Wednesday, May 3, 2023

How to organize a fridge, according to a professional organizer

Keeping a refrigerator organized may seem like a useless chore better left to perfectionists of the world.

“When everything is in place, you’re more likely to make better food choices, not to mention the peace of mind of having items organized based on usage and expiration dates,” says Pia Thompson, professional organizer and owner of Sweet Digs.

When done properly, an organized fridge can also help reduce waste and cut down on groceries.

Thompson shares her best tips on how to keep an organized fridge to reap the benefits of reducing food waste, saving money and time, and above all, having a beautifully decluttered fridge.

Plan the layout 

The first step to better fridge organization is as simple as knowing where to store items. This will ensure you’re maximizing all of your fridge’s compartments.

Your overall game plan depends on your personal needs. “Consider what’s best for you and your family and organize the fridge so that items are easy to access,” says Thompson.

For example, if you have kids, you may want store healthy snacks at their eye level. Or, if you normally store water bottles or canned beverages in the fridge, you’ll want to make sure you plan out the space accordingly.

Beyond personal needs, the fridge itself can guide your organization. The door and top shelf tend to be the “warmest” parts of a fridge, while the middle shelf is colder, and the bottom shelf is the coldest.

Understanding that refrigerators have warm 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 fridge and goes through the most fluctuations in temperature. Here, Thompson suggest storing condiments, jams, and other foods most resistant to spoiling. She also recommends storing herbs like parsley, cilantro and dill in the door — place each herb bundle in a water-field Mason jar to prolong their freshness.

Even though a carton of milk might fit perfectly in the door, it’s generally not a good idea to store dairy there, and that includes eggs. Thompson recommends storing milk in the bottom shelf since it needs low temperatures to last longer.

Top and middle shelves

The top and and middle shelves are typically the second coldest zone and the temperature stays constant. Thompson says this section should be reserved for ready-to-eat or grab-and-go foods and snacks and dairy (like yogurt, sour cream, and cheeses), desserts, prepared meals, and leftovers. Uncovered items such as berries and eggs can also go in the top and middle shelves.

Lower shelves

The lowest shelf is typically the coldest part of the fridge. This section should accommodate large, heavy items (like beer bottles and soda cans) as well as meats and fish.

It’s a smart idea to store meat on the bottom shelf to prevent cross-contamination in case the package leaks. To be extra safe, try storing your meat (in its original packaging) in designated clear bins, that way any possible leaks are contained to one area for easy clean up.

Crisper 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 items that rot easily, such as apples, pears, and melons, whereas the high humidity drawer should be used to store leafy greens, cauliflower, and eggplant.

“Crisper drawers are designed to reduce humidity and provide added control over temperature, so it’s best to keep produce there,” says Thompson, adding “but fruits and veggies should not be stored together since the ethylene in fruits may cause veggies to spoil faster.”

Remove everything and group like items together 

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

When taking things out, Thompson recommends throwing away items past their expiration dates, moldy items, and items that often go unused or are disliked. To categorize products, you can use sticky notes to keep track of everything. A simple category list includes:

  • Drinks
  • Produce
  • Meats
  • Leftovers
  • Condiments

After removing everything, Thomson says sanitizing every part of the inside of the fridge is essential. All removable parts should be taken out and washed with dish soap, while other parts can be thoroughly cleaned with all-purpose cleaner or disinfectant wipes.

Use organizers to maximize space

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

Take advantage of vertical and wall space. The limited space of a fridge can be a disadvantage 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 hold small things that might otherwise get lost in the refrigerator like string cheese or condiment packets,” she says.

Use organizers and labels. When it comes to organizing, Thompson says it’s best to get fun and creative with it. “Invest in a cute and functional matching or color-coordinated set,” she says. Add your drinks, produce, meats, leftovers, and condiments into containers and organizers and place them in their designated fridge zones to keep things neat.

“A bamboo organizer for eggs, a 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 a step further, Thompson also suggests labeling everything and using uniform labels that clearly define 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 first lining drawers and shelves to maintain cleanliness.

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

This article was written by L. Daniela Alvarez from Business Insider and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to