Every time my husband Mike puts a cooking magazine into the recycling bin, I quietly pull it out and put it into my ‘to process’ pile. After all, we didn’t get the full value out of it, we didn’t make all the recipes, maybe I wanted to save a recipe to do later. Then I would carefully go through it, tear out the recipes I wanted to try ‘someday’ and put them in a binder. And there the binder would sit, for someday. Someday, when we are our ideal weight, we’ll indulge in making that decadent chocolate cake. We’ve collected cookbooks for twenty years, and when I looked at the collection of books and binders, it was overwhelming. I had to remember where my favorite recipes were, and I would have been upset if we’d had a fire. I would have been upset if Mike wanted to get rid of our cookbooks and those binders.

Reality check. I had to really look, what would I really lose if we had that cleansing fireball hit our incompletion ridden house? It turns out that all I wanted was 111 recipes from that huge collection. I counted, as I scanned them onto my laptop.

It turns out that all I wanted was to have my favorite recipe experiences from the twenty years that Mike and I have been together, the fifteen years of potluck dinner game nights, and to pass on my kids their favorite recipes so they can make them when they want to. I have an attachment to the Eggplant Gratin that we served to Robin who hated eggplant, to the samosas and butter chicken recipe we served to our picky eater kids more than 20 times before they decided it was the best thing ever, to my toffee popcorn crunch recipe that I give out every Christmas.

I’ve often spent more than ten minutes looking for a favorite recipe. I’ve had to dig more than once for the recipe, when the kids want to make a favorite family recipe. Now I just have a reference folder with my favorites, and I’ve given Mike’s cookbook collection back to him, to keep or purge as he wishes. More often than not we try new recipes from the internet that have 5 forks ratings, rather than from twenty year old cookbooks anyway. I can actually see that now, rather than a bookshelf and lifetimes worth of someday-we’ll-try-this-maybe.

This made room for me to consolidate my Spanish library to my favorite room in the house where I hold private Spanish lessons for special people who guinea-pig the latest version of my language learning games. It makes my heart smile to see them all in one place. I don’t have to go find it in the basement or my bedroom in the middle of a lesson. And now that they are all together, I can see that I don’t need to keep them all. My three year research project of what vocabulary you would need to read books that are fun can get complete. I can keep what brings me joy, and release the rest.

I’m still trudging through my paper monster, at the rate of about 3 inches a day on my work breaks. I’ll be seeing my dear friend Steve for the first time in two years for lunch and a catch-up, he saw my paper monster post and made time to reach out to say hello. You’re right Steve, my desk very much resembled the desk you had in Mackenzie town all those years ago!

Anyone else out there have a secret paper monster they want to battle with me? It makes a difference to fight the good fight together!

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