Paper Pile Purge Series – Organizing Your Cookbooks

Cookbooks and recipes have the tendency to get out of control for a lot of people. There are several different ways to organize cookbooks. Let me give a little back story on this project in my house. For over a year, I have been trying to get my pantry the way I want it and for some reason, my vision just never came to be. I decided to give it one more overhaul and was struggling on where to start. I stared at all of the cans and boxes, paper towel rolls and spices and just felt overwhelmed. Then one day, I had 3 people inspire me to take the plunge.

I was talking to my sister, telling her how I hated the pantry and she asked “What bothers you most about it?” My mind gravitated towards the cluttered shelf with the cookbooks that taunted me at every meal…….”cook something out of me!” they would say. And I would run from the pantry and put chicken nuggets in the microwave. I am intimidated by cooking…I love the idea and I have diligently gathered recipes for years, but have never learned to cook the way I want. So that realization was key….the cookbooks were how I needed to start to get the whole pantry started. Here is my cookbook shelf before:


Later that night I was talking with my 2 best friends and telling them about the Cookbook Project as I was now calling it. My plan was to get rid of a lot of cookbooks by scanning the recipes I wanted into my computer and giving the cookbooks away. Scanning takes a long time though, so I was venting about it. Kristi said “why don’t you take pictures of the recipes with your ipad?” Um, genius! So much faster.

I still had some cookbooks I wanted to keep but I also mentioned I don’t like how they clutter up the pantry. Nichole said “put them somewhere else”. I have to admit, I had NEVER thought of putting them somewhere besides the kitchen. But after she said that, I immediately made space for them in the den. We have a nice bookshelf that needed a few more books and they are still accessible and look great. Now they can no longer taunt me.

So after a few days, I have photographed, I have donated and I have relocated. I now have to organize the recipes on my computer, but that is a project for another day….

imageI have successfully gotten rid of over half of my cookbooks and I feel so much better! But this way is not for everyone, so here is a list of different ways to organize your cookbooks and recipes:

1) If you love having a lot of cookbooks and can’t bear to part with them, keep them arranged as nicely as possible. Some ideas might be to organize them by size, color, or even by style of food so it easy to locate the one you are looking for. If you have food magazines you like to keep, you can organize them in boxes so that you can still see the titles. Check out Barefoot in the Kitchen’s post on cookbook organization. There are some great ideas!

cookbooks 003

2) If you want to mark specific recipes in your cookbooks, there are several ways to do that:

-Attach a list to the inside cover of each book listing the recipes and page #s you like the best.

-Use small post its or sticky tabs to mark the recipes, such as this one seen on Foodie and the Family.

cookbook POst its

-Keep a file on your computer that lists the cookbooks and your favorite recipes from each.

3) You can treat your cookbooks as art and really make them into a display. This way they are both functional and visually pleasing. They also allow you to use vertical storage space, which is a huge plus for me! Check out this display from de Jong Dreamhouse.

cookbook shelves


4) You can goo all digital and use recipe websites, such as AllRecipes, where you can save your favorites and even categorize them. My older sister swears by this website and every time she makes something tasty that I love, she points me to AllRecipes. The other day, my younger sister sent me a recipe from there too, so our family definitely loves the digital cookbook style!

5) You can stop using cookbooks and just make a large binder filled with your favorite recipes from books, magazines or online. This is what I eventually plan to do with all of my recipes. Here are a few examples. They are functional, beautiful and completely customizable.

Do you have other ways to organize recipes? Please share with us!


7 thoughts on “Paper Pile Purge Series – Organizing Your Cookbooks

  1. I am always looking for ways to declutter and this was a thought provoking post. Do I need my cookbooks? Do I use them? When was the last time I looked at any. My cookbooks are in my tiny study and I am going to set them free to go to someone who will appreciate them and give my shelves more room for books I love. Off to the thrift shop with them!

    • I always thought I loved my cookbooks, but it turns out I kind of resented them. They were making me feel bad about using them and like you said, it’s so great to give them to people who appreciate them. It was so nice because I was able to give them to 4 different friends who seemed really excited about them. Now I know they will be used and loved and I have more space in my house and my mind!

  2. Pingback: Cookbook Organization is up on the new site! | Neaten Your Nest

  3. these are very nice ideas Erin! & I like that you will use a big binder to store them and I agree they are beautiful and functional :-)
    I only have 6 cookbooks stored in a shelf next to our stove so they aren’t taking too much space now but I am using Post-its to mark the ones I really want to try! :-)

    • Thanks! I really love the idea of cookbooks, I just don’t use them! I like the idea of using post its for marking key recipes and I’ll probably do that for the few cookbooks I held on to. Thanks!

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