The Ultimate Guide to Fridge Organization: 6 Painless Steps
If you recently opened up your fridge to grab a snack and felt an overwhelming sense of dread, take it as your sign to plan a full-scale refrigerator reorg. But don’t let the concept send you into a downward spiral. Take it from us: Refreshing the fridge can be therapeutic and even fun. And with the right products and tips from the team at W&P, a good old-fashioned fridge overhaul is actually quite easy to accomplish.
Does a Neat Fridge Really Matter?
Cleaning and organizing your fridge can bring some much-needed benefits, from helping you eat healthier to keeping your fridge working at its best. That’s why you shouldn’t keep sending it to the “I’ll get to it eventually” list. Here’s why it’s so important to keep your fridge neat and orderly.
- A well-organized fridge keeps fruit and veggies fresher for longer. Let’s face it: we’ve all accidentally let back-of-the-fridge produce and leftovers sit on the shelf for way too long, only to grow a not-so-appetizing layer of mold. A neat, tidy refrigerator keeps everything visible so you never forget about it.
- A clean fridge keeps your family healthy. Not only does a clean fridge encourage you to eat healthier by keeping fresh foods in the meal plan for longer, but it also prevents harmful bacteria and dangerous mold from contaminating your food. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting can keep dangerous salmonella, listeria and E. coli out of your home.
- A well-organized fridge gives you more visibility into food levels. Using transparent refrigerator organizer bins, lazy Susans and other organization essentials allows you to see how much food you have left. This way, you’ll never run out of the stuff you need to eat healthy.
- A clean fridge keeps the fridge working properly. Clogged vents, dirty door seals and dirty components can cause your fridge to work under extra pressure, leading to inefficiencies or damaged components. Cleaning helps ensure that every part works as it should.
Before You Begin: Crank the Tunes
Step one of reorg day? Don’t beat yourself up over the current state of affairs! Life gets busy and many of us don’t put food management and organization at the top of the to-do list. It’s totally understandable. But taking some time to do an initial cleanout and setting up an easy-to-sustain system is critical to ensuring that your fridge stays in pristine shape for the long-term.
Now that you’ve given yourself some love and understanding, it’s time to settle into a deep cleaning mindset. Have you ever noticed that you tend to clean better and for longer when you’ve got a good playlist going in the background? There’s a reason for that! Research shows that listening to music while you do chores releases dopamine and can actually cut cleaning time in half. So go ahead and crank up Whitney Houston or heavy metal!
Step 1: Get Rid of Old or Expired Food
The first step in any good cleaning session is to start with a blank slate. Empty everything from the fridge. And we mean everything! Remove all food, shelves, bins, drawers and anything else that is removable. Lay all food items on the counter or island to determine what, if anything, you need to throw away. Place all shelves, drawers and reusable containers in a pile by the sink for a good soaking and scrubbing.
You don’t want to ruin any perfectly good food in the process of your big fridge cleanout. To ensure that nothing spoils as you’re cleaning, we recommend moving quickly or, if you want to take your time, using a cooler to store food while you get the job done.
Step 2: Deep Clean the Fridge
Now’s the time to tackle any gross spills or crumbs that have been hanging out in the fridge for way too long. Using warm water and dish soap, thoroughly scrub all drawers, shelves, racks, reusable kitchen storage containers and anything else that is removable. Allow them to fully dry while you clean the interior of the fridge.
Use antibacterial soap and a damp cloth or a mix of water and baking soda to wipe down the interior walls and shelves. Make sure to pay close attention to the nooks and crannies of the fridge, as these are the places where tiny crumbs and liquids tend to gather and go unnoticed. Using a wet paper towel folded into a square, wipe out cracks, door gaskets, corners and the mechanical components on the wall.
Don’t forget the exterior! Remove everything from the front of the fridge and wipe it down with all-purpose cleaner or stainless-steel cleaner.
Step 3: Strategize Where You’ll Put Everything
If you consider yourself an organizational wizard, you’re going to really enjoy this step. Take a few minutes to sketch out where everything will go. (We won’t judge if you want to break out some graph paper and a ruler.) Here are a few tips for planning how to restock the fridge.
- Plan to place fresh fruit in the front or wherever is the easiest to access. The last thing you’d want is for food to go bad because you couldn’t see it and forgot about it. Keep fresh fruits, veggies, deli meats, dairy and leftovers closer to the front of the fridge. We recommend investing in reusable food storage bags and transparent containers for your fresh foods to help keep them fresher for longer and to help you easily identify how much is left.
- Keep shelf-stable foods or foods you don’t use as often in the back of the fridge. Ideally, everything in your fridge should be visible with a quick glance, but you need to prioritize what should go towards the back. Keep jarred foods, salad dressings, condiments and other more shelf-stable food items closer to the back or in out-of-the-way side compartments.
- Adjust shelves to the right height. This is also the part of the cleanout process where you need to think about the height of the most common items in your fridge. If you have gallons of milk, two-liter bottles of soda, white wine or other tall items, you’ll want to make sure you have at least one shelf that’s tall enough to accommodate them. Luckily, most fridge shelves are easily adjustable so you can create a custom configuration that suits your groceries.
- Place meat, cheese and items that can leak in lower drawers. Many modern fridges feature pull-out drawers near the bottom of the fridge that are set to lower temperatures to keep cheese and deli meats fresher for longer. You can also use this drawer to accommodate platters, dips or anything that may drip. Storing drip-prone items towards the top of the fridge puts the food below them at risk of contamination and mess, so always keep them near the bottom.
- Use crisper drawers for fresh veggies. Most refrigerators have purpose-built drawers designed to keep fruits and veggies fresh. Crisper drawers are typically set to a lower temperature and are designed to keep out moisture, ensuring that your greens, veggies and fruits stay crisp. Note that many drawers have temperature and humidity controls so you can create custom zones. Set the drawer where you plan to store leafy greens to a lower humidity to keep them crisp.
- Take advantage of door compartments for beverages. Many fridges also have door compartments that are set a few degrees colder to accommodate dairy or beverages. Use these to store soda, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese or anything you want to keep extra-chilled.
Step 4: Place Food in Containers and Reusable Bags
Food already comes in containers for storage, so you’re probably wondering why this step is necessary. The right heavy-duty fridge storage containers can help keep your fridge clean, keep food fresh and provide extra visibility so you know where everything stands. The reality is that food can get messy, and it’s much easier to rinse out a few small storage containers or reusable bags on a weekly basis than it is to remove all shelves and drawers to address messes.
Food containers and other storage solutions will also help make food more accessible. For example, you may want to consider placing all sauces, dressings, dips and condiments on a lazy Susan so you can access everything without removing all the jars and bottles towards the front of the fridge. Place pre-cut fruits and veggies in clear containers (preferably with a built-in draining system) in your fruit and veggie drawers so you can easily access them and assess their freshness with a quick glance.
Incorporating smaller containers and reusable options will also give your fridge a green advantage. Using reusable food storage bags and BPA-free plastic storage containers can help you make your grocery haul more eco-friendly.
Step 5: Organize Beverages
Just as there are purpose-built storage solutions for fruit, veggies and condiments, there are also options that make your beverage section rival Kylie Jenner’s ultra-orderly office fridge. These also make spills easier to clean up and allow you to easily access the exact drink you want without disturbing everything around it.
The key to keeping beverages tidy in the fridge is to remove them from the box and place them neatly on a shelf or in a container. For soda cans, use a can holder that pushes the newest items to the back of the pile so cans don’t get old or forgotten. For bottled water or wine, use wider beverage containers or stackable trays that maximize space.
Step 6: Add Your Finishing Touches
Once you’ve put everything back in its right place, it’s time to add a few finishing touches that make your fridge *chef’s kiss*. These are the small but impactful tasks that will transform a messy fridge into a professionally organized food storage system that looks like a fancy grocery store.
- Turn all packaged goods the same way so the labels are all facing the same direction. We don’t know why, but this just really adds that extra pop of orderliness to any fridge.
- Use clear egg cartons so you can see how many eggs you have left. Not only is this practical, it’s also attractive! Who wants an ugly Styrofoam or cardboard box in their fridge?
- Place colorful fresh fruits and veggies front and center. Without the awkward plastic containers or produce bags, your produce becomes a work of art. Place them prominently in the fridge so they add a colorful, attractive aesthetic that makes you happy every time you open it.
- Use stand-up reusable bags to stash leftovers, pre-cut fruit and more. Stack them standing up in the side compartments to make more use out of these lesser-used shelves.
- Get crafty with the label maker. If you really want to take your kitchen organization skills up a few notches, you’re going to want to break out the label maker and make stickers for your containers so you know what goes where and when things expire.
Maintaining a Clean Fridge
As you can see, our strategy isn’t filled with a bunch of quick fixes. Instead, we strive to give our customers the tools they need to create a sustainable food storage system that makes keeping the fridge neat and orderly easy well into the future. Investing in easy-to-clean food storage containers and thinking through where everything should go is a great way to ensure that every subsequent cleanout takes a little less time than the last!
Next up: Freezer organization! Make sure to check out our guide on how to organize your freezer to give your cold food storage system a serious upgrade.