundry. I was also allowed to buy the contents of her large ‘garden room’, which included her father’s hand tools and all the bits and bobs you need to work in a garden or fix anything in a house. The bank had assessed the contents at $50!! That is part of what I have had in storage lo, these many aeons . . . I’d thought to have a place of my own one day and use it all. But I’ll make sure it goes to someone who will appreciate and use it.

    I had helped her care for her mother for the last six weeks she lived, then continued to work for her in the house and garden for several years. The money I made helped pay for our younger son’s music lessons. He is very gifted and his lessons cost more than our family income. Luckily he received several scholarships, had a violin given to him, then a wooden case for it. It was a challenge, but very worthwhile. Anyway, my friend helped my family a lot for the years I worked for her and even later, when I gave up home and garden work after a bad knee injury while practising Kung Fu. (I know, I’m weird!) and went into desktop publishing and other office work. But I digress . . . I think sometimes people forget what a privilege it is to care for someone in their final years AND to care for their possessions once they are gone. My boys won’t have time for that when I go, so I’m getting rid of things now. I don’t feel freer, though; more like I’m giving up on my dreams. But, as Pauline says, it will all be ok in the end and if it isn’t ok, it isn’t the end. Very comforting, isn’t it?

    I am glad the letting go and organizing is working for you. Quite a few of my friends are doing the same; it’s me who’s the throwback, I think, to a day when one saved things for the inevitable rainy days . . .

    I’m glad you posted the picture of your lazy boy and quilt; now I can see you there, working away at one thing and another. stay cozy and cool, won’t you? Hugs to you. ~ Linne


    • Sorry, Alys; I was reading Marlene’s blog, then yours, then your comments back and forth and I think I became somewhat confused . . . I began replying to you, but the last two paragraphs were directed at Marlene . . . it’s late and I haven’t had a lot of sleep lately is my excuse. Do forgive me, will you?? I know you will . . . Well, I have 15 minutes ’til it’s eleven pm; then it’s off to bed for me. I was interested to see how you are dealing with the awful drought (in another post); have you considered hugelbeds or a modification of them? They use much less water and conserve what they do need. For veggies, some fruit and flowers, I think it would be helpful for you. If it were me, I’d dig deep and make the beds in the earth, rather than as raised beds, but it’s a lot of physical work to do that. I’m sure sorry for people in California these days (and Texas, too). Either no water or way too much. We need some sort of evening out.

      Alberta has a lot of forest fires burning, the bulk of them started by one big lightning storm that must have been moving fairly fast. One of my cousins had to come back from camp early; they were afraid the road out would be shut off by one of the fires. I’ve seen drought in BC, too, but never at the rate you are getting it. I can barely imagine . . . Take care, Alys. ~ Linne


  4. I thought for a moment you were going to come up with an ingenious plan for storing magazines so I just had to laugh when you said to throw them out! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ It is actually very good advice, and Inwill go and pull out the dusty stack I have collected and get rid of them over the weekend! I am fortunate with my subscription for a gardening magazine, as all subscribers have access to all issues online, including those predating the subscription, with an excellent search function. Great advice and a fun post again Alys!


  5. This used to be a huge problem for me and is still a medium-size problem. It’s specialty-craft magazines that I have a hard time getting rid of–Lapidary Journal and Handwoven, in particular. The projects in them stay relevant and i really do pick them up and look at them repeatedly. They can stay. There are others that need to go . . .


  6. cough cough (Boomdee looks around, then more throat clearing), you talking to me? (she mimics De Niro from Taxi) LOL

    OK, have you snuck a peak under my lovely new nightstands? I currently have a pile of 1/2 read magazines there that I plan to peruse every night until they fall apart. They range from various ‘Stampington’ magazines at $17.00 a pop to ‘In Style’, a favourite Canadian Home Decor Magazine. Oh! and the odd National Geographic. One’s that I can’t miss. Now they’re good value! When will I *ever* get to these exotic locales (like outer space) ? LOL

    Seriously though, I buy far fewer then I ever did before I had the internet. Thus is the dilemma for the Publishers. I’m not looking forward to the day there’s nothing good on the shelf because they’re all out of business. I’ll probably take them to a public library one day, but not any day soon.

    All good tips and advice hon. But I never tear up magazines I buy because I consider the few I save as dear as a book. I even brought home bags of ‘In Style’ that Adele had purged. LOL! I’m talking like 40 or so. I’m still enjoying them but will let them go to a new home when I’m done. I actually had some at the locker and brought them home to go thru too. They’re beautiful gardening ones with awesome ideas and photo’s.

    My name is Boomdee, I love magazines with lots of pictures and don’t want to get better, hahahah xoxoxoxox


    • You raise a serious issue… The husband of one of friends is a journalist and he feels his career is undermined by technology enabling people like me to blog etc.

      I do feel for him – but clearly to stop me blogging to save his livelihood would be to curtail my freedom of speech.

      There is an advantage for magazines (as well as newspapers) over blogs and such like: the adverts. I mean you might actually subscribe because you want the adverts. Ads online are unpredictable (still).


  7. I don’t subscribe to any magazines but one news round-up is 2014 popped through my door. I’ve kept it (on the sofa) for months because I feel I should read it BUT there is actually more likelihood of my flicking through the pages if I do get rid of it!

    Smartphones are also useful for storing recipes etc. Take a photo and the upload it to an app (eg Keepy) for later access.

    Pinterest is wonderful for all sorts….. Even if you don’t look again at what you pin, at least you’re not taking up valuable storage in your home ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. I used to love to read magazines, but have stopped for some reason. Maybe my interests have changed over time. I love your suggestions for moving them on. Old Folks’ Homes maybe another place. I have started to use Pinterest as a way of storing recipes I find online. I haven’t thought of scanning/photographing hard copy recipes. Thanks for that great idea!

    I am puzzling over photos at the moment. Any thoughts on how to organise them? I think I want to keep hard copies too, mainly as insurance for computer crashes. Maybe I need to make an annual photo book of key moments and people from the year.


    • Anne, taking your magazines to a senior center is a great idea. I know they would love to have them. I don’t read as many as I once did either. I think the internet provides a lot of outlets for that and as you say, Pinterest is a gold mine for recipes and the like.

      I love your idea of making a digital photo book once a year with your annual highlights. You can also order a DVD for back up storage, though the book sounds like much more fun.


  9. Such a great post, Alys – I am definitely going to put these tips into good use! As I mentioned before, I am guilty of not being able to part with my magazines and it has gotten to be a huge clutter problem. I am particularly keen on the idea of scanning the pages I wish to save – that should free up some non-digital space in a hurry! ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Good for you, Sheryl! Magazines take up so much room, and they are heavy too. Scanning what you want to save is a great idea.

      If you end up with a large pile for scanning, you might look into one of the scanning services in your area to save time. Hurray for free space.

      Liked by 1 person

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