Catalogs can sure stack up. It seems like everyone has a product and everyone is eager to get the word out about it. How do you gain the upper hand on this stream of literature?
Eliminate any catalogs that you don't need.
Toss the older copies of any duplicates.
Throw out anything that's irrelevant to your business. If you know your business buys its electronics and computers complete, you may never need to order a single resistor. If you don't have a factory floor to maintain, you don't need a floor sealant for it.
Discard any sales literature that has more shine than content. You can't order anything from that glossy brochure that says what a great company they are, so don't keep it.
Work with the purchasing department and anybody who specifies material for purchase (engineering, management, etc.) to establish an approved vendor list. These are companies or vendors that are central to your business. If you already have a purchasing database or even a stack of old purchase requisitions, look back through it. Vendors that your firm uses rarely or never and any vendors that have caused difficulties (late delivery, excessive fees) should go on the list only if they supply something you need but can't get elsewhere.
As you order from each vendor again, make a point to add contact details to your database.
Use your approved vendor list to cull the collection further. If you think you need to keep a catalog, ask whether the company who sent it belongs on the list.
Date the catalogs you plan to keep and make a note on them (perhaps inside the front cover) if you use them.
Periodically clean out the collection, removing anything that has not been used in a long time and anything that is so out of date as to be incorrect.
Set aside a space for the rest. Stake out a bookcase or filing cabinet.
Consolidate. It might be helpful for each person to have a copy of catalogs that are used very frequently. For all the rest, could the entire department share a shelf, library-style?
- Catalogs can get heavy, so be sure to choose a sturdy shelf.
Choose a filing scheme, and go for simplicity. Alphabetically by manufacturer or supplier is probably not a bad choice, since there's only one way to arrange them. For a larger collection, you may wish to divide catalogs into broad categories (for instance office supplies versus parts for your products). Label the shelves with what these categories are, so that you and your coworkers don't have to guess where to put them back.
Tidy up the library occasionally, especially if several people are using it.
Get fresh copies of catalogs you use frequently. Simply mention it to the salesperson the next time you talk to him or her.
Use the web. Many websites have up-to-the-minute information about product offerings and even prices, no paper involved.
Do not feel guilty about discarding a catalog, especially if it arrived unsolicited. If you don't need it, you don't need it.
Ask to be removed from mailing lists for any literature you receive repeatedly but don't use.
If your department or office moves, think twice about which catalogs you haul along. Don't worry. There will be more along shortly, and you can almost always get a new copy if you find you really did use it.