Tips from a professional organizer

  • Having an organized fridge will keep you from wasting food, time and money.
  • Each refrigerator has different zones based on temperature that you can use to create an organization system.
  • Consider organization solutions like clear containers and bins to keep everything neat and tidy.

Keeping a fridge organized may seem like a pointless job better left to the world’s perfectionists.

But if you take stock of all the kitchen appliances you use every day, the refrigerator is perhaps the most important. So why not keep it as tidy as other spaces? When there is order to the chaos, the financial and health benefits can pay off.

“Having everything in its place means you’re more likely to make better food choices, not to mention the peace of mind of organizing items based on use and expiration dates,” says Pia Thompson, professional organizer and owner of Sweet Digs .

When done properly, an organized refrigerator can also help reduce waste and save on groceries.

Thompson shares her top tips on how to keep an organized fridge to reap the benefits of reducing food waste, saving money and time, and most importantly, having a nice tidy fridge.

Plan the layout

How do you organize your fridge?

Designate certain zones in your fridge that you know you can stick to.

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The first step to better refrigerator organization is as easy as knowing Where store items. This ensures that you maximize all the compartments of your refrigerator.

Your overall game plan will depend on your personal needs. “Consider what’s best for you and your family and organize the fridge so items are easily accessible,” says Thompson.

For example, if you have kids, you may want to keep healthy snacks at eye level. Or, if you normally keep water bottles or canned drinks in the fridge, you’ll want to make sure you arrange the space accordingly.

In addition to personal needs, the refrigerator itself can be a guideline for your organization. The door and top shelf are usually the “warmest” parts of a refrigerator, while the middle shelf is colder and the bottom shelf is the coldest.

Understanding that refrigerators have hot and cold zones can help you create a system where everything has its place and food lasts longer. Here are some general guidelines.

The door

The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator and undergoes the most temperature fluctuations. Here, Thompson suggests storing spices, jams, and other foods that are most resistant to spoilage. She also recommends storing herbs like parsley, cilantro, and dill in the door — place each bundle of herbs in a water-filled Mason jar to prolong their freshness.

While a carton of milk fits perfectly in the door, it’s generally not a good idea to store dairy there, and neither do eggs. Thompson recommends storing milk on the bottom shelf because it needs low temperatures to last longer.

Top and middle shelves

The top and middle shelves are typically the second coldest zone and the temperature remains constant. Thompson says this section should be reserved for ready-to-eat or take-out foods and snacks and dairy products (such as yogurt, sour cream, and cheese), desserts, ready meals, and leftovers. Uncovered items such as berries and eggs can also be placed on the top and middle shelves.

Lower shelves

The bottom shelf is usually the coldest part of the refrigerator. This section should accommodate large, heavy items (such as beer bottles and soda cans), as well as meat and fish.

It’s a smart idea to store meat on the bottom shelf to prevent cross-contamination if the packaging leaks. To be extra safe, try storing your meat (in its original packaging) in the clear containers provided so that any leaks are contained in one area and can be cleaned up easily.

Sharper drawers

Refrigerators have at least one crisper drawer, but most have two: a low-humidity drawer and a high-humidity drawer. The low humidity drawer should be used to store produce that rots easily, such as apples, pears and melons, while the high humidity drawer should be used to store leafy greens, cauliflower and aubergines.

“Crisper drawers are designed to reduce humidity and provide extra control over temperature, so it’s best to store produce there,” says Thompson, adding “but fruits and veggies shouldn’t be stored together, because it ethylene in fruit can cause vegetables to spoil more quickly.”

Remove everything and group similar items together

Categorize your products, food products on the table with labels

Organize the items in your fridge into categories so you can put them back in their designated zones.

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With a general layout in mind, the next step is to delete and categorize everything.

When taking things out, Thompson recommends throwing out items past their expiration date, moldy items, and items that are often unused or no fun. To categorize products, you can use sticky notes to keep track of everything. A simple category list contains:

  • Drinks
  • Produce
  • Meat
  • Leftovers
  • Spices

After everything is removed, Thomson says it’s essential to sanitize every part of the fridge’s interior. All removable parts should be removed and washed with detergent, while other parts can be thoroughly cleaned with all-purpose cleaner or disinfectant wipes.

Use organizers to maximize space

Types of refrigerator storage including can dispenser, lazy susan and stackable bins

Get storage that suits you, whether it’s matching sets, stackable containers or in certain colors.

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When you’re ready to put everything back in a clean fridge, consider adding organizers. Just as organizers can help you organize items in a pantry or cabinets, the same can be said with the refrigerator. Fridge size and design vary, of course, but here are a few ideas.

Take advantage of vertical and wall space. A refrigerator’s limited space can be a drawback when it comes to storage and organization, which is why Thompson recommends going vertical with stackable storage and using empty wall space.

“Consider a can dispenser, stackable bins, or a basket with suction cups to store small items that would otherwise get lost in the fridge, like string cheese or condiment packets,” she says.

Use organizers and labels. When it comes to organizing, Thompson says it’s best to be fun and creative. “Invest in a fun and functional matching or color-coordinated set,” she says. Add your drinks, produce, meats, leftovers, and condiments to containers and organizers and place them in designated refrigerator zones to keep everything tidy.

“A bamboo egg organizer, lazy Susan, and clear dividers will make it easy to get into the habit of organizing food while also seeing exactly what’s there.” To take it one step further, Thompson also suggests labeling everything and using uniform labels that clearly describe the products and are especially useful for leftovers and the date they were made.

Use liners to keep things clean. Now that you’re ready to put everything back in the fridge in an orderly fashion, Thompson suggests lining drawers and shelves first to maintain cleanliness.

“Line shelves with washable mats and line drawers with paper towels or dish towels,” says Thompson. “Not only do paper towels make it easier to clean out crisper drawers, but they can help keep produce fresh. Replace them every two weeks to make cleaning super easy.”

Tips to keep your fridge tidy

Tips and tricks to keep your fridge tidy, including a deodorizer and a first food bin

Always stick to long-term tips to keep your fridge organized.

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  • Make an “Eat First” Bake: Thompson says this is especially helpful for those who always forget to eat their leftovers, or forget they have them in the first place. Label this bin with the expiration date or the date it was made.
  • Follow a “one in, one out” philosophy: This is a proven method followed by professional kitchens and homeowners alike.If you have more than one of something, put the oldest one in front so it’s used first,” says Thompson. “It’s imperative to organize by shelf life.”
  • Do not overfill. Once you’ve got your fridge organized, Thompson recommends avoiding overfilling or overstocking, that way you can use what you have and easily keep track of the expiration date. “If you buy too much food, the chances of you ending up throwing it away are pretty high, especially if you have those items that get all the way to the back of the shelves and are pretty much forgotten about,” says Thompson. “An overcrowded refrigerator can also lead to clogged vents, obstruction of airflow and a reduction in energy efficiency, ultimately leading to wasted money.”
  • Add a deodorizer. Thompson always recommends keeping a fresh deodorizer in the back of the top shelf so your fridge not only looks great, it smells great too. “Nothing is worse than getting a bad smell after opening the refrigerator door, especially when you’re hungry,” says Thompson. Baking soda is a simple and inexpensive solution, but there are sachets, patches, and specialized deodorizers for even the smelliest fridges.

Insiders takeaway

With a clear division plan, a division system and the right organizing products, your refrigerator can become as aesthetically pleasing as a well-organized cabinet. Knowing which products belong in the correct refrigerator zones and avoiding food waste by following long-term tips can save you money and keep your refrigerator in top condition.

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