How to Organize Your Refrigerator From Start to Finish

Organizing your fridge is a simple project that makes life easier every single day.

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Next Project

A few hours




Less than $20


When your refrigerator is organized, you'll stop wasting precious time hunting for items. Plus, when everything is stored in the best spot, you'll waste less food and save money.

Plan to organize your fridge before your next trip to the grocery store. The job will be easier since you'll have less food to take out and sort through, and you'll get a good feel for what needs to be replenished.

Tools Required

  • Bucket or sink
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Cooler
  • Label maker (optional)
  • Note-taking supplies (paper and pencil or a notes app)
  • Tape measure

Materials Required

  • Cleaning spray suited to your refrigerator's finish (i.e. stainless steel spray)
  • Dish soap

Project step-by-step (8)

Step 1

Evaluate Your Refrigerator

  • Open your refrigerator door and take a peek inside. Ask: What’s working? What’s not working?
  • Snap a few “before” photos and jot down your thoughts.

Evaluate the fridgeAby Garvey for Family Handyman

Step 2

Make a Plan

The key to setting up a refrigerator that will stay organized is designating specific spots for categories of items. Storage solutions will help maintain those boundaries and make it easier to see and access everything.

If you have a lot of food spoilage, consider optimizing where items are stored based on the guidelines below. On the other hand, if you have a large family and food is eaten up quickly, prioritize convenience by storing snacks and frequently-used items on the door and towards the front of the fridge.

  • Bottom Drawer: Use this for meat and poultry that will be cooked. This is the coldest drawer. Since it’s at the bottom or your refrigerator, you’ll avoid contaminating foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and veggies, if your meat packages leak. If you need to store lunch meat and cheese in the same drawer as raw meat, plan on purchasing a container for the raw meat.

  • Produce Drawers: If you have two, use one for vegetables and strawberries, which like higher humidity, and the second for all other fruits. Adjust the settings on your drawers, turning up the humidity level for the vegetables and strawberries and dialing it down for the all-other-fruit drawer. If you only have two drawers, use one for meat and one for vegetables. Purchase a container to store your fruit on another fridge shelf.

  • Bottom Shelves: These are the coldest shelves in your refrigerator, so use them to store your most perishable items like milk, butter, eggs and other dairy items.

  • Door Storage: Items on the door are exposed to fluctuating temperatures, so it makes sense to use them for items that get consumed quickly or are less prone to spoilage. Consider this area for canned or bottled beverages and/or vinegar-based condiments such as pickles, olives and the like.

  • Top Shelves: Use the top shelves for additional condiments, leftovers, bread and as an overflow area.

Make a PlanAby Garvey for Family Handyman

Step 3

Shop for Refrigerator Storage Solutions

  • Consult your plan and your before photos to make a list of organizers to purchase. Focus on purchasing containers that will help you keep similar items together and make it easier to access items in the back of your refrigerator.

  • Measure the width and depth of your refrigerator shelves to ensure a good fit.

  • Avoid filling every square inch of your refrigerator with organizers. They’ll get in the way when you have large items, such as a casserole or a turkey to defrost.

  • Opt for basic, adaptable organizers like a lazy Susan or refrigerator bins over specific solutions like egg and soda storage, so your refrigerator continues to work as your needs change.

  • Add a water filter to your list if it’s time for a new one!

Shop for Refrigerator Storage SolutionsAby Garvey for Family Handyman

Step 4

Empty Your Fridge

  • Remove items from the refrigerator section by section.

  • Check expiration dates. If you have trouble reading an expiration date, snap a photo and zoom in.

  • Pitch or recycle anything that’s expired or questionable.

  • Make a list of anything you need to replenish.

  • Store food you’ll be keeping in a cooler while completing the remaining steps.

Empty Your FridgeAby Garvey for Family Handyman

Step 5


  • Clean the shelves and drawers using dish soap and a cleaning cloth.
    • Remove extra-grimy shelves from the refrigerator and wash them in a sink filled with soapy water.

Clean the drawersAby Garvey for Family Handyman

Step 6

Change Your Water Filter

  • With your refrigerator clean and empty, now is a great time to install that new water filter.

Change Your Water Filter 2Aby Garvey for Family Handyman

Step 7

Rearrange the Shelves

  • If you need to change the height of any of the shelves to accommodate your plan, do so as you put the shelves back into the refrigerator.

Rearrange ShelvesAby Garvey for Family Handyman

Step 8

Finish Up

  • Add your organizers and load your refrigerator, following your plan.
    • Consider adding labels if they will help you and your family members understand where items belong.
  • Wipe down the outside of your refrigerator.

  • Stand back and admire your work!

Finished fridge organizationAby Garvey for Family Handyman