How to Organize your Fridge.
Day 2 of 5 days of organizing.

When I was in University a multitude of things were always more interesting than studying for an exam or writing a paper. And fulfilling too! Trimming my toenails, finishing up that jigsaw puzzle I started when I was 9, teaching the dog the important difference between George Michael solo and Wham! And Oh! the joy I could get out of cleaning and organizing the fridge.

It was just like heaven on earth if heaven were filled with  food so far gone it had developed a face.

Welcome to day 2 of the 5 days of organizing! I’m going back to my roots.

Yesterday I brought you all of the excitement of organizing your closet, today we’re tackling the refrigerator.

Unlike the whole closet cleaning fiasco, the refrigerator is kind of fun. For one thing it doesn’t take nearly as long and for another, deciding what to keep and what to throw out is way easier.

Unless you’re like my nephew.  Who has a stomach that can easily digest 4 week old beef stew.  That’s been left out on the counter.   In a testing lab in the Centre for Disease Control.

 

Tuesday

 

I’m pretty sure you know how to clean your fridge.  This post is just giving you the motivation to actually do it.

Unless you have exams this week, in which case your fridge is probably already clean.

1.  Go through the fridge and throw out leftovers that have gone creature-like and expired items.

  • A great site to know whether or not to chuck it is … Still Tasty.  You can search almost ANY food homemade, or store bought and it’ll tell you how long it lasts in the fridge or freezer.
  • In the future, just a Sharpie to write the date of when you opened a can, box or package.  How many recipes call for 1 cup of broth? You stick it in your fridge and then can’t remember when you put it in there.
  • In terms of leftovers, if you can’t easily remember when you had it for dinner, just throw it out.  Even if it’s till good you’ll worry it was bad and you’ll psyche yourself into feeling sick anyway.

2.  Wash it.

  • Remove everything shelf by shelf and wipe it.  Pickle jars, salad dressings … anything that has goo on it.
  • Then remove the shelf everything was on and wash it was warm soapy water.  If the shelf doesn’t remove, just wash it with a warm, soapy cloth in the fridge.  I needed to say that because it’s inevitable that someone will leave a comment saying their shelves aren’t removable.  I know this. Because I’m a blogger.
  • Put everything back on its original shelf. (you’re going to go back and organize later)
  • Don’t forget to wash the inside of the door and the refrigerator seals.
  • If you’re so inclined you can go really nuts and clean all the crevices with toothpicks.  I find it’s fun.  I also find getting the perfect plastic wrap seal is fun.

3.  Organize it.

  • Your door is the warmest place in your fridge so put your salad dressings, BBQ sauces, condiments, water etc. there.  Do not use it for dairy or meat.
  • Check the temperature.  Your fridge should be 37°f / 3°c. (give or take 2 degrees either way is fine)
  • If your fridge didn’t come with a nifty pop dispenser you can buy this one on Amazon.

pop

I’d love to have provided you with a picture of my refrigerator’s before and after but there’s only a before.  You see, I’m getting a new refrigerator soon and as much as I love cleaning a fridge, it’d take a pretty big exam to get me to clean a broken down fridge I’m getting rid of in a week or two.

(one hour later)

I couldn’t stand it.  I cleaned and organized my fridge. Now that I’m a grown up I can’t blame it on exams. So I shall blame it on the cats.
 
Have your own tips? Tricks? Let everyone know.
 

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58 Comments

  1. Lynne says:

    Fortunately or unfortunately I already did this a couple of weeks ago when our power was out for 4 days from the ice storm. Boy some stuff in there really stunk !! So I guess now I have the time to clean out the closet I was procrastinating about – thanks a lot Karen !!!!

  2. dana says:

    Removing the shelves requires me to move an old dry sink that houses pots & pans. Boo hiss. The fridge door doesnt open all the way bc of that so theres dents in the fridge door. Boo hiss hiss. Because of the “polar vortex” & being snowed in the last 2 wks i already have cleaned out closets & the fridge. Nah na na na na na.. lol!

  3. dana says:

    Im checking out Still Tasty now. I have a pkg of chicken & pork chops marked use or freeze by jan 10. Chances are we will eat it depending on the sniff test.

    • Karen says:

      Dana – Better than the sniff test is to touch the meat with your fingers and then smell your fingers. It’s foolproof. For some reason it makes it much easier to smell whether the meat is off or not. ~ karen!

  4. Debbie says:

    Sigh. I’m afraid my fridge is always organized. It had to be with three boys who ate the contents before they could reach a proper chill.

    In our new home (in a new state), the fridge is one of those fancy things that has the same facing as the cabinetry. This means it is a shallow fridge with no room to be disorganized. By the way, what is a leftover? That applies when the kids are all home.

    I cheat and have a second fridge in the basement. It is only a full-size fridge – no freezer at all. (The big freezer is next to it, filled with meat for the carnivores I must feed.) I use the second fridge for the Costco boxes of OJ, almond milk (and soy when oldest son is home), coffee, etc… The few times a year I do big entertaining, that fridge is indispensable.

    So far, I am caught up on organizing. When is the post on organizing my brain? That’s my trouble spot!

  5. Amber says:

    I read this blog. I read the last blog. I’ve decided to spend the evening drinking white wine and watching Jason Stathom punch people.
    I feel satisfied. Thank you and good night.

  6. jainegayer says:

    I was thinking, “How can Karen expect us to clean out our refrigerators if she’s not going to clean hers.”
    Then ( an hour later ) you cleaned yours. Damn!
    I’ll do it next week after I do my closet.

  7. Liesl Joubert says:

    I see a post coming on how to make leftovers last longer… especially for those of us without the nephew’s constitution.

  8. Valerie says:

    If you are able to slide the fridge away from the wall you will probably find dust and debris on the coils at the back that can be vacuumed. There is a little trap like opening at the front and bottom of most fridges. The covering will come off. You will find that you can’t capture the dust in that space by just moving the fridge out as the fridge machinery seems to trap the front dust bunnies in the middle, down to the floor.
    I wash my crisper drawers in the bath tub at the conclusion of a bath.

    • RosieW says:

      Hope you’ll follow Valerie’s recommendation about cleaning the evaporator coil of your fridge.

      I had RATS in my kitchen recently, probably the result of extensive habitat being destroyed nearby for a highway widening. It was horrific. Sealed behind fridge and range where they had gnawed around the gas line, water supply to icemaker. Had neighbor pull out the fridge again when I was still catching rats. They’d gnawed the metallic tape I’d used around water outlet and had gnawed a new hole in the drywall. I took off the rear base covering to the fridge to discover a nest had been constructed inside the bowels of the fridge, using fiberglass pulled from walls. If I’d waited another day to check, I probably would have needed to buy a new fridge. Nesting materials totally blocked the fan blades. The fan is essential to cool that area.

      Know this goes beyond what Karen had in mind for us to do today, but know it’s important.

  9. maaryanne manyamoon says:

    you have a perverted sense of fun…lucky for us…

  10. Call Me Patty says:

    Bedroom closet is cleaned and organized. First thing tomorrow morning I’m tackling the fridge, something I’ve been putting off for a while now. Thanks for the incentive Karen.

    • Karen says:

      No problem. Once this week is over we can all go back to being sloths. I mean, we can spend our time maintaining our organized homes. ~ karen

      • Melissa in North Carolina says:

        Ah, Squirt, I love it. Reminds me of growing up in Michigan. I miss having Squirt. I don’t drink soda anymore, or “pop” as it was referred to at home. Sometimes it’s easier for me to take the fridge shelves and drawers and clean them in the shower. Less mess in the kitchen afterwards.

  11. Pam'a says:

    I have one hint that makes my fridge a tad less maddening. There’s always a bunch of little jars of weirdness (condiments, capers, little holiday mustards and jellies, etc.) that drive me crazy, bonking around, getting knocked over, and hiding behind things when I want them. So, I bought a little plastic basket and shove them all in there.

    THERE.

  12. Katrina says:

    My fridge is already clean.. But I did sort and clean out my spice cabinet today! That is probably only because I was avoiding my closets!

  13. Tigersmom says:

    My house is still decorated for Christmas.

    Anything with a door I can close is losing the battle of being a priority right now.

    • Jodi says:

      @Tigersmom – I so get you! Just pulled the tree down yesterday (14th) and the stuff is still in the spare room awaiting migration to the shed. But I can shut the door to the spare room.

  14. Helana says:

    My two cents? Bins in the fridge (like you did with your freezer) help organize the packages of hotdogs and cheese sticks that seem to migrate into the corners and vanish otherwise. Also, best time to clean the fridge is *before* you go to the warehouse club and come home with a whole shrink wrapped elk (two pack, de-horned).

  15. gogothrift@etsy.com says:

    that sniff test also works with underarms : )

  16. My son once found a jar of caramel sauce that was 3 years old in my fridge. I argued with him that expiration dates are inconsequential until mold was visible in the shape of Jesus’ face. He pried it out of my vice grip…and threw it in the trash.

  17. Ruth says:

    Our (itty-bitty) refrigerator needs a motor, so all I have to clean is our chest freezer, and that’s simple enough…. unplug overnight, take everything out in the morning, wheel it to the back door with spout pointing out, and take the garden hose to it. Wipe down with diluted vinegar, and I’m all done.

    (Since there is no meat in there, I don’t need to do anything fancy)

  18. Ruth says:

    By the way… since you tried everything on yesterday… shouldn’t you taste everything today to figure out if you still want it? 😀

  19. Debbie W. says:

    I was really looking forward to seeing the food with faces that came out of your fridge!! lol sooooooo disappointed!!

  20. Mary Werner says:

    New fridge? Maybe I shouldn’t ask. OK, I won’t ask why.

  21. Bols says:

    Sorry, but no. I am reading the latest Elizabeth George and anyone will agree that the book is the top priority in my life right now!
    Two hundred more pages and I then I can think of other stuff.

  22. Jack says:

    Only one note…..you mentioned to use “warm” water to clean the fridge shelves. Just a warning…..do not take a glass shelf out of the fridge and use “hot” water. Disaster could result.

  23. Tanya says:

    My new fridge was delivered last night, so I am ahead on that one! The closets, however ….

  24. I missed yesterdays post for some reason???? Plus I was pasting styrofoam to these old uninsulated farmhouse walls. But can you believe I did get a chance to wipe out the fridge yesterday morning? I will read the post from yesterday and try to stick with the program.

  25. Donna says:

    So something crawled up my nether regions yesterday, and I totally cleaned and organized the entire downstairs of my house. Ceiling fans, baseboards, and threw away old magazines and misc stuff taking up space. Put husband’s sporting equipment in the garage storage, and now I have so much more room to play!

    Even did the refrigerator.

    Today, I’m going to tackle the upstairs. My trash man is going to hate me.

  26. Diane says:

    Oh…I already threw everything out that we haven’t used in months…or if I opened it and couldn’t figure out what it used to look like when we bought it. I, however, avoided cleaning the shelves, bottles, seal, etc. Now I feel bad and have to spend the afternoon unleashing my guilt by cleaning the fridge. Boo.
    Also, I think supper today will be everything in the freezer that is almost gone…what we like to call ‘freezer day’ around our house. Lol

  27. Deb J says:

    Goodie, goodie! I already cleaned my fridge – just before Christmas. Reeeeaaally needed it! So I’m good for today. Yesterday on the closet challenge – well…. I have been sick and my husband convinced me to go out as it would probably make me feel better. Sure did – got 2 tops, a moto jacket & 3 pairs of shoes! Did not help my closet organization. BTW when I was in university, I used to get hooked on soap operas. I HATE soap operas. And the hub (boyfriend way back then) became a voracious reader of any topic that had absolutely NOTHING to do with his field of study. I got stupid and he learned a whole bunch of stuff. Maybe should have cleaned the fridge:(

  28. Pati Gulat says:

    Just got a BRAND SPANKING NEW state of the art frig and it’s only me and the hubby here at home now (THANK GOD !!! ) so no need to clean out as often or throw away leftovers cos they get eaten the day after they are cooked. Life is Good…. :))))))))

  29. Gail says:

    One resolution I thought I could actually keep. ‘Gail, it’s Saturday, Clean the fridge!’ Once a week! See, I do a lot of cooking and canning and freezing and I obviously don’t want to waste anything! So I throw it in the fridge till I can’t find a new spot, so…..now I actually have room because I am forcing, ugh, myself to do this one thing. I was so bad, a former boyfriend offered and cleaned my fridge for me (rather for himself!). Can totally apprecite this!

  30. Susan Bosscawen says:

    A truly life-changing product that pretty much lives up to its promise….

    After a while you realize that most products don’t live up to their promises, Tide doesn’t get everything out quite like they say & artificial sweeteners don’t really taste like sugar. Last year I was in TJMaxx (in South Carolina) and ran across some plastic containers. As my children are grown, I’d not taken too much notice of the BPA issues with baby bottles, but a discussion at work had enlightened me. These containers are BPA free, but more importantly–they contain silver nano particles. Bacteria evidently doesn’t live so well in silver. They promise to keep food fresh 2 & 3 times longer than conventional means. THEY DO! I bought all TJMaxx had (which wasn’t much) and more online at Neatly Smart. I’ve now tossed all of my cheap grocery store plastic containers and have used these exclusively for over a year. Mushrooms, sliced cucumbers, cheeses, lettuces, herbs—everything lasts 2-3 weeks or more. I sliced a cucumber, stored it in one of these and 5 or 6 days later gave some to my husband alongside a freshly sliced cucumber and he couldn’t tell which was the oldest. I lined the largest container with paper towel and use it as a produce drawer. Lettuce from my garden has lasted 7 weeks…but I expect that’s because there was no lost time in transit as there would be on store purchased produce.

    The name of these containers is Kinetic. They’re back at TJMaxx and available online on Amazon and at Neatly Smart here: http://www.neatlysmart.com/catalog/item.aspx?itemid=110870&catid=1203

    They have different products. The Glasslock don’t have the silver nano particles. Look for the Go Green Premium, Go Green Smartwist, and Tritan series….they must say silver nano particles.

    The only problem I’ve encountered has been with 2 lids. The largest cracked along the flap and the other doesn’t want to snap shut on one flap. I’ve contacted the company and they’re replacing the lids for free, but for shipping.

  31. Jake says:

    All you organized and fridge c leaned people are making me sick. That will be my excuse for not having done much of anything for two days. I was not born to be a domestic diva, nor will I ever be one so I will cheer from the sidelines. Go cleaners Go. Go people Go.

  32. olequiltbat says:

    We have 2 fridges with freezers at our place. One is in the kitchen…and the other is in the laundry room. When they were delivered (new from Sears) the men said they’d never delivered two fridges to one house at the same time….ever. Trust me….they both come in handy….and they’re always both filled….and there’s just the two of us at home right now… However, when the kids do visit every week…there’s always food in both fridges to feed everyone. And it’s always handy to have room to be able to purchase those “on sale” items. I went to the Dollar store a week ago and got all kinds of med. size white plastic containers to store all my fridge things in to keep everything tidy.
    Happy fridge cleaning everyone.
    Hugs
    Sandy

  33. Tawnya says:

    Perfect timing. We got our fridge about a month ago so it’s due for its first good cleaning. I intend to keep this one spiffy clean! Much easier now with the fridge on top and freezer drawer on bottom. With its blazing white lights everywhere in the fridge and everything at eye level I can actually see things. My fridge before always had things lurking at the back and corners out of sight. I learned this the three times we had to clear it out ahead of the new fridge’s delivery. (Yes, three times – watch for damage when your new one shows up Karen!)

  34. Debbie says:

    I thought I was ahead of the game having last week cleaned the closet. Well, now its the fridge and I have two. I don’t want to open the one in the garage. I am guilty of the chicken stock in the fridge and not remembering when the heck it went in. Something like was it summer or fall when it went in? Oh well its bad either way.

    My real problem is how to organize the food in the fridge. It always seems to make a bigger mess. Buy containers and then in short order they don’t fit what the size or item is. This has been going on since my first fridge in my first home. Look forward to seeing your ideas.

  35. Leslie says:

    Oh yeah! I have a “garbage night” ritual where I drag the (probably already very full) kitchen garbage over to the fridge and toss in everything I “forgot” to eat. Like that big bag of Organic Mixed Baby Kale I buy every time I go to Costco but never even open. The night before our once-a-month curbside recycling, I also do this for things in glass and plastic containers.

    AND … no cans or bottles of beverages in this household. Unless they contain alcohol. This was a major life decision, but a major life improvement. Woot! Woot!

  36. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Well..this needs done so thanks for the motivation!

  37. Natalie says:

    I just want to thank you for this series. I haven’t taken any action yet, but it’s making me really think about it. 🙂 Great tips!

  38. Arlene says:

    Ugh. I just found a whole lot of “blue” cheese. Does your nephew need any? Thanks for the kickstart.

  39. Barbie says:

    So….YOur finally getting a new fridge! With your new kitchen! I can’t WAIT to see it all….how far along are you in the process now? Nearing the end yet?

  40. Kristin says:

    I am ALWAYS cleaning my damn fridge. I mean, probably once every three months. And not because I’m super organized and tidy–no no no. Because the fridge is DISGUSTING about six weeks after I clean it top to bottom. Why is that? Does my refrigerator attract more spills and mayhem than most? Is it the three children in the house? Is it the fact that I cook a lot and can’t always accurately guess the right amount to cook on a given night (hence leftovers)? Is it that I have too many cooking projects like cheese making and sourdough bread? I know how to clean the fridge, but how on earth do I keep it clean thereafter? Help?

  41. viveka says:

    This I’m a world champion … as a chef – how to store food items!!!!! Hard long and costly training behind. – Have done a post about … some guide lines. http://wp.me/p293Pw-1ib

  42. Laurinda says:

    I think Amber (comment #5) & I are kindred spirits! LOL! Except I like a nice, sweet red Moscato…

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