Spring Cleaning Part 3: Turn Your Magazines into Something Worthwhile

As a child I envisioned checking my mail so differently: the morning stroll to the mailbox where I find letters from friends adorned with adorable stamps amass the collection of invitations to innumerable events alongside catalogs to my favorite shops that just so happen to always be having a sale (at the time I’m pretty sure I thought I would still have a severe obsession with American Girl magazine). In real life the mailbox is full of ads for services we’ll never pay for (lawn care? no no no) and hospital bills that I’m pretty sure mate and have baby hospital bills in our mailbox. When my monthly issue of Real Simple arrives, though, it is like a little slice of that dream remains in tact (hello well-rounded, homemaker-oriented magazine that somehow avoids body image pressures while still highlighting health and fashion). They are so celebrated, in fact, that throwing one in the trash feels wrong, a feeling that results in yet another dysfunctional setup: collecting magazines. The title of the magazine is “real simple,” for crying out loud. There is nothing simple about having several years worth of magazines piled on the bookshelf– a sight that is more daunting than it is inviting.

So what to do with those thousands (yes, thousands… two years is a long time to have a subscription) of magazines? I like to rip them up. Every six months or so (ideally, it would be more like three), I make a pile of magazines to re-read. I flip through it quickly and decide if there are any articles that I would like to have to reference or share with a friend, or if having been exposed to the content once was enough. I rip out content that I want to have access to and make piles. Before ripping, though, I flip through the entire magazine. It happens rarely, but some magazines are so good from cover to cover, that they are worth keeping in tact (these lucky gems may find their place in the bathroom or with their own section of the bookshelf. The holiday issue of Real Simple usually lands itself in this category. Then, based on the article, you can file it or make a notebook.

Materials needed:

A three-ring binder
Paper protectors
Large dividers

This all started when once Christmas I decided to annihilate my mother’s recipe drawer. It literally was a drawer of the kitchen full of magazine clippings and friends’ recipe cards. After combing Target, I found a beautiful leather binder made for scrapbooking, that had a sophisticated look appropriate for a seasoned kitchen. The cook book not only offered organization and easy access to many recipes, but also protection from grease spatters and water spills. It didn’t require charging, WiFi, or even electricity. So simple. So I made myself one not long after.

Spring cleaning: make your own cookbook!

It’s important to buy dividers that are large, since each recipe is within a page protector (it sticks out further than it were simply hole-punched and added to the notebook. I like having dividers with pockets, so that small recipes on cards have a place  to go as well. My favorite part about this is that you can decide how to organize your clippings based on your own preferences (a section just for bread, anyone?)–mine has a section for articles about food (how to choose good wine, making great coffee, what food is in season when).

Make your own cookbook!


Not only that, but this simple form of organization can be applied to most paper-organization: bills, receipts, articles (favorite articles from magazines all in one place, with tabs like “beauty,” “health,” “travel,” etc). It’s so simple, and yet so rarely done. Making cook books is one of my favorite wedding gifts, because it is a way to share great recipes while simultaneously setting someone up with a great organization tool for his or her kitchen.

Spring cleaning: paper organization

I wouldn’t make dinner or our weekly meal plan without my good ol’ cook book. Let’s hear from you. Have you ever made one? What else could this organize?

A Simple Jewelry Upgrade



  1. oh my gosh. i have lots of these binders that i started in high school….yes. yikes. maybe a few years ago i went thru them, laughed, and threw a lot of the ideas away and condensed the binders. next time you visit i’ll pull them out

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