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How To: Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator Like a Pro

by on Mar 15, 2013

For someone who keeps her books in alphabetical order by genre, I’m kind of a slob when it comes to the refrigerator. It’s not that it’s exceptionally dirty. The problem is it is a disorganized free for all. Check out this annotated version of the picture above:

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Although we have a very roomy refrigerator, you’d think we’d do a better job of keeping it tidy. Not so much. I think it’s BECAUSE it’s so large we just set stuff in there willy-nilly. That is ending as of today, because it is a dawn of a new era. The era of a clean and tidy refrigerator.

If you’d like to enter this new age with me, here’s the map to follow:

1. If your fridge is nasty-dirty, you might as well unplug the thing because it’ll probably take you a while to clean it. If so, have a cooler ready to hold the food in the interim.  If your fridge only needs a quick wipe-down, like mine–then unplugging won’t be necessary. Either way, your first step is to remove all the food.

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2. While removing the food, check for expiration dates and toss those things that have expired. When you get to the condiments, keep in mind that they don’t actually last forever. Refer to the Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad to figure out what to throw. (Click on image below to expand.)

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3. If they’re removable, take out all the drawers, bins and etcetera, and wash them in a sink full of warm sudsy water. (I prefer using dishwashing soap.)

4. Wipe down the inside of the fridge, and don’t forget the inside bottom. (How does the bottom get dirty UNDER the drawers?) I use a dish soap/warm water combo for this too. 

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5. Now step back and consider the food you just removed and picture the items where they were originally at the grocery store. Beverages here, dairy there. You get the idea. That’s how you’ll want to replace the stuff. You’ll want to adjust the shelves–if possible–as necessary to accomodate the new arrangement.

Beverages are now together. How novel!

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I treated my organized fridge to some new storage containers. I chose Tupperware Premier containers because they’re PBA free and completely see- through. (The tub of carrots has condensation inside; when it came to temperature, it dissipated.) This is the deal because if you can SEE what you have in your fridge, you’ll eat it. Also, see-through containers make creating a grocery list easier: you can see what you need and what you don’t. I found my Premier set of 14 pieces at Target for $12, which was much more cost effective than buying the containers individually. The upside of buying new containers was going through my old ones and recycling those that were stained.

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I tossed the original produce bags from the grocery store, opting for plastic container bottoms instead. Again, this way I can see what I have on hand and the containers keep the fruit and veg from rolling around in the drawers. They keep the drawers clean as well.

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I also cleaned all the produce that I had purchased the day before. I’m guilty of letting this go too long. So long, in fact, that I’ve been known to have to throw celery that wilted while waiting to be cleaned. Waste=guilt, for me anyway. Also, salad spinners: They’re the perfect way to store cleaned lettuce if you have the room.

6. After the inside is clean and organized, it’s time to pull the fridge away from the wall and clean the floor underneath and the back of the fridge itself. (You’ll also want to vacuum any exposed coils.) If you can’t pull your fridge away from its spot, a yard stick with a damp cloth or paper towel rubber-banded to the end can do an decent job of getting the dust bunnies out. 

7. If you’ve unplugged the fridge, now is the time to plug it back in and clean the outside. The very best thing to make enamel fridges sparkle is by using a microfiber cloth and Sprayway Glass Cleaner. Sprayway is billed as the best glass cleaner ever, and it is. They also sell a stainless steel cleaner that is equally superior for stainless appliances. Both are available at Amazon, but I’ve also seen the glass cleaner at hardware stores as well as World Market, of all places. 

And there you have it; my refrigerator now:

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BTW: You’ll notice we refrigerate some grain products. This is suggested by the manufacturer to prolong shelf life and quality, so in the fridge they go.  

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