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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

How to #declutter recipes, with step by step instructions and before and after photos from readers who reduced their recipe #clutter using the #Declutter365 mission {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
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 courtesy of Katrina, and collage mission, top image from Julli

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Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to kitchen clutter.

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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Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to kitchen clutter.

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.

Want To Do More Decluttering Missions? Get Started With Declutter 365 Today!

Declutter 365 missions: 15 minute missions for your entire home

Once you declutter one type of item in your home I bet you'll want to declutter some more. After all, decluttering gives you a great reward for even a small investment of time and energy.

The Declutter 365 system is designed to help you declutter, over the course of a year, your entire house, with just 15 minutes of decluttering each day!

Hundreds of thousands of people use this proven system to get rid of their clutter, and bring peace and calm back to their homes.

Declutter 365 works to guide you to clear the clutter without overwhelm, focusing on just one small area at a time, and without making a huge mess in the process, so you see consistent forward progress without all that "messy middle" that makes it even harder to function in your home than before you started.

In addition to building a daily decluttering habit, the Declutter 365 program, along with the accompanying 52 Week Organized Home Challenge, teaches you the skills, habits, routines, and mindsets necessary to maintain the clutter free and organized state of your home from now on, so it'll never be as messy and cluttered as it is right now, ever again.

If you haven't already, make sure to get your copy of this year's Declutter 365 annual calendar here (it's FREE!), find today's date, and do 15 minutes of decluttering on the day's mission. Then, repeat again tomorrow, and again and again. Over the course of the next year, if you do this 15 minutes per day, you'll declutter your whole house!

Click here to take me to this year's Declutter 365 calendar

Get This Paper & Filing Decluttering Checklist + 32 Other Decluttering Checklists For Your Home

Right now you're decluttering your papers and files, and there's a lot of types and varieties of these around your home.

Get your 2 page paper and filing decluttering checklist, plus 32 other decluttering checklists, to help you declutter your entire home here.

Get this paper and filing decluttering checklist and 32 other decluttering checklists for your home {on Home Storage Solutions 101}

I've done the hard work of breaking down these tasks into smaller more manageable steps for you, so you don't get overwhelmed or worry you're forgetting a task, and you can go at the pace you want, whether that's fast or slow.

In addition, you can tackle these decluttering tasks in whatever order you want when you use these checklists!

Click here to learn more about 33 Decluttering Checklists Pack

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.

Recipes Under Control
by: Jeanne

After reading your article on recipe clutter, I finally tackled my out-of-control recipe collection keeping your advice in mind as well as my commitment to eating healthy foods. After 2 long afternoons I was able to eliminate 4 large and 3 smaller binders. I am in the process of giving away 10 years of cooking magazines after pulling out the surprisingly few recipes I wanted to keep. One big benefit will be the ease of finding my favorite recipes. There is still some work to do regarding the cookbooks, but I feel very accomplished at getting the hardest part done. The rest will be easy to do in 15 minute windows as I have time. Thank you for your encouragement. What a great way to end 2016.

Type it up
by: Anonymous

One thing I do is if I try a recipe and like it I type it out and put it in a binder. That way if it was a loose page I can toss the original or if it was in a cookbook, once I try all the recipes I wanted out of the cookbook it can be sold or donated. Keeps down on the clutter.

Recipes Under Control
by: Brooke

I've been going through my recipes since I moved from a higher altitude to sea level again to fix my altered recipes. I cook almost every day of the week and try a recipe I haven't cooked before at least 2 times a week. If I like it then I put it in my recipe section of my 'Happy Planner' household planner/binder. I only have 25 recipes. Doing the same with my digital recipes too.

Finally found an old cookbook I've been looking for
by: Billie

I lost a small old pamphlet size cookbook. It was a wedding gift 21 years ago, and it was old then. There is a recipe in there that I have to make for special occasions and other people would ask for it. It has been MIA for a year. I have looked on line, in other books, but no luck. Guess what I found today, inside another cookbook?!? That's right my book. I got rid of so many recipes in my box that I was able to make space for books that were sitting on top of others and that book fell down. I know I'm a work in progress, but my family is so happy. They want me to make up for lost time. Lol. Thank you!

It was good timing
by: Vicky

I shrunk my accordion file folder by 75% today. It took longer than 15 minutes, but I am so relieved. The timing was good because I have NO appetite. NOTHING looked good.

Helpful hint for recipes to try
by: Judy

I too, collected recipes. Waiting in doctors' offices, picking up kids, etc. If I saw a magazine I browsed for the recipes and copied many of them 'to try'. The best tip I ever received was this: any new recipe should be dated and stuck on the front of your refrigerator. If you don't try it in 30 days, toss it. This has worked well for me over the years. I hope it helps someone else avoid having to deal with a huge collection of never tried recipes.

Plastic magazine holders
by: JoAn

I am putting the loose recipes in one of those plastic magazine holders. When it is full, I go through and toss those I know I will never make. The ones I think I will make, I make and if they are good, keep the recipe in a 3 ring binder with plastic inserts. Making my own homemade recipe folder to pass on to my kids (and they probably won't want it).

Declutter Recipes
by: Laura Olson

I was wondering how do you keep just the specific recipe from a cookbook? i have a few books that are too FrooFroo for me and only have good appetizers but main courses are too long and too many ingredients

reply to Betsy who is overwhelmed
by: mrssxcess

I too am a avid cook & collector of recipes (plus I can). The way I'm approaching mine is go through it one time & just put a check mark by the ones I have tried & WANT to keep. Those I have not tried I will put into a folder ie deserts-casseroles-canning-pasta. Most of my "untried recipes" are in a magazine holder (a big one). The ones I've tried are in a separate area but not in a note book as of step 1 mark recipes tried & liked (I used to use a 5 star system when my kids were little, I may implement that. To show how much I like the recipe. categorize into folders can be done while watching tv/movie. Then each week I'll pick 1 dessert & one casserole or main dish to try (so I can get through them)mark with my star for how much I like. If it isn't a 4 or 5 star I'll trash it.

Hopefully this gives you some idea on how to eat this particular elephant (recipes). Make small steps staying in one area of a plan. Write a plan like I did sure to include those small's the little steps that make the big project easier. If you don't get it done this week, keep them by your favorite tv chair, you'll get it done. Also there are little file baskets that are maybe 5 inches deep these are great tools when sorting into files. They are portable the files are easily seen. I find them alot at goodwill for under 2 bucks. Every time I find one I pick it up they have come in handy for many sorting issues

thanks for the inspiration!
by: Fran P

I just finished doing this with all my loose recipes. They are now in a binder with labeled sections. SO MUCH BETTER! Next on my list is to go through the actual cookbooks I have and pare them down. Thanks for the inspiration.

reply to Laura re decluttering recipes from a cookbook
by: Taylor

Hi Laura, keeping just a few recipes from a cookbook, while getting rid of the book is a bit different than decluttering loose recipes. Check out the article on decluttering cookbooks for ideas for how to do what you're asking!

18 years in review
by: Sara

At first I thought that I didn’t need to declutter any of them but once I got started I couldn’t stop. I tossed recipes I’ve been saving since 2001 because I’ve never used them or that diet fad has faded away. I decided to keep my cookbooks because I might still use them. Also, I took the treasured family recipes and placed those away from the kitchen. Thanks for the advice and encouragement!!!

long but needed process
by: Debbie

I have been going through my recipes and placing them by category in ring bound folders. I found many recipes that I wanted to try, but now I have food allergies, so it was easy to let go of untried recipes I cannot eat. I, too, collect cooking magazines and have started going through them and taking out recipes that I want to try. It will be a long process, but needed.

by: LJK

I want to declutter my cookbooks and recipes but haven't been able to PRINT those specific pages. Help please. TY

clean purge
by: Kathleen

I had hundreds of pages of recipes on my computer. Never used them. I had separated a few into categories, like gluten free that I knew I would use. I had printed out hundreds more (enough to fill a a copy paper box). I grew tired of the sorting, and as my computer was having issues, decided to delete the whole lot of recipes. I did keep a couple of files that we use for canning and dehydrating. I threw the rest away. Cookbooks are now purged as well. It didn't hurt, but I know a recipe or two disappeared that I will be sorry for one day. However, I am relieved to be through with all of that!

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