8 innovative ways to organize a fridge: fridge clutter, be gone!

Organizing a fridge couldn't be simpler with this expert advice

A well-stocked fridge with fruit, veg and bottles
(Image credit: Csondy / Getty)

Organizing a fridge properly is essential if you want to make food prep more pleasurable, reduce food waste, and clean your fridge less. While the shelving and drawers in a fridge do in themselves provide some organization, most of us have so much stuff in our refrigerators that inevitably things get pushed back and back until they go off/fall over and spill. 

If your top new year's project is to learn how to organize a kitchen, then organizing a refrigerator should be a top priority also. Organize this space, and you'll be enjoying using your kitchen more in no time, we promise. 

Why organizing a fridge is so important

It's not all about looks or that satisfying feeling of having a tidier space. Hayley Simmons, Director Commercial Range at Magnet (opens in new tab), explains that 'efficient fridge organisation is essential for ensuring your food is stored safely to help prevent food poisoning from bacteria. Maintaining this can also minimize the amount of food you waste, helping you save money in 2022.' 

Most of us waste food at least some of the time, and the reason is almost entirely that we simply don't know what's in the in fridge or where it is. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to organize a refrigerator that specifically target clutter and forgetfulness.

1. Incorporate trays and baskets

a fridge organized with clear plastic trays and drawers

The Home Edit Fridge Starter Kit (opens in new tab), The Container Store 

(Image credit: The Container Store)

If you do just one thing to organize your refrigerator, add some containers to your shelves. You'll see an immediate difference in how easy it is to find things and you will stop knocking over bottles – ideal. Hayley Simmons, Director of Commercial Range at Magnet (opens in new tab), recommends using 'trays and baskets to separate different foods Just like you would use baskets and trays around the house. They are useful for keeping different food types apart to stop contamination or even to make your fridge look tidier and aesthetically pleasing. For example, use a tray to store all your raw meats and a basket for your condiments that don’t fit in the door of your fridge.'

We like plastic trays and containers because they are so easy to clean – and see-through for added convenience. 

2. Keep foods that have a shorter shelf life at the front of the fridge

A fridge with a note advising which food to eat first

(Image credit: Oreolife / Alamy Stock Photo)

This is a very simple change to your fridge organization method that is nothing short of revolutionary. Simmons points out that food waste very often results from 'people not knowing what they have in their fridge and when it goes out of date. When storing items in your fridge, it is important to keep perishable foods that have the shortest shelf life at the front of the shelf so you can see when they go out of date.'

If you tend to move things around a lot in your fridge, you can also try dedicating a whole separate shelf to the food that needs to be cooked/consumed first and putting a sign on that shelf to remind you.

3. Use a rotating kitchen organizer

Refrigerator Lazy Susan with condiments in a fridge

Refrigerator Lazy Susan (opens in new tab), The Container Store

(Image credit: The Container Store)

If you keep running out of space in your fridge, chances are it's because you've accumulated too many jars and bottles of condiments and sauces. What often happens is all those jars line the back of fridge shelves, despite not ever being used. Brenda Scott, Professional Organizer at Tidy my Space (opens in new tab), advises grouping bottles of sauces, salad dressing, etc' together, and then deciding 'if they get used every day or not. This tells you where to put them in the fridge.'

Once you've grouped together the jars and bottles you do use regularly, Scott suggests getting a turntable-style container – it rotates, allowing you to easily locate the jar you need without having to pull everything out.

4. Store your beer bottles and fruit together

This is a genius tip from Scott, who admits that it 'may sound weird but I have my beer bottles in a fridge bin with my apples. I lay the bottles flat: one or two layers just enough for a summer party and then have loose apples on top. This keeps the beer and apples chilled and ready to go.'

This great tip also makes sure that you have more available shelf space – 'apples are quite bulky and a container would take up a lot of shelf space. Win-win!'

5. Stick to one produce type per shelf 

Another failsafe way to never forget what you have in the fridge is to group produce types together. Christina Russo, the Creative Director of The Kitchen Community (opens in new tab), recommends using 'one shelf for dairy, one for produce, and one for meat', and using the compartments at the bottom of the fridge 'for everything else.

That way you’ll always know where everything is, where to find it, and by
opening the door of the fridge and looking inside, you will be able to see
at a glance, what you’re running short of and what you need to add to your
next shopping list.'

It's also a really good idea to do this in order to keep your produce fresh. Store meat and dairy at the lower shelves, where the fridge is cooler, and use the upper shelves for less perishable items.

6. Label everything

A fridge with container labelled in a permanent marker

(Image credit: Edding Group)

It may seem obvious, but labeling everything (and we mean everything) will really up your game where it comes to organizing a refrigerator. 

Cleaning and Organization Expert and President of Molly Maid (opens in new tab), Vera Peterson, highly recommends 'keeping painter’s tape and a permanent marker near the fridge for labeling. Painter’s tape comes off containers easily for simple cleanup.' Don't just use any marker, either – there are specialist markers, for example from Edding (opens in new tab), that are suitable for silicone storage pouches, clear plastic, glass, and even freezer containers.

Don't just write the name of the produce; Peterson advises to 'take a cue from professional kitchens, and be sure to date your labels so you won’t have to remember which day you made chili for dinner.'

7. Line the shelves for easy cleaning

Fridge mats in different colors lining fridge shelves

(Image credit: Amazon)

This may seem like a cleaning tip rather than an organizing tip, but if you've ever tried cleaning up spills in your fridge, you will know that this almost always mean moving things around – and then not remembering where they are. Peterson recommends lining your fridge shelves 'with plastic wrap or fridge mats for easy fridge cleanup. Just remove and replace plastic wrap or wash the mats in the sink.'

Fridge mats can be bought from Amazon (opens in new tab). You can just gently pull them out from under your items when they need cleaning. 

8. Use the freezer to save space

Many of us don't actually use our freezers very much but they're a valuable source of extra storage space – especially if you know how to organize a freezer like a pro too... According to Peterson, 'a lot of leftovers can easily be frozen, so if you know it might be a while before you’ll eat something, put it in the freezer. Don’t forget to label and date it so you’ll remember what’s inside that container!'

How do you organize a cluttered fridge? 

If your fridge is very cluttered and you don't know where to even begin organizing it, Rowena Murakami, a food and kitchen expert and Co-Founder and Master
Chef of the Tiny Kitchen Divas (opens in new tab), has some top tips.

Murakami's main overall tip is to 'start with one shelf and work from there. Toss everything out of the fridge. I mean everything. After you do that, follow these three steps.'

The first is to place your most commonly used items 'within reach of your arm. You never want to have to move items around or dig down into the fridge just to grab what you need. Leave space in front of them so you can see what's there.'

Next, 'place other commonly used items in hard-to-access areas, such as
towards the back of the shelves. These are items that you don't use on a
daily or even weekly basis, so they can be in the back where you won't see

The final step is to 'get rid of the rest of the food and make sure it stays out of the
fridge! If you know you don't eat it, then don't keep it in the fridge. For
beverages, utilize the door of your refrigerator. Store drinks this way so
they are easily accessible.'

Should I keep milk in the fridge door? 

Kitchen experts, including Hayley Simmons, advise against this, even though milk bottles fit neatly inside your fridge door. Typically, fridge doors are not cool enough to guarantee the correct temperature for keeping dairy fresh, which is why you keep finding that your milk has gone off. Instead, store milk in the center of your fridge. 

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.