Food52 in 5

You’re Just 5 Minutes Away From a Shipshape Fridge

A minute-by-minute playbook to Marie Kondo-like zen.

September 26, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

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Listen, I would love to be the type of person that's greeted by a neatly organized, color-coded fridge like this one every morning. Even better would be one that's at 75 percent capacity at most, full enough to convince me that inspiring meals are aplenty, but not so full that I need to put on my best Tetris game face to retrieve my favorite pickles (Claussen Kosher Dill, for the record).

Alas, my fridge is probably not one fit for Instagram: At the start of the week, it starts off with the best of intentions, so green and so promising. As the workweek progresses, something comes undone as containers of bits and bobs start to take over, and somehow (I swear) my condiment collection seems to multiply. By the time the weekend comes around, I'm ready to stop and give everything a heave-ho.

But who has time for a full fridge clean-out, even if it's weekly? I've found even just five minutes (wherever you can find it!) is an effective pocket of time to do some damage control and get back a sense of fridge calm. My minute-by-minute-ish guide below:

How to Clean Out Your Fridge in 5 Minutes Flat

Minute 1: Set the Timer & Tunes

Grab that timer! I want you to see how much you can actually get done in these five minutes. I don't know about you, but I'm not starting any cleaning ritual without music. For some reason, Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" motivates the inner cleaner in me, so French electronica it is. Next, get your basic supplies at the ready: a garbage can, recycling bin, and/or compost bin; paper towels or reusable kitchen cloths; and your favorite all-purpose, glass, and stainless steel cleaners. Roll up your sleeves because it's going down...

Minutes 2-4: Read, Assess & Toss

Open that fridge and take a deep breath. We're going to take a cursory scan of the various shelves and door(s) before diving into the most urgent sections. If your condiment bottles have more dregs than condiment, determine if there's enough for a quick salad dressing or dip enhancer. Otherwise, glance at the best-by dates and toss anything that's seen its prime. Open containers of leftovers and make a quick yes/no with Marie Kondo–like conviction (that means saying goodbye to anything more than a few days old).

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Items are grouped together ie, all condiments in fridge door, pickled items another shelf, dairy top shelf, meat/deli has a huge drawer, veggies in one bin, fruit in the other, 3 days for leftovers...not eaten?...then tossed. Every Sunday veggie/fruit bins cleaned out. Works for me! BB💐”
— BerryBaby

Pull out those produce drawers and compost anything too sad to throw into a soup; corral the loose onions, shallots, and garlic into a single container for easy access; peel off the browning layers of a cabbage or fennel bulb to see if there's life enough for dinner tonight. Also, return anything that's navigated their way to a different section of the fridge: wayward produce back down to the drawers, condiments in the doors, raw meats on the coldest (usually back of the bottom) shelf. Put perishable goods within clear view so you know to use these things first.

Minute 4: Do a Quick Clean (Inside)

With the most in-need-of-TLC shelves freshly organized, grab some towels and your spray, and do a general wipe down of any exposed glass surfaces, shelves, corners, and the fridge's inner door frame (including the rubber seals; they can get cruddy).

Minute 4:30: Do a Quick Clean (Outside)

Close the door and remove any outdated invites, grocery lists, and beloved (but dusty) drawings. Give your doors and sides a good spray and wipe—don't forget the fridge handles.

Time's Up!

Okay, how much did you get done? More than you set out, I hope. Maybe you didn't get to everything, but that's okay. By now, the worst offenders should be taken care of and you have enough of a clean margin of space to maneuver around, and that's saying something. The next time you have a five-minute wedge of time, take on a different shelf or even...dun DUN DUUUN the freezer.

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How do you tackle a disorganized fridge? Let us know below!
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • RecipeCat
  • Steven Williamson
    Steven Williamson
  • Brinda Ayer
    Brinda Ayer
  • BerryBaby
  • Hana Asbrink
    Hana Asbrink
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


RecipeCat September 28, 2018
It's "Kondo". Not "Kando. Please correct your teaser headline on your homepage.
Hana A. September 28, 2018
This has been fixed, thanks for your eagle eye, RecipeCat!
Steven W. September 27, 2018
1) Only make food for the real amount of people. if it's just the two of you you don't need a pound of pasta. This eliminates leftovers. 2) FIFO---first in first out. keep newer items in the back. 3) Wipe up what you see when you see it.
Hana A. September 28, 2018
Great tips, Steven - thanks for your comment!
noms October 26, 2018
On the one hand, I like leftovers and usually don't let them get out of hand. Otoh, I am bad a portion control, so... these days I make pasta 4oz at a time if I can help it.
Brinda A. September 26, 2018
Mari Kondo-like conviction would do wonders for my fridge—and kitchen drawers, linen closet, toolbox, stationary supply, the list goes on. Totally gonna use a timer next time I do a speed-clean.
Hana A. September 28, 2018
Oh the linen closet... that might have to be next!
BerryBaby September 26, 2018
Nice article with helpful tips!
Maybe it was Home Ec in high school that trained my mindset on having an organized, clean fridge.
Items are grouped together ie, all condiments in fridge door, pickled items another shelf, dairy top shelf, meat/deli has a huge drawer, veggies in one bin, fruit in the other, 3 days for leftovers...not eaten?...then tossed. Every Sunday veggie/fruit bins cleaned out. Works for me! BB💐
Hana A. September 26, 2018
Hi BB! How are you? Thanks so much for reading (always!). I wish I home ec had been offered at my school; so much of how I clean/keep house is via mom's advice or (mostly) trial & error, but that is how you learn I guess. ;)
BerryBaby September 26, 2018
Hana, yes we were very fortunate Home Ec from 7th grade through high school. IMO it should still be taught. They were my favorite with art class being a close second!