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Newspapers and magazines

Okay-I need help here!!!!!! I am STILL, STILL suffering from paper squalor, and I DON'T know what to do!!!!I keep old newspapers here for MONTHS in the hopes of getting to read them one day. The same for old magazines, and also, I get A LOT of junk mail in the house but I SAVE most of it because I think I may need it one day. To throw out an old newspaper without reading it makes me feel sick. And yet-I don't have the TIME to read them!!!!!... There is just SOMETHING about throwing away something that hasn't been read that REALLY bothers me!!! I have paper piles all over the place, and of course, they just keep accumulating!!!!!Donna
Many people who hoard feel that they must read everything, or nearly everything, in the paper and remember it in detail. If they feel they can't do this, then saving the paper has to do, ever though they never go back to reread it. Most often what happens is that this task becomes so overwhelming that they don't even bother to read the paper, they just keep it so they can read it later. Dr. Randy Frost hoarding expert, in a web chat with ABC News (Transcript)

There are two issues here: one is stopping the accumulation of paper, and the other is getting rid of the backlog. I'll look at dealing with the existing piles first. There are three obvious choices for your newspapers and magazines. You can:

  1. keep them or
  2. throw them out, which could be
    • after reading
    • without reading

Taking the last option first...

Dealing with the backlog

Throwing out newspapers and magazines without reading them first

In the quote at the top of the page, Donna explained how the throught of throwing out a newspaper without reading it makes her feel sick. However, newspapers and magazines arrive in her house so frequently that she hasn't enough time to keep up with the task of diligently reading them in order to be able to throw them out. One way out of this bind is to develop the skill of being able to throw out newspapers or magazines even if you haven't read them.

The experts say that the answer to not feeling sick when you throw out a newspaper is simply to practice throwing out newspapers and paying attention to how you feel. By "experts", I am referring to Fugen Neziroglu, Jerome Brubrick and Jose Yaryura-Tobia, three doctors who collaborated on Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding. This book explains how to identify your feelings (the "It makes me feel sick" part) and then test those feelings to see how accurate they are, and how well your thoughts are serving you. You may then decide that your behaviour is based on thoughts that aren't even "true"! You might even go further, and decide to try a new set of thoughts, and see if those thoughts lead to behavior that serves you better in the long run.

Automatic thought Cognitive distortion Rational response
If I throw out an old newspaper without reading it, I will feel sick. Emotional Reasoning (Confusing a feeling with reality) I won't actually get sick from throwing out an old newspaper. It might even be gratifying, because it will get me closer to having a clean house.

Is it really worth the time to go through all your old newspapers, read everything, then toss? Because that will take awhile. Will you even do this? - if you haven't done it so far, what is different now that makes you think you will actually read them. Or is it more worthwhile to purge them so you can gain your house back? You can read most comics, advice columns, and headlines online now.

Before I commit to spending minutes or hours working on a stack I ask this... Is there likely to be anything in there that is so utterly wonderous that my life will be diminished if I don't keep it? What would that thing be exactly? What is worth the loss of time with family and friends? A cookie recipe? Hah! back then I couldn't even find my stove. A sewing pattern? Yeah, because I only have 800 of them that I already can't make because I have no clear surface on which to cut. An expert's article on raising children? I'm pretty sure that letting them live in my cluttered house where stuff takes all my time, will not be part of the expert advice. Cassi

Stack of newspapers

Stacks of hoarded newspapers can be heavy enough to threaten the foundations.

Throwing out newspapers and magazines after reading

However, if you do decide to read the backlog, keep in mind that you don't need to read everything. Here's one technique a member of our community found helpful:

I have a backlog of about three years' worth or three or four magazines. I've tackled one at a time and just plowed through the reading. When I get current with one, I make sure to stay current, so I'm not accumulating any more. Then I tackle the next one... I've found that I can skim through them much more quickly now. I no longer feel that I need to read every word; I read the first few paragraphs of an article, and then decide whether it's interesting enough to finish. Kathy

Stack of magazines

Keeping newspapers and magazines

The last option for dealing with the piles is to keep them. However, there are several important reasons to be wary of indiscriminately saving piles of paper materials. Large piles of newspapers and magazines are a major fire risk. They are both a ready source of fuel for a housefire, and a potentially deadly barrier to escape and/or rescue efforts. Don't store papers on top of or inside a stove or microwave, or near working radiators. Have a smoke detector and test it monthly to make sure it works.

Stacks of paper are also extremely heavy. It is not unknown for paper hoards to threaten the structural integrity of a house. Even if your stash isn't quite this bad, you don't want a pile falling on your foot, for instance, so take care when you move around the house.

Stemming the flow

One way to prevent future backlogs is to eliminate the paper problem at the source - before it comes into your house. Minimising the flow of paper into the house will mean there is less paper for you to manage. One tactic you can consider is cancelling subscriptions to magazines.

I've given up my subscriptions to magazines such as "House Beautiful", etc., because in addition to the fact that it is damn near impossible for me to discard a magazine once it makes it into my house ( after all, it contains the information that is going to change my life for the better; right? WRONG!!! ), I finally realized that these sorts of magazines were making me miserable.They added "fuel to my fire" of perfectionism, and as I read such magazines, I would have a wave of depression wash over me as I acknowledged that I never could attain that level of PERFECT. Arid

Depending on where you live, there are ways to reduce the flow of junk mail into your house:

In the United States, you can register with the Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service . This puts your name and address on a "do-not-mail" file for five years. All DMA marketers are required to remove these addresses from their mailing lists. Another thing you can do is place a "No Junk Mail" sign on your letterbox.

In New Zealand, there is now a voluntary Marketing Association Code which makes it a Code violation to deliver junk mail to a letterbox where the owner has indicated that they don't wish to receive any. The letterbox sign must have the words Addressed mail only. The sign pictured on the right (while mostly effective even prior to adoption of the Code), is not compliant with the Code. Ignoring an Addressed mail only sign could result in a fine of up to NZ$20,000 for the individual or organisation in breach of the Code. New Zealanders should be aware that this will not only stop real estate agents (the worst offenders) putting their flyers in your letterbox, but also prevent the delivery of free community newspapers. An 0800 number (0800 111 811) will be operated by the Marketing Association from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday to receive complaints from the public about non-compliance with the Code.

Letterbox with No Junk Mail sign