What Have I Done?


I was getting pretty discouraged right around the time my kitchen looked like this:

Yesterday morning, I decided to clean out my refrigerator. I came to this notion first thing in the morning, and I thought it would take about an hour or so.


Here’s how it went down. I thought I’d just take all the food out, go through what needed tossed, wipe all the shelves out, and put everything back neatly.

Yeah, right.

I don’t even know how everything that I took out of that refrigerator had fit in there to start with because by the time I took it all out, my kitchen and dining room were covered. AND THEN. Yes, THEN.

I remembered what I had forgotten.

Which was that at some point in the distant mist of time, I had spilled something, I don’t know what, and it had seeped into every nook and cranny of my refrigerator. And there was only one way to clean it up. TAKE THE REFRIGERATOR APART.

And yes, that is what I did, because by then, I was too far gone, too addicted, too obsessed with the idea that I was going to clean my refrigerator. And, mostly, because by then all the food was already out and it was just too late to turn back.

There were refrigerator parts and pieces everywhere.

How disgusting.

I washed some pieces in the sink, but some pieces were too big. I had to take them outside.

And scrape. (Ew.)

But at least the view was nice.

At this point, I was tired and wondering what I’d gotten myself into and wanting to quit. But I’d gone too far and there was no way out other than to keep going. Mostly, even as things were starting to look really spiffy, I was worried whether I could remember how all those parts went back back together.

Miraculously, I got everything put back together right. And I didn’t break any of the parts while I was at it.

I got everything put together and organized the food as I returned it to the fridge.

Oddly, I had less than half the food I had when I started. That’s what happens when your refrigerator is too full and you can’t find stuff. It goes bad. That is so wasteful.

And then, finally, five hours later, my one-hour job was complete!

P.S. I’m sorry I don’t have a “before” picture. When I started this ordeal, I had no idea it would turn into an ordeal. The only way to salvage the time spent was to WRITE A POST ABOUT IT. But I think you’ve seen enough to feel pretty good about your own refrigerator. Yours can’t be worse than mine was. And even if it is, hey, you can clean it! Any time you have a “spare” five hours….


  1. Nancy in Iowa says:

    LOL – mine is much smaller than yours, but MUCH WORSE! I just remembered the container of strawberries I’d forgotten was in there – tipped behind something else. And I, too, have spilled something, but my bad knees gives me the excuse for not getting down and cleaning that shelf.

    And you won’t come to Iowa to clean it for me?

  2. bonita says:

    Suzanne, I can send you a picture of my fridge for you to use as your “before.” In exchange I’d suggest a “Suzanne” tutorial on how to take apart and reassemble that drawer(!). My fridge is only 6 mo old and already there is spilled soup at the bottom of the freezer drawer compartment. Honestly, I can’t see how these new appliances are ‘energy efficient.’ They take a lot more energy to clean than it took to defrost and clean the old iceboxes, err, fridges. My guess is that next week you’ld like to hear :: Look what a lovely kitchen, the even the fridge is sparkly.::

  3. Darlene in North Ga says:

    About 3 months ago, right after my last kid at home moved out, I cleaned out my fridge. It took THREE DAYS to get everything cleaned up. Ok, I did stop and start. I took stuff out a shelf at at time and soaked that shelf in the bathtub to get all the grunge off/out of it. The drawers were the worst to clean and try to figure out how to get them back together again.

    The nice thing? All the kids are now out of the house and it has STAYED clean. Hummmm…..wonder WHOM were the guilty parties that dirtied it to BEGIN with??? Oh, yeah – “Not me”, “I don’t know” and “I didn’t do it”. Crazy, invisible foster kids that seem to have moved out when my kids did. THEY were the ones that did anything wrong. Funny how that worked.

  4. whaledancer says:

    Oh, thank you! I’ve been feeling like I want to clean my fridge, but there’s no way I can spend 5 hours at it (and I’m sure mine’s worse than yours), so I’d better not start.

  5. Julie says:

    I’m putting off really cleaning mine until we move in 8 months. It just gets the routine wipe-down. πŸ™‚

  6. Melinda says:

    My compliments on a job well done! It looks fantastic! Come clean mine next weekend???????????

  7. glenda says:

    We seem to have the same refrigerator. I love that wide bottom meat drawer!

    I just cleaned mine last week before it got really bad.

    The upright freezer is another story……it is waiting for me on the back porch and will be an all day job because of defrosting.

    There will be things in there that I can’t identify….the chickens will love it.

  8. CindyP says:

    See? You’re real!!

    I’ll go take a quick shot of my fridge for ya for the “before”. AND I’m not tackling mine right now!!! The drawers and cupboards were enough yesterday!!!

  9. CATRAY44 says:

    I cleaned mine just as I went to start dinner… I found almost an entire bottle of apple juice spilled and pooled on all the shelves below it and under the crispers. Under that was a layer of hardened pickle juice from the jar that I found tipped over in the way back “hinterlands” ( I found BP and Glory Bee frolicking there, too…) It took me 4 hours. I made one of the kids cook hotdogs on the grill- a far cry from the original plan, but it sure looks better now!

  10. blueberrylu says:

    I think this may be one of my all time favorite posts, because it makes me feel not so alone. I, too, could volunteer my fridge as the before picture, and next week I need to get out my hubbys power washer and clean it out. :hissyfit: :bugeyed: :no: :yes:

  11. Heather says:

    AHHHHH!!!! The Flashbacks! Make them stop!!! I did this once before myself. It started with a sticky spot that I just needed to wipe down and ended with fridge pieces everywhere. But like you the madness ended with one beauty of a clean refrigerator. Amazing how gross they can get. Congrats on a job well done πŸ™‚

  12. Susan says:

    I have that same refrigerator, and by the time I went to put it back together, I’d forgotten how the wide drawer came out and had to wait until my hubby got home! Fortunately, he’s an engineer and it took him 2 seconds to pop it in place. If I’d do the job more often……..

    Susan in WI

  13. Linda Goble says:

    Job well done. I hate my refrigerator. I tell husband it is just to small. We have mine and grandson food in it and then we have husbands. He is a vegan. I think we need 2 refrigerators. One tip my grandmother taught me is to put layers of paper towels in your drawers to catch an drips or if anything spoils in your crisper drawers. It is very handy. I do know when you think it won’t take long and then it certainly does take hours. Now you can open your refrigerator and enjoy the organized site. :snoopy:

  14. joycee says:

    I need to do this so bad…want to come and help me next Saturday??? πŸ˜‰

  15. Rah says:

    Poor Suzanne. I have NEVER cleaned out my refrigerator that I didn’t have one of those “rememberings” about something spilled. Ick ick ick. But the upside is that awesome feeling when you get it all put back together and things loaded in and there’s this nice, clean fridge to see.

  16. m says:

    Like minds πŸ˜† , my mother and I did the same thing yesterday, except that we could see the back of the fridge before we started. We are headed out of town soon and knew that we needed to getthe inventory down.

    A good fall cleanout … especially after a busy summer garden!
    Now is all done and you are ready for whatever kitchen projects are next on the list.

  17. Kim Gibson says:

    Well done! Now when can you come over and start on mine? πŸ˜€

  18. Carol Langille says:

    I’m not sure how it happens but all refrigerators seem to get into sad shape quite often. Mine does and it’s because I get overly enthusiastic while shopping. I buy something to make something with and then it goes in the fridge and I forget about what I was going to make and the newly bought ingredient gets ‘lost’.
    In all of our defenses, have you ever seen the TV show “Hoarders”? One word….OMG. I can usually make it through most of the show until they get either to the fridge or the bathroom. Okay…sorry…it’s was too early in the morning to even think about how those people live.
    And your fridge looks beautiful now, Suzanne!

  19. claudia w says:

    I have to clean my refrigerator tomorrow! Yes, it has been a while and I too have spills that need wiping up. I hope mine sparkles like yours when I am finished!

  20. Carmen C. says:

    Quick jobs tend to turn into long ordeals for me too, I need to clean mine but after reading this post I’m too tired, LOL!!!!!

  21. Rachel from Maine says:

    I must say, that’s one spiffy looking fridge. I admire you for sticking it out. I think I might have thrown in the towel at the “scraping” stage. πŸ™‚

  22. Tina says:

    What an ordeal! I’m so proud of you, and anyone for that matter, who tackles this job and sticks it out til the end. I too have a disgusting fridge; there has been a mysterious water leak that has become a fetid pool under the crisper drawers…it’s truly a horror! I need a SHOP VAC to even consider starting a clean-up on it!

  23. Kristen E says:

    Oh man, something nasty got spilled in my fridge a few weeks ago too, and I just sort of half-heartedly mopped it up, but it needs to be taken apart and washed like this too. UGH! But honestly, I’d rather go through my fridge than do the dishes! The dishes are the WORST CHORE EVER, in my opinion. And of course, they’re my responsibility! I can’t wait to have kids – dishes will be their job, and I don’t care if they break every dish I own, I just don’t want to wash them ever again! πŸ˜‰

  24. mamawolf says:

    O my. You have made my day. Here I was looking at the inside of my fridge this morning thinking that I needed some one to hoe out the inside and hose it down. There are a couple of things that have become lab experiment and there is no way to tell the origins of said stuff. Guess DH and I will have to break down today and clean it out. Always feel so good afterwards when one can look inside and find everything. Thanks Suzanne for the inspiration.

  25. ML says:

    I need to defrost and organize my chest freezer. But it’s in the back of my laundry room behind a mountain of dirty clothes. Looks like I won’t be able to get to it anytime soon…thank goodness. πŸ˜‰

  26. Lynne says:

    Wow, that is very motivating! Unfortunately, my projects take the same amount of time. Estimated time: 5 mins. Actual time 1 hour!

  27. Granna says:

    Suzanne, you are so REAL!! It’s nice to know my refrigerator isn’t the only one that looks like a garbage dump. Once I found a piece of watermelon in mine in December. There’s no hope for me. LOL!

  28. Helen says:

    Good job, Suzanne. Don’t you just love those what-the-heck-is-that-and-where-did-it-come-froms :shocked: ? We have a name at our house for spills like that…we call it “mystery goo”.

  29. farmershae says:

    Oh, it looks so nice! Even the condiments are sparkley!!!! I’m going to have to go home and polish my ketchup now!

  30. irishhillstrish says:

    Several years ago, when one of my older sons was still at home (he was an avid fisherman, and you see where this is going, don’t you? ), I kept noticing an odd musty odor in the fridge. I finally took out the crisper drawer, only to find a writhing mass of fishing worms underneath. ” Most ” were still alive. They had probably been there for a couple of weeks. A few had managed to slither into other places, making my own several hour nightmare of cleaning fury. It’s funny……… now.

  31. becky says:

    oh…that is what I need to do…yuck

  32. Tyra - Atlanta says:

    Okay, you’ve inspired me!! I’ve been procrastinating this job for months, now. I am positive my fridge is much worse. I see things in there that I haven’t seen since we moved in 2 1/2 years ago!! I’m so embarrassed!

  33. Susan Kinsey says:

    Hi Suzanne–I had the same experience two weeks ago when my apartment building got tented for termites. I had to double-bag anything left in the fridge so I decided to throw away lot’s of stuff and clean it out. WHAT AN ORDEAL. My fridge is smaller than yours but it still took half a day! The reward is being able to see everything I have in there (and knowing what’s in there!) and not grossing out at the spilled teriyake sauce beneath the lower drawers. It’s nice to open the door and see white again…

    Thanks for your post–we fridge cleaners rock!!! Thanks for your recipes for home-made cleaners, too–really helped me out.

  34. Runningtrails - Sheryl says:

    Believe it or not, my kitchen often looks like that without cleaning out the fridge…

  35. lisa b says:

    Reminds me i have to do mine now

  36. Denise says:

    Hey, whenever I do this task, at least I find some veggies or fruit that might be soft but still eadible. The goats love it! Clean fridge = snack time for the goats.

  37. Brenda Hudson says:

    You missed a spot. Ha Ha….just kidding.

  38. Barbee' says:

    And, isn’t it a wonderful feeling now that it is all nice and clean. Love that feeling. :snoopy:

  39. catslady says:

    I did the same thing maybe 3 years ago (it needs it again sigh) only my door only opens partway because of the way my kitchen is built (half wall is in the way). I had a heck of a time getting it back together. Than I got half the freezer done but never did get to the other half. It only works once thinking it will only take a bit of time – now I know better lol.

  40. northcountrygirl says:

    WHAT? And kill all my biological experiments lurking in there? Oh, of all the jobs to do in this house, I hate that one most of all! It always starts out simple and turns into a fiasco. Not to mention the too numerous to mention What-in-heaven’s-name-was-that? items you find hidden away inside! Yeah, that is one job I put off as long as possible. Some day I’ll get up enough nerve to tackle that job, but not today! Or tomorrow…or the next day…….

  41. Merlin says:

    I was looking at your fridge and realized that we may have the SAME brand of refrigerator! I’ve had mine for nearly 3 years and love it. Isn’t it a Whirpool brand?

    *AHEM*, with 4 boys… you can only imagine what I have to clean up! LOL…

  42. IrmaK. says:

    I,too, am not as fastidious as I should be with cleaning my fridge. But my apprehension is dealing with the thousand and one jars of relishes, jams, chutneys and various condiments.Suzanne, I noticed that you didnt have much of those in your fridge. Maybe I hang on to them too long, I don’t know. What is the recommended period of time one can keep a jar of opened chutney or jam?

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Irma, I used to have a lot of trouble with too many open jars, and now I am firmer with myself about how many I will let myself open at a time! I don’t know the official guidelines, but I don’t like to have something open in the fridge more than a month or two, though it’s probably good longer than that.

  43. Darlene in North Ga says:

    When I cleaned my fridge out (the “it took me 3 days”), I found about 5 jars of opened, but still “good” jams/jellies in it. I got the bright idea of nuking them each in the microwave until the jam/jelly melted and then…I poured them all in together! So I had apple, strawbery, cherry, grape raspberry jelly. Stirred together and I had about 1 pint worth of “new” jelly. It was tasty too!

    And some of them had been in there a year. Or two. :bugeyed: But with all the sugar in them, they were still good. :yes:

  44. Liz in Wis says:

    Happiness is a just cleaned refrigerator!

  45. SuzzyQ says:

    I can relate! I thought I could clean my fridge out in a couple of hours and it takes oh, let’s say FOREVER!! Those kids always spill and never think to TELL ME!!
    By the way, my friend’s husband found some tartar sauce in the back of their fridge and mixed it with some new as he hates to throw anything out. 6 hours after he ate it, he had a very bad case of food poisoning. Chills, fever and all the icky stuff that goes with food poisoning. So, it’s a very good idea to clean the fridge and throw out anything that’s been in there awhile. I’d rather pitch it than eat it. Nothing is worth getting that sick over. It’s not wasteful; it’s common sense! Thanks for the post.

  46. Virginia Farmgirl says:

    I have three refridgerators, one in the kitchen and two in the pantry. The freezer is out back for the short term until which time I can decide I can do without one of my fridges. I have never been a fan of cleaning any fridge and my excuse (reason) for having three is that when one would need cleaning I would just get another.That’s really not true, it just worked out that I ended up with three, but I like having three, especially around the holidays. All three need cleaning RIGHT NOW and there is no room for another…….I’m looking at 15 hours hard labor. CHILLING!!

  47. JOJO says:

    I know exactley what you are talking about! Last week I decided to clean out my pantry–I cleaned 78 blue glass canning jars and thought I would repack my dry good so I could see them better and also display them–it took 4 days!! Holy Cow!! It looks beautiful, I went down at 3 am this morning just to admire my work! I thought about calling every one I know, and posting my address on your blog just so they could come vist and see my pantry–then after a few mins. I thought–better not, then I would have to clean the whole house–again! Had a cookie and some milk and went back to bed.

  48. Ellen says:

    πŸ˜€ Hey we have the same fridge!! I want to clean out my kitchen cabinets – just the ones where I store food products, not the pots and pans ones (did that around late summer)…I suspec that will be an all day process….why in the world did I ever buy TWO packages (both open) of Graham cracker crumbs?

  49. mamajhk says:

    Since I just recently joined this site I had to comment on the fridge cleaning. Since I can’t see what is in the back of mine I just pretend that it is clean. The light bulb quit working so I just pretend it is clean.

    I have a real bad case of not always remembering how old something is so I mark it with the date I purchased /canned/froze it and then mark the date I opened it.

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