Magazine Management

Professional Organizer Kelly Pratt gives practical tips on magazine management.

Magazine Management

The stack of magazines on the coffee table grows everyday, a glistening column of glossy perfection. Hundreds of ideas for everything from scrapbooking with wrapping paper to making a week’s worth of meals from one chicken lie buried in the tempting tower. But the constant nag of “I really need to make time to look through those to pull out ideas so that when I have time, I can paint a wall-sized mural of the Serengeti in three easy steps” can prove the unraveling of even the most domestic and well-intentioned. How can you make sure that your subscriptions enhance your life rather than stress you out?

Create a Filter

Magazines are a double-edged sword, both a tool and a temptation. We can find fantastic recipes, crafts and self-improvement tips. We find glimpses of mind-bending and coveted perfection (like smiling children playing happily in clean bedrooms). The siren song of a magazine can be overwhelming and we can end up with 10 subscriptions and no time to enjoy them if we don’t filter.

To create a good filter, determine the purpose of your subscriptions so you can choose those that best enhance your real life activities. If you are a scrapbooker, select one or two magazines that best reflect your style. If you are a cook, subscribe to one or two with recipes you will actually use. If you simply love to look through one or two particular magazines while you’re waiting to drive the carpool, make those your subscriptions.

One of the best filtering questions you can ask yourself is whether or not you head to your magazines or to the internet when you’re looking for resources. If you consistently use the internet, cancel your subscriptions! You’ll save time, money and paper and lose the guilt of never getting your magazines read!

Develop a Use and Storage System

Magazines generally sit unread and unutilized for three primary reasons: there’s no designated reading area to put the magazines, no specified time for flipping through them, and no place to put them when they do get read. To address these issues—

Create a reading basket or rack. Place your container in the place you most often read your magazines or are most likely to. The living room, bathroom, bedroom or car door pocket are all fair game. For specialty racks and containers, visit,, or Visit Target, Wal-Mart or a local craft store for bins or baskets.

Commit to looking through your magazines. Spending money on periodicals is pointless if you never get to look through them before you throw them away. Maybe you have to do your reading in fits and starts. Maybe you like to look through a magazine while you’re exercising on the elliptical or treadmill. Maybe you like to sit down with a cold drink and digest an issue all at once. The lovely thing about most periodicals is that they come once a month. Make your goal to get through one issue before the next one arrives. If you find articles you love, recipes you wish to try, crafts you absolutely must do, set aside some time to clip them out and get them into files or binders, which leads us to the next suggestion:

Determine your best storage option. Conventional wisdom suggests keeping only two issues of each periodical at a time, the current issue and the most recent past issue. Depending on the number of magazines you purchase or subscribe to, all your issues may fit nicely in your actual reading container. If not, magazine files are functional and positively ubiquitous. This spring, Office Max has a fantastic selection of stylish magazine holders. IKEA, the Container Store, Target and Wal-Mart also carry a wide selection.

As mentioned earlier, if you are a clipper and keeper, determine what your preferred storage method is for items you wish to save. Hanging file folders and binders are two of the simplest solutions, but you might also use an expanding stand-alone file or notebook. If you divide your clippings into categories, you will have a ready-reference when the urge to peruse or create strikes.

As a side note, make sure that the items you wish to save will not be quickly outdated. If you are saving clippings from fashion and home decorating magazines, keep in mind how often trends change. If you’re not going to get to your personal or home makeover within three to six months of your clipping, you may want to wait until you’re going to begin to start collecting images and articles.

Make the Most of Your Magazines

For general ideas of what to do with your current stockpile of subscriptions, here are some of my favorites:

Donate. Choose an organization, church group, school class or friend to give old issues to. One of my clients took a huge, guilt-inducing stack of magazines to her local high school’s home economics teacher. The teacher and my client were equally thrilled!

Collage. Magazines provide unbelievably good material for collages. Whether you let your kids create a collage or plumb your own psychological depths, collaging can provide a wonderful way to catch glimpses into and celebrate things you love and find images that motivate and inspire you.

Swap. If you have a number of magazines you love, consider swapping subscriptions with a friend. That way, you both get two (or more) subscriptions for the price of one!

Repurpose. You might find a frameable image or use magazine pages to wrap small gifts. You could decoupage a notebook or papier mache gift box. You could shred your magazine and use it as packing material. The sky’s the limit!

Recycle. If nothing else, when you’re done with your magazines, drop them into the recycle bin rather than the garbage can. Then you can at least feel good that you did something for the environment.

Happy reading and happy organizing!


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