I’ve been adding vision board workshops to the courses I offer. Vision boards, if you don’t know, are collages that individuals make to help them discover and set goals and then manifest the things and experiences they want to add to their lives. Magazines are a great supply of interesting images for vision boards.
I found sites that offered magazine subscriptions for a couple of dollars and so subscribed to several different magazines that I thought would have images my workshop participants could use (seriously, I ordered four subscriptions for the price of one issue of one magazine on the newsstand). Honestly, as someone with minimalist tendencies, it felt weird to order magazines and even stranger to collect a box of magazines. But, they have a very specific purpose.
Do you still enjoy the magazines that you subscribe to? You can cancel the subscriptions or allow them to run out. Going to a doctor’s appointments? Bring and leave some of your magazines!
Books are one of the most challenging things for me to get rid of. While there are some books I enjoy rereading every year or two, there are others that I’ve read and intend to read again … but I never do. I looked at one such book on my shelf and saw a copyright of eight years ago. Since I purchased the book when it came out, that means that I’ve held onto it all this time, only touching it when I dusted!
Make plans to reread these books or donate them to your library’s next book sale. If you give away a book and if in a year or two you decide you do want to reread it, borrow it from the library.
Reference books have so much information in them that they seem worthy of space on our bookshelves. Whether you are interested in wine, knitting, astrology, essential oils, birds, and so on, chances are you have books with words in their titles like “The Complete Guide to …,” “The Essential Book of …,” “The Guide to …,” or “The _____ Bible” (when not referring to the Old or New Testament).
Do you really refer to these books when you go searching for information, or do you find it easier to type your question into a search engine?
Although I like that digital books are often less expensive than a physical book and that they take up no physical space, they still fill your digital library. If you have digital books that you never read or didn’t like or just don’t see yourself reading again, consider if you want to delete them from your library.
I find that I feel guiltier deleting a digital book than I do donating a physical book. The physical book can be enjoyed by others, the digital book vanishes. Although I spent money, whatever the format, the physical book gets another life with a new owner.
What are your feelings when you delete digital books?
Whether the textbooks belong to you or your adult children, when was the last time anyone looked at these books? I know, textbooks have always been ridiculously expensive and that is one reason we hold onto them … they were an investment in our future.
However, once a course is done, we may never refer to the book again. We keep it because when it sits on our shelf, we feel that it says something about our education … even if we say nothing about it.
Unless you are in your twenties and you use the books for reference, (or you wrote the textbook), then all those books say about you is that you haven’t cleared off your shelves.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Eliminate one-to-three books on any topic that you know you’ll never read or refer to again.
Did you borrow a book or a tool or a baking pan from a friend, coworker, or family member? Return the item to them with thanks. If they don’t expect it back, ask them if they’d like you to place it in your “to be donated” box.
If this doesn’t apply to you: Think twice about making a purchase that would bring a potentially unnecessary item into your home.
When an article resonates with me or contains information that I want to use, I’ll often print it and tuck it into a file folder. Every so often, I read the articles, copy out the sentence or three that were meaningful and recycle the paper. Not efficient or environmentally sound.
Do you have a file or a pile of articles you are determined to read? Do you make the time to read them? If you don’t plan time to go through these articles, how will you benefit from the information?
Look at your calendar and schedule time to review these articles. If this task isn’t important enough to schedule, then reevaluate holding onto them as a part of you has already decided that reading these pages are not worth your time.
You can do the same with articles and pdfs that you’ve saved on your computer or have bookmarked on your phone or computer.
Remember, limit yourself to fifteen minutes with this task. Perhaps flip through the pages or files and get rid of what no longer grabs your attention.
When Mac and I got an apartment, I cooked most of the meals. I wanted to offer variety even though we both have simple tastes. I started to expand beyond my two basic cookbooks into specialty cookbooks.
But, after a while, I realized that I returned to the same recipes all the time. So, I flipped through each cookbook and copied the recipes I used onto recipe cards that I slid into a binder. I found there were a lot of cookbooks I held onto for a single recipe.
In some cases, I copied recipes that I thought I’d use, but had not yet tried. I held onto some cookbooks for a year or two longer, but eventually let them go when I realized that I’ll look online for a recipe before I sit down to flip through numerous cookbooks.
In the end, I kept my two basic cookbooks and the binder filled with recipe cards.
Do you have cookbooks that you can’t remember the last time you opened? Are they books you received as gifts? You can either box up these cookbooks or plan a slower declutter and look through each book and try out the recipes.
If this doesn’t apply to you: unsubscribe to a shopping website’s emails.
Whether it is a horrible local tragedy, or your favorite sports team wins the national championship, people feel inclined to hold onto these important newspapers.
But, do you ever look back at these items to read them? Or, do you think that someday your kids will want these reminders. Probably, no.
If someone wants to look up something, they’ll do so online. They won’t root around in the basement for that stack of papers they know their parents were holding onto.
Also, too many newspapers just become a fire hazard or a danger if they topple. If you want to find a particular piece of information, you’ll have to flip through numerous pages in countless editions to find what you want. Even if you didn’t go online, you could probably find a book that offers more information than a brief newspaper article.
Would it be interesting to flip through an old newspaper from the day you were born? Sure, it might be. Will you really do so? Would you expect your child or grandchild will want to?
When I started working, one of my favorite things to spend money on was books. Years and years ago, I worked in mall and would spend my breaks browsing the small bookstore. With limited income, I’d buy a book and then read it.
Later, I joined several mail-order book clubs and ordered books through catalogs. Since shipping costs were often the same whether I ordered one book or four, I would ‘get my money’s worth’ and order a few books. Usually, more than I would read in the month before I ordered more books.
All of that was before online shopping and now it’s even easier to learn about books on topics of interest through blogs and online articles. Then, when I look up the book online, I am told about several other titles that would interest me.
Clicking “add to cart” takes a fraction of a second. Reading a book takes hours.
For 15-minutes, go through your bookshelves and pull out books you haven’t read. You can box them and donate them to a collection bin, a thrift store, or your local library. Don’t worry about getting them all. Don’t get tangled up in flipping through pages or trying to do more than pull some books from your shelves. Stop at five or ten books if that feels like what you can handle right now.
If you are determined to read these books, rearrange your shelves so all the “to be read” books are together. Put yourself on a book-buying ban. If you see a book you want to read, hold it on your Amazon wish list or put it on your “to read” list at Good Reads.
Now, plan to read the books you own and haven’t read. Skip an hour of television in favor of an hour of reading. If this doesn’t work, reconsider donating those books.
Start using your library or only buy one book at a time and don’t buy another book until you’ve read the one you are reading.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.