My Recipe Clutter was Causing Stress in the Kitchen!

Are your recipes and cookbooks an overwhelming mess?  Do you google or use your phone to save recipes rather than pull out recipe cards?  Are you always ripping recipes from magazines and losing them in piles?  Are your cookbooks gathering dust on a top shelf?

I wouldn’t be surprised if you answered yes to every one of these questions because I was right there with you on all of the above!

My recipes had gotten out of control.  And the desire to make some sense of this project was continually nagging at me every time I sat down to put together meal ideas for the week or find something to make for dinner.

It all started years ago with a subscription to Cooking Light.  It was a great magazine & each month I took time to thumb through &  pull out the recipes that looked tasty & fairly simple.  I then slipped them into sleeves in 2 white binders – one for main meal ideas and one for sides, desserts, salads & soups.  (This must have started pre-kids or at least when life felt a little less chaotic!)

Eventually the binders got full & a file folder was used to corral the overflow.  Fast-forward through gluten-free diet experimenting, Whole30 eating, detox recipes and years of changing taste buds.  The small cabinet over the stove was overflowing with an abundance of paper recipes, plus cookbooks & 2 more binders of hand-written recipes that were rarely consulted.

All of this recipe clutter was causing trouble for me and anyone else in our house that wanted to spend some time cooking or baking.  It was time for a change!

Here are the steps that I took to decrease the clutter & create some ease around getting meals made in our house.

First, I started with some goals
  • Decrease the quantity by 1/2.  I had two 3- ring binders, a file folder, 2 recipe card binders & multiple cookbooks.  No way did I need or want all of this.  I like to experiment in the kitchen but not enough to support that much stuff!
  • Be realistic!  That meant “getting real” about the recipes that we truly like to eat and that I like to make vs. the ones that I either thought I wanted to try or that have been out of rotation for a long time.
  • Find an easy solution that saves time.  I wanted to create an easy storage solution for NOW -how our life works right now & the time I want to spend on this project.  I went into this project knowing that this would not be the last iteration with recipes.

After I had the goals in mind, I got down to the SORT.  I needed to spread out & be willing to make a mess!

I labeled sticky notes with the words:  YES, MAYBE, and RECYCLE and started with the loose paper recipes.

I wanted the first sort to go quickly so I gave myself a little wiggle room.  If the recipe still looked yummy & I wanted to look at it a second time then I put it in the MAYBE pile.  This allowed the work to go fast & kept the decisions pretty easy.  I followed the same process with the recipe cards.

After the first sort, I cleared the recycling (actually I did this a few times!)  And then it was time to get REALISTIC!

I noticed I was saving a lot of recipes (especially the ones on the recipe cards) because they were sentimental.  And this was taking up space.  I had to get clear on the recipes that I wanted access to & which one I could let go of or save in another way.

I also had tons of printed out papers that were in bad shaped – wrinkled from spills and just plain hard to read.

I decided that the easiest solution for the way our life works NOW was to continue using a binder, but keep all the loose paper contained to just one.  A 2″ binder was as big as I was willing to go, so that decision set the parameters for how much to keep.

Then it was time to get the categories pulled together.  I sorted the recipes, made new copies of the pages that were wrinkled or worn out, as well as many of the recipe cards.  I saved space by copying multiple cards on a single sheet.  Finally, I added some blank divider pages & labeled those pages with tabs

And now I am ready to cook again!  It feels like such a relief to open that cabinet & be able to find the recipe I am looking for.

This project is STEP ONE of a bigger goal to decrease paper recipes & this is a good solution FOR NOW.  And that is the whole point of decluttering – getting to a solution that makes sense for how life works right now.  In the future, I probably want to store my recipes in Evernote & utilize my iPad instead of a binder, but for now, this will work.  It’s the step in the right direction that I needed to add some ease around feeding our family!

Your Turn…

The holidays are almost here and for many people that means spending more time in the kitchen.  If your cluttered recipes, drawers, cabinets, or pantry are keeping you from enjoying that time, then reach out.  Together we can make sense of what you truly need, clear out what you don’t, & bring back a sense of ease to your kitchen!