Today's Declutter 365 mission is to declutter refrigerator food, specifically items that are old and expired, so you're only left with fresh edible items in your fridge.
This mission is designed to be done while working on the Organizing Refrigerator & Freezer Challenge here on the site, which is one of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenges.
Of course, you can do this mission whenever you need in your home.
Further, while I have this mission on the Declutter 365 calendar just once this year, it's not the kind of mission you only do once. Instead, treat today as the big clear out day, but then do smaller weekly versions of this mission the day before you go to the grocery store, to clear out old food and get your fridge ready for the newer food you'll be bringing in with your grocery trip (I suggest doing this on trash day, or the day before your trash day).
This is a pretty straight foward decluttering mission, but it can be quite important. After all, think about how many times per day you or a family member actually open your refrigerator? I bet it's quite a few.
Plus, clearing out the old and expired food will not only make it easier to organize, but it's also a food safety issue. You don't want anyone eating something too old and getting sick, or having rotting food in your fridge that could contaminate the fresh and edible things also in there.
As always, when decluttering food there are three choices you can make for each item.
The first is to eat the food within the near future, before it goes bad or becomes too old.
That's why meal planning is so important, to help you plan to eat these quickly perishable items.
It's also why today we're also focused on planning to eat leftovers from our refrigerators, to avoid food waste. (You can check out the linked article for more discussion on this topic.)
Your second choice when decluttering food is to donate it. This is much more difficult to do with food from refrigerator though, just because a lot of it is perishable, or it cannot be donated once it is opened.
Therefore, inevitably, there is going to be a lot of choice number three as we work through today's mission -- trashing old food (or placing appropriate food in a compost pile).
I hate wasting food, and trashing items, so I get the cringe factor many of us will feel as we throw away food we spent good money on, especially while there are other people in this world who are hungry.
I know. It sucks. But today go ahead and get rid of that old inedible stuff, and start fresh. You'll be focused later in the week on cleaning and then organizing your fridge, so this waste and spoilage of food will be much less likely to occur in the future.
When doing this mission I suggest decluttering one shelf or drawer at a time. Pull out everything from that shelf or drawer and then decide if it will go back into the refrigerator, or instead get thrown into the trash.
Removing everything from the entire shelf can help you find something that has gotten shoved back into the back, and gotten hidden. This is often when you find the stuff that needs to be decluttered the most.
Look at the condition of produce, or the expiration date on jars or bottles to help you decide what you should keep.
In addition to looking at sell by, best by, and expiration dates, it is also important to understand that once you open an item the time begins to tick for when you need to finish it, or throw it away.
To help you I've got a free printable refrigerated food storage guidelines cheat sheet you can reference, so print out your copy to look at as you declutter.
Once you've done the shelves and drawers, you'll see quite a visible difference inside your refrigerator, just like this reader, Camisha, below, who sent in these two photos.
In addition, along with the shelves and drawers in your refrigerator, make sure you also clean out old food, and other items, like condiments, that you may store on your refrigerator door.
Here are a couple photos sent in by Rohana, who decluttered her refrigerator door of old items. She also took the time to scrub the shelves on the door.
As I mentioned before, When doing this mission today, if you haven't done it for a while, it is not uncommon to find some pretty old stuff in your fridge. That's OK. You're going to do this more frequently from now on, so it will never be this bad again.
Here are photos from readers who've already done this mission, showing what they pulled out of the refrigerator to throw away.
The photos in the collage above are from the following readers, from top to bottom, left to right:
After doing this mission a reader, Nicole, sent in the photo below and said, "When you said to declutter the fridge, I didn't think it would look this empty when I was done. I am guessing some grocery shopping is in order."
If you find you're in the same boat, go ahead and restock your refrigerator, but try to think through what you purchase a bit more to make sure you'll eat it all before it goes bad this time!
I hope seeing these pictures has inspired you to get rid of the expired and old food you've got lurking in your refrigerator right now.
When you begin to declutter the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.
I've got a year's worth of 15 minute decluttering missions that you can do.
Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!
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I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!