The Kitchn Cure Day 3: Tackling the Refrigerator (and Your Guilty Feelings)

published Sep 9, 2015
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(Image credit: Dana Velden)
(Image credit: Henry Chen)

The Kitchn Cure Day 3: Banish guilt and finish cleaning your refrigerator.
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Yesterday we started our big fridge clean-out by wiping down the door shelves and produce bins and sorting through the bits and bobs we store there. As an extra bonus, we also discovered our Cure spirit animal. (Snail, hummingbird, or other? Tell us in the comments!)

Today we’re ready to go back in to finish the job. But before we do, I want to take a closer look at that thing that often comes up when we’re confronted with a drawer of limp, moldy vegetables, or a shelf of half-used jam jars. I want to talk about guilt.

On Kitchen Guilt

Kitchen guilt makes me sad because while sometimes guilt can be a motivator to do better, it can just as often cause the opposite response and create avoidance or depression. Or we get angry and resentful at whatever it is that is triggering our guilt and miss the opportunity to look deeper. Guilty feelings often come in a scolding tone, too, which is not helpful because now we’re feeling guilty and beat up. Sadly, our kitchen can be one of the most guilt-triggering rooms in our house. So what to do?

First, guilt isn’t all bad. In fact, if we feel guilty, it’s often a clue that our actions aren’t aligned with our values and intentions. That’s good information! The trick is to not dwell on the guilt, but to have it guide you to the underlying problem, to where you can make the necessary adjustments. Be it time management, organization skills, shifting your expectations, or whatever — a small adjustment is all it takes sometimes.

Even more importantly, we all have the refrigerator shelf where condiments go to die. We all have let our CSA vegetables get a little wobbly and past their prime. It happens. Of course we do our best to avoid it, and of course sometimes we just can’t stay on top of it. If you really can’t stand to throw anything away, then get creative and cook up a few fridge clean-out meals.

So in cleaning out your kitchen shelves today, don’t get too mired in guilt when you encounter a little spoilage or excess. Take it in as information, course correct in the future, and carry on. It’s really that simple.

Today’s Assignment

  1. Fill a bucket with warm, slightly soapy water.
  2. Remove everything from your refrigerator’s shelves and place them on the counter.
  3. Remove shelves and wipe down area with soapy water.
  4. Wash and dry shelves (see How To Clean the Refrigerator for tips).
  5. Sort through everything you took out of the refrigerator. Throw away or compost/recycle expired food. Consolidate jars when possible. Label where needed.
  6. Return clean shelves. When it comes to returning the food to your refrigerator, consider if there might be a better way to arrange it. Experiment with switching things around a little to see if this might not help you stay on top of the disorder. Do you have a dead zone, for instance, where things seem to disappear until you find them months later, a bit (a lot) worse for the wear? Switching things around, even changing shelf arrangements, can make that go away in a snap.

OK. Refrigerator done! Now that we’re experts at cleaning and sorting and corralling our items (and managing our guilt), we are fully prepared to tackle tomorrow’s task: the freezer.

(Image credit: Henry Chen)

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(Image credit: Dana Velden)

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