Day 13 – Fridge & Freezer | 31 Days of Decluttering

Hello friends! 

Friday 13th – your lucky day! Your assignment for today is to deep clean your fridge and freezer – a place you don't usually associate with "clutter", but that can easily get disorganized and out of control if you don't look after it once in a while. 

Plus, an unclean, cluttered refrigerator can promote bacterial growth and cause food to spoil more quickly. Yuck. The good news is that it isn't hard to declutter your refrigerator, and it doesn't actually take that much time, especially if it's done before your next big grocery haul. Let's do this!

The Goal

  • an organized and clean food storage
  • a better overview of what you have
  • saving space
  • less chaos in the kitchen
  • less bacteria in your fridge
  • wasting less food
  • using what you have

Guiding Questions

When was the last time I cleaned the refrigerator and freezer?
Does my fridge have an disturbing odour to it?
Does it look as though it is bursting at the seams?
Is anything past its prime? 
Do I know what's in each compartment of the freezer?
Am I overbuying anything, only to throw them in the trash weeks later?
Which products do never get eaten in our household?
Which need to be stocked up on?

Working Steps

1. Declutter

Turn off and unplug your fridge and freezer.

Empty out your refrigerator and place everything on your kitchen table and counters. After that, remove everything from your freezer and put it into an ice chest or cooler while you're decluttering.

Clean the inside of your fridge. Start at the top and work your way down to prevent dripping on areas you've already cleaned. Pulling out the shelves and drawers and washing them separately also makes the cleaning easier. I suggest using a paste of baking soda and water to remove any spills, sticky messes and other dirt and odours.

If your freezer needs some defrosting, this would be a good opportunity to do that. 

Also take down any old kids drawings, postcards or magnet collections from your refrigerator door, and wipe down the exterior of your fridge.  

2. Go through your guiding questions

Do you have a jar of mustard that has been sitting there for two years or so? Does anything shows obvious signs of spoiling? Do you buy grapefruit only to toss the shrivelled husks, months later? 

3. Assess and organize

Evaluate each item, look at the dates on these jars and bottles, and decide if you'll keep it or not. Don't forget about all those condiments on the door of the refrigerator. Let go of any items that

a) are expired and no longer save to use (dairy, meat, eggs etc.)
b) are spoiled or mouldy (fruits, jams, yogurt etc.)
c) you aren't going to eat in time.

Do the same with the freezer once you're finished with the fridge. Which frozen foods have you already forgotten about?

4. Return

Put everything back, but consider a new storage system. For example, use each refrigerator shelf for a particular food category: dairy on one shelf, beverages on another, fresh vegetables and fruits in see-through drawers, condiments in the door etc. Same goes for the freezer compartments: one for fruits and veggies, one for meat and poultry, one for baked goods and fast food etc.

Generally, put anything that needs to be eaten soon (leftovers, open packages, fruits, dairy, eggs etc) at eye level, and store the ones that last longer on the top or bottom shelves. Here's a detailed guide on organizing refrigerator drawers and shelves.

Maximize shelf space by taking fruits and veggies out of their bulky plastic packaging, storing shelf-stable bottles and cans in the pantry, stowing leftovers as individual portions in smaller bins, and placing larger items in the back and smaller items up front. 

If your refrigerator shelves are adjustable, take a moment to plan what you want to go where and place your shelves accordingly.

5. Donate / Discard 

Donate any food that is still intact and not expired to a local food pantry (or similar charity). Or just ask your friends or neighbours if they would like to have it.

Give away any open items that are still safe to eat to friends or room mates that might still like to use them up.

Toss any products that are vastly past their expiration date or have gone bad.

To avoid any future food tossing, make sure to 

a) store food so it lasts. E.g. take wet fruits and veggies out of the plastic bags and pat them dry before placing in the fridge, store raw meat and poultry in clean, sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge etc. Here's a helpful overview on where and how to store which food to make them last longest!

b) use the freezer to keep food longer – and save fridge space. This is great for storing leftovers, chopped up herbs, chopped fruit (or fruit puree), sliced bread, milk, meat, and especially peeled and chopped bananas that are about to turn black – they make for the best healthy ice cream!!

c) note down everything you've tossed out today, and buy less of it on your next shopping trip. 

6. Celebrate

Yay, you're done for the day! Well, actually there's one more thing I'd like you to do. Turn on your dish washer tonight because we're going to take a look at your kitchenware tomorrow...

Also, today is the perfect opportunity to take a look at all the groceries from your fridge that need to be used up soon, and turn them into a colourful one pot meal! 

Get a little crazy in the kitchen. How about a curry with all sorts of veggies, potatoes, and banana? A salad with sweet corn, pickles and chopped apples? Rice with milk, yogurt, jam and berries? Creamy lentils and mushrooms on toast? Pomegranate guacamole anyone? Okay, the last one is just weird. But my point is: Get creative when it comes to utilizing leftovers / food that is about to go bad!