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.  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.  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: