I’ve partnered with Austin’s own Five Star ER to bring you a fridge cleanout how-to just in time for this odd National day, and with the holidays just around the corner.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “National Refrigerator Clean-Out Day? Does that seriously need a holiday?” I thought the exact same thing. But after further reflection, cleaning out the fridge is one of those things that doesn’t get done precisely because it doesn’t have an official day. Have you noticed that the little tasks you can take care of any time are the things that we never seem to get around to? We’re so busy, we have to carve out time in our schedules for literally everything. So today, I invite you to take the time to slow down and remove this from your mental to do list. Do it the right way, and it will feel like such a relief. Plus, with the holidays just around the corner, you’ll be glad you made space and took inventory of what you need to use up before the ice box is stocked with turkey and stuffing.
Naturally, as a Certified KonMari Consultant, my approach to cleaning out the refrigerator is inspired by the Queen of TIdy herself, Marie Kondo. Here is how to KonMari your fridge in 7 simple steps:
1. Commit to tidying your fridge.
Every journey begins with a single step, so decide that today is the day your fridge gets cleaned out, and affirm it. I’d block at least 30-40 minutes for this project. Less if there’s not much in there, more if it’s totally stuffed. If you share a fridge with others in your household, communicate your plans to them and get them involved if possible.
2. Envision your goal.
Take a moment to visualize your tidy fridge, full of all the things that you want to be eating as part of your healthy lifestyle. Imagine the fresh, crisp air, and the bright, white clean surfaces inside your beautifully organized fridge. That’s what we’re aiming for.
3. Take everything out & categorize.
Yes, remove everything from the fridge. This will allow you to see and personally handle each item currently taking up real estate in the fridge.
One of the KonMari Method fundamentals is to tidy by category, not location. So rather than randomly placing your fridge contents wherever they happen to land, group items by category and place them along your countertops, table, or other clean kitchen surface.
dressings and condiments
meats and cheeses
hummus, yogurt, other tubs and jars
First, take a broad view of your fridge contents. Which are the largest categories? Does anything surprise you? Are you eating in accordance with your vision for your ideal healthy lifestyle? Don’t judge yourself, just notice. Then, get to work.
The next KonMari Fundamental we’ll apply to our refrigerator is to finish discarding first, and to decide what to keep by asking whether it sparks joy. Category by category, examine each item, check expiration dates and ask yourself if you truly want to consume it.
Food waste is no joke. If there is food that is still edible, see if anyone you know wants it before trashing it. If it’s ready to eat, offer it to a homeless person. My dog is another worthy recipient of scraps, so if you have pets, that’s an option too. Then, any remaining food waste that is unwanted or past its prime should be composted, and containers rinsed out and recycled. (Learn about Austin’s curbside composting program here.)
5. Clean out.
Now it’s time to truly clean out the fridge. Wipe down the shelves, crisper drawers and door compartments with a vinegar cleaning solution. In a spray bottle, mix equal parts vinegar and water and add 6-10 drops of essential oils for a great smell. I change up the essential oils by season- my favorite blends for the kitchen are pink grapefruit with lemongrass & sweet orange, or rosemary with cinnamon & peppermint. There are a lot of wonderful natural and great smelling products out there if you’re not into DIY, but since this is where we store our food, I avoid using bleach and other strong industrial chemicals. If you want to next level your natural DIY, check out Bon Appetit’s citrus vinegar cleaner.
6. Assign a home to each food category.
Wipe down containers when you return them so sticky bottles don’t muck up your clean surfaces. Where you decide to place each category depends on the design of your fridge, but use your best judgement to match the shape of each type of container to the best available space. Keep what you use most often in the easiest to get to zones. And here is a super specific guide to the best way to store your fruits and vegetables to maximize their freshness and taste.
Remove unattractive packaging and face labels towards the front so you can quickly see what it is. If you want to corral items that tumble over easily, opt for clear bins like these from Container Store. In this space, it’s important to see everything you have so food doesn’t get forgotten and go bad.
What good is a clean fridge if it doesn’t last? First, if you share your fridge, communicate your organization system and get on the same page about where items need to be returned after each use. If you notice leaky containers, swap them out immediately, and clean up spills as they happen — it doesn’t get easier once things evaporate and get sticky. Maybe invest in glass storage containers so your tupperware woes can be a thing of the past while you’re at it.
Finally, make a habit of inventorying your fridge every week before grocery shopping. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry, and know what you have so you don’t buy more than you can eat. You’ll save food waste and money. There are all sorts of apps for shopping lists, but I use a post it. Do what makes the most sense to you.
From Five Star ER:
How does a clean, organized refrigerator relate to our general wellness?
The food we put in our bodies directly impacts all aspects of our health. We all know this, but it's easy to get caught up in our busy lives and develop unhealthy eating habits. On days like today, we can take a step back, clean out our fridge, and remind ourselves how we need to take care of our bodies.
Need a reminder? Let's start with one of the most important organs in our body -- the heart. Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in America -- nearly 610,000 people die of heart disease every year. (That's 1 in every 4 deaths.) A diet that's high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease. On the other hand, eating foods like vegetables, multi-grain products like bran and oats, and fatty fishes can increase your HDL and lower your LDL cholesterol. You can lower your chances for heart disease by maintaining a healthy diet. Remember that the best way to take care of your heart is to take care of your health.
As you are cleaning out your fridge, remember to keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge. This avoids cross-contamination, which can help protect you and your family from food poisoning.