How To Declutter Recipes

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Today's mission is to declutter recipes, starting with loose recipes and cards, and those in recipe binders, and eventually expanding into decluttering even electronic and digital recipe clutter.

If you are a recipe collector of any sort this may sound like a daunting task, plus you may be thinking, "this will take me a lot longer than 15 minutes."

Organize Recipes & Cookbooks Challenge
Well, it sure might depending on how many recipes you've got to sort through. But don't panic. When things take longer than 15 minutes, instead make it a 15 minute at a time kind of task.

This mission is designed to be done while working on the Organize Recipes & Cookbooks Challenge here on the site.

We specifically have a different mission coming up for decluttering cookbooks and cooking magazines, which have their own set of decluttering hurdles, so in this article I'll focus instead mainly on paper recipes, with some quick focus on digital recipes as well.

In this week's challenge article I discussed the 4 main types of recipes: (1) practical; (2) sentimental; (3) aspirational; and (4) fantasy. As I mentioned in that article I've found the hardest recipe items to declutter are the aspirational and fantasy recipes, so again, I'm mainly focusing on them in this how to article.

You don't want to declutter your tried and true recipes. After all, they're tried and true. And the sentimental ones, well, you don't necessarily need them in your kitchen, especially if they might get ruined with splatters and spills, but again I know recipes can hold memories, so I'm not really focused on decluttering those either.

What People Have Trouble Decluttering: Recipes They Want To Try But Haven't Yet

stack of recipes waiting to be declutteredPhoto courtesy of a reader, Jessica
Many times when you collect recipes to try for later you're basically making yourself a big to do list.

But taking things off your to do list can be liberating, and makes you feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. If you think of decluttering recipes in this manner while you're doing this mission you'll feel really good about the results you get as you work through the process.

Simple Steps When Decluttering Paper Recipes

Here are the steps to take when doing this mission.

Gather All Your Recipes Into One Place

First, gather all of your recipes into one place. This includes loose recipes, and those shoved into recipe binders or file folders.

When you do this it can be eye opening, because as you see the huge pile of recipes you'll realize with certainty there is no way you'll be able to try all those recipes within a reasonable time. But that can also be a good thing, since you're going to winnow it down to only the best ones to try.

Separate Out The Tried & True Recipes & Sentimental Recipes To Deal With Later

Go through each piece of paper you've collected and separate out the tried and true recipes for your main recipe organizational system. (Obviously don't declutter those!) There really aren't that many of these typically in these piles of recipes you've collected, but you don't want to lose the gems as you work through this process.

Similarly, separate out any sentimental recipes, such as handwritten recipe cards from your mother or grandmother to deal with at a later time, using different criteria than I'm going to discuss below.

Get Rid Of Recipes That You Don't Find Appetizing Anymore

Once you've done that you should be looking at a pile of recipes you've never actually tried before (or that you tried and hated).

Start by getting rid of any recipes that contain ingredients you know you or your family won't actually like to eat, or don't fit with the way you eat anymore.

Often, if you've been collecting recipes for years, you'll find as you finally go through the recipes you collected years ago that they don't actually appeal to you anymore. Your tastes or nutritional requirements have changed. Don't feel guilty to toss (or recycle) anything that makes you crinkle your nose a bit, and think yuck.

Get Rid Of "Fantasy" Recipes

Similarly, also remove from the pile really awesome recipes that you know, realistically, that you will never actually attempt to cook.

I have defined these in my main article as "fantasy" recipes. What fantasy recipes are for you is very personal. I'll tell you that for me I love to find pictures of beautifully decorated cakes. I find them gorgeous and genuinely like looking at them. I also am honest enough with myself to know that if I ever attempted to make these gorgeous cakes the only place you'd see the picture of my cake would be on CakeWrecks, or a Pinterest fail website. Cake decorating isn't my talent, and while I like looking at the photos I have neither time nor actual desire to put in the effort to get good at it. It is just a fun thing to think about for me.

When working on decluttering your recipes you need to come out at the end with a functional, practical system for trying new recipes without getting overwhelmed with lots of excess papers. Fantasy recipes may have their place in your home (they are more like a hobby or craft honestly) but don't clutter your recipe organizational system with them. So remove them from your piles now.

Loosely Categorize What's Left & Then Declutter Until Reach Reasonable Amount To Try

Once all those recipes are gone, next loosely categorize the recipes you've got left. Five to seven categories are best, that are quite broad, like breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, snacks, etc.

Once you see how many recipes you've got in each category have a little heart to heart discussion with yourself, asking yourself how many recipes from that category you can actually try, and within what time frame.

If you decide you have room in your meal plan for one new breakfast recipe each week, for example, you know, realistically you shouldn't keep more than 52 untried breakfast recipes in that category if you want to save recipes for a year. (Honestly, I think 52 is still a bit much, myself, since you'll continue to gather more recipes as time passes, but this example is for illustration purposes only.)

Winnow it down to the best of the best in that category within the number you've chosen. If you only want to try 3 new punch recipes this year don't keep 10 punch recipes. Get rid of the less appealing ones.

Remember too, we live in the age of information. Almost every recipe, or a variation of it, can be found on the Internet. You do not need to keep every recipe. You can come across it again, trust me!

Once you've winnowed down your recipes into reasonable amounts for each category you can follow the steps in the main Organize Recipes challenge article (linked above) to organize those remaining recipes into a workable system.

Decluttering Digital Recipes

A quick note about digital recipes. You can accumulate digital recipe clutter almost more easily than paper recipe clutter because it seems you have endless space to store things digitally.

But you can follow a similar procedure as listed above for paper recipes when decluttering digital recipes. First, separate out all the tried and true recipes, and also move all the fantasy recipes into a different space. Then, categorize in a similar manner, and liberally hit the delete button to keep only the best of the best from each category!

I know that getting rid of excess recipes can feel overwhelming. I hope these instructions help make it easier for you. But in addition get inspired by seeing the results below of others who've already done this Declutter 365 mission to get you ready to tackle this task for yourself.

Top photo collage courtesy of two readers, with the top photo from Julli, and the bottom photo from Katrina

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Getting Rid Of Recipe Clutter: Before & After Photos

Decluttered recipes, showing those to get rid of at the top, and the smaller pile of keepers at the bottom {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

I got quite a few before and after photos from readers who'd done this mission, all of which I found quite inspiring.

The photo above is from a reader, Harmonie, who said, "First sort done. Plan on getting rid of more if any are duplicated in my cookbooks. Now to stop grabbing recipe cards at stores and ripping them out of magazines without being sure it is something I will really try."

Next, here is a collage photo from another reader, Teresa, who said, "My first day after joining this group! I want to document my progress. Here is my 1st pic before & after. Love this group!"

Before and after from Teresa, who took on the declutter and organize recipes and cookbooks challenge on Home Storage Solutions 101

Finally, here's another before and after collage from Kimberly, who said, "Got this done. It took more than 15 minutes but it has needed to be done for years. In the past I would just do a little at a time and never got finished. Categorizing definitely helped me complete this one. Thanks to Declutter 365!"

Once Kimberly categorized her recipes it was much easier to declutter and organize them {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

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Are You Ready To Declutter Your Recipes Now?

Here's a photo above, from a reader, Melissa, who said, "Recipe binder organized once again. That pile is only half of what I tossed."

I hope this article has inspired you to toss your excess and clutter recipes too!

Once you have only recipes you truly want to keep then you're ready for the next phase of this process, which is to organize your recipes. Remember you can check out the how to organize recipes article here on the site to get more ideas on that next step.

Are You Ready To Declutter Your Home?

declutter 365
When you begin to declutter the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.

I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.

Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Clutter Free 15 Minutes At A Time Hall Of Fame

Getting Rid Of Kitchen Clutter Hall Of Fame

How To Get Rid Of Paper Clutter {Hall Of Fame}

Go From How To Declutter Recipes To Home Page

Comments for Are You Ready To Declutter Your Recipes Now?

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have to have a system to try new recipes
by: Janet

I try and do a new recipe once a week or so. I have stopped adding until I have tried all of them. So 2017 I'll begin adding more.

had to do this when I was diagnosed as diabetic
by: Sandra

I had no choice because when I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic I realized that the recipes I had collected were really bad for me! And I sold the 4 recipe tins I received for Christmas once I realized they weren't diabetic-friendly. Still have a couple of cookbooks, but I'm going to see if one or two have recipes I could rework.

I love collecting recipes to cut them out
by: Sharon

Ohhhh the recipes. I have figured out that I like collecting them because I love cutting them out. Time to go through' them again though, but I still need to finish decluttering old paid bills. LOL!!! Getting behind again.

I have one binder full and refuse to buy an additional one
by: Karen

I have been doing this bit by bit, this week. My one binder of clipped and Internet-sourced recipes is nearly full, and I refuse to buy an additional one.

I'm overwhelmed, I can't do this!
by: Betsy

Hi Taylor, I am a 64 year old avid cook. This task is too much for me. I have 6 notebook folders chock full of tried, favorite and untried recipes taped in, loose, semi-organized almost unintelligible recipes dating back 50 years. There are hundreds of recipes. I don't know what to do. I have been so proud of January's projects. I just can'r do this!

reply to Betsy who is overwhelmed
by: Taylor

Betsy, first of all, big {{{HUGS}}} from me, and I want you to know how proud I am of all you accomplished in January. I know this task seems overwhelming. When looking at a massive project that first feeling of overwhelm is also completely understandable. But now, take a breath and remember what we have to do when a task feels too big. We have to break it into smaller tasks. So for you that may mean doing only 1 notebook at a time, or half a notebook, or only a half inch stack of the notebook, or maybe you do it just 15 minutes at a time while watching TV in the evenings, or whatever smaller amount sounds feasible and doable for you. There is NO reason you have to finish this task all at once. First, we're working on organizing recipes all week, and even if it takes you 6 weeks that is OK. No rush, no pressure. You've got this, I know you do. Just break it down into smaller pieces and give it a try. As you work through it it will get easier to make decisions! Good luck!

Stick to 4 categories and fly!
by: Jan

I have to admit I was excited about this week's mission, but ever so fearful as well. I knew the job had to be tackled but wasn't sure if I was up to the task. Years of recipe tear sheets etc. seemed rather daunting UNTIL I read through all of the mission information on Monday. The BEST advice was to separate recipes into those four categories and be realistic! I literally ZOOMED through everything I'd collected (including most of the cookbooks) and had it ready to place in a functional use system in 1 1/2 hours!!! Taylor's "4 category piles" are pure genius!! I'm a purger/organizer from way back, but was lacking in this area until Taylor's 4 categories helped me to a new mindset. LOVE this 365 group!!

sorting into categories helps
by: Janet

The idea to sort into categories is being most helpful. I found quite a number of recipes that I had collected over the years were so similar, almost duplicates. I saved one and recycled the others. Still have quite a ways to go, but the project is taking shape.

Food magazines
by: Linda

I have 100 Cooking Light magazines! Do I go through every one of those to see if I want to clip out recipes? Do I donate to Goodwill? Do I recycle? Help!

response to Linda re food magazines
by: Taylor

Make sure to check out the declutter cookbooks and cooking magazines article on the site for some tips for dealing with your magazines. Once you decide which ones you don't want most magazines are recyclable!

Recipe Hoarder
by: Judy

I have held on to recipe books for years and I haven't opened one if forever. I have finally packed them all up and given them to a young girl I know. She was happy to receive them and I was happy to gain to shelves in my pantry. This is the best program I have ever signed up for I have cleared my counters cabinets and recipes so well I actually have an empty cabinet and mostly clear counters!

decluttering my recipe stash
by: Michelle

There must of been a time when all I did was collect lots of those fantasy recipes. That was when I had time to cook and preparing meals for children. The kids are all grown up and it's just me and my husband. He is somewhat picky, he would never eat 75% of what those recipes. We are also trying to eat more clean food. I found this mission a great one. Can't believe all papers, recipes written on notebook paper, you can barely see the ink anymore they are so old and I don't even think I tried most of them. They are going into the recycle bin. I wonder how many trees were used to make all that paper I wasted. Thanks for opening my eyes. The ones I have kept to try I plan to incorporate into my monthly menu and try two new recipes a month. If one or both of us don't like it then it will be tossed.

Tidy at last
by: Jan in Brisbane

I have a large, very ordinary looking, two-ring binder I use for storing paper recipes. The dividers between sections were bits of paper with the category scribbled on them (for later 'tidying'). Many years later - the folder was still in the same state.

Saturday afternoon 6 February, whilst watching something inane on TV, I made new (card-stock weight) dividers and placed them in plastic sleeves. The folder was looking better already.

I tossed out a few recipes (repeats; fantasy) and increased the number of categories. For example, I no longer have a category which just says 'meat'.

I may sort further, or I may not, but now at least, I can quickly turn to any section and know exactly what I will find there.

storing recipes
by: Anonymous

I need ideas for storing the "magazine" clipped recipes after I have them sorted. How does everyone store these?

question re storing recipes
by: Taylor

Check out the article about organizing recipes at this link, which include quite a few ways that people store the recipes they clip from magazines.

FB recipes
by: Rhonda

I continually snapshot recipes on cooking sites I have liked on FB. Now they are in my photos and I have no idea how to get them into a folder. If there is an easy way I would love to know. Thanks.

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