(RealSimple.com) -- "It was out of sight, out of mind," said Rachel Weinblatt, a stay-at-home mom in Cooper City, Florida.
"You couldn't see the mess with the doors closed, thank goodness. Nothing smelled funny, and food wasn't spilling out, so to me it was an island unto itself. But I could never find what I was looking for, and it just seemed to be getting worse and worse."
The experts at Real Simple helped Weinblatt crack this case of cold-clutter chaos.
Real Simple: Before and After: Basement
The refrigerator, before:This is what was found in (and tossed from) Weinblatt's refrigerator
-32 ketchup packets -30 soy- and duck-sauce packets -12 bottles of salad dressing -4 tubs of spreadable margarine -1 empty bottle of ketchup -1 head of (brown) lettuce -1 container of (very brown) chopped lettuce -1 container filled with "either some type of chocolate sauce or gravy," says Rachel -½ glass of soda (in a two-liter bottle) -24 fish sticks bearded-over with freezer burn -22 three-month-old Popsicles -9 heels of bread, knotted in their bags ("to feed the ducks") -3 six-packs of English muffins (from a 2008 gift basket) -1 near-empty box of soy "chicken" nuggets (one left) -1 near-full box of soy "chicken" nuggets (one gone)
The refrigerator, after: After learning a few things about the family's food habits (the Weinblatt family are big fruit and vegetable eaters and always have leftovers to deal with), organizer Kate Parker tossed ancient artifacts, repackaged the good stuff in easy-view containers, and relocated items to the smartest spots.
Real Simple: Make Over Your Junk Drawer
Step 1: Drinks Strategy
Since Weinblatt buys in bulk, Parker transferred gallon jugs of drinks into easier-to-pour carafes that make use of vertical space. The originals stay in a second refrigerator in the garage. Water bottles (second shelf) rest pyramid-style on a clever rack (the "Easy Stack," which they bought for $9 at organize.com).
Step 2: Proper Placement
Eggs absorb odors, so Parker put them in an airtight egg bin (the "Lock & Lock" from bedbathandbeyond.com) in the coldest part of the refrigerator―the center―rather than on the warmer door. Vegetables went in their drawer―except lettuce, which got its own moisture-draining home ( such as the "Progressive Lettuce Keeper," from bedbathandbeyond.com). Cold cuts now all live in the deli drawer, individually contained (Parker used "Top" square containers, from oxo.com).
Step 3: Labels Everywhere
Parker put erasable, removable labels ("LabelOnce" from organize.com) on many of the containers. Bins on low shelves have clear lids so you can see contents from above.
Step 4. Matched Storage
In the freezer, bulky packaging was tossed for compact, airtight plastic containers that stack (Parker used "FreshVac" containers from containerstore.com).
Step 5: Paper, Glass, Plastic
For freshness, Parker wrapped meat butcher-style, in Reynolds "Freezer paper" (which can be found at supermarkets), then sealed packages with Scotch Freezer Tape (also available at supermarkets). Stain-resistant glass is the right choice for storing microwavable leftovers; plastic works for foods you don't reheat.
Real Simple: 24 Smart Organizing Ideas for Your Kitchen
Smart and Good-Looking Storage
A few high-functioning items help inspire Weinblatt to maintain that just-organized feel week after week:
-A magnetic organizer on the refrigerator door holds pens and food labels so they're easy to find for marking and dating leftovers. -Rachel's son likes cheese cubes packed in a tossable sphere called the "Snack Ball" from booninc.com. -The "Herb Savor Pod" by prepara.com uses water in the base to control the humidity in the pod, to keep parsley, sage, and their friends fresh for three weeks. -If you always forget to pack a fork for lunch, the "Tellfresh Lunch Kit" from containerstore.com hangs on to its own. -"Klip It Lunch Cubes", also from containerstore.com, help with meals on the go. Divided sections and stay-fresh click-shut technology makes this container just right for the car.
Real Simple: 18 Clever Organizing Tricks and Storage Ideas
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