The thought of cleaning your fridge can be daunting, and a bit disgusting. You don’t want to imagine what is lurking in the recesses: shriveled fruit and wilted lettuce or food containers and freezer bags with mysterious concoctions that look like a science project gone bad.
You can only hold your nose for so long, and the time has come to organize the most-used appliance in your kitchen.
Step 1: Empty out everything. Start with the top shelf and work your way down to the bottom. Throw away outdated and spoiled food items. Finish off with the shelves in the door.
Then do the same with the freezer, checking its contents for freezer burn and expiration dates. Sort the “keepers” into groups: dairy, produce, meats and condiments (be sure to wipe off all the jars top to bottom).
Step 2: Clean the interior. Remove all shelves and drawers and clean with a mild, soap and warm-water solution in the sink. Wash the inside walls and rubber gasket around the door with the same solution. For tough, sticky spots, use either a baking soda and water paste or toothpaste.
Step 3: Clean the exterior. Wash with a mild solution of ammonia and water. Dry and finish by spraying with furniture polish, which makes it easier to clean next time. If you own a stainless steel fridge, use a stainless steel cleaner instead.
Step 4: Take a look at what you have thrown away. It says a lot about what you do and do not use on a regular basis. Did you find three jars of outdated condiments or salad dressing? Expired produce or moldy cheese? Look carefully at the wasted food and re-access your buying habits.
Step 5: Organize the groceries you have. You want to be able to find what you want when you want it. Use these tips to stay on top of this challenge.
Since the main part of the refrigerator is shelving, use plastic shoe boxes for lunch meats, cheeses, bagged leftovers, bread and rolls. This keeps them from sneaking to the back of the fridge where they spoil.
Use clear glass or dishwasher-safe plastic containers for leftovers. They clean easily and are transparent. It’s never a surprise when you open them.
The secret to keeping things organized is to put items in the same place every time. Label containers. That way everyone knows where things go.
Create food centers within the fridge. Keep like items grouped with like items.
Put taller items to the back of the shelf and shorter ones in front.
Keep bagged leftovers front and center, where they are more likely to be eaten.
Eggs are less likely to absorb odors if kept in store cartons.
Keep apples wrapped as they emit a gas that induces the ripening of fruits and vegetables.
Ice cubes absorb orders, so empty ice containers frequently.
Use a Lazy Susan to hold the overflow of bottles and jars.
To help eliminate odors, put a box of baking soda in the refrigerator and freezer. Replace every three months.
The refrigerator should maintain a temperature between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit; keep the freezer at a steady 0 degrees.
For an annual clean-up, unplug the fridge and pull it away from the wall. Vacuum and mop the floor under it and vacuum the coils in back.
If coils are covered in dust, the fridge will not run efficiently. Vacuum vents and remove plate on thebottom front of refrigerator and vacuum underneath it. Plug the appliance back in and return it to its designated space.
Keeping your refrigerator/freezer organized and tidy is an ongoing project, but it can be managed easily and effectively with a once-a-week tune up. Take a few minutes when you are putting your groceries away to wipe up spills and rearrange anything that is out of place. Taking just a few minutes will save you time and headaches later on.
by Nancy Altschwager
Nancy is the owner of Let’s Get Organized!. She is a professional organizer with several years experience organizing homes and offices. Additionally, she helps seniors downsize and move into retirement communities. She is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers.