why i quit magazines.

03.03.2011 / myKind

A few months ago, I went through the pile of endless magazine stacks in my office and noticed how few I really read. Thousands of glossy pages went untouched last year, and I can’t bear to think of how many times I walked past that stack and felt guilty, wasteful and uneconomical.

In an effort to streamline my belongings and enter a more “grown-up” phase of my life (sweet Grace wrote a fantastic post about grown-up things a few weeks ago!), I made the decision to cancel all subscriptions, declare magazine bankruptcy and start from scratch.

Since then, I’ve noticed a very subtle shift in a few areas of my life:

To be honest, this has been a small shift, as subscriptions are far cheaper than picking up a monthly copy of your favorite magazine on the newsstand. When I travel, I always stock up on the usual suspects (Real Simple, ReadyMade and Lucky are a few I frequent), and lately I’ve been traveling pretty frequently. But, I’m still saving money, and I’m slowly realizing which magazines I enjoy reading, and which add to the noise. I’ve quickly realized that there are 3-4 select mags that I do actually miss, and plan to subscribe to those next year (rather than the 12 I canceled this year!).

This goes without saying, but having an empty space where endless stacks of magazines once resided was a nice bonus. My mind has been considerably less overwhelmed these past few months as I stare at a [nearly] empty surface on my desk. Look who’s becoming a minimalist? Wow!

I was super surprised by this shift, as I’ve never had much of an issue with body image. With that said, I’ve thought much less about what clothing is “in” this season and much more about what I’m inspired to wear. And because I’m no longer seeing air-brushed beauties on countless covers, I think far less about my abs (which don’t exist, FYI) and far more about cheese. I like that.

I’ve found that the priority of print in my life has shifted. I’m a firm believer that print is not dead, and I like that I have extra pocket change to invest in quality, independent publications (Anthology, Elephant and Uppercase are frequent purchases of mine). I love that I can be committed to the growth of both print and independent ideas. Huge bonus.

Surprisingly, I haven’t been lacking in the inspiration department. Sure, I live a large portion of my life online and see countless inspiring images daily, but I do also love the tangible effect of taping glossy paper to my wall. Luckily, I’ve been high on inspiration with a few (free!) catalogs that come sweeping into my mailbox daily (Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Toast are a few that showcase beautiful interiors and style!). Thank you, art directors.

What about you, friends? To subscribe or not to subscribe?

  • Awesome! I quit magazines last year as well, mostly for environmental issues. I was feeling so guilty throwing pounds and pounds of paper into the recycling box…There is so much info and inspiration on the net, I haven’t really missed them too much.

  • you’re so right! i totally didn’t even hit the environmental factor, but that part is suuuuch a bonus for me.

  • i really need to do this. i am swimming in a sea of magazines, ones i’ll never read. i have a dozen subscriptions!
    i want to get back into reading….real books! its time for a classic. any suggestions?

  • oooh, yes! books! you know, it’s far from a classic, but i find anything by sloane crosley always pulls me out of my book-reading slump. ‘i was told there’d be cake’ is a LONG time fave of mine!

  • I’m not a big magazine subscriber either — I used to have a magazine subscription to Vanity Fair, but when it ran out, I didn’t renew. I also had a subscription to Domino, but we know what happened there — they substituted it for Lucky, and I never read it!

    One subscription that I did recently get, and I”m SO glad I did, is the new magazine Anthology. It’s not so much a magazine as a keepsake, seriously. And for someone like you, I think you’d love it.


    I return to it again and again, and proudly display them on my bookshelf. It’s the only subscription I have.

    (I realize this is counter to your intent, and I promise, I’m all about culling the subscriptions. But this new little independent magazine is seriously something. :) )

  • I actually have magazines subscriptions to Real Simple, Time, Lucky, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Health, Entertainment Weekly…and they keep me on the elliptical in the morning. And the nice thing is, once I’ve read them, they stay in the gym, keeping other people distracted. I figure it’s a worthwhile investment for my health, although that seems a bit silly…

  • As a magazine writer it feels hypocritical admitting I’ve done the same as you. I gave up fashion magazines long, long ago realizing that trends weren’t for me but I replaced them with industry design mags and home design mags – I gave those up a few years ago too realizing seeing other people’s work can stunt my own progress. I now have a similar buying pattern as you; I keep smaller, independent mags and subscribe to just two, Selvedge because I love reading about the historical significance of textiles as well as current independent designers and, Anorak for my children. I also buy mags and zines from new smaller publishers though not yet through subscription but I will subscribe if I find myself buying repeatedly.
    The biggest bonus has been less clutter of space and mind.

  • I love magazines, and have only in the past few months had a lease for longer than 6 months so I’ve always wished I could subscribe. A friend turned me on to http://maghound.com , which for I think 11 bucks a month I get 8 or 9 magazines a month. Its much cheaper than buying them at the news stand but they only have the big popular magazines and a few of the smaller ones. The nice thing is I can change my magazines every month if I wanted, swap them and even cancel or put my account on hold for a month. I’m in no way affiliated with maghound, but it really has changed my thinking about magazines. Plus as a set designer for movies its cut my magazine buying in half ( I usually get all of those interior design mags). Love your site, I read you every day!

  • wow — such great insight here, guys! thank you for adding to the convo!

  • ellen

    Oh Erin! This was such a great post – I am really feeling it.

    When I was a teenager my Aunt and Uncle gave me a subscription to teen magazine which I thought was AWESOME. I loved it. I started to buy others at the grocery store with my own money. Then one day I started to really reflect on how I felt about my constant exposure to these mags over the bulk of my teen years (lets say five years or so I was constantly reading and re-reading those things). I realized that I had to stop buying and reading them. I was constantly feeling bad about not having the latest coolest clothes, and not having a wicked teen experience like the girls in the magazines did.

    So I totally stopped buying those magazines, cancelled my subscriptions to the ones I got in the mail, and stopped re-reading the ones I had at home. It totally changed my self-image. Plus since I was an easily influenced kid too, my values shifted too. It was pretty crazy.

    I still pick up fan stuff every once in a while, or check out stuff while I’m at the library. But then there’s other magazines (like Bust) that I like to get in mail. Or random zines like MixTape.

    Anyway, thanks for posting about this. You really got to the heart of how I feel about those things. So much paper and resources go into those things, and if we’re not getting enjoyment and satisfaction out of them, what’s the point?!

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