Spring Cleaning Task #1: Cleaning and Organizing the Refrigerator

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I'm going to level with you here -- my refrigerator was a hot mess. It wasn't really dirty (though there were definitely a few Kool-Aid spills), but everything was just kind of thrown in there willy-nilly, and it wasn't uncommon to open the door and have something (usually yogurt or sour cream, which would then proceed to spill all over the floor) topple out. I finally just looked at the insanity it had become and said ENOUGH. It was time to do something about it. So I set out to tackle the problem.

I decided to start by taking a page out of Jen's book and making a diagram of where I wanted things to go.

  • Butter  - I try to avoid keeping dairy on the door, because of the temperature fluctuations. I think it stays colder and fresher on the shelf. Butter, on the other hand, is pretty hardy, so I don't mind keeping it in the door.
  • Dressings, dips, and sauces - We have both store-bought and homemade dressings, and they go nicely here. I also keep dips (like sour cream and hummus) here. This is also where I'll store any sauces that need refrigeration, like pasta sauce that has been opened.
  • Savory condiments - The left side of the middle shelf (you can't tell with the guard up, but the middle shelf is a split-level) is for things like mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, etc.
  • Sweet condiments - The right side of the middle shelf is for maple syrup, jams and jellies, homemade chocolate syrup, coffee creamer and the like.
  • Juice, non-dairy milk, and tall bottles - I'm a bit of a Juicy Juice addict (my favorites are cherry and mango), so that goes here. This is also where I'll store rice, almond, and coconut milk when I have them. Tom's pretty much kicked his Pepsi habit, but on the occasion when he does get a 2-liter, it'll go here.
Main Fridge
  • Fresh produce - One of the problems we have always had with our fridge being so messy is that we tend to just toss things in, often on the top shelf. No wonder the yogurt's always falling on the floor! By restricting the top shelf only to produce, we'll be able to maintain a more orderly fridge.
  • Milk/Kool-Aid/pitchers - Pretty self-explanatory. We currently only have one pitcher, which was meant for my infused water, but when Tom stopped drinking Pepsi, he switched to pretty much only drinking Kool-Aid and took over my pitcher. Whenever we get another one, my infused water will go here as well.
  • Yogurt and snacks - I go through phases where I eat SO much Greek yogurt. At one point, I literally had almost two dozen containers at once comprised of six different brands. They were always spilling out. By giving them a spot (and corralling them!), it makes things a lot easier. Other little snack-y type things (string cheese, cheese cubes, etc.) go here too.
  • Deli meat/cheese/quick lunch - Having sandwich fixin's all in one spot will save me time while making lunch (I usually take oatmeal, but sometimes I want a sandwich). Plus it makes it easier for Tom to make a quick lunch, since his cooking skills are kind of limited. Deli meats, sliced cheese, hot dogs, etc. go here.
  • Eggs - Well, they're eggs, and they need to go somewhere. They'd fit perfectly right there.
  • Leftovers - Neither of us really like most leftovers, but there are definitely some things we'll eat again (pizza and chicken and noodles being two of the most notable). Unfortunately, a lot of times the leftovers get lost in the shuffle, and by the time we find them, we kind of wish we hadn't. Giving them a dedicated spot means we always know where to put them and where to find them.
  • Meat - Our favorite raw meats (like ground turkey and bacon) are all that gets to go in this drawer.
  • Cans - If we have any cans of anything, they can go here. Currently, there are a few cans of biscuits in there (and also a couple of bags of shredded cheese, which I may eventually move to a glass jar. I'm still making up my mind).
So now that I shared the plan, it's time to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

To be fair, I did warn you.
The first step, of course, was to get rid of anything the was past its prime. I was shocked by how much I got rid of. The amount of food we ended up wasting was truly shameful, and I'm going to be paying a lot more attention to making sure that I don't have to do such an extreme fridge purge ever again.

Then, it was time for the actual cleaning. For some reason, I didn't bother taking pictures of all the in-between (probably because I was focusing on organization), but I probably should have. Eh bien. I used a baking soda solution to clean the fridge, shelves, and drawers, and it worked really well; it's effective AND free of chemicals! Because of where the fridge is, getting the left drawer out proved to be quite the challenge. I ended up having to open the pantry door, open the fridge door into the pantry as much as possible, and jimmy the drawer out while repeating "please don't break" to it as I worked.

When the cleaning was finished, I began organizing. It went rather well, if I do say so myself.

The black wire baskets came from Dollar Tree, and the green plastic bins came from the Target Dollar Spot (and they also come in other colors!). So yeah, this was a $4 fridge organization makeover. Not too shabby! I do intend to start storing the produce in my glass storage, but I just haven't gotten around to chopping up the romaine yet. I like using containers to corral the mess -- it seems much more orderly to me.

I'm really pleased with the results, and it's gotten me pumped to tackle even more organizational tasks around the house! Spring cleaning, here I come!

How do you curb chaos in your refrigerator?

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  1. We have a side-by-side fridge/freezer, so sometimes food in the fridge gets pushed to the way back of a shelved and gets lost. I've yet to come up with a good way to organize to stop that from happening.
    Also - Are your bottom drawers the kind that have the adjustable settings for moisture for fruits or veggies? If so, it might be more beneficial to actually store your fruit and veggies in them. They tend to last longer. Just a suggestion!
    The fridge looks great!

    1. Nope, unfortunately they're just plain old drawers. There's nothing fancy about any of the appliances in this place (our oven looks older than me, and both the washer and the dryer have been falling apart since before we moved in -- we're trying to negotiate some new ones into our renewal). I used to keep the produce down there, but I was always forgetting about it (I'd love to have clear drawers so I could see into it), and it would go bad.

    2. That stinks about the drawers! Ours are the clear kind, too, which is fabulous. In our old place I used to put stuff in the drawers and forget it. I know how it feels to have old and crappy appliances!

  2. Im ur new follower from the blog hop :)

  3. i can't believe i never thought of using baskets inside the fridge to keep like items together. this is amazing! thanks for sharing this.

    1. You're welcome! It just seemed like a good idea.

  4. Love the after... my fridge could use a good scrubbing!

  5. Whew, you had a lot of eggs before!!! It looks lovely now!

    1. Yeah, I did. And they expired in December *hangs head in shame*

  6. Thanks for sharing your success. Cleaning out the fridge can be a daunting task, but you had a plan in place, and the results are phenomenal. Hope that it stays that way! Thanks again.

  7. Definitely inspirational! I should try this soon...

    1. Thanks! I definitely felt a lot better afterward.



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