3 Tips for Organizing Your Refrigerator | From Overwhelmed to Organized: 3 Tips for Organizing Your Refrigerator

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

3 Tips for Organizing Your Refrigerator

Last week I shared tips to help you organize your freezer.  Hopefully they helped you get your freezer looking spiffy and super organized!  Today, I'm moving on to the refrigerator.

Fridges take a beating don't they?  Food is being taken out and put back in over and over every single day by different family members.  It's no wonder fridges get messy and unorganized!

And then you can't remember what you have, so you buy more salad dressing and then find out you already have 3 open bottles of the same one.  Or leftover food gets shoved to the back and forgotten about... until your nose reminds you one day that a science experiment is growing in there.

It doesn't have to be this way though!  With a little organization, you'll be able to easily find what you're looking for and family members will know where to put things back.  That will help keep your fridge organized, which will save you time and money.  Gotta love that!

Just like with the freezer organizing tips, you'll be able to apply these refrigerator organizing tips whether you have a side-by-side fridge, a bottom-loading fridge, or a top-loading fridge.  I've got bottom-loading fridge, so these pictures will show that, but the principles are transferable.

Kitchen Organizing Tips

First, as a refresher, or in case you missed any, here's a list of all the tips I've shared already (with links to the corresponding post).
  1. Use drawer dividers
  2. Measure before you buy
  3. Determine the purpose of each drawer
  4. Purge before organizing
  5. Store like with like
  6. Keep items where you use them
  7. Store items you don't regularly use in "out-of-the-way" spots
  8. Maximize the vertical space in deep drawers
  9. Create zones in your kitchen
  10. Use boxes and baskets to contain like items
  11. Use clear containers for baking ingredients
  12. Label your containers
  13. Done is better than perfect
  14. Store dishes in a cupboard you can easily reach when you empty the dishwasher
  15. Maximize the vertical space in cabinets using wire shelves 
  16. Store all your hot beverage supplies together
  17. Use under-the-shelf baskets to maximize vertical space in cabinets 
  18. Store all your breakfast supplies together
  19. Use the top shelf of a food cabinet to store extra foods
  20. Hang paper towels on the back of a cabinet door to keep them off your counters
  21. Keep as many items in drawers or cabinets as possible, instead of on counters
  22. Rearrange or relocate items on counters for a less cluttered look
  23. Wash dishes frequently and put them away quickly  
  24. Relocate items that you rarely use so they don't clutter your kitchen
  25. Use narrow spaces under the sink for tall, narrow items
  26. Use plastic bins to contain cleaning supplies under the sink 
  27. Use short stacks as much as possible so you don't have to move items to access others
  28. Only store shallow pans in a shallow drawer
  29. Only keep as many food storage containers as you actually need and use regularly 
  30. Only use matching food storage containers
  31. Remove frozen foods from boxes to conserve space in the freezer
  32. Use a small container in the freezer door to hold small items

And the list continues to grow!  Once again, you'll see some of these tips in my pictures today, because they apply in so many different contexts.  How many can you spot in action?

My Fridge Before Organizing

Here's a picture I took a couple of weeks ago, before I started organizing my fridge.  {It took a little while because I was looking for the right sized containers!}

It was organized at one point.  You can see the baskets I used to contain like items.  It helped keep the shelves cleaner, but it still looked messy after awhile.

Here are a couple close-up pictures.

Some food was in front of the baskets and some was behind them.  And some food was overflowing from the baskets.

Nothing was labelled either, so sometimes things ended up in strange places.

Here's a look at the fridge door.

It's not terrible, but could use a quick tidy, a bit of reorganizing, and definitely a cleaning!

MUCH better!  Look at all that space.  Now to organize it :)

Kitchen Organizing Tip #33: Use tall bins in the refrigerator to maximize vertical space when grouping like items

I liked having foods grouped by categories in my fridge, but the bins I chose before were not very deep so items overflowed quite often.  And they were not very long so I couldn't store as many items in them as I wanted to.

I've seen other organizing bloggers organize their fridges using these multi-purpose bins from The Container Store.

They really work great in a fridge (like this one from Jen at I Heart Organizing)!

I thought I could get them here in Canada at Solutions, but they don't carry them.  I searched all over for something similar, but all the bins I found were not as tall.

So for now I went with the same bins from Dollarama as I used in my freezer.  They're better than the baskets I was using.

Here's how the top of my fridge looks now.

I used 4 of the tall-ish bins that I used in my freezer.  Unfortunately, 3 of them were too tight beside each other on the top shelf so I had to use a different basket between them.  I used the same Avery self-laminating kids' labels as I did in the freezer.  On the drawers I just put a the label from my label maker directly on the drawer. 

Because the bins are taller, I can contain all the vegetables in one bin without it overflowing or having to keep some beside the bin.  Same for the yogurt.  And when we have yogurt tubes they can stand up tall in the bin beside the other tubs.

I moved the vegetables to the top shelf so we would see them more and eat them more regularly.  That's the goal anyway :)

And do you see the loaf of bread on the second shelf?  After some comments on my Tips for Decluttering Kitchen Counters post, I decided to get rid of our bread box and keep our breads in the fridge.  We had a drawer in the fridge already with breads, buns, bagels, etc. that were not as fresh anymore, to prolong their life a bit more.

I decided to just put all our bread in the fridge since we don't eat a lot of it right out of the bag anyway (we often toast it or we make sandwiches in the morning for lunch so it's not cold by then anyway).  I relocated some baking ingredients and chocolate wafers that really didn't need to be in the fridge anyway, to clear out some space on the shortest shelf.  Now I can keep a full loaf there, and the rest of our breads fit in the bottom drawer.  I love the extra space on our counters now by not having that bread box on it!!

Kitchen Organizing Tip #34:  Store raw meat in a plastic container or at the bottom of your fridge

I didn't have a bin for raw meat before, but we often have a few packages of raw ground turkey, pork chops, chicken breasts, etc.  I used to just put them wherever there was a spot. 

By having a designated basket or container for raw meat, you contain any leaking from the packages.  It's easier to clean and disinfect a container than the whole shelf of the fridge.

If you don't want to use a container, at least store your raw meats as close to the bottom of your fridge as possible.  That way, if there's any leaking, it will not drip down onto other foods below. 

Here's the bottom part of the fridge now.

There's my meat bin and I also added a bin for leftovers.  I used to just store these anywhere there was space, but sometimes they would become hidden and forgotten about.  Now they have their own spot and I can keep track of them better and use foods up before they go bad.

Do you see that plastic container on the right?  I bought it at Solutions several years ago and I LOVE it!  I know it the U.S. you have jugs for milk, but here in Canada we have bags of milk and I hated how much space they took up laying down in the fridge.  This container stacks them vertically which makes much better use of the space in the fridge!  If you don't have a Solutions near you, I've seen them at Kitchen Stuff Plus and Home Hardware too.

I also removed all our fruit from the bags they were in so we can see better what we have and eat it more often (see a trend here?!).

Moving on to the door...

I didn't change a lot here, but I cleaned all the shelves (boy they get dirty!), and rearranged a few things.  We basically store all our beverages and condiments in the door.  Our milk and our Brita water pitcher are on the top, juice and pop bottles on the second shelf, and wine bottles, water bottles, and cans on the bottom.  Short condiments are on the top left (under the dairy compartment), frequently used condiments are on the middle right, and less used condiments are on the bottom left.

I played around with different arrangements to try to group all the beverages together and all the condiments together, but with the heights of the shelves it didn't work well.  This was the best use of our space. 

Kitchen Organizing Tip #35:  For a less cluttered kitchen, reduce or eliminate items on the front or sides of your fridge

Lastly, I want to show you the outside of my fridge.  It used to be a cluttered mess.

This picture is from several months ago and I've slowly been taking things off the front and sides.  My kids, especially my daughter, LOVE having lots of magnets on the fridge and any craft they ever make that has a magnet on the back was automatically put on the fridge.  I've been trying for a couple of years to put away or give away some of these crafts and magnets, but my kids always resist the idea.

So I got strategic.

While my daughter was helping me decorate at Christmas she took off a whole lot of things to help make room for some Christmas magnets.  There was a lot less clutter on the fridge for those 5-6 weeks and I think they started getting used to that.  So I only put back some things back in January.  I have a few things hidden in a bag in case they ask, but so far they haven't missed them.

So when I took off a few more last month.  And a few more last week.  No real response.  Yay!  Until my daughter saw me taking pictures of the fridge for the blog and then asked why I had taken off so many magnets.  Oops... note to self: take pictures when the kids are at school.

I just said I thought it looked nicer with only a few of our favourites and she actually seemed OK with that.  Phew. 

Want to see the difference?

So much less cluttered!  We're down to a few pictures, my menu plan pad, and a few magnets for the occasional times we want to hang something on the fridge. 

I can't believe how much bigger the kitchen feels by having less clutter on the outside of the fridge!  And remember I cleared the top of the fridge off a few weeks ago?  It's still clutter free!  Also making my kitchen feel bigger :)

So now you can use these tips to organize your fridge!  No more science experiments in the back of the fridge because they were jammed back there and forgotten about.  And find (and put away) your food easily because foods are grouped and contained. 

Ready to organize? 

For tips on decluttering your refrigerator, check out this post from the 31 Days of Easy Decluttering series.

And for more fridge organizing ideas, read this post from the 31 Days of Organizing Tips series.

And, you can always find more kitchen organizing ideas on my Kitchen Organizing board on Pinterest. 


And if you want to get your home clean and organized this spring, don't forget about the All Organized eBook bundle sale going on right now!  I've been reading several of these books and they are SO helpful! 


How do you organize your fridge?  Do you have other tips for keeping your refrigerated foods organized?  

Happy organizing!

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Here are all the posts from the kitchen organizing tips series: