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Organizing Your Refrigerator and Freezer in 10 Minute Blocks

The holidays are rapidly approaching. Soon you are likely to be up to your elbows in preparing special meals and treats. It’s time to make room in your refrigerator and freezer to store these goodies.

That means that right now you will want to clean out and reorganize your refrigerator and freezer. This is a task that we often put off as long as possible because it is so overwhelming. We are pretty sure that there are containers in the back that would qualify for science fair exhibits on mold and mildew growth. How long is that pickle relish that you bought over a year ago good for? And even if it is still good, don’t you really need the room more than the relish?

In the past I have always set aside a day to completely empty, clean, clear out excess food items, and put things back in the refrigerator and freezer. Its exhausting!

This year I decided to do something different and to use our Organize Your Home 10 Minutes at a Time deck of cards as my organizing tool.

Organizing tool: deck of cards

I pulled out the Refrigerator card from my deck of Organize Your Home 10 Minutes at a Time.

I set my timer for 10 minutes.

  1. Pick 1 shelf, drawer, or area of the door.
  2. Remove the contents from that space and wipe it down.
  3. Toss anything that is expired or almost empty.
  4. Put the remaining items back grouped by category.

 Divide the refrigerator and freezer into workable units

I decided to start with the interior of the refrigerator. I divided it into four sections.

  • The top two shelves took nine minutes.
  • A drawer and a shelf went slightly over the 10-minute mark.
  • The two bottom drawers each went slightly over 10 minutes.

Next, I worked in the freezer.

  • The freezer bottom drawer and rack took 9 minutes.
  • The remainder three freezer shelves took a total of 9 minutes.

Last, I worked on the refrigerator door.

  • I did this in two 9 minutes sessions.

Then I pulled out the refrigerator and cleaned behind it and wiped off the top.

In Summary:

This reorganization and cleaning of the entire refrigerator and freezer took less than an hour and a half. I spread the work out over five days. At no time did I have my kitchen in disarray by pulling out too much stuff.

I know that I am motivated to keep it in a clean and decluttered state throughout the holidays.

As I start into the new year, I will keep in mind that I can just clean and reorganize one shelf if it begins to bother me.

Taking 10 minutes or less on a regular basis will affect how I feel when I am searching in my refrigerator and freezer for the items that I need to prepare my meals.

A challenge!

I challenge you to look around and find one area in your kitchen or elsewhere that you could declutter in 10 minutes or less. Then just do it! Just for fun send us pictures of your project on our Facebook page Ask the Organizers Diane and Jonda. You will feel so much better when you see the organized space you have created with just a little time investment!

If you are struggling with developing  an organizational plan or just want some help or accountability in following through with the plan, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space for You virtual support group.

Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.




  • As we will be hosting Thanksgiving this year, your post provides me with a good nudge to do a bit of pre-holiday fridge assessment and cleaning. Recently, I went through the pantry and fridge ‘hunting’ for expired items. Since it hadn’t been that long from the previous edit, I didn’t think I’d have much to toss. But guess what? Surprisingly, there were a lot of items that had overstayed their welcome. So out they went. Partly it was due to our change in eating habits this past year. And the other part, well, I guess the time had come for some items to go bye-bye. It always feels good to edit and let go. In doing so, we make space for what we use and need.

  • Seana Turner says:

    You are so right that this is the time to clean it all out before I start bringing everything in for the holidays. To be honest, the refrigerator that I really need to address is the one out in my garage. I seldom clean that one, but it gets very busy during the holidays. I’m going to add this little project to my list!

  • Wonderful challenge! It is super important to do this BEFORE the holidays. It makes entertaining so much easier during the holiday season. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Jana Arevalo says:

    It’s like you read my mind!! I went to the grocery store this weekend and saw all of the Thanksgiving accouterments and started to internally freak out! This is a good reminder that I don’t need to clear the ENTIRE fridge all at once. I love how you broke down the time it took for each section. These types of tasks always seem so overwhelming. Thank you for the great tips… I feel confident to tackle my own science experiments now.

  • I guess one of the benefits of having a small fridge is that I can do the whole thing (excluding cleaning) in about half an hour. I can’t imagine spreading it out over five days!

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    I can only imagine how exhausting this is for most households. I am a singleton who doesn’t really cook. Not counting condiments, almost nothing lives in my fridge for more than a week, because I use it up or toss it out. (I keep buying veggies because I believe Future Me is a healthier eater than Present Me. Nope.) But whenever I’m facing this kind of project with my clients, I take exactly your approach to show that that each bit or phase can be handled quickly. (Once we toss everything that’s expired and consolidate, they’re always amazed at how much easier it is to create zones and see everything!)

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