Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy New Year!

It's been awhile since I've written, but I have some fun organizing treats in store for 2015 and can't wait to share them with you! I spent some time over the holidays getting really real (look away Grammar teachers) with my recipes, kitchen tools, clothes, etc. First topic on the chopping block organizing checklist: my recipe and cookbook collection.

But case you missed it, SHMorganizing was in the news! Special thanks to Celebrate Magazine for asking me to assist with their "Refresh Your Home: Get Organized" piece. To read the full article, be sure to pick up their Jan/Feb issue on newsstands now.

As I mentioned in Celebrate's article, magazines and cookbooks are famous for being massively accumulated then forgotten about. And when it comes to meal planning, if you don't have your game face on then your time, energy, and resources pay the price.

We've been in a food rut lately and I believe that's because our system wasn't working. Similar to our manuals, we had everything in the same place but there was no functionality. The biggest issue was our loose recipes (e.g. index cards, online recipe print-outs, newspaper cut-outs, etc.)...yes they were all in one folder, but one dare not open it.

BEFORE (click on images to enlarge)

I put my SHMorganizing hat on and got to work!

I pulled all of the cookbooks out and found a couple to donate. I reviewed all of the loose recipes and tossed at least two dozen. Remember: get real with yourself. I love a great meal, but cooking isn't one of my passions. So other than several "fancy" recipes I use for holidays and celebrations, why was I hanging onto meals that kept me at the stove longer than at the dinner table with the people I love?! Finally, I tore out all of the recipes and kitchen tips I had flagged in magazines and recycled what was left.

When the time came to put everything back together, I went with the Five Star Flex 1" Hybrid NoteBinder. The pages can be tucked under and the special rings won't break or misalign. Not fancy, but oh so easy to use!

I purchased some clear sheet protectors and loaded each sleeve with two recipes (front and back), then categorized them by appetizers, soups & chili, salads & sides, and so forth. If the recipe was an odd size - an index card, for example - I taped it to a letter-size piece of paper so it would stay in place. Traditional tab dividers don't stick out far enough when you use sheet protectors, so I used Post-it Writable Tabs and labeled accordingly.

Finally - my favorite part - I put a velcro binder pocket in the front of the binder for recipes I want to try soon or recipes we haven't made in awhile. So when it's the eleventh hour and I need a meal, I know right where to go!

If your meal planning could use some similar attention, keep these points in mind:
* Realistically think about your cooking abilities, likes & dislikes, time, ingredient budget, etc.
* Respect the space you have and acknowledge limits. Overcrowded cookbook shelf? Time to purge. Plus you're more likely to use and maintain a tidy space.
* Don't let such things make you feel guilty. Tried enough recipes in a cookbook to know it's not a good match? Donate that sucker and give it new life! As the saying goes: keep the best, get rid of the rest.
* Look through and edit your recipes a couple times per year so your collection stays manageable.
* Use what you love. Prefer a fancier recipe binder? Need more categories? Etc. etc. etc. Use supplies you love so you'll love to use your supplies.
* Ready to go paperless? Consider a personalized & digital cookbook app like Paprika or My Recipe Book.

'Til next time,

Birmingham-based professional organizer, Stacey McElrath, helps clients throughout Alabama and the southeast clear clutter and establish customized systems to maintain order in their homes or offices. Contact SHMorganizing today for more information: