Magazines ~ Aspirational Clutter

My friend Wendy sent me a photo the other day of a box of magazines she was decluttering. Wendy is very practiced at decluttering, having been reading 365 Less Things for many years. It is how we met in fact. So I was a little surprised at how many magazines she had to declutter. She has been renovating for some time, which is now about finished, and these were home decor magazines for inspiration.  As it turned out she didn’t reference then at all for the reno so out they went while she was decluttering her bookcase.

I am glad she sent me the photo because it inspired me to write this post on my opinion of magazines in general and why I  feel they are such an insidious form of clutter.

My first thought on this subject, judging from past experience, is that magazines are expensive to purchase and usually contain more advertising than actual interesting articles. Once you also eliminate the articles you aren’t interested in, all you are left with is about one third of a magazine that you paid good money for. And then I doubt there is anything in that one third that you couldn’t have sourced free on the internet. And that advertising I mentioned is there to tempt you to acquire stuff that is likely to later end up on your declutter list

Then there is the futile exercise of saving magazines for those few articles that you might want to refer back to later on. Or cutting them out and filing then in plastic sleeves in a folder somewhere. My experience of this is, without proper, time consuming indexing, it is difficult to find those articles again when, or if, you ever do want to reference them. This is another form or aspirational clutter. And once again it is so much easier to find this information on the internet, with a few key words typed into your computers search bar.

I am speaking from experience here. I once used to save every issue of several paper crafting magazines and save clippings from catalogues etc. Now I find all the inspiration or information I need with the tap of a few keys. No, heavy lifting, no allergy issues from the dust when dragged out after long periods, no having to dust them in between times, no big bulky bookcase to store them in, no wasted money, no wasted trees, no frustrating advertising, no agonising over if and when to declutter them, and no constant aspiration of actually doing something with the information in those articles I once thought I couldn’t live without.

So tell me why is it that you buy and save magazines, though I doubt you will tempt me to return to my old habit.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter, by recycling, some old plastic containers you kept aside for storage but find they are building up over time and you now have too many. This used to be a mission I carried out on a regular basis but I don’t seem to buy as much takeout anymore so the containers get used until the wear out.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

Eco Tip for the Day

Think twice about buying paper products. Natural old growth forest is better for the environment than cutting them down to make way for fast growing trees for paper pulp. Even the recycling of paper is a water and power intensive process.  Mind you this tip is a bit hypocritical of me being as I am a paper crafter.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  • Getting the stuff out of your home It has come to my attention, both through comments on my blog and through real life experience, that one of the issues people have with their clutter, once they finally decide to be rid of […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. My mom had a 2 foot stack of magazines in her bedroom that went untouched for 20-30 years. I remember as a high school student going through them sort of like an archeologist, looking at ads and articles from the 70s and 60s. When I asked her what she kept any particular magazine for, she couldn’t remember. I try to be better about either throwing it away, pulling out any good articles, or finding a recipe online and Pinning it. At least I can easily search my Pinterest boards!

    • Hi Penguinlady, and welcome to 365 Less things. Your mom wouldn’t be the only person to have such a pile. I have a good friend who loves magazines too. I am just glad you have a better handle on the habit. Good for you.

  2. I also find magazines to be clutter, and full of photoshopped things that aren’t necessary or fake. I prefer Goofle Images and Pinterest if I am looking for something specific. The quality of magazines (at least here in South Africa) has gone down significantly lately.

    • Hi Mandy C and welcome to 365 Less Things. The issue of quality seems to be the case here in Australia too. At least for many magazines. All gossip and photoshopped images. There is no doubt some great mags out there but I have moved on from that era of sourcing information. Good for you for doing the same.

  3. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with magazines myself. But for now, I continue to keep two subscriptions – both agriculture/ gardening based. Why keep any at all? Well, for one, I find reading on an iPad hard on the eyes at bedtime. Not to mention hard to hold up after a while. I also like to scribble in notes on the pages. As “advanced” as readers are these days, it still isn’t as simple as using a pen. Secondly, I don’t pay for cellular service for my iPad. So, when I’m waiting for my husband to get out a doctor apt. or on lunch break at work, its simpler to tote a magazine than remember to pre-load an article on the iPad or try and read from my phone screen. Lastly, I’ve found some great tips, recipes and other information in print that, amazingly, is not available online. A favorite recipe for shales (a leek based, quiche like dish), found in an heirloom gardening magazine resulted in no similar results with an online search. After I’ve fully digested a magazine, I’ll pass it on to a co-worker or family member for their enjoyment. I only have a very small stack of magazines kept for reference. In the end, I’d love to go magazine free, but for now I haven’t devised a method that works for me.

  4. Hi Colleen,
    This has long been an issue for me. Unfortunately the magazines I enjoy(Tricycle, Buddhadharma, The New Yorker etc) were not available online except in “previews.” I do read magazines at my local library and recently a librarian told me about a database (Zinio) available through libraries that can afford it. I was able to access the database through the San Francisco public library. I had to go there for a card, my local library does not have this database. I can now access some magazines I like online. Your readers may want to check for this database at their local library. I love all kinds of print media but I also value trees and water and energy. Our local library lets you borrow magazines and they also take magazines as donations. This is a great way to read magazines and do less damage to the environment. For those tech savvy readers you can scan an article from a (borrowed) magazine and have it on your computer if you choose. [Watch out for computer clutter!]
    Happy reading and decluttering to all.

    • Hi Marga C, I have no doubt the magazines aren’t free on line but the general information ones finds in any magazine is usually easy enough to source there. I am glad you mentioned about borrowing magazines at the library. I used to do that a while ago too. Both the house I last lived in and the apartment I now live in are within easy walking distance from a library. Very convenient for me. And as you also mentioned libraries are going more and more digital all the time so thats allows for even more possibility. Thanks for your comment. I am sure the other readers will find the information helpful.

  5. I haven’t had a regular magazine in some years, but when I did it was a home and gardening one and I had them all neatly filed in magazine holders etc. It was quite difficult to part with them although they were out of date. I don’t know why. I think they represented this house/home that didn’t eventuate.

    • Hi Moni, I also had misgivings about decluttering my paper craft magazines but once done I didn’t even miss them. I decluttered them a bit at a time. Parting with the ones that had the least amount of post-it notes making pages I wanted to revisit. Mine, like yours, were also neatly stored in binders. When Pinterest came along I had no need to even look at another craft magazine.

  6. My magazines are a bit like vinyl records . Technology has made them redundant. I have not purchased hard copies of these magazines for a few years . Yes the internet has enabled me to access all that was in these magazines .

    • Good for you Wendy. You are certainly the sort of person who adapts easily to new ideas, especially when it comes to decluttering. Like me, you are forever thinking “What else can I get rid of?”

  7. I used to take all the scrapbooking magazines and one of each of the various familys of the magazine types I liked. I received way too mamy. Many I either got free or very cheap through an online serive that used to be available. I realized that I was using mazagine reading as a stress reliever and many of the articles were repeated over and over every year or less. I no longer get any magazines. I don’t miss them.

    • Hi Deb, did you ever subscribe to Creating Keepsakes magazine. I did for a while but then their designs go so outrageously embellished that the photos became lost in the crowd. Not to mention that to buy all those prefab embellishments meant that most of the pages would have cost about $10 each to produce. That was the first paper crafting magazine that I unsubscribed to. I don’t know what it is like now and I don’t care to find out.

      • Yes, I did subscribe to it. LIke you it was the first one I unsubscribed to because it got to where it was too out there. I just couldn’t see all of that for one picture. Then they all got to be too much and too many things I didn’t like. So out they all went. Then I stopped scrapbooking at all.

  8. I treat magazines as a special treat only. When I do need to de-clutter them I usually donate to my doctor as their magazine pile is quite tragic. The best thing I’ve discovered now I have an iPad is downloading magazines electronically – I still don’t buy them very often but at least they are not taking up any physical space in the house.

  9. I subscribe to two knitting magazines. One comes as part of my membership to The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA). Other magazines arrive because of AAA (I don’t usually read it–The Prof does) and AARP. A friend passes on to me her British Country Living and I in turn pass it to another friend—I’m just behind on moving them out. Another friend does the same with a news magazine. I just can’t keep up 🙁

    • I love that you pass your magazines on to others Willow. I worked with a woman once whose magazines went around the family and then to the staff room at work. Good value for money with all the reusing.

    • The magazines i used to get always went to my doctor’s office after I was done with them.

  10. Today I loaded the trailer with a few more items to go to the tip. 8 foam boxes that previously stored ‘move out of home’ items are now full of building rubble.
    So I guess they count for today’s mission 🙂

    • They count for a week’s worth of missions Wendy. I can’t wait to see your bathroom when it is all finished. And I bet you are looking forward to no mess for a while.

  11. I am guilty of subscribing to two magazines that I thoroughly enjoy, however, I am not guilty of hoarding either the magazines themselves or clippings from said magazines other than an occasional recipe here and there. Yes, Colleen, I still have my old fashioned recipe box which is like taking a trip down memory lane. I was very careful to always put the year and if applicable, the person that shared the recipe. That box is used daily 🙂 When I have finished with the magazines, they get passed on for others to enjoy. I found out many moons ago, that my idea box, the one filled with magazine clippings was a waste of my time. If it was something I absolutely loved, I either found the means to do it right then or there, or it made such an impression that it never left my memory bank, so I could remember it years later. Kind of like that old saying, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen”.

    • Hi Kimberley, I don’t have a recipe box but I do have a family recipe folder that, like your box, gets used regularly. It is the only recipe book I have these days. I use the internet for all other recipes. And when someone eats at my house and wants the recipe I just send them the link. So much less fuss and bother.

  12. Never, ever buy them anymore. I have list of blogs I visit (this one included) plus Pinterist that give me the “articles” and ideas that used to come from magazine. Thinking about it, my 20 year old daughter and 22 year old son never buy magazines either – I do think they may be a dying breed, except maybe for extremely specialised topics.

  13. Hi, Colleen … nice post! Magazines are prime candidates for the one-in-one-out rule that was discussed earlier. Each time we get a new one, the older issue can go.

    Hi, Willow. I used to receive magazines after the original subscribers were done with them. I enjoyed reading them for inspiration and entertainment and was doing fine in keeping up with the reading until, well, Life happened, and I fell way behind. I got back on track again by:

    (1) Getting rid of most of the magazines as I didn’t want to play a never-ending game of catch-up. However, if you are able to let go of your entire stack in one fell swoop and start afresh, more power to you ;-).

    (2) Retaining a few and setting aside regular pockets of time (about 15 minutes) to go through them and do a rapid scanning for articles that I wanted to read. I tore out the articles and put them in a temporary reading folder that I brought with me whenever I had to spend time waiting for someone or something. A folder of articles was easier to go through than a thick stack of magazines. I recycled the rest of the magazines.

    I borrow magazines from the library now or read them online, so I no longer have any magazine gremlins to contend with.

    • Nicole, if I haven’t read the magazines by a certain ‘death date’, I move them on. Often, it’s the dated news magazines that I just don’t get through. It’s harder for me to pass on the British mags without reading them because–well, I really enjoy them. So, like you, I take 15 minutes and see how far I can get through one in that time. A couple of days, a couple of cups of coffee or tea, and I’ve read what I want.

  14. I used to LOVE magazines. L-O-V-E. The pretty pictures, the smell, the feel. Well, that’s all over. Several years ago I realized that I was reading the same articles and ads month after month, year after year. It just got so boring. So I broke up with them and never looked back. Oh sure, I’ll pick one up now and then at the checkout. But I don’t bring them home! Like Colleen said, you can find anything on the internet these days.

    Today I 365’d a mini fishing pole and some travel accessories (makeup bags and garment bag).

  15. I love my magazines! For me, they are an inspirational treat that is easily portable and uses a finite amount of time. I only subscribe to a couple I will read cover to cover. They are for inspiration — I don’t tear out pages to save. Then they go to my mom. After that, they go to friends or the library. While I do have a Pinterest account, it can eat up a lot of time and it does not give me the satisfaction of completing a good read. Plus, they go really well with a cup of tea.

  16. I used to be guilty of having way too many magazines. Especially food magazines. I had every copy of Donna Hay magazine from the launch issue to No 75 plus the kids annuals. Last year I decided to sell them on ebay when I decluttered several hundred of my cookbooks. I haven’t missed any of them. Being a nurse patients leave their magazines for us all the time and I still get a magazine fix on my meal breaks. Most Australian libraries you can download magazines for free which I often do as well and you can keep them for as long you like. They have a really good range, everything from craft, tattooing, food, finance, women’s health and even overseas magazines such as Oprah’s magazine which is super expensive to buy. So you can still get your magazine fix without actually paying out money and taking up space in your home.

  17. I’ve stopped the only digital subscription I had (Wired) after realizing that the articles were available on their website not that long after the magazine came out.
    Now I ‘subscribe’ (it’s all free) to a couple of feeds and reed them through the Flipboard app which makes every feed feel like an actual magazine. I found it was a great replacement. 🙂

  18. I cain’t argue with this post. That would be why I stopped subscribing to cooking and gardening magazines. This is the first time I’ve subscribed to Mother Earth News and I don’t plan on continuing once the subscription runs out. And yep, this definitely is aspirational clutter. We are several years from having the property that I could implement some of the ideas from “MEN”. Last year I finally got rid of a stack of recipes maybe 18″ high. I do have a small binder with recipes that I actually make. 🙂

  19. I have one magazine that comes as part of a club I’m part of. It isn’t “ideas” (which are easily available on the internet) it’s original research or bringing together little bits of information, so it’s not easily available elsewhere. I want to support the research effort, and it’s fabulous to just curl up on the couch and read, often on topics I might not ever look up, or even know exist, but are part of the history. And when I’m done, I’m done. I’ve reached the end. Online there’s always one more link, a few more results, and I spend all day on the computer–it’s nice on my eyes to have something non-electronic to look at.

    My son also receives a magazine–he loves to get mail and he reads them (well, right now has me read them) until they fall apart. I’ll take that as a win for reading, and I really don’t want a computer near bedtime!

    I don’t have any cooking or gardening or design magazines–all that if I need it I look it up online, and run a folder in my bookmarks for reference back to. I think I also finally got rid of the “free” parenting magazines that showed up (probably due to my buying something). I keep my glass magazine and it’s a wonderful couple hours of calm after it comes.

  20. Houzz is another site like Pinterest , only House focused.

  21. I have loved magazines all my life and several years ago signed up for a service and many, many magazines. (Prior to 365 days–lol) I regret it. As each subscription ends I am not renewing. They are redundant and offer me little of the joy I used to receive from them. I do re-cycle them to others, but am so done with getting them. The internet provides all the info and pictures I will ever need. The less clutter I have, the less I want.

  22. Colleen, I have so, so many thought on this topic and this post that I have a hard time condensing my thoughts which is why I delayed to respond to this post. This is a big, BIG thing I had to overcome in the past. I started clipping pictures from magazines in my teens, nature scenes, happy people, cute babies and animals, and everything in between. People who knew me gave me high quality magazines they wanted to re home. In our area “glossy paper” was not recyclable when it all began, and as I entered my late 20’s I was still clipping long after the rules changed.
    My husband was very forgiving of my strange hobby (or unhobby, even), he just thought it was a quirk and a way for me to release nervous tension. In 2008 I went through my stash and discovered I had five LARGE plastic totes full of over a decade of clippings! I literally went through them one by one and now have four small plastic envelopes with my favorites, and only positive images. I think a lot of it stems back to that desire to create a life I didn’t have by looking at those clippings, which is silly since I should have been spending my time making the life I desired.
    Now we only buy ad free or ad minimal magazines here for the kids, they are more expensive but so worth it.
    In my late teens I found “Real Simple” magazine here and loved the lifestyle it purported of organization, quality, and health and self-awareness. Many clippings were forthcoming. I decided to do a free trial a couple years ago and it certainly is no longer “real simple”.As you poignantly predicted above it was 2/3rds advertisements.

    • Hi Jean, that sure was a big hurdle for you to overcome and to actually sort those four large totes article by article is amazing. My brand of decluttering should be a cinch for you after that effort. I used to love Real Simple too but generally only read it in waiting rooms and staff rooms. Now I just make up my own brand of simple and there is no advertising. 😉 This is why you will never find outside advertising on my blog. And goodness knows I get emails asking me to participate in that “money making venture’. To me it would be hypocritical to even consider it.

      • I have a great deal of respect for you for keeping the ads off of this blog. I think Joshua Becker does that as well but if he does I honestly haven’t noticed. I think the clipping thing was like my own brand of mini-hoarding so I am glad to be done with it!

  23. Here is a comment I received via email.
    I used to subscribe to a FEW magazines: The Economist, for international news; Harper’s, for literature, wit and insight, and Knitter’s magazine, for my favorite craft.

    There are three types of magazines: truly informational and interesting magazines like Harper’s, the Economist and the New Yorker, to name a few, which discuss news, interesting things around the world, and social trends in-depth. The content-to-advertising ratio in these magazines is much higher, so subscriptions are a bit higher as well. My rule with such magazines is to read them before the new one arrives. If there is an interesting article I want to pass on to a friend, I would do it straight away,and recycle the rest of the magazine.

    Then there are special-interest magazines: hobbies (crafts, sports, fishing, cooking, outdoor activities), professional magazines, etc. All of the articles on one subject or related subjects. From these I would save a few pertinent professional articles or interesting knitting patterns and techniques, and put them in sleeves in a ring binder. This I did right away, again recycling the rest.

    Then there are junk magazines– celebrity antics, decor magazines, “women’s interest” magazines (which are ONLY designed to make women feel inadequate and purchase the products and services advertised within the pages. To make a point on this, long ago when in college, I once took an old issue of Cosmopolitan from a friend, tore out the actual articles, and handed here the remainder of a hefty and expensive magazine. Of the approximately ten articles, two were about sex tips, one was about exercise tips, and the rest promoted diet, “beauty,” fashion and makeup tips, all encouraging the reader to used products advertised in that issue. In actuality there were about 20 pages of content out of well over 200 pages of magazine. I have never bought these sort of magazines. “Men’s interest” magazines have the same sort of problems.

    Some professional interest magazines are worth keeping and filing in your office, to keep you up to date on new laws and/or practices, but unless you have a true profession (doctor, lawyer, accountant, scientist) you have no real need to keep professional journals in their entirety. Just save a few articles that you will actually use.

    As the internet has evolved to give me access to almost everything in my professional and hobby interests, I no longer subscribe to any magazines except Harper’s, which I read from cover to cover each month, and then recycle.

    • Wow, whoever sent you that is right on the money. I hate pop culture garbage and especially the celebrity trash (just my opinion of course). I love the New Yorker and the Economist even if my political views are of a different. They are enriching. I am not familiar with Harpers.

  24. Hi, Colleen!

    This article hit home with me. I am a magazine-aholic. I just love magazines (the junk ones that the person mentioned above). However, I realized that I wasn’t reading them cover to cover and the styles, trends, and information changed so quickly. The home decorating/cooking/gardening ones made me feel the worse, because my home is not up to “magazine standards”. I just went through a huge pile of magazines (fashion, beauty, and women’s interest) and donated them, along with a bunch of catalogs, to my daughter’s art teacher. They can use these for art projects. She was grateful for the material and I am glad they are out of my house. I did save some of the women’s interest magazines, because I do need to cut out a couple of recipes and gardening tips. No more subscriptions and if I want to buy one, I have to think about it for a couple of days. The cost of a few magazines here and there over the course of a month adds up. I’ve probably wasted hundreds of dollars just adding a magazine to my purchases over the last few years. So far, I have only purchased one magazine this year and it was due to recipes. So, here’s to a 2015 filled with more life and less magazines!

    • Hi Toni, I challenge you to not buy a magazine for a whole year. You will then become accustomed to sourcing such information on line and realise you never need waste money on magazines ever again. Or have them clutter up your house either. Think of the money you will save and the aspirations not haunting you. What do you think, are you up to the challenge?

      • Hi, Colleen! I am up for the challenge, but I just bought a magazine today! Aarrgh! In my defense, it had a lovely looking chocolate pound cake on the front. I had a rough night with my son who is sick, so I picked up one at the checkout this afternoon. I will not buy any magazines starting today. If I feel like I want one, I’ll just stop by the public library and look at theirs! Thanks for the challenge. I’ll keep you posted!

        • Hi Toni, buying that magazine as a pick me up was probably a lot better than buying the chocolate pound cake and eating it all lol. I am glad you have accepted the challenge and I look forward to hearing how you are going. How about you check in with me, using this email, once a month. No cheating now. 😉

  25. Oh! While they aren’t magazines, catalogs often have a similar clutter-level of all the things one COULD use to look like the pretty pictures. I’ve found a pretty effective way to cut down on those. Yes, I can just toss them in the recycling bin but I’d rather they not show up in the first place.

    When a catalog comes in, I enter the info into there as a request to be removed. I’ve had very few companies not respect my request (Grrr at LL Bean and I will not order from them again because of it, I never used the paper catalog anyway).

    While it hasn’t stopped the catalogs, I get a lot less around the holidays than I used to, and I don’t get many of them twice. It’s been a nice decrease in the random paper into my house, and in the temptation.

    • Thanks for that link, Kayote. I did the opt-outs for everything else but still get catalogues. I buy online so that doesn’t help the situation. I know That big lingerie company wouldn’t stop sending their catalogue to me so I called and told them that I was embarrassed to receive such provocative covers in the mail. After three attempts to try to have it stopped that finally did it.
      Oh, and I think “organizing” magazines are the worst offenders when it comes to advocating the products needed to contain clutter. I use organizing tools but some of those magazines have organizing systems that cost as much as a car.