Space Management Survival Guide: Conquering Photograph and Recipe Clutter

by Michael Allen

Once upon a time there were three frogs sitting on a log in the middle of a pond. One frog made a decision to jump off of the log into the pond. How many frogs were left on the log?

Answer: three. The frog had only "made a decision" to jump into the pond. He did not act on the decision.

Becoming organized is a lot like the story of the three frogs. We can decide to get organized quite often and yet never take action. This is especially true of paper clutter in the home. How many times have you said, "When I get some time I am going to organize my photographs (recipes, etc)"? This article will focus on conquering photograph and Recipe clutter in the home.

One of the most common complaints I hear is that people are frustrated with having too many photographs in too many different places. They tell me that once the film is developed, the prints are just left in the processing envelope and are put into a box or shoved into a drawer and quickly forgotten. The easiest way to manage this clutter problem is to take time to put all of your photographs into an acid-free archival binder - you don't want to skimp on this, but shop around, bargains can be found.

After a roll of film has been developed, I encourage my clients to immediately put them into albums and label the photographs with name, date, location, and any special details that are meaningful. I don't care how well you know the people in the photo, in a few years, you may not remember the details that make the picture special.

I recommend doing scrapbooks in small doses so it doesn't become overwhelming, but if you don't want to devote one day every few months or some other big block of time for scrapbooks, then at least label your photographs on the back with details when they are first processed and your memory is fresh.

My wife has a similar scrapbook system for her recipes. Her recipes used to be tucked away in drawers, stuck to the refrigerator, on the coffee table, etc. Now she uses 8 1/2 x 11 plastic sheets and puts recipes which she cuts out of newspapers and magazines into a binder. She also attaches recipe cards to larger sheets of paper for easy access. The plastic sheets keep the recipe clean and the binder lays flat (unlike most recipe books I've seen).

The binder is indexed according to type of food (main dishes, desserts, salads) and if my wife decides she doesn't like one of the recipes, she just replaces it quickly and easily. This is much cheaper than buying cookbooks (that you only use a few recipes out of anyway) and is a great place to store recipes you collect from the Dollar Stretcher! Get those recipes off the coffee table!

In fact, I got my wife started with this scrapbook by giving it to her as a gift. About two months before her birthday, I wrote a form letter to about 20 of her family and friends explaining that I was putting together a recipe scrapbook and would they please contribute 3-5 of their favorite recipes on recipe cards (included). I had them send them to my office so my wife wouldn't open them.

I received about 100 recipes and bought binders, plastic sheets, and rubber cement and put together an organized birthday scrapbook. She loves it! Some friends and family wrote personal messages with their recipes and that makes this one-of-a-kind recipe book all the more special. Total cost: about $45, but you can do it on a much smaller scale and choose lower quality paper if you like.

With the holiday season upon us, this may be a gift idea worth trying. It is organized, useful, and original. Convert someone else to becoming organized and conquering their recipe clutter! The adaptations of this gift are endless. Maybe you could combine photographs, pictures, and recipes...maybe you could do a recipe book highlighting holiday foods...maybe you could use this as a wedding about a "going off to college" gift...maybe...

Good luck!

Michael Allen is a part-time planning consultant and professional organizer in Denver, Colorado. He offers workshops and organization services to homes and businesses to help people get, and stay organized and maximize their personal satisfaction and professional productivity. For more information, contact him at

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