International Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

When I was in sixth grade, I got a job helping the old woman across the street. She’d just broken her arm, and needed someone to clean. Every time I went there, my stomach heaved. The jobs she gave me were all of a particularly disgusting nature. For example, she had me clean the hair catchers in her bathrooms, and I remember pulling up gobs and gobs of hair, gagging all the while. Just thinking about it now turns my stomach.

refrigeratorBut that wasn’t the worst of my ordeal at this woman’s house. The worst was the refrigerator. Rotten fruits and vegetables. Fuzzy green unidentified leftovers. Ancient bottles and jars that were long expired or would have been if they had expiration dates. (I think expiration dates on all packaged food came much later.) I got sick every single time I went over there and I wanted to quit, but one of my parents insisted I fulfill my obligation. The other parent, in a rare moment of sticking up for me, argued that I shouldn’t have to do something that made me ill. Odd that I can’t remember which parent wanted me to go and which took my side, but it no longer matters. It was so very long ago.

But what does matter is your refrigerator. Clean it out!!!

During my nomadic years after my father died, I house sat and rented rooms in people’s houses. Invariably, in these myriad places, I found a refrigerator clogged with expired condiments and food long past the stage of edibility. I itched to clean out the refrigerators, but I refrained. Maybe the owners were sentimental about that bottle of Hershey’s syrup that was so old it was as thick as treacle and tasted about the same. Or perhaps they liked the vision of wealth a full refrigerator imparts.

In one of the places I lived, the owner gave me permission to clean out the refrigerator to give me space for my few groceries. After three hours, I had a huge stack of trash bags full of expired and rotten food. (By expired, I mean well past expiration date. Ketchup that was ten years old, eggs that were many months old, string cheese packets that were as hard as masonite. It took a chisel and lots of hot water to clean the spilled food that had congealed beneath all that detritus. (That is not an exaggeration. I did have to use a chisel.)

In the interest of health — and since most of us are under stay-at-home orders — I am declaring this International Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.

I am begging you, please, go clean out your refrigerator. I know you have things in there you have become so accustomed to seeing that you no longer notice them. Or you have bottles of exotic ingredients you have been promising yourself to use for the past ten years. We all have those condiments and rare elements we bought for a recipe, used the requisite one teaspoon, and never got around to making that dish again. You might even have small amounts of food in your refrigerator or freezer that are still good but aren’t enough for a meal — well, soups and salads and stir-fries are all very accommodating when it comes to using left-overs.

If you’re still not convinced of the necessity of cleaning out your refrigerator, ask yourself if you really want some poor woman (maybe your mother or daughter or daughter-in-law, possibly a neighbor, perhaps even a son or husband) throwing up when/if they have clean up if you become sick or incapacitated in any way.

Please like and share this post so it goes to as many people as possible.

Thank you.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

5 Responses to “International Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day”

  1. Judy Galyon Says:

    Strange that you should write about this, as I was thinking of doing that very thing. I even got rid of 2 overly ripe avocados this morning. I will go now & clean it out! Thanks.

  2. jarilissima Says:

    Eew! You are so kind for helping out that woman, even if the jobs were so gross. Good on you! 🙂 I live with someone who doesn’t believe in expiration dates, so I have to keep an eye out on the fridge often. Hahaha

  3. snakesinthegrass2014 Says:

    We used to call those old items “Science Projects.” 🙂 Fortunately I’m married to an intense foodie, so nothing stays in our fridge for very long. But having said that, it’s also embarrassingly packed to the gills. Getting to a carton of orange juice involves moving at least three things. Ugh. – Marty

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