You open the refrigerator door and it smells like it needs an autopsy. For weeks, you hold your breath as you open the door. Now you’re ready to do something about it. However, you’re not sure where to start.
Refrigerators can be one of the easier spaces in your home to get organized. If something is stored in the frig, chances are it’s the only place where you can store it (you can’t store eggs in your hallway closet). With a set amount of real estate to work with, you’re more likely to be comfortable with purging and getting rid of things.
So here’s a quick process for getting your refrigerator organized.
Access the Situation
The first step in getting your refrigerator organized is to determine what and how much you have.
Instead of trying to organize row by row or section by section, remove everything from your refrigerator and freezer. This includes things that you know you plan to keep and all things stored in the refrigerator door.
Now that everything has been removed, you should throw out anything that has expired, spoiled, molded, or grown some fingers. You can search StillTasty.com to see how long a particular item stays fresh. It also provides the best way to store food and beverages.
If you’re not sure when you purchased something – and therefore not sure if it’s still tasty – throw it away (better safe than sorry).
Really evaluate whether something you plan to keep you actually plan to use. If you don’t see cooking/eating an item anytime soon, throw it away and save yourself from the potential “mystery smell” later.
Clean, Sanitize, and Deodorize
At this point, you’ve probably drastically reduced how much stuff will be returning to your refrigerator. Before you start restocking the frig, do a thorough cleaning of your refrigerator. I’m a huge fan of the orange-scented Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, but soap and water work just as well. You just won’t be greeted by a wonderful smile of orange happiness. Plus, depending on how long it’s been since you’ve cleaned the refrigerator, there may be some muscle needed to remove those crusty food spills.
Organize the Contents
There are a few things to consider when deciding how and where to place things in the refrigerator:
Create Food Stations
When you create food stations, you store like items together. Whether it’s your fruit, vegetables, condiments, etc., if you store them all together, it is easier for everyone in the household to know where things should be returned after use and where things are found.
Create Meal Centers
When you create meal centers, you “make it easy to build a sandwich by tucking mayonnaise, mustard, cheese slices, and cold cuts…and storing them together. Ditto a ‘morning toast’ grouping of butter, jelly and honey; pull it out to top your toast.”
“A variety of small leftover containers tempt you to eat more than you planned, says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Instead, combine leftover entrees and sides so that each container has one meal's worth.”
Keep it Organized
Now that you have everything organized, how do you keep it that way? If you made changes to how the refrigerator is organized, you’ll have to be focused when putting things back after using. Take the extra 15 seconds to ensure that things are going back to their new home.
Don’t get stuck on creating the perfect solution. You may find that what you have to rearrange things multiple times before your system makes logical sense for you.
Image: The Container Store