Is your refrigerator a veritable club for sad produce and expired meals? Do questionable condiments of every variety line the door and clutter the shelves? Are you constantly throwing out food while wondering, when did I even buy this? If you’re nodding in somber approval right now, it’s time to get your refrigerator organized.

When it comes to keeping things tidy, the refrigerator is often the last place people think about. And that’s sad, because organizing is essential in this space. Having an unorganized fridge means that you’re more likely to overlook food and have to throw it away later. You end up buying multiples of the same item because you didn’t even know you had it. But creating a system can change all of that.

Empty out everything

Let’s start with the advice you’ll get for organizing any space: you need to completely empty it. In a refrigerator, this is especially important because food can create a lot of mess. Remove all of the contents and start scrubbing away at the shelves. You’ll be surprised at how much evidence of old foods you’ll find. Add a liner on each shelf so that you can make cleanup much easier in the future.

Then, go through what you have. Get rid of things you can’t use anymore. Put the rest in defined groups, like condiments, beverages, vegetables, and fruits. You might want to categorize further by size for some groups, depending on where in the fridge they’ll go. For instance, if you like to buy commercial pump jars of ketchup, you’ll probably have to group that away from the personal-sized jars of mustard and mayonnaise.

Redo your fridge layout

Now that you know what needs to go in the fridge, it’s time to think about what your layout will be. In some cases, it will be necessary to change the position of your shelves to accommodate bigger items. For instance, if you can’t fit your soda bottles upright, make room by creating a bigger shelf. Size and quantity are all important considerations. You should consider buying some clean containers that will allow you to group and stack items on top of each other for added space. A produce container is a particularly good way to maximize your food’s lifespan.

Put old items first

To avoid constantly throwing away old food, bring the oldest items to the front and place the newer items in the back. As soon as you open your fridge, you can see those items first and increase your chances of using them before they expire. You’ll have to keep this system up throughout the year, but your efforts will be well-rewarded.

You should also keep the items in the front that you tend to eat the most. That helps to avoid a situation where you’re constantly shifting items around to grab your favorite goodies in the back.

Stick to the shopping list

Once you have everything organized in a pleasing way, rejoice in your beautiful fridge – but the work isn’t over yet! One of the major causes of a chaotic fridge is buying too many groceries. Maybe you always have an eye out for a fun, new item. Or you forget what you have and buy duplicates.

The fix for both of these scenarios is to keep a running grocery list. Try adding a small magnetic whiteboard to your fridge. As you notice that you run out of something, add it to the list. Take a picture with your phone and stick only to that list. That way, when you’re adding a new item, you can check in real-time whether you already have it.

And just like that, you’ve fixed all of your kitchen woes. No more overcrowded shelves. No more wilting kale and bruised apples at the back of the produce drawer. And no more strange smells! Just fresh food whenever you need it and an aesthetically pleasing refrigerator. Now, let’s get cooking!