General Papers: Magazines, Junk Mail, Coupons and Other Papers

Product Warranties

Many warranties are almost generic, and it’s difficult to tell exactly which watch, appliance, or tool they are for. Write a description of the item on the cover or first page. Staple the receipt to the warranty, for proof of date of purchase. Just a little organization may be sufficient. Instead of trying to sort your warranties by type of product or location in the house, just keep all your warranties in one place such as a box or pocket folder.

Junk Mail

There are a number of things you can do to reduce junk mail. You’ll never eliminate all of your junk mail, but you can reduce it significantly.

Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512

Floating Pieces of Paper/Notes

Eliminate floating pieces of paper by having only one place to write things down, and identifying a home where it will always be kept. You might choose to make your notes in a notebook that stays by the phone,a small notebook or pocket sized planner that you carry in your purse or pocket, or a PDA that you always carry with you.

Never jot something down with the idea that you’ll rewrite or type it later. Write it down in its permanent location to start with. If the information eventually needs to be in electronic form, type your original notes or compose your first draft on the computer.

Magazines and Newspapers—Whole Ones and Clippings

Unread newspapers

If you have stacks of unread newspapers, you have already lost most of their value because what they contain isn’t news any more.

Unread magazines

Two possibilities exist: you really aren’t that interested in what the magazine covers, or you haven’t made the time to read them. In either case, consider canceling the subscription. If you eventually catch up reading the old copies, then you might re-subscribe. If after a few months you still haven’t read any of the old copies, toss them and don’t even think about subscribing again!

Magazines and magazine articles you’ve already read

Few magazines other than Consumer Reports are indexed. As a result, you can’t access the information in a stack of magazines the way you can the information in books. A stack of articles torn from magazines isn’t much easier to use.

Old, intact magazines are generally only useful if you intend to read through them again as you would a new magazine. Retrieving and using the information from them, or from articles you’ve torn out, requires separating the bits of information and organizing them in such a way that is accessible. That takes time and effort, and most people don’t have the time or won’t expend the effort to make it work. If you want to give it a try, choose one magazine on a topic that you’re extremely interested in. Then, try these suggestions:

Small stacks of papers lying around, already grouped into some sort of category, are a sure indicator that some files are needed. But before you create file folders for each of these stacks, ask yourself, "Will I EVER pull out the information and look at it?"


Envelopes or accordion files work well for storing and organizing coupons. Separate coupons by purpose or according to where you use them. For instance, coupons you would take to the grocery store should go in one envelope. Coupons for fast food should go in another. Make additional envelopes for other coupons you keep and use, such as dry cleaning and car service. Fast food and take-out coupons might be kept in the car.

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