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Chez Larsson

Cleaning Mom’s Fridge

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Exhibit A. Mom's fridge.

My mom has poor eyesight due to a problem with her retinas so when I visit her I try and help her out with things she can't do such as properly clean her fridge.

I'm always amazed at the amount of stuff she has in there (and you should see her freezer!). If I were living alone there would be one piece of cheese, a chunk of butter, a liter of milk and not a whole lot more. I'm really glad that she cooks proper meals for herself though.

I like to take everything out when cleaning. Because there isn't a whole lot of space to put stuff I did the fridge door first and the interior after.

All the shelves and accessories went into the kitchen sink for a good soaking and scrubbing. I ended up not putting back quite a few of the accessories because they are in the way and I could tell mom didn't use them.

Then I turned my attention to the contents. Above you see everything that I discarded. Hint; if something greets you when you open the fridge door or if your veg have funny hair dos it's time to let them go. If the date says 1999 that could also be a clue.
When everything was nice and clean and I started putting the shelves back I left out a weird curved one. Just because the fridge designer thought it was a good idea doesn't mean you do. It was just in the way and meant that tall stuff ended up blocking the low jars which ended up going bad and expiring.

I love how there's now space in there for everything and that the shelves have been adjusted to accommodate the tall containers as well as the short. Mom was pleased too.

And what's with these photos by the way? I'm totally unable to use the point and shoot without getting blurred shots. So weird.

Anyways, I'm on my way back home again on the train. It was nice to see mom but I'm excited to go home. All those carpets, paintings and do-dad's of my mom's get to me after a few days. I need a huge dose of clutter free now.


  • Petra from NL says:

    I think it also smells nice now…. do you have any tips for beating odour? Say you bought a nice but smelly bit of cheese. Just plain soda?

  • Siv Aksdal says:

    Love that thing for hanging the tubes in the fridge… That’s great..

  • Leena says:

    Wonderful looking the cleaned and decluttered fidge.
    Reminds that I have to do this for my own fridge too, but I think it is a rainy days job. Luckily today the sun is shining 🙂

  • Lenore says:

    I spent a few days over spring break tackling my parents’ clutter. Someone has to!

  • Suki says:

    Wow, I love these stories!

  • Franziska says:

    I’m thinking the same way like Suki 😉
    We check all items in the fridge once a week after having done the weekend shopping. So there’s no chance for greeting us 😉
    The fridge might be cleaned again soon ‘though.

  • Leslie says:

    I loved your remark about the expiration date. During the big blizzard we had this past winter, I decided to clean out our chest freezer. This was my husband’s before I married him. Getting to the bottom of the freezer took a while, but there were “things” in there from 1996. I didn’t even meet him til 1997 and we married in 2000. Guess I just piled more stuff on top of his when I moved in. But now it’s almost empty and ready to defrost. Personally, I’d rather get rid of the freezer and have the space for storage 🙂 What do two old people need with a chest freezer? My mom before she died also had very old and fuzzy things in her fridge, probably because a) she couldn’t see and b) didn’t want to throw anything away. You’re a good daughter to do this for her!!

  • Vad snäll du är! Och så blev det väldigt fräscht. Vi gjorde en sådan här “makeover” för ett par veckor sedan. Härligt!

  • Sara says:

    What a wonderful daughter you are… How fun to see an open fridge with completely foreign food items!! Could you please pass the Fontana? 🙂

  • Nancy says:

    I too often help my mom clean her fridge, but I find it more interesting to see what is inside of your mom’s Swedish fridge. It’s not just the foreign packaging, but how the fridge is designed to accommodate products that are commonly found there that I find interesting. Squeeze tubes of mayo and other condiments are much more common in Europe than in North America and I have never seen a holder for them such as the one that is in your mom’s fridge. I was trying to guess what is in some of the packages; a couple of them are recognizable as they are available here in Canada.

  • Kari says:

    The fridge is so interesting–I love to see the way household products are designed and work in various countries. I especially like the tubes and tube holder–how smart!
    About needing the clutter free zone–I SO understand. It is the same way when I visit my mother; I want to come home and throw things out (since I can’t do it to her stuff). And I have a pretty uncluttered house!

  • alison smith says:

    Know the feeling about returning to your own home after staying with your mother! My mum’s house is stuffed full of knick-knacks, makes me desperate to ‘file’ some of it under bin. Im sure she doesn’t know that she has half the stuff!

  • Jennifer S. says:

    I help my mom clean her fridge with I visit her, too. She has so many expired condiments it is scary. And her house is way more cluttered than mine because she has been living there for 45 years, so I help her de-clutter too when she gives me things. She thinks she’s sharing her stuff with me but I turn around and give it to charity when I get home!

  • I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that problem to the extent that it smelled bad even after the foot cheese was eaten but I’ve heard that you can get nasty odors out if you place a dish with white vinegar an leave for a day or so. It supposedly works on musty old drawers too!

  • Haha! I would totally do that too if my mom didn’t already know that I so don’t like what she likes and the other way around 🙂

  • April says:

    I have lived far away from my mother for the past 7 years, but this summer I’m moving to 45 minutes away from her. I’m sure I’ll bump into things like this, too. She and I keep house very differently!
    As for the blurry, it’s because you don’t have enough light in that room. Bumping up the ISO would have helped, but would have made the pictures more grainy. More light (from a window if available, from a lamp—or two, or three—if not) would have been better.

  • Karin says:

    There is a film directed by Jodie foster called Home for the Holidays. I think it really captures something of what adults feel when they go home to visit their parents.
    Great work on the fridge, Benita, and I agree about the wavy shelf!

  • April says:

    My husband and I were doing this with my mother-in-law, when one day she asked for something back.
    Uh, oops?

  • Jacilyn says:

    Sometimes there is nothing better than a clean and organized fridge. I always feel so organized and top of my game when I get it done.
    It was fun seeing all the different food items and packaging from your neck of the woods. Especially the squeeze tubes.

  • Vicki K says:

    She’s a lucky mom! Do you suppose European (smaller) friges make people buy and use more efficiently? (Have you ever seen/tackled an American frig?)

  • Karen O says:

    I put a plastic turntable in the back corner of my fridge’s top shelf for all those little-but-important jars (mustard, jams, relish, etc.) It reduces the frustrating digging and moving things about.
    Actually, I’m a little turntable obsessed – there are actually two in the fridge, one under the sink and one in the bathroom closet. Couldn’t live without them!

  • I actually know that it’s just that I don’t remember adjusting all that on the point and shoot when I used to use it all the time 🙂 Now with the DSLR I make those adjustments all the time…

  • And I cosdider my mom’s to be a big fridge 🙂 Ours is half the size. I have seen the ginormous American fridges though. But I guess you need a humongous fridge for the humongous large tubs, cans, jars etc 🙂

  • I put all that little stuff in the door compartments on our fridge but I also love turn tables! There’s one in our pantry and I love swirling it to find what I need!

  • jeannette says:

    you’re a good daughter, and how thoughtful of mutti to make a little mess for you to straighten out!!!
    love to all.

  • Grace says:

    I love this post on so many levels! One, it’s so sweet of you to do this for your mom; two, I love seeing what stuff people have in their fridges; and three, that the stuff are foreign to me is so cool! Thanks for sharing!

  • Elle Sees says:

    The tubes–whare these filled with?

  • peggy says:

    The fridge came out beautifully… great reorganization.

  • There was one with caviar (we’re not talking Beluga here, just a typical Swedish sandwich spread), one with tomato paste, one with horse radish paste and one with soft cheese with sun dried tomatoes.

  • Wow! How lovely to imagine how your mom got excited to her clean fridge.. what a great idea… Thanks for sharing this idea… Exquisite!!

  • jja says:

    I am also alone (including cats) but have my fridge equaly full as your mother hers. Lots of vegetables, fruit, milk, dozen sorts of chees, eggs, some prosciutto, butter, pickles…
    For strange odor I would recomad this, it works great if you have some really smelly cheese, but refuse to smell everything there like this cheese…I have one like this also for a dishwasher..
    It works almost like steel sopa for neutralising odor on our hands..

  • Alison says:

    I had to laugh (but in a good way, I think) at this post. I am cooking meals for my 90 year old grandmother and 85 year old great aunt and my first duty was to clean out the fridge. They weren’t eating the meals that were brought to them; they just let them pile up…literally. First I threw everything out that I knew they would never eat and then checked the expiration dates on the things I might want to use. After that, I pulled everything out…shelf by shelf and scrubbed them (they can’t see well enough to wipe anything up). Now…I have a fridge to “use” that it clean for the most part. I am still trying to get them to cover the food they put in it, but it is a losing battle. :::sigh::: Up next, the freezer. THAT, I am scared of. LOL
    Ohhh..before I forget. I don’t know if it was mentioned in the above comments because I briefly scanned through them, but to remove odors, deactivated charcoal works really well. You can get it at a pet store (they use it for fish tanks). I tried baking soda and vinegar and the charcoal was the one that did the trick.
    I also want to take the time to say thank you for “getting me started” in my own apartment. 🙂 I have seen your photos on Flickr for a while, but I just recently found your blog for some strange reason. I always have liked the cleaner lines of Scandinavian design and between you and Sarah Richardson (a favorite designer of mine), I have been motivated to completely clean out and do as much organizing and painting as I can with a rental unit. 🙂
    Now if they would only build a Container Store closer to King of Prussia I would be all set. LOL 🙂
    A fellow longtime Martha fan…
    Alison 🙂

  • G.Sims says:

    The last few lines you wrote gave me a good laugh. I remember as kid living at my parents on every weekend I had to dust my Mum’s glass china cabinets – not only filled with china but knick knacks of all sorts. In my home such things are a big no-no.