Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Purging magazines and organizing articles

Hello friends,

I have a confession to make: I have this terrible addiction to magazines! It is bad enough that I keep on purchasing, collecting and subscribing to them, I also cannot, for the life of me, get rid of them! 

I am sure that I am not the only one in this sad state of affair, you know, when the living room slowly morphs into a Library of sorts and the bedside table collapses under its own weight. It is a tragedy for me to see a magazine thrown away without having had a chance to flip through it. Okay, maybe that's a bit too dramatic, but you get the idea, I am constantly looking for inspiration for self and home, and could not imagine a life without them.

That said, we have Pinterest now, so why are we hanging on to the real thing in the first place? Again, "Just in case" scenarios do not apply here, so the truth is that we should not be hanging on to magazines as though the information they provide could be lost forever.

Last week end, I embarked on the grueling task of purging my magazines. By purging I do not mean pilling up large bundles on to the curb and just be rid of them (I am not at that level yet). Instead, my intention was to go through each one (what? Yes, each one!), pull out whatever articles I think I may need (someday), organize and file them into categories and inside binders I could quickly go to for reference or information. You may think "What's the big deal here?" Well, when you have over 100 magazines to go through and purge, it is quite a task. But check it out for yourself:

This is my main magazine shelf as it currently sits in our living room. It contains a large collection of Marie-Claire Idees (a great French home and craft magazine I purchase at Barnes and Nobles as it comes out every other month), my subscriptions to Martha Stewart Living, Woman's Day, Better Home and Garden, Town & Country, Taste of Home, Lucky, House Beautiful, Woman's Health, Veranda, Country Living and three baskets full of additional issues from this list plus some! A few of those subscriptions were gifts to me and most of the rest were free as gift with purchase.
In addition, there are three other full baskets throughout the house with assorted magazines from subscriptions long gone, not to mention the other subscriptions on the iPad. Yep, I need help! There is no way I would ever manage to read them all and quite frankly a few, if not most, turned out to be useless anyway.

As mentioned above, my intention was to purge the vast majority of these magazines by keeping only those articles I wanted to use as reference (e.g how to build a dog kennel - Family Handyman) for projects I know I will actually tackle around the house, decorating ideas I could use and replicate, hints and tips as well as articles I need to or want to read but are too scattered at this time for me to find. 

I started by gathering all my magazines and baskets onto the dining room table.

I then gathered my tools: I purchased three large 3-ring binders at Target and pulled out every single sheet protector we had around the house. For some reason, sheet protectors are some of those items we always have in ample supply laying around. My guess is that I always had the intention to use them for magazine articles but never got around to actually doing it until now. Needless to say I had over 200 to use plus some.

Using post-its I clearly marked my three categories: How-to (includes home maintenance, car care, finance, crafts , etc.) which would contain articles with actual step by step descriptions for any project. Home Decor (pure eye candy I must admit but things I could replicate or be inspired with) and Food & Entertaining (recipes, menu planning, etiquette, party ideas etc).

Once I had my categories selected I placed each post-it on its respective binder.

This was a very long process, it took one entire week-end and three week nights to complete. I pulled out one magazine at a time and flipped through it, quickly making decisions as to what I wanted to keep and were it would go.

Whenever possible, I pulled the magazine apart at the seam, right before the page I needed to tear off just to make sure I would have a clean cut.

And of course, this did not work every single time so on occasions I had to use the guillotine to make a clean cut along the edge of the page, or reduce the page size so that it would fit inside the sheet protector.

Once cut out, I placed each article in front of its respective binder to ensure I would not confuse myself as to where each one would go.

When creating my stacks I also made a temporary organized system by placing the articles on top of one another in a crisscross pattern (one horizontal, one vertical) that allowed me to quickly grab them once ready to be inserted inside the sheet protectors.

Instead of using one sheet protector per magazine page, I placed the entire article, title facing up, inside its own plastic sleeve. Each article was stapled in order to retrieve it easily and to also keep it together.

A few hours and many cups of tea later, I already had a nice stack of articles I wanted to keep as reference...

And a much more impressive pile of "rejects"!

By the end of day one, I was half way through...

...And I had gathered this much trash!

On day two, I pressed on with the rest of the magazines I had laying around the house and by end of that day I had all these empty magazine holders and baskets at my disposition to recycle into other projects! Neat!

As difficult as it was to sit by myself at my dining room table for what seemed to be endless back twisting hours, I have to say that it was a great relief to be able to sort through all this mess and create something useful in the process. I also learned a few valuable lessons:
  1. Sadly, the majority of my magazines had nothing to offer.
  2. The Martha Stewart Living of today is a pale comparison to what she used to offer back in the days. I had already gone through this process back in 2004 when we moved to New Jersey and her magazine had way more information and creative content then, as opposed to today's version.
  3. Better Homes and Garden is loaded with advertisement and most articles are repeats or variations on previous ones. Not to mention that the pages are impossible to pull apart without ripping them.
  4. The only reason why I subscribe to Town & Country is for their Social Graces (Now called Manners and Misdemeanors) etiquette monthly essays and quite frankly, that is a slim excuse for the subscription itself. The rest is eye candy on stuff I will never be able to afford (keeping it real).
  5. Veranda is still fabulous, no matter what.
  6. Woman's Day is by far the most complete magazine. It offers everything from health to cooking, home organization, self help and hints and tips. If you are looking for a do-it-all magazine, Woman's Day is the one I recommend.
Therefore, I have made a few decisions with regard to subscriptions:

I am keeping (renewing):

Woman's Day
Country Living
House Beautiful

I am also keeping my digital versions of Southern Living, Working Mother and Midwest Living.

I am not renewing:

Town & Country
Better Homes and Garden
Taste of Home (I have subscribed for two years, I am yet to make a single recipe from them)
Martha Stewart Living
Good Housekeeping

I will also stop purchasing my British magazines (Good Homes, Home and Antiques, and Period Country Living). While they are fabulous to read, they are way too costly. But I am keeping those I already have on hand since they are my little guilty pleasure alongside my French Marie-Claire Idees.

So it looks like I went from 10 paper subscriptions down to 4! That sounds like progress to me!

On to organizing!

Once I had all my articles stacked and ready to be placed in their respective binders, I further categorized them by subject. Here, I am sorting all my recipes and food related articles into specific categories making additional and separate piles before filing, e.g desserts, chicken, pasta dishes, soups , etc.

Using decorated card-stock, I cut out my own tabbed dividers to clearly separate my individual categories in each binder and simply applied Avery labels to the tabs.

I am not going to give you a list of my categories since these reflect my need and you may want to create your own, depending as to what you are looking for in a binder.

From time to time, the end of an article would be attached to a separate article within a different category. In those instances, I used Post-Its to provide myself with small reminders as to where to find the rest of the article.

Here is my completed "How-To" binder!

Social Graces articles from many years worth of Town & Country magazines are kept in a separate (and fourth) binder. Instead of using plastic sleeves, I simply used the hole puncher to insert them in the binder. These I will keep with the rest of my Etiquette book collection. They are fun to read (at least to me) but I may not keep them forever.

I kept working on organizing the binders by category for the next three evenings and by mid week, all three binders were completed!

Eventually I did run out of sheet protectors but hole punched the rest of the articles I want to keep until I purchase additional ones.

Needless to say, the best thing about this particular system is that it is advertisement-free!  I managed to keep all articles back to back without any advertising interruption and in essence, created custom reference books for myself. I dare say that the one reserved to Home Decor is particularly great to browse through.

For those articles I wanted to read but not necessarily keep as reference, I created an additional storage system inside my "All About Me" basket (more on that basket in my Bedside Table post  which is coming soon).

Using manila folders and labels, I categorized those stapled articles by subject (again, these are my categories and yours may look different). The folders fit perfectly inside my basket and I now have plenty material to read at bedtime. If I chose to keep an article, I can easily place it in its respective binder and if I don't I can simply toss it.

Here is my "All About Me" basket:

I am very happy with my results for this project. In all I rid myself of at least 85% of my magazines and I have no regrets. I only kept what I like, what I can do, make, bake, and what I probably will keep on using as reference. 

This is what  my magazine shelf looked like before:

And here it is after five days of de-cluttering and reorganizing, using binders:

Since I have decided to bring back and keep my British magazines (for now), they are at the bottom of the shelf. I also split the pile of French Marie Claire Idees into two identical piles on either sides of the binders. What do you think?

As I mentioned earlier, we now have Pinterest for visual references as well as How-Tos. I am not sure how relevant my binders are at this time, but quite frankly, trying to track down every single article on the web so that they can be pinned seems like a task I don't really care to take on at this time.

I am happy and that is all that matters!

I hope this post inspired you to do the same with your magazines. It was a long process but well worth the effort. 

Thank you for sharing this and other posts with friends and family. You can find me on FACEBOOK and YouTube.

Sophia, NJ.

Here are links for great subscription discounts on my favorite magazines:


All opinions above are my own. I am not affiliated with any magazine mentioned in this post but they can be found on my Amazon Store.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to pack for your child

Hello friends,

We all know that kids are not the best when it comes to keeping things organized. So once you add the lack of organization to pre-teen awkwardness, one needs to be extra prepared when sending a child to camp.
This year, our soon to be 11 years old son went on a two-day camp trip to ski mountains in New Jersey. The YMCA camp promised to offer plenty of activities including ice fishing, mountain hiking, shelter building as well as indoor activities. In all, two days of jammed packed activities with one restless cabin night sandwiched in the middle.

Because our oldest son is not the most organized kid on the planet when it comes to anything else outside of legos, I pretty much had to pack for him and keep things really simple as a way to ensure he would also be able to repack on his way back.

There are several ways you can pack a carry-on luggage for your child. I prefer the vertical method (see further below), but the goal here is to keep everything by categories so that things can be easily retrieved and require little effort to locate in the suitcase. This packing method works for adults too, obviously.

Here is all the stuff he had to take with him on this trip:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow + pillow case
  • snow boots
  • Sneakers
  • At least 3 pairs of socks
  • undies
  • PJ's
  • Toiletries (hotel size soap, travel size toothpaste, toothbrush, travel size shampoo, hand cream, lip balm, tissues, large tooth comb, tic-tacs)
  • Day one outfit (travel + activities)
  • Day two outfit (lounge + activities)
  • Snow pants
  • Thermal (top + bottom)
  • Camp shirt
  • Towels (bath, hand, face)
  • Rain coat (in case of rain obviously)
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Sure enough he wanted one book he's currently reading, not the thinest one in the library either!

If you ask me, that is a lot of stuff to carry around and the biggest challenge was the sleeping bag as it really is not all that easy to roll back and insert into its original pouch. I ended up combining the pillow and sleeping bag into one large shopping bag (top left).

Not knowing what the weather conditions would be there, I also decided he should arrive at camp wearing his snow boots and reserve the sneakers to indoor activities (that saved some additional room in the carry-on).

Day two outfit (top left) consisted of one grey thermal shirt, one pair of double layer sweatpants and one zippered hooded jacket with sherpa lining (he could easily wear the snow pants over the sweats).
So of course I had to label everything, which included initials, cabin number and group he was assigned to.

I used Zipploc bags (sandwich size for toiletries and gallon size for clothes , etc.) to compartmentalize as much as I could. I also used index cards to write down the contents of the bags as well as any item that would not fit in the zipploc ones but would need to be added to any particular outfit. That would keep the guessing out of the way.

To pack, as mentioned earlier in the post, I used the vertical method. While others would lay everything flat in a suitcase, I find that you always have to move too much stuff around to get to what you need. Instead, by keeping everything vertically aligned, you actually can fit more items, and they can all be seen at once, thus making it easier to find what you need right away.

When items were too big for zipploc bags, I used leftover grocery bags and wrote the contents on the side of the bag with a Sharpie.
Here is what it looked like once all packed, everything fit, including the sneakers (bottom left bag).

I kept all the toiletries in small sandwich bags and inserted them into one large Zipploc. In another Zipploc I kept all socks and undies and a third one has the camp shirt and an additional thermal to wear with the PJs.

Oops, forgot the book...No problem, just slide it in!

So here you go, I fit all this...

Into that...

Again, because I was not sure about the weather conditions at the camp (it changes pretty quickly) I did use a large plastic bag to cover the top part of the shopping bag, just to make sure the sleeping bag and pillow would not get wet from rain or snow.

They did not allow any electronic devices (iPad, DS , etc.) at camp, but he was allowed to bring a phone for emergency. Our children do not have their own cell phones (we simply cannot justify them having one at such a young age), but since he needed a phone "just in case" I did get him a cheap Tracphone with enough minutes for two days. Sure enough on day one he called me 5 times to let me know how much fun he was having and I guess he either forgot about the phone or his mother because on day two, not a call was made! 

But he had a great time!

And the best part of course is that he managed to repack everything just the way I had originally packed it! Nothing was lost either!

I understand that using plastic bags is not the most glamorous way to compartmentalize things inside a suitcase, so if you are interested in packing vertically and compartmentalizing your carry-on or suitcase the way I do it in this post, but also want it to look ultra neat when you open your suitcase, I found these really cool packing cubes on Amazon. They are made of breathable mesh and zip all around. They also come in various sizes and colors:


Thank you for reading and sharing my post.
You can also find me on FACEBOOK.

Sophia, NJ.

This post contains affiliate links through my Amazon Store. Products selected are my choice and I was not solicited to feature these products over others. All opinions are my own.
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