We’re going to purge, clean and organize the refrigerator today.  The best way to do this is to empty everything out into coolers or onto your counters so you can sort everything and see what’s in there.  If you go through everything as you’re taking it out, when you put it all back you’ll only have the things you want and less to put back.

As you take things out, first make sure it’s something you want to keep.  Is it a jar of corn relish you’ve had forever that you know you will never eat?  Toss.  Food that was leftover from dinner, but you can’t remember how long ago that dinner was?  Toss. Get rid of anything spoiled or that you know won’t be used.

Next check the expiration dates on everything.  If you find something expired, toss it too.  If it’s something you use, add it to your shopping list before you forget.   Even if whatever it is looks ok, get rid of it.  It’s better safe than sorry.

Finally, sort everything into categories.  You should do this for two reasons.  First, when you put things back they’ll be in some order so the whole fridge will be more organized.  Second, you’ll be able to see if you have three open mayos and 5 yellow mustards, and pare it down.

As you load everything into the coolers or onto the counter, wipe down the bottles and containers so that they won’t get the inside of the refrigerator dirty when you put them back.

Once everything is out of the fridge, it’s time to start cleaning.  Pull out all removable shelves and crisper drawers—any removable parts.  Clean the shelves in the sink with a mix of warm water and baking soda.  That will clean and deodorize them.  Do the same with the drawers and any other parts.   Dry them all off with a towel.  Set everything aside to dry completely.

Clean any crumbs and loose particles from the inside of the refrigerator.   Wipe down the entire inside with a clean batch of water and baking soda.  Dry thoroughly with a towel.

Slide all of the shelves back in.  This is a good time to adjust any shelves that weren’t at the right height previously.  Put the drawers back.

Put things away in collections that make sense.  For example, all condiments could go in the door.  Beverages fit well on the top shelf, fruits and vegetables in the crisper drawer.  Another good way to organize is to add containers to … well, contain things.  A plastic box can corral smaller items so they don’t fall over on the shelf and get lost or spill.  Another great idea is to have a specific area on a shelf to hold leftovers.  That way you can always keep track of them, and use them up before they go bad.  Less waste is always a good thing.

Once everything is put away, step back and appreciate the work you’ve done.  Now that everything has a place, remember to put things where they belong when you take them out.  Keeping things clean and organized is a LOT easier than getting them organized to begin with, so you won’t be spending much time on upkeep at all.  Go through weekly to throw out any old leftovers.  The night before trash night is usually a great time.  When you use anything, keep an eye on the expiration dates so you don’t end up with a bunch of expired jars taking up unneeded space.

How did it work out?  Post pictures in the comments or on my facebook page to show off your finished results!