Closets are Not the Only Place to De-clutter

Happy Halloween! With the holiday season creeping up on us, it is the perfect time to get organized. Most of the time we start with the closets, usually thinking about our clothes, but what about that cold closet in the kitchen? You know, where you store the perishable and the perished things, the things that spend most of their time in the dark, until you open the door to gobble and guzzle? Of course, I'm talking about your refrigerator.  We know how it goes - cartons, condiments, and containers full of sometimes-scary-stuff get pushed back on those shelves so deep that they may never see the light of day for months.

I remember house sitting for my mom when she would holiday in Italy for a few weeks, or even just for a weekend in upstate New York. Right after the hug good-bye, the first thing I would do is clean out her fridge. I would get excited because, for me, the messier it was, the more fun it was to organize! As I think back on those times, I realize more and more that it has always been my calling to be a Professional Organizer.

Anyway, I could never understand why there was always so much food in her fridge; who was going to eat it? And when? With only her and her husband living in the house, when would they possibly consume a full pound of grated parmesan cheese? And was that mold? Why, yes it was. So the answer to that question was...never. 

Ok, ok, my mom would be upset if I kept talking about her moldy cheese, so let's talk about how you can get your fridge ready for all the good eats coming your way for Thanksgiving.

The best way to start any organizing job is to take everything out first, so go ahead and empty that fridge. As you are removing all the perishables, begin to put like items with like items: all your condiments together, vegetables, sweets, sodas/drinks, leftovers etc. While you are doing this, check all the expiration dates. Every time I'm helping a client, we find a handful of condiments that are way past their expiration date; it's just something you don't tend to think about. Have a garbage bag handy, and start throwing out anything that has seen better days. If you can recycle any bottles and packaging, please do :).

 Before and After 

Before and After 

That is the first step, and you will find your contents slimming down. Next is the leftovers. We all start with good intentions. None of us like throwing food away, so we put the leftovers in tupperware for the next few days... and often never eat it... sometimes it even gets pushed to the back of the shelf, and by the time we open it again, we can't even recognize what it once was! The rule of thumb with food is, "when in doubt throw it out." For me, the best leftover solution is this: after I make a nice meal, I portion out the leftovers into one-cup plastic containers and freeze them. This way I'm not eating the same thing for 3 days in a row, and when I need a quick meal, I have something ready to go.

Finally, toss anything that you know you and your family are not going to eat. Maybe you were on a diet last week and now won't go near that cottage cheese, or your kids wanted to try the latest fruit drink but they didn't like it. Go ahead and get rid of it; it will eventually go bad, and since you won't consume it, why wait? Also, make sure to check for flat sodas, old wine, bad juices, and anything else that hasn't been tasted in a while.

Since everything is out of the fridge, give it a good scrub; you never know when this is going to happen again;)

When you put everything back, add some organization.

1 - Keep all condiments on the door or use a lazy susan

2 - Keep like items together; cheeses, sweet stuff, yogurts, etc. Use these bins to help keep these similar items together. I also like to keep my wines, olives and mixers on the bottom shelf on the door, or you can use these holders for wine.

3 - Pick one day a week to do a quick scan of the items in your fridge, and throw out anything that is about to go bad. Preferably, do the scan right before you go food shopping, so things don't get out of hand.

4 - If you have leftovers, try to write the date on it with an erasable marker, a marker with masking tape, or these labels, so you don't have to remember when you stored it.

You have three weeks before Thanksgiving. The countdown is on! See if you can set a few hours aside and clean out the fridge (and be ready for all those leftovers and pies).

Happy Halloween and Happy Organizing!