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Why We Keep Stuff – "I Haven't Read That Yet"

Organizing strategies from Ask the Experts’ Elizabeth Tawney Gross

????????????????????????????????????“I can’t let go of that, I haven’t had time to read it yet.”

This is only one of the many reasons people keep magazines. Old magazines and newspapers are a very common form of clutter. This post has ideas to help you clear out the piles of magazines and stop them from coming back.

I have found stacks of magazines and newspapers in some of my clients’ homes that are several years old. People whose jobs require them to stay abreast of new developments in their field are often buried in professional journals. Hobbyists tend to keep anything that features a pattern or new tool. Store magazine racks seem to have at least one, and sometimes many, monthly publications for every craft and hobby.

The first step is to stop the inflow because until you do, the piles will keep growing. A realistic view of the unread stacks will show you which magazines you actually read. By cancelling your subscriptions, or not buying them at the newsstand, you can keep the piles from mushrooming and save some money, too. If you must have a specific magazine, try to get it online. Although your computer may become cluttered, you probably won’t be buried alive if the computer collapses on you.

The next step to clear the stacks of stuff to read is recognizing that it is no longer information, it has become random data. Finding specific information is nearly impossible within the volume of data you have collected. Decide on a date and let go of anything older than that. Set a date in the future with the promise that if you haven’t read it by then, you will discard it.

A great method one of my clients uses is to keep only three months’ worth of reading material. Keep only last month, this month and next month (some magazines come out labeled with the next month’s date at the beginning of the current month.) If you are diligent in purging at the end of each month, you can keep the piles from forming again.

Professionals tell me there are not enough hours in the day to keep up with the journals they need to read. They feel they must keep all the issues so they don’t miss something important. Most professional journals are now available online with an index to the articles. Many now have archives of past issues, so you don’t miss anything. If you prefer to read a paper copy, you can let go of the paper after reading because you can get the information online. This will stop the accumulation. And let’s be realistic, if you haven’t read a journal from a year ago, you won’t have time to read it in the future.

Hobbyists tell me all the time that they can’t let go of a magazine because it has instructions they want to keep. So the magazines pile up. People believe they will not only be able to find the information later but will also have time to produce the item. The truth is, later never comes. If there really is something you need to keep, tear it out and file it. If you haven’t used the information in a reasonable length of time, get rid of it.

Abolishing stacks of old unread stuff will result in more space and take a load of guilt of your shoulders.

Copyright© 2014 Elizabeth Tawney Gross, Organizing For Everyday, LLC

About Elizabeth Tawney Gross

Ask the Experts panelist Elizabeth Tawney Gross is the owner of Organizing for Everyday and a certified professional organizer in chronic disorganization. Send her a question at Find out more about her at

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