8 Tips for Organizing a Fridge When You Share It With Roommates

Lydia Schapiro
Written by Lydia Schapiro
Updated April 1, 2022
An open fridge with various fruit and vegetables
Photo: AndreyPopov / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Living in harmony means no more fighting over where to put your leftovers

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If you’re someone who loves to cook or always keeps a healthy stock of snacks on hand, you know how quickly your fridge can get crowded, especially if you’re not the only one using it. Even if you’re used to sharing a fridge and keeping track of which yogurt is yours, brushing up on your roommate sharing skills can never hurt. Below we’ve outlined some fridge organization tips, specifically for sharing, so you can create a happier kitchen environment for all.

1. Implement a Label System

It may take time getting used to sharing a fridge with roommates—and in the beginning, you may be dealing with some not-so-organized chaos. Trying out a label system can help in many areas of home organization, including in your fridge. 

Using labels is an excellent way to keep a communal fridge organized. Plus, if you’re always rushing out the door, this is a great way to save time—no more digging around the full fridge to find that muffin you’ve been thinking about all morning. 

You can make labels by hand with tape and a marker or purchase sticky labels at any home/office store. You can label whatever you’d like—you may decide to label by the person whose food it is or by specific food if you and your roommates are sharing most items.

2. Decide Which Items are Shared

A man placing groceries in the fridge
Photo: monkeybusinessimages / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Being entirely transparent is important when sharing a fridge with roommates. If you’re not, you could end up in a very sticky situation about who took the last donut, whose it was, and whether or not you can ever forgive the donut thief. 

Openly discussing which items are shared will make it easier for you and your roommates to organize the fridge according to what you’re more frequently using. For instance, if you share stable items such as butter, ketchup, and milk, you’ll probably find that keeping those items in a more accessible section makes the most sense. 

Plus, if you know that you all share certain items, you’ll be less likely to mistakenly buy something you don’t need. Pro tip: Keep a list of shared items to make grocery shopping for you and your roommates easier.

3. Designate Space for Each Roommate

When you and your roommates aren’t blindly throwing your food into the fridge, you’ll be more equipped to maintain organization. Decide which section “belongs” to each roommate, so there are no misunderstandings and you can stay on top of your fridge organization. 

Make sure you’re allocating space as evenly as possible to keep things fair and square. You can give each roommate a shelf in the fridge, for instance, or different sides of the refrigerator, if that makes things easier.

4. Get Rid of Old Food ASAP

When you share a fridge, chances are, you may be—to some extent—limited concerning space. Not only will getting rid of old or expired food free up fridge space, but you’ll reduce the chances of having to play Where's Waldo, foul odor edition. 

If you love leftovers (who doesn’t?), you should be allowed to enjoy them, but just make sure to eat or toss them promptly to avoid being a fridge hog. 

You can even come up with a roommate code of honor: once you’ve hit the four-day mark, leftovers have to go. Or, try to implement a roommate weekly fridge cleanout, where you’ll strip the fridge of bad items while getting in some bonding time: It’s a win-win.

5. Clean up Your Messes

To keep your fridge fresh and organized, you have to take care of your messes. When there’s a spill in the fridge that no one wants to clean, you and your roommates will probably just avoid putting items near it. As a result, the fridge may become disorganized and cluttered—not to mention stinky.

Consider using a chore chart that rotates weekly, and add “fridge cleaning” to it. You can also make a rule about cleaning up the messes in the fridge—if you don’t clean your mess, you can’t touch the shared food.

6. Utilize Additional Shelving

If you realize that your fridge is not large enough for you and your roommates, consider installing or inserting additional shelves into the refrigerator. When you have more space, you’ll be able to spread out your items and, as a result, have less clutter. You can even go so far as to get a mini fridge for drinks and snacks if you really need some extra room.

7. Finish Food Before Buying More

A young woman eating avodaco toast in her kitchen
Photo: Eternity in an Instant / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Since it’s not just you and your own food anymore, you’ll have to be more mindful about space. You probably won't be able to blindly purchase groceries since you need to consider if there’s space in the fridge for your items. 

As a courtesy to your roommates, don’t constantly be the one roommate tracking up all the space in the fridge. Before you go on a spending splurge, take stock of your stock and finish the food you already have to create some space. 

8. Use Drawer Dividers

If you’re getting frustrated with keeping track of whose items are in various sections, consider adding drawer dividers to your fridge. 

Drawer dividers will enable you to split the fridge bins into different sections, and then you can designate each section to a roommate. And there you go: No more confusion over who owns that very delicious-looking strudel.

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