One of the first challenges I undertook was to clean the kitchen, including the fridge. Although the kitchen as a whole has stayed fairly clean and organized, and Eric has even helped me go through the cabinets since the first purge/cleaning, I feel like the fridge is nearly always out of control.
Last week, I had three bowls of macaroni salad sitting on the counter because they didn't fit in the fridge. You know it's bad when you can't cram three bowls in somewhere. Sigh.
So it was time to clean the fridge.
Since my last post, we replaced the old secondhand Sub-Zero with a new fridge, a side-by-side stainless behemoth. It's big. It holds a lot of stuff. Eric had to take the door off to get it into the house. It's cold inside.
Stainless steel, however, sucks, because it means not only is the inside difficult to keep clean, but so is the outside. Every little fingerprint and drip shows, and getting them off requires special cleaning products. And I'm the only one who cleans it. Poor me...
Anyhow, that's the least of my problems. I know the best plan of attack would be to buy no more food than we can eat in a week, clean the fridge weekly, and have plenty of open space at all times, enough even for guest's beer and leftovers.
In practice, I find that nearly impossible. Working in a grocery store means I buy a little bit every day, and since we don't eat a lot of meals together, we don't do any meal planning. Sometimes we make things we don't really like all that much and just leave them in the refrigerator, hoping they'll disappear.
When I cleaned out the fridge, I found several things that fit that category, and much more.
I suspect there is a correlation between overly full fridges and food waste. I put a bunch of stuff on the compost pile and down the garbage disposal. Unfortunately, a few things went straight into the trash, too.
Some stuff just needed to be in a different container. We had a tiki cocktail party a few weeks ago that involved lots of homemade syrups and juices, and those just needed to be put in better containers for longer storage. Eric had a cup of kimchi in a half-gallon Ball jar.
And then the general organization of the fridge was shit. I could have sworn that I wrote about organizing the fridge with baskets, but I can't find any such references anywhere. Somewhere I read about using plastic baskets in the freezer to help keep things organized. I did this and it worked so well, I tried it in the fridge, too. We have four plastic bins that each hold a different category of thing (our categories are sweet things, Asian cooking things, cheese & "meat" things, and pickled things). If everything stays where it's supposed to, it's easy to find what you need. I highly recommend the basket system. We bought ours for a few dollars each at Big Lots. The ones with handles are best because they have straight sides. The white one looks bigger, but it's more difficult to handle.
Besides the tiki party, we hopped on the craft cocktail cart in a more general way, so the fridge had cocktail ingredients in multiple places. Everything except eggs was in multiple places (good job, eggs).
I decided to take everything out and clean the fridge one shelf at a time. If I learned nothing else from Marie Kondo's The Magic Art of Tidying Up, I now know to take everything out and start with a clean, empty space. I left all the jarred things on the counter until the end. I took everything out of the door. Then I decided what should go back in and where.
It seems that one of my favorite things to add to the fridge is beverages. There are many, many beverages in our refrigerator, most without alcohol (which is probably why they're still there). It also became clear that Eric has not been following the organizational bin system at all. I found black bean paste in the sweet things bin. Wow. (I say that like I know what black bean paste tastes like, which I do not. For all I know it could be sweet.)
Overall, though, it was just messy. I married some condiments, got rid of old jars of things, and combined like types of things on the same shelf. And I cleaned as I went. Afterward, my labor was rewarded when I was able to get the macaroni salad in with room to spare. I'm also happy to report that we ate all the macaroni salad and didn't waste a bit of it.
Some things I've learned from all the cleaning and decluttering I've done:
- Whatever the space you're trying to clean/declutter, take everything out, clean the space, and decide what you want to put back in. It's nearly impossible to tell if you really need to keep something while it's still in place.
- If you're on the fence, get rid of it. If it's going to be difficult to replace, take a picture of it. And then get rid of it. I've regretted tossing so few things that I can't actually think of one right now.
- If your lifestyle changes and suddenly you find yourself with 40 cocktail ingredients you need to store, redo your organization to accommodate your new interests.
- Despite what Marie Kondo says in the book, I find I have to keep going back over things. Maybe if nothing about my life ever changed, I could put everything in a place and have it work out forever, but things change all the time. And sometimes in changing, they get messy again. It's fixable.
- Don't buy stainless steel appliances. It's a trap.
In case you've been wondering how the under-the-sink cleaning project held up, I got a picture of that, too, for comparison. I didn't do any sort of straightening or cleaning for the after pic. That's really what it looks like.
The tension rod failed, so I don't recommend that for bottles. But you could use it for the dish rag, as my mom does. She finds that more convenient than leaving a wet heap in the sink, apparently. Otherwise, once again the baskets have worked out just fine, despite a slight color change (maybe just a lighting change?).
You can see the stainless steel cleaning product right up front next to the bag of baking soda. And it appears my taste in cleaning products is completely different now, for whatever that's worth.
This was definitely a project worth undertaking.