C.O.P. – Putting Systems In Place For Refrigerator And Freezer Organization

As you know, I’m continuing my cleaning, organizing, and purging (C.O.P.) journey in my home this year, and I decided that the refrigerator and freezer couldn’t wait any longer. So yesterday morning, I started unloading everything from the fridge and gave the whole thing a thorough cleaning before deciding exactly how I wanted things to be arranged.

I’ve mentioned before that once I have established systems of organization in place, I’m good to go. I can generally stick with those systems and keep things where they’re supposed to be. But until I make a concerted effort to think through organization and put those systems into place, I’m a mess. Without specific and simple systems in place, I always resort to the “open and shove” method of storage. And my poor refrigerator and freezer have been victims of this method for far too long now.

Now that I have some pretty “after” pictures to show you, I can go ahead and show you the horrifying and dreadful “before” pictures to show you just how bad things had gotten.

Prepare yourself. It’s pretty scary. Here’s how bad my refrigerator had gotten. This is where the “open and shove” storage method leads…

That’s bad. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, here’s the freezer…

Yep. That’s definitely worse.

The freezer was not only a victim of my “open and shove” method of storage, but it had also suffered from my “I give up” attitude with the ice maker. I got so frustrated with this thing about two weeks ago that I completely removed the ice storage container, which meant that all day, every day, that ice maker was just dumping ice directly onto the top shelf.

I’ve hated this ice container since the day I got this refrigerator. I think this is one of the most poorly designed products I’ve ever had.

I guess you’re supposed to reach into that narrow section in the front to retrieve the ice, but there’s barely enough room for my hand, much less room enough for my fingers trying to grab a few pieces of ice. So the most I could ever get was one piece at a time from this from section.

Here’s my hand so you can get an idea of just how ridiculously narrow that section is. And just imagine my fingers trying to wrap around a few pieces of ice in that narrow section. It’s such a ridiculous design.

So when I needed ice, I would pull the ice container forward and retrieve it from the large back section. The problem is that if I failed to push the container ALLLL the way back in so that it was touching the back wall of the freezer, the ice maker would start dumping ice BEHIND the container. Then it would melt a little, freeze together as a big chunk of ice, and prevent me from pushing the container in further. After a few times of that happening, the ice container was so far forward that all of the ice was being dumped behind the container, rendering the container completely useless.

So about two weeks ago, I gave up, removed the ice container completely, and just completely surrendered to defeat from the ice maker. And this was the result.

The rest of that mess? Well, that’s the result of “open and shove.”

And the refrigerator door shelves are obviously where things go to be completely forgotten.

I really thought that I had done better at keeping condiments and sauces updated, but evidently not. I found three spicy mustards, and all of them were way outdated. This was the oldest, with a “best by” date of October 2018. 😀

Another one with a “best by” date of January 2019…

And another one “best by” December 2018.

I think the lesson here is that I should stop buying spicy mustard, because clearly we don’t actually use it.

And why do I find bottles of sauce that have about a tablespoon left in a huge bottle? Is this really worth saving?

My freezer also has this little area on the door, which has always seemed pretty useless to me, and yet it has collected random items as well.

Ugh. Such a mess. “Open and shove” never ends well.

So I unloaded, and unloaded, and unloaded, and then I wiped down every square inch of the interior of the refrigerator and freezer. And then I started thinking through where things really ought to go, and how I’d like to see things arranged when I open these doors.

And y’all, I even got out my label maker. 😀 When I say that I need systems in place, that’s what I mean. I need to open the door and see labels inside my refrigerator.

And now, everything has a very specific (and labeled) place where it belongs.

That way, when I’m tempted to find some random open space on a random shelf for the sour cream, I can be reminded by the labels that the sour cream actually has a place on the “Dairy” shelf. And instead of shoving my jar of pickles onto a random shelf, I can be reminded by the “Pickled Snacks” label that my pickles have a home right there in the door. I only eat four things that go in that section — pickles, olives, banana peppers, and tamed jalapenos. And there’s room enough there for four jars. So now, I can easily see that if that section is full, then I don’t need to purchase a new jar of tamed jalapenos on my next four trips to the grocery store, and have them all wind up shoved to the back of the refrigerator, never to be seen again. 😀

Not every area got a label, but I did label my drawers. One of them is now for vegetables…

And while I know that onions don’t need to be refrigerated, I like to have all of my veggies in the same place.

And my other drawer is now for cheese.

Is there anything more amazing than a drawer full of cheese? No. The answer to that question is always no. A drawer for cheese and filled with cheese is glorious thing.

The only other containers I labeled on the refrigerator shelves were the two used for Cooper’s food and treats. We don’t feed him dog food. He gets human food, and ground beef is a big part of his diet. He also gets beef hot dogs as a treat. So I now have a container labeled “Cooper Food” for his ground beef, and “Cooper Snacks” for his hot dogs. I really should have used my white labels in my label maker for these, but this is fine for now.

(To be clear, that’s not all that Cooper eats. 😀 )

So now, my refrigerator shelves look like this…

I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me to open up my refrigerator door and see this! It’s amazing what peace of mind organization can bring. I used to dread opening up my refrigerator door and having to search for what I needed. Now I know exactly where everything is. And what’s even better is that I can see when I’m running low on something. I can see clearly now when I’m running low on veggies or olives. No more buying a new jar of olives each time I’m at the grocery store because I can’t remember, and then finding five jars of olives shoved to the back of the fridge.

I took a picture with the light off so things are a little easier to see. I do my grocery shopping on Monday, and I try to buy for one week, although we always have left over bacon, sausage, and cheese. But the eggs, Cooper’s food and treats, ground beef, salsa, and veggies are a weekly buy. I buy eggs once a week from my sister, who lives out in the country and has a ton of chickens. We love fresh eggs from her free-range chickens, and we all eat them. Matt and Cooper eat eggs every single day. I eat them about three times a week. And I give Felicity an egg yolk every now and then as a treat.

So now on the shelves, I have (top row) a container for bacon (yes, bacon gets its own container, because…BACON), and then eggs on the right.

On the second shelf are our breakfast sausage links, my salsa (I really go through the salsa 😀 ), Cooper’s snacks, and Cooper’s food.

On the lower shelf is our ground beef (we really go through the ground beef), and Matt’s Zevias. And then, as I already mentioned, the left drawer holds veggies, and the right drawer is the glorious cheese drawer.

We eat very simply around here, so now all of our weekly staples have a place. No more “open and shove”, and no more searching for an open spot, or having to shift things around to clear a spot. And also, no more having things get shoved to the back where they’ll be forgotten. And there’s still an open space right at the top with plenty of room just in case I make something like a roast or brisket and need space for leftovers.

And now here’s a look at the freezer. First, the little previously useless area in the door now has a very high calling and purpose. It holds my Lily’s chocolate. 😀 I mean, other than a bacon container and a cheese drawer, I can think of no higher purpose than holding chocolate.

And check out this beautiful sight. Even Cooper was impressed.

I bought two large containers (wider and deeper than the previous ice container) on Amazon (this is what I bought) that I can easily reach into to grab ice. And I bought two just in case there’s any spill over or the first one fills up, the second one is there. That left just enough space for the ice cream. And the bottom area is filled with only the things I actually use from this freezer — frozen veggies, shrimp, and a container for my Breyer’s Carb Smart ice cream bars. Everything else (i.e., frozen meats) get stored in the pantry freezer.

(Random note: I don’t know why my floor looks so worn in that area by the freezer. It really needs some attention soon before it gets damaged. I don’t have any other places on my floor that look like that, so it’s a mystery why that’s happening right there.)

So here’s a quick recap of the before and after of my refrigerator and freezer after cleaning, organizing, and purging the whole thing…

That was a huge C.O.P. project to tackle. Or rather, it was one of those projects that seemed huge in my mind, and yet once I got started, it was actually pretty easy and enjoyable. How many times do I put off projects because they seem huge and daunting in my head, while they really aren’t that big of a deal? I’m afraid that happens more times than it ought to happen. And the more that thing looms over me, the bigger it seems, and the worse I feel about myself for not getting it done. It’s a cycle that I’d love to break, and I feel like getting projects like this done, and getting systems into place, will help me break that cycle.

It feels so good to finally have it done, and to have a system in place now! I feel like it’s a very manageable system that I can stick to from here on out.

UPDATE: The label maker I have and love is the Brother P-Touch model PT-D400. You can click here to find it on Amazon. I love it because it has several fonts, they make different tapes for it (you can get clear, white, designs, etc.), and it can print multi-line labels. I use batteries in mine so I can carry it all over the house without worrying about where to plug it in, but it also comes with an A/C adapter. I highly recommend it!



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  1. Well now I’m curious how your pantry freezer looks, with all the freezer contents moved there! My own chest freezer is a dumping ground where you have to dig Down into it to reach what’s at the bottom… which is physically painful sometimes 😬

    1. Surprisingly, my pantry freezer is really pretty organized. It’s really only used for meat, and I have it organized by type of meat and cut. It’s been three years, so it really needs to be defrosted now, but other than that, it’s organized. It helps that its purpose is to only store meat. 😀

    2. Heidi – I have a big chest freezer, too. They make bins – or you could probably find plastic bins that fit – that stack on each other for the freezer. That way I can keep like things together, lift out a whole bin of things to get at what’s under, etc. It makes a huge difference!

  2. Hi, Kristi! I love your refrigerator and freezer cleaning/organizing. I plan to tackle that myself and you have given me some great ideas. Thank you!

  3. I also have the ziplock kingdom in the refrig & freezer. You buy , use some , ziplock the rest and it gets lost in the jungle, buy more! Great job!

  4. your COP is a glorious success! Starting back on Keto, I need to do this for myself….I just know having purged all the old and in with the new & healthy, and having it all in sight on hand will not only keep me on track but make my keto journey so much easier! Ive done it before and need to get back on the wagon, being prepared is key! So let me just say thanks for the inspo in advance! Your fridge/freezer looks amazing!

    1. I have the Brother P-Touch PT-D400. Here’s my Amazon affiliate link for the one I have: https://amzn.to/3ueAAV1

      I love it because it has several fonts, they make different tapes for it (you can get clear, white, designs, etc.), and it can print multi-line labels. I use batteries in mine so I can carry it all over the house without worrying about where to plug it in, but it also comes with an A/C adapter.

      1. Kristi,
        Does the ice maker not have a wire (metal type bar thing) or other thing that moves up and down when the ice is dumping? In most freezers, that wire thing is there so it knows when it is supposed to stop making ice because the bin is too full and it can be moved to the upper position to turn the ice maker off when you want. If you have the manual, you can look it up or put the model in online and usually you can find the manual there, if that’s easier. I’ve never seen an ice maker without that feature.

        1. Mine has a plastic thing that I believe serves that purpose. The problem is that it dumps the ice just behind that plastic thing that sticks out. So as long as it was piling up to the back, it would keep making ice. It’s just a poor design.

  5. Great work- now I need to do the same! The freezer drawer is my worst spot. I HATE my ice maker too – and unlike yours it barely makes enough ice for us to use! So, my one fix was to buy two bags of ice – one is stored under the container, and a tray (just like yours) of loose ice sits on top with a scoop. Easy to get to, always supply, and if I clear the top, at least I still have some below. I always forget I even have the ice maker now. (in the door) The real issue is the drawer full of meat and frozen items…believe me, things get lost in there! Not sure WHAT to do with that! A deep drawer can really get to be a mess and disorganized quick…perhaps you or your fans have an idea???

    1. I wish I had an idea for you, but I find deep freezer drawers to be especially challenging exactly for the reason you mentioned. Deep chest freezers are the same way. I don’t know how people keep those organized, but hopefully someone will have an idea for you.

  6. Question, I want to know about Zevia. How different is it from other diet fizzy drinks. We’ve been in search of a regular diet drink lately, especially if it goes on sale. The big brands tend to only stock one plain zero soda around here and my husband likes variety.

    1. Zevia is sweetened with stevia. It’s really pretty good, and comes in a ton of flavors. It’s the only diet drink Matt can drink since all the others (that we know of) are sweetened with aspartame, and aspartame has horrible effects on him. He was so happy to find one sweetened with stevia! We buy these locally, but we’ve also found them on Amazon. They even have a variety pack so you can try them all and see which ones are your favorites. Here’s my affiliate link for that variety pack: https://amzn.to/3rjn1Sq

      That’s what Matt bought originally until he could narrow down his favorites. He swears by the caffeine-free cola. They also have a cherry cola that he loves. But there are several that he really enjoys.

  7. I love this! My husband has ADHD so our side-by-side refrigerator always looks like your “before” picture, except with beer front and center, and our fresh veggies sat and died in the veggie drawers. (We are keto and he cheats so having the bad stuff in my face all the time is hard.).
    I switched things up and now have fresh veggies in the door cubbies and the very bottom one is his beer. The drawers are now condiments, dairy, and meats&carbs. Shelves now have bins for eggs, cheeses, more veggies, and everything Mexican (salsa, etc). Despite the labels on everything, I still have to go in and reorganize after him but it’s been a huge help in our diet and grocery bills.
    I’m afraid to tackle the freezer, aka “the Tomb.”

  8. Oh my! Now I feel even more guilty when I look in my fridge. I’m just going to have to copy you. It looks so organized and most importantly it looks like it will be easy to maintain. If you don’t mind sharing I’d love to know what kind of label maker you use. Mine only does tiny script. I definitely need a new one. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. I should have anticipated this question and put the info in the post. 😀 I’ve updated it now with the label maker info.

      The one I have and love is the Brother P-Touch model PT-D400. Here’s my Amazon affiliate link for it: https://amzn.to/3ueAAV1

      I love it because it has several fonts, different sizes, they make different tapes for it (you can get clear, white, designs, etc.), and it can print multi-line labels. I use batteries in mine so I can carry it all over the house without worrying about where to plug it in, but it also comes with an A/C adapter. I highly recommend it!

  9. It’s the leftovers that kill my fridge organization. And, over the past couple of decades, I’ve had as many as four daughters buying their own groceries. My organization works really well until someone goes shopping and smushes their stuff wherever. Perhaps I should label things……

    1. Came back to thank you for the kick in the butt! After I got dishes done tonight, I was ruminating on your post. My youngest daughter is gone for a week so it seemed the perfect opportunity to reorganize and clean out expiring food. I had just thrown out some letter stickers so I couldn’t make sticker labels. Instead I wrote the drawer contents with a Sharpie. My fridge was overdue for another cleaning so I thank you for this post!

  10. LOL. Your fridge wasn’t that bad – I didn’t see any mold! We have given up on our icemaker too. At the time we bought the Samsung fridge we didn’t know there were major problems with the icemaker. There was a class action lawsuit against Samsung that was settled out of court but we didn’t know about it so we didn’t get our name in and so we’re just gonna have to live with refrigerator the way it is. We can’t even get the darn ice maker out of the refrigerator.
    I think you should do a painting of your organized refrigerator and freezer. They are beautiful!!

    1. I have the same Samsung with the *$&%)! ice maker. There is a way to “emergency” defrost it (so you can get the ice bin out) that Samsung of course doesn’t tell anyone about: On the control panel touch the freezer and lighting buttons at the same time and hold about 10 seconds until you hear a chime. It can take several tries to get it to chime, stay with it. When you hear the chime, use the ‘lighting’ button to scroll to “Fd” (forced defrost). The fridge will beep until the cycle is finished -and can take a while. You may have to go through it more than once before you can remove the bin, but it will eventually get rid of the “frost”. If you put it through the cycle once a week, it should keep the ice maker fairly clear. HTH.
      And Kristi, great job! I need to tend to my neglected fridge/freezer too.

  11. Looks great! I keep a big plastic scoop in my ice container. Easy peasy! Also, I find plastic turntables help. I keep all my pickles in one on my top shelf of my refrigerator.

  12. We have an ice bin problem, as well. Ours looks like yours but without that little bar across the top. My problem is that the ice in the back half of the bin gets frozen solid, so we can only use the ice that gets pushed to the front after the block is formed. I use an ice pick to break up the frozen block, but what a pain & I’m fearful I’ll pierce the bin. I wind up just dumping it all out, drying it very well & starting over. I’m constantly turning the icemaker off & on because of this. It makes a LOT of ice! Wish I knew a way to adjust how much it makes. And I do have chunks behind the bin. I’m just not a fan of the bottom freezers & would rather have mine on top. What’s worse is that we have an ice dispenser in the door! Right there in front of my face & I forget to use it since I’m so accustomed to opening that bottom freezer for ice! It’s not open for long, but I think just enough warm air gets in there & causes a few cubes to begin to melt, thus starting the ice block again.
    Sooo, I’m buying the Amazon bin & hope it will help! Thanks for the tips!
    P.S. On the plus side, we have a great cheese drawer. It’s under the 2 veggie drawers & is shallow & as wide as the fridge. Sometimes, extra sticks of butter find their way in there, as well as the sandwich meat I slice from a ham or turkey. It’s my favorite part of this fridge that I don’t really like!

  13. When I got my fridge I didn’t even hook up the water lines. I took out the big bin in the freezer side and rigged myself an extra shelf. I keep 3 small silicone ice cube trays on the top shelf (where the fast freeze is) and they are sufficient for my ice needs. Granted, I don’t use a lot of ice. What I do use is the extra shelf.

  14. Haha 😂 very funny post! Great job on the fridge and freezer. Mine looks almost exactly like your “before “ photos. I think the floor may possibly be affected by the heat off the bottom of the fridge. Don’t know, just a guess.

  15. Kudos on your reorganization! They both look awesome and functionality is key. I’m curious on the menus you use for feeding Cooper. I’ve always been intrigued and intimidated to try home cooking (I currently feed raw for my two Westies).

    1. Cooper eats raw also. Or rather, he eats food however it comes. His staples are ground beef (raw), eggs (raw) and unsalted sardines out of the can. He eats beef hot dogs as snacks. I also give him raw bones, and then add some supplemental things to his diet. He gets a probiotic beef-flavored chew, Dinovite, select raw veggies now and then, and raw organs (beef liver, chicken hearts, etc.). He loves his food! I fed him kibble the first year we had him, and even though I bought the highest quality I could find, and he ate his food, he never seemed excited about eating. Then I started feeding him this way, and when he sees me preparing his meal, he gets so excited and starts jumping around. It’s very cute. 😀

      1. I initially read “unsalted saltines” and wondered… We make our cockapoo’s food–cooked chicken breasts, brown rice, carrots, green beans, and bell peppers all get combined, like a casserole. She loves raw veggies, especially red bell peppers and the spines of romaine lettuce. The things we do for our fur babies.

  16. Wow, what a difference! Looks like Cooper was volunteering to help with the purging. This reminded me of Cas Aarssen and her system for different organizing styles:

  17. Looks amazing! Now I’m going to have to do ours. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that feeds their dog human food! He’s a large breed going on 13, so I’d say its definitely been healthier for him.

    1. I don’t know why the newer refrigerators don’t have the meat/cheese drawer any longer. That is something we couldn’t do without. I think it’s ridiculous that they took that feature out of most newer ones.

  18. I love your blog and your eye for decorating and craftsmanship. But this post I felt the need to help You out. Dairy should not stored in the door but in the center of your refrigerator for best life and quality. Also you should take the time each month or so the clean the coils and rear of your fridge…it will run better and may prevent the floor damage you are experiencing. Keep up the great work; I can’t wait to see your next posts!!

    1. The dairy isn’t big concern for us. Matt goes through that amount of sour cream in a week. 😀 That’s what I buy every week. Same with the heavy whipping cream for me…for my coffee. One a week. And the cream cheese…one a week. 😀 We really don’t keep a backlog of food in our refrigerator. Most everything (except for some vacuum sealed packages of bacon and breakfast sausage links) gets eaten in a week, and replenished every Monday. I’ve never had any dairy go bad, and it has almost always lived in the door even prior to my organizing and purging. I’ll definitely take a look at the coils on the back, though! I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned those!

  19. I want my ancient Kenmore Chest Freezer (inherited from my grandma-it’s from the 70’s and still works great) so that we can get an uptight fridge-style freezer. I this will make things easier to find. Until the Kenmore croaks; I’m stuck with it.

    1. Given the age of that freezer it may be better to replace it now – a lot of older appliances are real energy suckers. It’s hard to let go of some of those old workhorses though – I get it.

  20. OMG Kristi we eat exactly the same food except for green beans. As in, exactly. Your before pictures are a mirror image of my current fridge and freezer. But the “after”….the CHEESE DRAWER! Sheer brilliance.
    This post goes in your Top Ten. The greatest motivation ever.

  21. I never thought to use my label maker for bins and items in my fridge – brilliant!

    I also wanted to thank you (like with a huge hug!) for recommending the decluttering book by Dana K. White. I obsessively listened to the audio book and, WOW, do I look at my home and my “stuff” differently now! I’m about halfway through her other book about maintaining a tidy home (not as good but does have some useful, practical advice). Thanks again!

  22. I’m about to purge the fridge tomorrow but what happens is my Fella doesn’t respect my system so food ends up all over the place. If it’s not right. in. front. of. a. man. they. won’t. see. it.😤🤯😱😳

  23. Just a quick note to tell you that my dog, Lily, doesn’t get store bought treats either. I can get boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Walmart (usually 6 for a little more or less than $10), which I then slice relatively thinly and put in my dehydrator. I dehydrate them for 24 hours, then go in and rotate the shelves (because the bottom ones never get quite dry enough) so that the bottom shelves are on top and the top shelves are now on the bottom. I set it for another 12 hours. When the chicken “jerky” comes easily off the shelf, they’re good to go. I put then in a plastic, air-tight container and Lily knows exactly where they are when she wants one. No preservatives, no junk; just plain, dried chicken and she loves them! Now, I just need to save enough money for your plane fare so you can do MY fridge and freezer!!!

  24. The after is so satisfying! I really wonder about the original ice cube container though – is it possible that it is supposed to go in the other way? (so the part with that strange narrow slot is at the back instead of the front – maybe that flap is supposed to do something, like help with the shut-off somehow?)

    1. If you go back and look at it, she has it correct! The high side goes towards the inside to hold the ice, the shorter side goes towards the wall of the fridge.

  25. Kristi, you are truly my favorite blogger of all time; you are so honest and forthcoming! Thank you for all you do. You have inspired me to go for more color in my home because yours is so inviting. I have to laugh at the ice maker situation because ours must be pushed back all the way or ice will clatter to the bottom of the freezer (and irritate my husband beyond belief). I personally think the ice maker is the most wonderful modern invention ever (I grew up with those tin pans with wiggly dividers that were impossible to release ice from ). Our dog’s favorite snack is ice cubes (honest) so we go through a lot.

    A note on “best by dates”; actually, the only food that is truly time sensitive is baby formula. Anything other condiment type, provided it has been kept cold and without spoilage, is good almost indefinitely. The “best by date” is a marketing tool to sell more goods. I totally support you not having 3 different types of mustard, just know they have not gone “bad”.

  26. Love your organization…please come to my house, STAT 😂😂 I would pull the fridge out and see what’s going on, condensation on the bottom, ice maker connection leaking etc. I love when I open my mail and see a new pot from you!!