Small Space. Big Life.

My Scanner, My Friend

Confession time: I have a magazine habit.

We subscribe to, oh, I don’t know, ten different magazines? Something like that. They all come monthly, except the New Yorker (which comes weekly, and I have mixed feelings about that) and Saveur (which comes only nine times a year, sadly). I love them. Sometimes I fall out of love with one and don’t resubscribe, but there’s always another ready to take its place. They’re kind of like trendy bistros that way.

This love of magazines, in and of itself, not such a bad thing. But I have a hard time parting with my magazines, for the simple reason that most of them are ones with ideas in them that I want to keep “for later.”


Pictures of pretty things.

Floor plans of cabins (that we’re not going to build now, but you never know…)

Gift ideas for birthdays and holidays.

The occasional great interview that I want to send to a friend or loved one.

Since I hoard ideas like other people hoard yogurt tubs or rubber bands, it kills me to send information out the door if it interests me and I haven’t used it yet, or think I might someday, or might know someone who might. But I don’t have room for all these magazines, either. They’re an organizational nightmare — they’re slippery, so they don’t stack well. They’re heavy. They’re bulky. And when I want to go back and find that article/idea/recipe, I have to flip through them all, which takes me forever because I re-read all the articles, even the dumb ones.

Clearly, a domestic problem in need of a solution.

I used to just tear the pages that I wanted to keep out of the magazine, but this is not a system that is working for me. I now have torn-out-magazine pages all over the house, where they get bent, dusty, faded, spilled on, out-of-order and otherwise obnoxious. And let’s not get started on the guilt trip that comes with tearing things out of magazines, because I like to give magazines I’ve read to the library for others to read, and giving magazines with the best parts torn out just seems wrong.

I tried photocopying, to avoid the tear-out crisis, but color photocopies are expensive and black-and-white ones don’t maintain that luscious magazine food photography quality. I love good photographs of food. And I still have the issue of how to organize the copies.

Then, there was the organizational issue (albeit a smaller one) of what to do with all the torn out / photocopied pages. I tried to put them in clear plastic protectors in a binder, but after filling up two or three binders and having to constantly rearrange them as my interests changed — well, no. That’s not working. Plus, I don’t like messing with the three-ring binders, and they take up ever-increasing and valuable book shelf real estate.

Enter Mr. Scanner, with whom I am spending an awful lot of time lately. He’s sleek, he’s black, and he’s making short work of my stack of flagged-n-tagged magazines, library books, and old miscellaneous papers. I scan ’em in, I save ’em as a .pdf file, and bam! My stack disappears and my unscathed magazines can move on to inspire someone else.

Why I really like this system so far:

1. Saves the integrity of the magazine.

2. Keeps the articles in order.

3. Allows me to continue to enjoy the beautiful photographs.

4. I can organize, arrange and re-arrange the files any way I want with just the click of my mouse.

5. I can quickly and easily edit my collection. Say I tried a recipe and it didn’t work for us. Deleting the file is fast and doesn’t leave physical gaps in the organizational system the way that throwing out a recipe housed in a plastic page protector does.

6. Uses fewer natural and financial resources. I’m not buying three-ring binders, page protectors, and shelves to put them on. The scanner I use is integrated into our HP all-in-one printer; it was basically lying around the house doing nothing. Ditto for the memory sticks I use to back up my hard drive and copied files — they’re something I have anyway.

7. Easy to share. Someone wants a recipe? I can either quickly print it out or e-mail it to them. An article I scanned comes up in a conversation? A quick note to my friend with the file attached makes me look uber-organized. Which I’m not, but I’m working on it.

Make friends with your scanner and pretend to be uber-organized, too.


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