Woman selecting red and green peppers from a KitchenAid® French Door Refrigerator.

How to Organize a Refrigerator in 13 Steps

There’s something very satisfying, and even calming, about opening up a clean, well-organized refrigerator, but fridge organization can be a bit daunting if you don’t know where to begin.

Learn how to organize a refrigerator with this guide for tips to maximize your space and utilize your drawers to make creating in the kitchen an easier and more fluid process.

Woman removing a carton of chocolate milk from the side shelves of a refrigerator

1. Remove Foods and Wipe Down the Inside of the Refrigerator

It’s critical to start with a “clean slate.” Before you begin organizing, remove everything from your refrigerator and throw away any expired items or food that has gone bad. Get the job done quickly and easily with these tips and tricks for properly cleaning and organizing a refrigerator. It’s a good idea to give your refrigerator a good cleaning at least four times a year.

Here are two suggestions to help ensure food preservation while you work:

  1. Work in sections, cleaning the areas where you will store your most perishable items first.

  2. Have an ice cooler handy to temporarily store your most perishable items.

Looking to address the outside of your refrigerator next? Learn how to clean your fridge’s exterior with this guide.

An organized KitchenAid® French Door refrigerator with both doors opened

2. Move Less-Perishable Items to the Refrigerator Door

Because this part of the fridge is subject to the most fluctuation in temperature, it should be reserved for condiments and other less-perishable or specialty items, like butter, soda, olives or capers.

Many refrigerators come with gallon-sized door bins designed for large containers, and you may be tempted to store milk in these large bins. However, refrigerator food storage guidelines state that milk should be stored on a middle shelf where temperatures are consistent. Storing eggs in the door should be avoided as well. Instead, store your eggs on an interior shelf where it’s cooler.

DOOR TIP:

Consider designating a kids’ area. Keep children’s drinks or grab-and-go snacks at eye level on lower door shelves for quick access.

Condiments and bottled drinks stored in a refrigerator door

3. Include an “Eat First” Bin

To reduce food waste, designate an “eat first” bin in your refrigerator as a reminder to keep this food top-of-mind for use. This minimizes the chances of perishable items expiring before you had a chance to use them in your creative recipes.

This step is as simple as using a clear plastic bin and labeling it “Eat First.” Next, place this on a front shelf for consistent temperatures and fill it with items that may go bad soon. When you are about to start a recipe, remember to check this bin first.

Woman placing a red pepper into an opened crisper drawer

4. Align Foods to the Upper and Lower Shelves

Shelves represent the bulk of refrigerator storage capacity. Generally, the lower shelves are a few degrees cooler than the upper shelves, so you’ll want to store food accordingly. Place your most perishable items, like raw meats and dairy products, on the lower shelves and foods that require little or no cooking, such as prepared foods, leftovers or drinks, on the upper shelves.

Additionally, foods that will need to be cooked at the highest temperatures, such as poultry and fish, should be stored on the bottom shelves for cooler temperatures and to prevent cross-contaminaton. Foods that will be cooked at the lowest temperatures, or not at all, go on the top shelves.

KitchenAid® side-by-side refrigerators offer even more flexible and creative storage options with adjustable shelves.

SHELVES TIP:

You’re more likely to reach for what’s in front of you first so rotate items frequently. Move the oldest items in the fridge to the front and the newest items to the back to avoid food spoilage and unnecessary waste.

5. Organize Food in Clear Bins

Using clear bins to store food in your refrigerator is convenient and gives you the ability to quickly find what you need without having to rummage through the shelves. In fact, it is also aesthetically pleasing to open your refrigerator and see your items properly organized and ready for your recipes.

Fresh produce stored in clear bins

6. Keep Meats and Cheeses in the Deli Drawer

Deli Drawers are designed to store perishable items, like meats and cheeses, at lower temperatures to help optimize freshness. On many French door refrigerators from KitchenAid, this drawer can be used to store party trays and large platters, making them ideal for entertaining. Some models come equipped with manual temperature controls to give you ultimate control.

Various meats and cheeses stored in deli drawers

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7. Separate Fruits and Vegetables in High-Humidity and Low-Humidity Crisper Drawers

Storing vegetables in your fridge can be a little tricky if you’re not familiar with humidity levels. Some crisper drawers are designed with different humidity levels to help preserve freshness and prolong the life of your produce. As a general rule to organize your refrigerator properly, produce that is thin skinned should be stored at a higher humidity level. So, leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, citrus and ethylene-sensitive produce like strawberries should be stored where moisture is higher.

Ethylene gas is a natural hormone that certain fruits and vegetables release as they ripen. When exposed to other produce, these “ethylene emitters” can hasten rotting, so they need to be stored separately at lower humidity levels to slow the ripening process. Store apples, avocados, pears, melons and stone fruits in the low-humidity drawer.

Various fruits and vegetables stored in crisper drawers

CRISPER DRAWER TIP:

  • Crisper drawers work best when they are about ⅔ full to allow breathing room for your fruits and veggies.

  • Avoid washing produce until you are ready to eat or cook it. Extra moisture can cause produce to decay quicker.

8. Add Drawer Liners

The bottoms of crisper drawers can get dirty fast. By simply lining them with absorbent liners, you can avoid unpleasant cleaning and spend more time creating. Remember to change the paper towels out every week or so to maintain a fresh lining.

Learn more about refrigerator cleaning tips and best practices.

Crisper drawers containing apples, pears, peppers and various vegetables.

9. Add Storage Baskets to Wall Space

Similar to clear storage bins, adhering small, hanging baskets to the walls of your refrigerator is an effective organization hack to maximize space, particularly when it comes to small items.

Instead of having these items disorganized and scattered throughout your shelves, take back control to prevent waste and easily find your items with simple basket organization—allowing you to spend less time searching and more time focusing on your recipes in the kitchen.

Woman placing a jar of herbs on a top refrigerator shelf.

10. Use a Lazy Susan to Organize Refrigerator Shelves

Avoid rummaging around in the fridge and knocking things over to find that long lost jar of tapenade. Add a Lazy Susan to the front of the shelf to store and access small jars.

11. Use File Organizers

File organizers are versatile and can serve as effective refrigerator storage tools, especially when it comes to single-serve food packs, such as yogurt and pudding cups. Avoid bulky boxes and cardboard holders by using file organizers to keep your snacks sorted and ready to eat.

Opened French Door refrigerator with red KitchenAid® Stand Mixer on the adjacent counter

12. Hang Bagged Foods with Ring Clips

Another refrigerator organization hack to maximize space is to use binder clips to hang bagged food items from the racks, such as lettuce, kale or shredded cheese. As an added bonus, this simultaneously serves as an effective method to seal opened bags of food as well.

13. Label Foods in the Fridge and Freezer

Get in the habit of labeling everything with dates and names to help keep food from going bad. This comes in especially handy for foods stored in the freezer.

If you do happen to come across expired food, learn how to get rid of odors from your refrigerator.

A red jar, bottled drinks and produce resting on refrigerator shelves

Now that you know how to organize your refrigerator and maximize space with these tips, you can spend less time shuffling through your fridge and more time focusing on your recipes in the kitchen.

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