Organizing Tip of the Week

Early July 2014

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The Great Summer Clear-Out: Books & Magazines!

During the past few weeks, the Great Summer Clear-Out focused on what is, for many people, the #1 source not only of clutter, but also of a tangle of messy emotions like guilt, frustration, and regret: clothes. For the next few weeks, we'll turn our attention to another major clutter-and-bad-feelings culprit: books, magazines, and other reading materials.

Why These Can Be Problems

Books and magazines can be great sources of knowledge, inspiration, education, and amusement, but when they pile up, they can turn into sources of stress. Here's why: 

  • Reading takes time, and seeing growing stacks of books and magazines around can be a reminder of the things we're not spending time on.
  • Keeping "aspirational" or "I should read that someday" books (often stuff like classic literature or history books) can induce pangs of guilt every time we opt for devoting our reading time to People magazine or a fun novel instead of Moby-Dick.
  • Because magazines arrive anew each month (if not more often), they can quickly become overwhelming if you don't have the time to read them soon after they arrive.
  • We often treat books and magazines as the only ways we can find certain information, forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that much of what they contain we can find online, through friends or family, or even by our own trial and error.

To my mind, there's no reason to purge all books and magazines from your life--and in fact, books are one of the hardest things for me to part with, even if I've read them before and have no intention of reading them again. 


But if the piles of reading material in your life have grown overwhelming, or if you find yourself battling "I should"s, feeling stressed, or feeling guilty when you pass your bookshelves or magazine rack, it's time to do some culling.

Your Challenge: Read, Then Weed Ruthlessly

Ready to give space in your life to only the reading material you either love or truly find useful, and to clear out the stuff that's bringing you down?

Let's weed some books and magazines!

For the next two weeks, take a hard look at the reading material hanging around your home or office. If it's something you can and want to devote some of your summer reading time to, great! Put it on your beach/poolside/vacation/hammock pile and dive in, and then strongly consider donating it or recycling it once you're done.

If you've got books on your shelves that you're keeping only because "they're classics" or you feel like you should read them (even though you don't really want to), let them go!

If there's stuff you've already read and don't feel the need to go back to, or stuff you know deep down you have no desire to read in the first place, let it go! (I'll definitely be working on this one.)

Have piles of magazines, newspapers, newsletters, or catalogs you're keeping because they could potentially offer useful info or ideas? Consider this a strong challenge to either take a quick browse through them and snip out anything that's actually helpful to you, and then recycling what's left, or simply acknowledging that you've lived successfully without that info so far, and can very likely continue to do so, and let them go!

Find yourself struggling with the idea of getting rid of perfectly good (and maybe unread) books and magazines? Check with local thrift stores, libraries, community programs (including adult literacy services), senior centers, schools and community colleges, retirement communities, and assisted living facilities; you're almost certain to find a welcoming home for the reading material you're ready to part with.

Share Your Success and Get Support

Throughout the Clear-Out, you're welcome and encouraged to post to The Organized Life Facebook page. Share the work you've done and the success you've achieved. Share the stumbling blocks you encounter and get input and support from me and your fellow Tip readers. Offer advice and encouragement to others working on clearing out. And read about how to avoid letting clutter return to the places you've worked hard to remove it from.

You're well on your way to a fuller, less cluttered life! 

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