Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Do You Do With Magazines?

Ok, readers. I am in a bit of a conundrum here, and I need help.  Hi.  My name is Kim, and I am a Magazine Hoarder.  I owe a special thanks to Dooce (and this post) for reminding me of this particular affliction...oh, and the fact that we just moved.  Nothing like moving to show you how much crap many awesome magazines you have, right?

For the last 3 years or so, I have made fun of Will for his overwhelming collection of New Yorker magazines. For those unfamiliar, the New Yorker comes weekly, and is a very dense read. The only way I can keep up with the subscription is to read it on my lunch break, for an hour, almost every day of the week. Obviously, I do not do this every week, so I miss out on a lot of articles.  He reads less often than I do, but he reads more articles (I tend to skip things I don't find particularly thrilling while he reads cover to cover), and the moral of the story is that we have approximately 50923852398572948 copies of this lovely magazine, many unread.

About two years ago, we organized them into two boxes: Already Read (and saving for some reason) and Partially or Not At All Read (and saving to read, obvi).  Plus the pile of the most recent four or five (or ten) issues that always land on tables or by the bed.  So yeah.  A lot.  We've talked about just saving the covers of some of them for a mysterious magazine cover project he will some day do (Wallpapering a room? I don't know), but for now, they sit in their pretty plastic boxes waiting for something to happen.

But I digress. I was supposed to be writing about MY Magazine Hoarding (though one could argue that one of the reasons his are still around is that I don't want to be a hypocrite).  The point of all that babble was that after three years of making fun of him, he finally got to turn the tables and mock my own MH (see how I abbreviated it? Like it's a real disease?).  You see, when we moved, he discovered my hidden stash of Real Simple magazines, tucked away on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf, the view of which had been obstructed by the couch.  Whoops.  Oh, honey, you didn't know that I haven't thrown away a single issue since I began subscribing a few years ago?  I never mentioned that?  I did also have approximately 15-20 back issues of BUST, but I donated those to someone on Freecycle when we moved (I knew I wouldn't go back to read them again, lots is available online, and I had a moment of awesome  will power).

Since I am currently at a standstill in the War of the Magazines, I look to you, dear readers, for advice.  I should probably just put of my beloved Real Simples all in a box and donate them somewhere or recycle them or something.  Most of the content is available online nowadays, and though I say I'm saving them for the awesome tips and recipes, I'm sure you know that I have never once opened a back issue to look something up.  The (delicious) Real Simple recipes we've made have all been from the most recent issues that are sitting on the table.  The plan I've thought of for moving forward is to never keep more than two issues out at a time.  When a new one comes, the oldest one on the table gets recycled, and if there's anything I want to save, I must do it then and there.

BUT - do I just start that now and get rid of the other 30 or so magazines that look so pretty in their white magazine holders (with their perfect white spines with pops of colored lettering)?  Or do I take the time to go through each one, tearing and saving things that I truly want to keep (and storing them neatly in an organized Real Simple binder of my own creation?

There's something appealing about just purging them all and starting fresh, but I've hoarded saved for so long, it's hard to imagine not clipping all those "for someday" articles.  This seems like it will take an enormous amount of time and may not actually be worth it in the long run, though it could be fun.  Maybe?  I might just need an intervention.

What do you think?


  1. Hi. I'm Jeff. I'm a recovering magazine hoarder. First, I think it's important to delineate that there are different types of magazines. There are things that will stay relevant a little longer than Entertainment Weekly or Us, and there are things like MAKE or Real Simple, that have projects or recipes that are made to be saved and referenced. The first thing I did to help my magazine problem was stop fucking subscribing to shit I don't read (see, The Economist experiment, are-you-fucking-kidding-me ReadyMade, and i-really-wish-i-had-time-and-also-wish-i-cared-about-90%-of-your-content The Believer). That leaves three for me: Wired, which I adore and read cover to cover, after which, I rip out things I want to save, email the writers of articles that enthrall me, and throw the rest away; MAKE, which is awesome and I save every issue as it will come in handy for lots of reference, projects, skills, and fixes, for me and any children that may come into my life at some time; and finally, Cinefex magazine, a trade journal filled with information and advances in the industry in which I work. Wired is monthly- MAKE and Cinefex are quarterly which ... helps. I've learned to throw it all away (recycle), unless there is really something I want to keep, which I put in a folder of articles I wish to keep track of. My long winded point? It's OK to save magazines, parts of magazines, but you have to be honest with yourself about why you are saving things and don't get attached to something you haven't touched in a year and don't plan on touching in another. Just let go.

  2. Hi, I'm Kristen, and I've only ever subscribed to one magazine. (applause)

    For the past 16 years.

    Yes, I am a MAD magazine Lifer.

    I have never tossed an issue. I don't know if I ever could.

    The weird thing is, I actually have gone back and read them. The old ones. From 1994. The topical stuff gets a bit stale but most of their content is timeless. Juvenile, but timeless.

    Interestingly, especially since the first Bush voting fraud, MAD has become unapologetically political, and scathing. This caused an outcry among mums of young readers who, rather than simply cancelling their idiot-in-training's subscription to the rag, demanded that MAD either return to its timeless toilet humour, or create a toilet-humour-only version for little kids. Rather than be silenced, they chose the latter option. There is now Adult MAD and MAD For Kids, which is just as gross but far less angry, and has freed up room in regular MAD for more leftist mouth-frothing.

    Which has made MAD a useful archive. Sometimes I find myself beginning to forget about W's atrocities and the ruin his filth brought about. Sometimes current events succeed in truncating my political memory span. But then I pick up an old MAD and refresh myself with history's own fury. The truth is splattered all over its pages (along with crude drawings of guts and eyeballs)--educated and informed, but making no attempt to appear objective or rational. Much like the Daily Show, MAD documents the sentiments of the people in the moment, not the pontifications of academics with the benefit of hindsight.

    My point? er...think of magazines as an archive of your interests. If the content stops being relevant to you, get rid of it. If the pages feel more like a security blanket than text you feel inclined to read, you're probably pack-ratting and need to downsize fast to avoid creating a fire hazard for your home. It may be worth it to see if your local library wants them--if they accept them, you'll have the joy of knowing they're around for you to read whenever you want, but just like when they're stored in your bottom drawer, you know you never will.

  3. Oh my goodness yes cut out the best parts and recycle the rest! Make a movie night out of it: throw on a couple of great movies, get out your scissors and get to work! It might suck a bunch and be a lot of work, but it will be worth it when you get to actually use all that information!

  4. My name is Sarah and I am an EVERYTHING hoarder! but i have to agree that the right thing to do, especially for an organized gal like you, is whip up a batch of margaritas, get out some guac, and invite your girlfriends over to go through your mags with you. you can save whatever you want and whatever you don't-make vision boards out of! put on there stuff you want for yourself and the way you want to see yourself next year. manifest as you purge! ;)

  5. Wow, these comments are awesome. So glad to know I'm not alone! I agree - I think a night of magazine-tearing and clipping is in order. I thought about donating them, and I think I'll donate the ones I'm not tearing anything out of. Mostly, there are a few recipes I remember wanting, and some "new uses for old things" and organizing tips and such that I wanted to hang onto as references.

    Ok, I will do it. Eventually. Maybe after we finish unpacking everything else. And get a TV.

  6. Hey is something to do Before you get that TV!!! Our house runs a lot like yours, except it is Music & Motorcycles & Science VS Art Mags!!! We just went through them and tore our address label off the Science Mind and Smithsonian issues, along with the motorcycle mags. These are all bundled and ready to donate (somewhere!). The art mags are "books" in my mind and a great reference. They will be kept. Here is a thought for you though. Your mom gave me several Real Simple and O issues. I loved reading the Real Simple and tore out SOME GREAT ARTICLES. Those articles are in a box by the side of the couch...for months now! On the other hand I have torn out a few articles years and years ago that I still go back to and make copies of for others. The point is if you are going to tear and selective or you'll just end up with more clutter.
    Lastly, what about donating them to a shelter or to folks who would enjoy them, rather than just having them sit on your shelf?
    Just my 2 cents,

  7. Good cents, Nancy. Especially about being selective while tearing. I was thinking about just keeping a log of good articles along with when they were published so that I can look them up online if I ever want to. Recipes I'll probably tear, as a handy reference of all those things to which I said "Oooh I want to make that!" :)

  8. I used to keep all my New Yorkers, and a whole lot of other things too (Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Lucky, any food mags). But finally I was like, this is absurd, and almost all of this is online. And I purged -- recycled all the New Yorkers except tore the covers off a few favorites. The others, I handled "secret single behavior" style -- I would put on a bad/good movie, settle down with a huge stack and a pair of scissors, and clip. I pasted some things (home how-tos, Emmaterial-style inspirational crap) in a binder, and had all the recipes in a huge box, totally jumbled. Finally, I attacked it on a lazy Saturday and pasted a ton of them (categorized... obviously) onto blank pages to slip into clear plastic holders in a binder. (Side note: I had these clear plastic thingies and the binders from an old magazine-tearing enterprise: photocopying workout plans and moves from magazines like Self, Fitness, etc. I worked at Stanford and had a lot of free time and the code to the copy machine. I copied like every single month's magazine, nearly entirely. I never looked at the binder. For my recipe book, I took those photocopied pages, turned them over, and glued my recipes to them. Times change.) I agree with Nancy though about selectivity. It is too tempting to clip things you'll never actually make (like, insanely complicated cake recipes from Martha Stewart) or too many things that are the same (like, in my case, anything involving pumpkin, ginger, brown butter, pork tenderloin). Be firm with yourself, and don't let the pile build up. Anyway, all this is to say that yes, I have fewer magazines now. On the other hand, I've spent hours flipping through them and clipping and gluing, and the end result is now I have a binder of recipes I haven't used yet. Incidentally, I found another one full of photocopied recipes from the photocopied workout era (so they're not only unused, they're probably unbearably healthy too). Having a compulsive personality is hard.

    So, in summary, if you are crazy like me, I can give you advice. But if I'm really thinking about it, I'd say, just dump the darn things.

  9. Oh, Emily. I AM crazy like you. That's the thing. I like the "secret single behavior" thing - I think that's what I need to do. We'll see. I think that if they are still sitting in boxes by mid-September, they are getting donated without being looked at. Because if it takes me 6 weeks to do it (on top of the years I've already spent saying I'm going to sort through them "someday"), well, then I'm REALLY not going to do it.

  10. doesn't real simple offer some sort of solution for this type of thing?

    - Reed

  11. HA. You would think so, right? I have actually considered writing in to the magazine about this very issue.