book stack

Photo: Nigel Cox

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The Knowledge Clutterer
Symptoms
Stockpiles every book she has ever read or hopes to read, and/or every issue of Architectural Digest ever published—believing, as Walsh explains, "that if she owns the book, then she somehow owns the knowledge, even if she never reads the book or takes it off the shelf." When she encounters an interesting article online, prints it and stashes it in an overstuffed file folder.

Perpetrators
Book club members; enthusiasts of coffee table tomes on interior design; recent college grads wanting to show off their feminist poetry collections.

Walsh's Three-Step Plan


1. Go digital whenever possible.

While nothing can replace a beloved, well-worn novel, "We have an entire library at our disposal nowadays via the Internet," says Walsh. "It's not necessary to own hard copies of everything." In other words, those guilty-pleasure page-turners, celebrity memoirs, and how-to books you'll read only once can live on your e-reader. And when you come across an interesting article online, e-mail yourself the URL and store these e-mails in folders labeled "interesting articles" or "weeknight dinner recipe

2. Manage magazines.

Certain issues (of O, for example!) you'll just want to hold on to forever. But if your living room is blanketed with weeklies dating to 2007, consider implementing a system: Keep the current issue and two back issues. As new titles arrive, donate the old ones to a local hospital. And remember: "The definition of a periodical is that there is always another one coming," Walsh says.

3. Establish clear limits.

Walsh suggests designating a clearly defined area for your book and magazine collection, whether that means one shelf or six. "What matters is that when you've filled the allotted area, you donate an old title to make room for any new ones," he explains. To prevent your nightstand from being swallowed by half-read paperbacks, try a bin or basket large enough to contain only three or four books; to add another, you must remove one first.

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