Learning how to organize a refrigerator can feel like attending a college-level masterclass given the number of do’s and don’ts. But while there’s a lot to learn, a well-organized fridge can save you time, money, and effort later.
Although refrigerators are only a small part of a modern kitchen, they are no less important – yet we often refuse to give them the attention they deserve. For this reason, opening your refrigerator door can feel like opening Pandora’s box. We’ve all been there – a mess of ketchup bottles, jam jars and smashed tomatoes slamming on the kitchen floor and landing in a sticky mess at your feet.
But such disasters can be easily avoided. Keeping your fridge organized will prevent it from becoming the colossal task it can so often become. Not only that, but it’s incredibly satisfying! Knowing exactly where to reach without even having to open your eyes (although we don’t recommend trying) is a sure sign that your fridge is organized. To help you achieve this, we asked a few pro organizers for their top five tips for making the organized fridge of your dreams.
How to Organize a Fridge, According to Professional Organizers
Take some time to keep your fridge under control. Some tips don’t really need explaining, but as a reminder, toss out old food – nobody likes to find festering food that’s so moldy it’s unrecognizable. Also clean your fridge regularly. It may not be the easiest task, but remove the shelves from time to time and clean them properly. Also, don’t forget the drawers, door and seals – dirt likes to accumulate in their nooks and crevices.
1. Always keep raw and cooked foods separate
This might have been the very first lesson in your home economics class at school, but that makes it all the more imperative. Never place raw meat next to fresh fruits and vegetables or pre-prepared foods.
Make sure meat and fish are in an airtight container, as you don’t want drips ending up in your ready-to-eat products. This is not only a disgusting thought, but also a health risk: most cases of food poisoning are caused by food contamination when bad bacteria such as salmonella enter our gut.
The best way to ensure that different types of food are kept in the best place in the fridge is to create designated areas and shelves based on temperature.
“Our devices are often laid out (and sometimes labelled) for certain foods,” says Claire, owner of the organized living blog, All the small things. “Check refrigerator manufacturers’ guidelines for where to place each grade for optimal freshness, longevity, and food safety.”
As a general rule, raw meat and fish should be stored on the bottom shelf where it is coldest, while deli meats, leftovers and other foods that do not need cooking should be kept on the top shelf. The drawers should be reserved for your fruits and vegetables, while the door should be used for longer life products.
2. Use designated containers
We all know the ultra-organizers that have special containers for every type of food imaginable. Although it may seem like a daunting task, using designated containers is the perfect way to keep your refrigerator organized while maximizing space.
“Containers give structure and help utilize all available space, which is especially important in smaller refrigerators,” Claire explains. ‘I use IDesign Containers. They manufacture a wide range of refrigerator containers suitable for every category and size of refrigerator. If you’re really feeling on top of things, she recommends labeling your containers to avoid confusion — a great storage idea for the pantry, too.
It’s a good idea to get a narrow container for your fridge door, Sue Spencer, decluttering pro and founder of A more organized life, adds. “Door shelves tend to be very shallow, which means large bottles can fly off when you open the door,” she explains. “People then put the bottles on a fridge shelf which takes up a lot of space. Using one of these organizers solves this problem.
To really maximize utility, you can even use your fridge’s wall space if you want to go the extra mile with your organization. “Add suction cup baskets to the walls of your fridge to hold small items, like small packets, juice packets, or single-serving cheeses,” says Holly Bly of Organize with Holly. Try this sucker shower caddy from amazon (opens in a new tab)or check out these other storage tips for the rest of the house.
3. Use the KonMari Method
This method comes from a world famous Japanese organization consultant, Marie Kondo. The idea is to store by category, not by location, allowing you to focus on the work at hand and avoid getting overwhelmed.
When it comes to organizing a refrigerator, the KonMari method says that it’s best to arrange by height. “Store items vertically wherever you can, as this helps to optimize space,” says KonMari Certified Consultant Sue. “I store all my vegetables vertically in the drawer because I can fit more and that means nothing ends up getting infected under other items.”
Most fridges also have adjustable shelves so you can adjust the height to accommodate taller items, like bottles of milk.
4. Rotate your articles
“Without a good system, food is more likely to go to waste. Things get pushed into the background and forgotten, or we buy items we already have,” says Claire from Every Little Thing. We can all do more to minimize our food waste, and a cluttered fridge is a perfect recipe for increasing your amount of stale food.
After a long day at work and a run through the supermarket, we often cram ingredients straight into the fridge, pushing existing food into the cold abyss. How many times have you stumbled upon forgotten leftovers from the last week covered in a layer of fluffy green mold, or reached for a jar of jam only to find it was frozen deep in the fridge?
Control food waste and reduce the amount you throw away by rotating regularly. “When you unpack your weekly store, be sure to rotate the items you already have in your fridge,” says Sue. ‘Put the closest dated items to the front so they are used first.’
5. Remove outer packaging before storing
While we’re on the subject of waste, one thing we all agree on is the unnecessary amount of packaging our food is sold in. Products such as yogurts and beverage cans are sometimes presented in two sets of outer packaging, as well as a separate pouch. Bulky packs can be useful when it comes to transporting your grocery store home, but they take up very little space when it comes to storing your refrigerator.
Remove the outer packaging as you unpack your store to make more space and keep your fridge organized. “I prefer to get rid of packaging whenever possible,” says Claire. “It’s much easier to see what you have at a glance and it also reduces visual clutter.”
Sue notes that it might be better to keep the products in their outer packaging if the individual packets don’t have an expiration date. Some products last less when removed from their original packaging. “I don’t recommend removing eggs from the egg cartons they come in,” says Sue.
She adds: ‘British Lion (the official voice of the UK egg industry) recommends that eggs are stored at a consistent temperature. I never store eggs in the fridge doors and instead use their original cartons as eggshells are also porous and can pick up smells from other items in the fridge.
Should milk be stored in the refrigerator door?
The door probably isn’t the best place for your milk, as most of us would believe. “The door is the hottest part of the refrigerator and has the least constant temperature because it is opened and closed frequently,” notes Sue Spencer. “The door is best used to store things like condiments and non-perishable items like juices and jams.”