How I Minimized My Cookbook Collection

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Confession: I love cookbooks much more than I love cooking. This could be due to the fact that my regular diners are 6-year-olds who consider boxed mac-and-cheese to be haute cuisine, but I think a large part of my cookbook obsession is aesthetic.

I’m a sucker for those glossy pages of professionally-photographed food, prepared by people with actual degrees in cooking. In the culinary degree world, I’m like a doctoral student stuck in the dissertation defense stage. Every night at 6pm, I face my thesis examination board–a short-statured, hard-to-please group who’s still undecided about whether or not I meet their high culinary criteria.

Thus, cookbooks indulge my idealized vision of what cooking at my house could look like, as opposed to my day-to-day “No thank you for these red peppers” reality. (Actual quote from last night’s dinner… but hey, at least she used polite manners. We’re getting somewhere!)

Yes, indeed, cookbooks are wonderful to look at, but not necessarily wonderful–or even that useful–to have around my house.

I recently tried out the Marie Kondo decluttering method with my book collection, including all my cookbooks. (If you’re not familiar with her method, here it is in a nutshell: gather all like items into a pile. Then pick up each item and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If it doesn’t, adios sucker.) I whittled my book collection down to about 12 books that day. You can read all about that process here.

My wee little book collection… the public library is my clutter-free friend! 

However, some of my cookbooks gave me pause… I had some workhorses that made the 12-book cut, but I struggled with those that contained just a few favorite recipes. I knew I didn’t need to keep the whole cookbook, but how to save those few faves?

These babies have 1-2 favorites each… I can’t totally let them go! 

The solution is found in three simple steps:

1: Photocopier

2: Sheet protectors

3: Binder
I photocopied the favorites from each book, slipped each inside a plastic sheet protector, and added them to an already-existing 3-ring binder we keep for loose recipes. This binder is great because it  easily contains and organizes all those recipes we print off the Internet or rip out of magazines. More often than not, this binder is the cookbook we use at our house. It’s divided into sections (starters and sides, soups and salads, etc.) using sticky tabs.

Ah, beautiful cooking binder… just like Leo said to Kate, I’ll never let you go. Not even if we’re freezing to death in the middle of the Atlantic. Okay, well, maybe then…

I love that I can easily modify this cookbook to reflect our family’s eating habits. Found a new recipe we like? Slip it in a sheet protector and add it in. Have a dinner disaster? Toss that recipe in the recycling so we don’t even think about making it again.

Sure, I could do this same thing using an iPad or file on my computer. But I like having a physical cookbook in the kitchen and I just get nervous when technology and food get too close to each other. (An added bonus of the sheet protectors is that they quite literally protect your recipe from drips and splatters!)

Sheet protectors allow a magazine recipe and photocopied cookbook recipe to live side-by-side in organized, splatter-free bliss…

After I’d photocopied my favorites, I donated those four cookbooks with joy (thank you, Marie Kondo), knowing I’d extracted their culinary gems.

Will I still wander into the cookbook section of my local bookstore to drool over the mouthwatering photographs? You bet. But now I know that I don’t need to buy that book. I have a binder full of favorites and the Internet’s wealth of delicious recipes is only a finger tap away.

And, really, let’s be honest… we’re having mac-and-cheese for dinner tonight.

Rose Lounsbury is the Dayton, Ohio area’s up-and-coming professional organizer. She also makes a mean mac-and-cheese, which you are welcome to try if you stop by her house around 6pm any weekday evening. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, please email her at Rose @ OrganizeWithLess.com or call her at 937-626-9030.

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2 Responses

  1. Great article! I’ve purged my cookbooks twice in recent months, although I’m closer to 30 left than your handful. But I have given away about 75 cookbooks and cake decorating books which is a huge win! You’ve inspired me to give it another go-round to see if I can cut it down even more. Thank you!

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