Before and After Refrigerator Makeover

Who says cleaning out the fridge isn't a glamorous task? It's a makeover, people.

Cluttlered refrigerator and freezer
Photo: John Lawton

See this side-by-side freezer organization comparison and use expert tips to organize your refrigerator. No more cold-clutter chaos!

01 of 07

The Refrigerator—Before

Cluttlered refrigerator and freezer
John Lawton

"It was out of sight, out of mind," says Rachel Weinblatt, a stay-at-home mom in Cooper City, Florida. "You couldn't see the mess with the doors closed, thank goodness. Nothing smelled funny, and food wasn't spilling out, so to me, it was an island unto itself. But I could never find what I was looking for, and it just seemed to be getting worse and worse."

Before reorganizing Rachel's refrigerator and freezer, the first task was to go through the current contents to remove old items. Decluttering spoiled food and unused or duplicate items is important before restructuring the space in your refrigerator.

  • 32 ketchup packets
  • 30 soy and duck sauce packets
  • 12 bottles of salad dressing
  • 4 tubs of spreadable margarine
  • 1 empty bottle of ketchup
  • 1 head of (brown) lettuce
  • 1 container of (very brown) chopped lettuce
  • 1 container filled with either some type of chocolate sauce or gravy
  • ½ glass of soda (in a 2-liter bottle)
  • 24 fish sticks bearded-over with freezer burn
  • 22 three-month-old Popsicles
  • 9 heels of bread, knotted in their bags ("to feed the ducks," says Rachel)
  • 3 six-packs of English muffins (from a years-old gift basket)
  • 1 near-empty box of soy "chicken" nuggets (one left)
  • 1 near-full box of soy "chicken" nuggets (one gone)
02 of 07

The Refrigerator—After

Organized refrigerator and freezer with food in labeled containers
John Lawton

After learning about the family's food habits (Rachel and company are big fruit and vegetable eaters and always have leftovers), organizer Kate Parker repackaged the good stuff in easy-view containers and relocated items to the smartest spots.

03 of 07

Step 1: Transfer Drinks

organized juices, eggs, produce, and deli meat in refrigerator
John Lawton

Since Rachel buys in bulk, Parker transferred gallons into easy-to-pour carafes that make use of vertical space. The originals stay in a second refrigerator in the garage. Water bottles (second shelf) rest pyramid-style on a clever rack.

04 of 07

Step 2: Place Items Properly

Eggs absorb odors, so Parker put them in an airtight egg bin (Squared Away, $18; in the coldest part of the refrigerator―the center―rather than in the warmer door. Vegetables went in their drawer―except lettuce, which got its own moisture-draining home (Rubbermaid Produce Saver, $12; Cold cuts now all live in the deli drawer, individually contained.

05 of 07

Step 3: Label Containers

organized and labeled food containers in refrigerator
John Lawton

Parker put erasable, removable labels on many of the containers. Bins on low shelves have clear lids so contents can be seen from above.

06 of 07

Step 4: Coordinate Storage

organized and labeled food containers in freezer
John Lawton

In the freezer, bulky packaging was traded for compact, airtight plastic containers that stack.

For freshness, Parker wrapped meat butcher-style, using Reynolds Kitchens Freezer Paper, then sealed packages with Scotch Freezer Tape. Stain-resistant glass is the right choice for storing microwavable leftovers; plastic works for foods you don't reheat.

07 of 07

More Freezer and Refrigerator Organization Tips

Organized acrylic jars with juice and glass bowls full of fruit in a refrigerator
John Lawton

In addition to the steps taken to reorganize Rachel's freezer and refrigerator, these general tips will help maintain a decluttered fridge space. Plus, your icebox will not only be functional, but it might also look a bit cooler in the process. (See what we did there?)

Buy Smart and Good-Looking Storage

Here are a few high-functioning items that helped inspire Rachel to maintain that just-organized feel, week after week.

  • Acrylic jars with airtight lids have a smaller footprint (and a sleeker design) than gallon jugs. To buy: $20 (50 ounces),
  • Clear glass stackers keep washed fruits and vegetables easy to spot. To buy: Frigoverre, $12;
  • Stick a magnetic organizer on the refrigerator door to hold pens and food labels so they're easy to find when marking and dating leftovers.

Use Crafty Containers

Specialized containers for refrigerator organization, including herb containers, bento box, and lunch container with utensil
John Lawton

These clever designs work both in the refrigerator and freezer and out of it (clockwise from top left).

  • Rachel's son likes cheese cubes packed in this tossable sphere. To buy: Boon Snack Ball, $6;
  • Pour water into the base and the humidity-controlled pod will keep parsley, sage, and other herbs fresh for up to three weeks. To buy: Herb Savor Pod, $16 each or $32 for three;
  • If you tend to forget to pack a fork for lunch, this box hangs on to its own. To buy: Silicone lunch container, $15;
  • Need something for a meal on the go? Divided sections and stay-fresh click-shut technology make portable lunch containers perfect for the car. To buy: Russbe 3-Compartment Bento Box, $13,
  • Leakproof, airtight, microwave- and freezer-safe containers are perfect for soup. To buy: Smart Seal Glass Mini Square Set (4-piece), $9,
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