Whether you are getting ready to host a crowd for the holidays or are feeding your own crowd on a regular Monday, you know that sometimes, the fridge gets full fast. When you can’t see what you have, it’s hard to use it up and keep things as fresh as possible. Never fear! You can get your refrigerator clean—and keep it that way—in less time than you might think.
If you are anything like most of us, wiping the slate (ahem, fridge) clean generally comes to mind when opening the fridge door releases an unpleasant odor, or you spot something dripping from shelf to shelf. Professional organizer Shira Gill gets it. And she says you could get the job done in 15 minutes.
Gill’s organizational genius focuses on starting small, doing what you start and finish in 15 minutes so you can see the fruit of your efforts without having to leave a big cleanup half-done when life interferes.
Cleaning and organizing your refrigerator is a great #15MINWIN, as her Instagram followers call their little jobs with big impact. ”It’s a simple win because it doesn’t take long and it affects your everyday,” says Gill, who recently released her book, Minimalista, which focuses on breaking down the decluttering and organizing process into smaller tasks and with intention.
“Ideally, you want to remove everything from the fridge,” she says. “Have recycling and compost bins ready so you can reduce as much as possible” while you are getting everything out.
Wipe It Down
Once you get all the contents of your refrigerator that don’t obviously belong in either the compost or recycling bins onto the counter, it’s time for the cleanup. “Give it a thorough clean and wipe down inside,” Gill says. “Maybe add baking soda to freshen it up if needed.”
Granted, if it’s been a long while since your appliance was scrubbed out, this part might take a few minutes more than 15, but the general idea is the same. To keep the task as quick as possible, she suggests putting it on your cleaning calendar at least seasonally. “Ideally, you would go through once a month, but if I am being honest, I don’t do it more than once a season.” Gill says. “Do a quick edit when you are putting away groceries weekly and reset the 15-minute win to wipe surfaces, toss old food and set [your]self up for the week ahead. Making it a part of your routine is less difficult.”
Edit: Is It Fresh? Is It Edible?
Once it has been wiped down, Gill suggests a quick, rapid-fire edit of the items that remain.
“Ask yourself, ‘Is it fresh? Will anyone still eat it? Empty jars and cans of leftovers to get rid of food waste,” Gill says. “Then, recycle containers so you are only putting back things that are fresh that you are going to eat and use.”
When you are ready to put your food items back into the fridge, Gill says you should group things in broad categories: Put dairy with dairy, meats with meats and the same organizational method with veggies, leftovers and beverages. And don’t just stuff things back inside the icebox in these categories.
“I suggest decanting as much as you can out of packaging,” Gill says. “What I see a lot is people shove in leftovers, etc., [but] it doesn’t look appealing so it doesn’t get eaten and it expires."
Sort by Expiration
“Put anything that would expire or go bad right in the front of the fridge,” she says. “Must-eat foods. Put produce in crisper drawers and dairy, eggs and leftovers on upper shelves. Put beverages and condiments on shelves in the door.” She says dairy and eggs do better when they are kept toward the top of the fridge.
Keep It Clear
Gill is a fan of sorting things into clear, stackable containers that also nest for storage. “I like making your fridge pretty and appealing. I take eggs out of the carton and put them in a ceramic holder. If I have prepared foods, I cut them up and put them in a glass container.”
She uses clear, airtight glass containers when she can. Plastics can leach chemicals into food and drink and make it a little more difficult to see exactly what is inside. “Avoiding plastic whenever possible is good for the environment and sustainable. I try to avoid plastics much as possible. Glass lasts longer. And plastic can be porous and harder to clean.”
This method even works well for those days when you are prepping food for future meals to save time on a busy day. Keeping your ingredients in airtight containers helps you see everything at a glance when it’s time to get a quick meal on the table. “You can create a meal prep zone on a shallow shelf with sauce, prepped veggies or whatever for really easy, five minute meals.”
Support Your Vision
Having a clear vision of what you have in the fridge can also help with health goals. “If you are trying to change how you eat, create a wellness zone at eye level with supplements and veggies that you want to eat. Most fridges have adjustable shelves so you can move them around for what you need to store at the time.”
You can even store your fresh herbs in glasses with water to keep them fresh or repackage your drinks to keep your fridge looking organized and clean. “Things like decanting milk and juice into pitchers kind of elevates the everyday, like you are at your own bed and breakfast,” Gill says.