Dear Kathi,

I have a small refrigerator and am constantly losing things in my refrigerator. I often buy items that I already have on hand. The worst part is trying to get my family to eat the oldest item first when I accidentally purchase a duplicate refrigerated item. What is the easiest thing to do when this happens? It seems that they always gravitate to the newest item when given the choice of two! Or better yet, how can I stop buying accidental duplicates?

Maria, San Marcos


Begin by creating a master list of staples that you buy on a regular basis. You might want to make the list according to the aisles in your favorite grocery store. Keep a copy of this list on your refrigerator door at all times.

As you or your family members use the last of a product, add a checkmark to that item on the list. This will save you time every week as you are deciding what to buy. Before you head to the store, clear the fridge, make room for the new groceries, and take note of what items you need to add to your list.

If you have a small refrigerator, you need to spend time keeping it organized and optimized. The smaller the fridge, the more time you will spend. A great new habit for you would be to check your fridge and clear it out before you go shopping. If you clear out all of the old leftovers that are past their prime and consolidate half- used jars, you will have a much better understanding of what items you need. This is also the easiest time to give the fridge a quick wipe down.

When you return home from the grocery, you will have space set aside to load your items right into the fridge, without first needing to move other items out of the way. If you have duplicates, place the newer items toward the back of the shelf.

It helps to store leftovers in see-through plastic ware. This way, you can see what is in each bin without spending the time to open and look inside. Chose plastic ware that is square or rectangle for optimum space savings.

Group items like with like; beverages with beverages, condiments with condiment, and so on. If you don’t have a separate drawer for certain groupings like meats and cheeses, use an open rectangular bin that is narrow and as long as the shelf it will live on.

Install a lazy susan or carousel on one of your short shelves. Condiments can be found at a spin when you need them and you will no longer have to shuffle jars around to find your favorite mustard. If space prohibits a carousel, group your smaller jars together in a shallow long Tupperware container. This way, when it is time to make a sandwich, you simply pull out the entire tray to choose your condiments.

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San Diego Professional Organizer