The Joys and Hassles of Buying a New Fridge and Organizing It

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Empty French door refrigerator with doors open

My refrigerator was 15 years old, and it was slowly dying. This is to be expected I found out. In the US, they last 10 to 18 years with an average fridge lifespan of 14. Once I realized it was dying, what happened next was at times frustrating, comical, and boring. Did I decide to write a blog post about it to share the amusing mundaneness with you? You bet I did.

I was leaving for a trip over Christmas break, like the very next morning, and noticed a can of La Croix I grabbed out of the fridge didn’t feel cold. Hmmm. I popped a digital cooking thermometer in the supposedly chilly white box next to the half-eaten can of olives, waited a bit, and found out it was, frighteningly, 64 degrees inside my GE.

beige freezer on top refrigerator

In case you don’t know, your refrigerator should be 40 degrees in the cold part and 0 degrees in the freezer. I happen to have a low tolerance for food safety worries, so I proceeded to throw out some food.

After that, I took an annoyingly lengthy number of steps to try to repair, sigh in despair, and then try to replace my refrigerator. It was highly reminiscent of the time I decided to, you know, quickly organize my overflowing pantry. And like then, for a reason I’m not sure I can articulate, I’m sharing those particular joys and hassles with you now. All 79 of them.

  1. Search YouTube for help. Find informational videos from helpful appliance repair people who cover the most common reasons your fridge is warm and optimistically give possible solutions. Find out it’s likely a problem with the freezer.
  2. Empty freezer. Discover one inch of fuzzy ice on the back wall of the freezer, covering the coils, defrost thermostat, and drain holes. Defrost freezer.Frost covered freezer
  3. Order new defrost timer per YouTube suggestion.
  4. Take damper out so more cold air can flow between freezer and fridge per YouTube suggestion.
  5. Search urgently for fridges online at local big-box stores wondering if any of them could be delivered the next day before I leave.
  6. Realize this is a ridiculous idea as many models need to be ordered in advance and scheduling delivery often requires a wait of 2-3 weeks. Aaaand, there’s a pandemic.
  7. Remember that the current fridge cut-out (heretofore referred to as “the hole”) in the kitchen cabinets is unusually small and that many “regular” refrigerators won’t fit, so options are very limited. It’s the width: most fridges are 36 inches wide and my spot is only 32.
  8. Check fridge temp before leaving for trip. 38 degrees. Not bad! Feel hopeful that it’s resolved. Breathe a sigh of relief.
  9. Go on trip and forget about refrigerator woes.
  10. Return home and live a couple of weeks in worry-free ignorance.
  11. Grab some frozen berries out of the freezer and think something doesn’t feel right.Freezer compartment of refrigerator full of food
  12. Try the digital thermometer trick and realize freezer is 13 degrees.
  13. Adjust refrigerator/freezer controls and wait for temperatures to right themselves, to no avail.
  14. Search for fridges again online, and re-measure current fridge. Feel familiar sadness that many models won’t fit, but for the first time spot a French-door model with the right width. Perhaps top freezer refrigerator models are not the only available option! Feel hopeful.
  15. Realize this unicorn of a model is $1799. Feel hopes dashed. Give up.Door of freezer full of food
  16. Replace defrost timer. Discover fan never turns on and freezer continues to sit at 13 degrees out of what feels like spite.
  17. Wait a week. Decide to check coils again. Discover with crushing defeat that they’re completely frosted over.
  18. Empty and defrost freezer again.
  19. Ignore the problem for a few months.Refrigerator full of food
  20. Go to Costco just to get groceries, and see the perfect fridge for $999.
  21. Take a pic of the measurements on the Costco information card as proof that small stylish affordable fridge exists. Feel elated.
  22. Go home, measure hole again, then go back to Costco the next day. Confirm it will fit.
  23. Go to Customer Service. Ask if appliances can be delivered. Realize customer service employee can’t hear my question through masks and plexiglass. Also, oddly, she doesn’t know the answer and is annoyed that I asked it.
  24. Follow her suggestion to find someone in the appliance section and ask them.
  25. Find appliance dude. Realize dude is annoyed I’m interrupting his work.
  26. Accidentally stand too close to appliance dude because of unchecked feelings of excited anticipation over a new appliance. Watch as appliance dude backs away from me to a distance of 6 feet.
  27. Find out from dude that fridges ordered from Costco online are delivered. But if they’re bought in-store, they’re not delivered. Feel judgy and assess this as a dumb policy because it doesn’t meet my needs.
  28. Measure interior dimensions of car and confirm the assumption that fancy new $999 fridge won’t fit in it.
  29. Accept that I can’t buy this cheaper fridge because I can’t get it home myself. I also likely can’t get it up 3 flights of stairs to my condo even with help mostly because of the harsh reality that it weighs 233 pounds and I have no elevator.
  30. Search for same Costco fridge online because if it’s on their website, it can be delivered.
  31. Realize the site will let me search for fridges but won’t show prices unless I’m logged in. Struggle to remember password.Door of refrigerator full of food
  32. Find similar model on for $1799.00 that’s essentially the same fridge. Realize one in the store is last year’s model.
  33. Shake fist in the air, squint eyes, and purse lips while saying “Costco” loudly and with contempt.
  34. Diffuse unjustified Costco anger by remembering that I am lucky even to have a fridge and the food in it in the first place.
  35. Decide to increase budget to get a new fridge with hopes of feeling some kind of satisfaction or resolution, all the while realizing psychologists would call this delayed reward anchoring, retail therapy, or ill-advised.
  36. Watch a video on how to measure for a new fridge. Measure hole. Measure old fridge. Measure width of front door to be sure new fridge can fit through if and when it’s delivered.
  37. Search big-box stores online again after realizing you can filter searches by size. Narrow down to 3 fridges that will fit my small space.
  38. Compare features using their compare tool. Deliberate. Choose favorite. Click “add to cart.” Feel joy.
  39. Joy is short-lived. Am informed: “This item is back-ordered. Available in 6 weeks.” Ponder about pandemic delays. Try to ignore desire for instant gratification and some goddamn order in the world.
  40. Remember and get excited. Find a fridge that will fit for a cheaper price! Add to cart. Feel familar joy. Put in zip code. Read fine print and learn they won’t take away old fridge. Realize I can’t get the old one down the stairs myself for the same reasons I can’t get a new one up.
  41. Try Find model I want. Type in zip code. Am informed: “Delivery not available in your area.” Find this confusing since Lowe’s is 2.3 miles away from my house.
  42. Try Best Find model I want. Type in zip code. Am informed: “Delivery unavailable in your area.” Find this confusing since Best Buy is 0.5 miles away from my house.
  43. Feel frustrated that “fix fridge problem” has been on my To Do list for at least 3 months.
  44. Measure hole, old fridge, and front door again as a way to feel in control of refrigerator chaos.
  45. Try local appliance shop websites. See ads for 25% off sale at one store and feel hopeful again.
  46. Drive to first shop. Bring tape measure and measurements. Am told that none of their fridges will fit.
  47. Drive to next local shop. Share embarrassingly small hole size. Am told only 2 fridges might fit, and neither are available in store.
  48. Wait 10 minutes for them to look up ordering details for available skinny fridges. One can be here in 2 weeks, the other in a month. Delivery costs $100. Neither of the two fridges qualifies for the 25% off.
  49. Come home. Realize this has been going on excruciatingly long and want to give up. Fantasize about just ordering takeout forever and never grocery shopping or cooking again.
  50. Decide I’m ready to purchase a #$@&%*! fridge, no matter what. Feel energized and empowered.
  51. Call first local shop to place order! Get told no one is available so leave message to be called back. Receive no callback. Empowerment is short-lived.
  52. Ponder the existential question: why does no one want to sell me a fridge and drive it here?
  53. Call again, get paired with sales dude. He looks up model and agrees to order.
  54. Find out it’s “hopefully” available in 3 weeks, but no promises on timeline because of COVID. Costs $1799 plus extra to deliver because of the 3 flights: $50 for delivery and $30 to remove old one. Also, sales tax.
  56. Get date of delivery, but am told they’ll call 5 days before to confirm it is actually “in the shipment.”
  57. See that $2000 is gone from checking account. Feel guilty, shocked, and relieved at the same time.
  58. Let myself revel in the fantasy of how a French door fridge is better than a freezer-on-top, like how fridge contents are at eye level and how there’s less of a chance a brick of Crispy Crowns will slide out of the freezer onto my foot since they’ll be in a drawer instead.
  59. Watch YouTube videos on how to organize refrigerators. Daydream about bins and labels and a more structured life.
  60. Receive no phone call on date of expected update.
  61. Call to follow up and am told they weren’t sure when it was coming. Hopefully only 1 more week.
  62. Old fridge continues to smugly under-refrigerate.
  63. Search Pinterest for more organizing ideas. Impulse buy a lazy Susan that might fit nicely on the top shelf.
  64. Put box of Arm and Hammer Fridge-N-Freezer baking soda on grocery list in an effort to manifest fridge to arrive.
  65. Call again and am given delivery date of 4 days later.
  66. Hyperfocus on delivery date for 4 days.
  67. On morning of delivery date, begin emptying fridge and freezer into coolers and insulated bags and ask groceries to rest comfortably on the patio in the 46 degree weather.insulated bags of groceries
  68. Realize I have a cranberry buying problem and a nut butter buying problem as I pull 2 pounds and 14 jars, respectively, from the appliance recesses.
  69. Realize I have multiple other inventory-heavy problems including maple syrup (3 jars), sundried tomatoes in oil (2 jars), and black bean and garlic sauce (2 jars). Deny the existence of soy sauce/tamari buying problem when faced with indisputable evidence.
  70. Anxiously await delivery dudes.
  71. Watch them arrive in my condo empty-handed, and measure hole, old fridge, and front door just like I did. Feel appliance comradery with them.
  72. Wait while they go back down to truck to measure new fridge to make sure it will fit.
  73. See them loading new fridge onto dolly which seems to imply fittage!
  74. Watch anxiously as they wheel the great gleaming appliance into the kitchen.
  75. Actually jump with actual joy when fridge actually fits in the actual hole.Stainless steel refrigerator
  76. Tip delivery dudes generously for bringing 259 lb. fridge up 3 flights.
  77. Stare in wonder at shiny new fridge. Feel gratitude and joy.Empty refrigerator with doors open
  78. Wait one day before measuring new fridge for bins. Enthusiastically buy a lot of bins. Wonder if it’s possible for a person to also have a bin buying problem?
  79. Commence organizing of new fridge. Feel like there is harmony and order in the world. At least in the 21.8 cubic feet in front of me.

Refrigerator full of food several shelves

Now that I’ve lived through this neverending fridge-related hellscape and organized it, I can share a few tips. I have no buying tips, of course. I meandered through that process incoherently. The organizing, though, I’ve got at least a tiny tinge of pride about. Here are my thoughts to help you in case you decide to take on the task of tidying your cold upright rectangle.

Best advice:

  • Put the most commonly used items close at hand, i.e. up front: for me that’s soymilk and nut butters for breakfast, garlic and maple syrup for cooking and baking, and fizzy water all day. So these all went in the door cubbies.
  • Use glass containers so you can see what and how much you’ve got: this includes leftovers, smidgens of cheese, jars of chia seed, etc.
  • Make zones and label whatever is labelable: you can see in the pics what sections were labeled. Those equally important but not as easy to label are the breakfast zone (upper shelf, right), leftover or “use me first” zone (middle shelf, right), and dinner kit zone (bottom shelf, rightish).
  • Take joy in the giant, shallow drawer under the produce drawers: it is a revelation! For now it’s the home for cheeses, tofu, and flat things like tortillas or flatbreads, but in a pinch it could be a place to stash oversized cheese platters or veggie trays. (That is, if I ever get to have people over, get invited to a party, or take snacks to work again.)
  • Put like with like but in groupings that make sense for you: for me it was (1) ketchup with mustard, pizza sauce, and hot sauce; (2) soy sauce with chocolate syrup; (3) oil with vinegar; (4) miso with teriyaki and hoisin sauces; (5) sour cream with cream cheese; (6) butter sticks with margarine sticks.

If you want additional advice, I read a whole lot of articles about best fridge organizing practices. These were two of my favorites: How to Organize Your Refrigerator in 12 Simple Steps and How to Organize Your Fridge.

Fridge doors full of food
Left door and right door, but shown side-by-side in this photo. (Gus is my kitty.)

Refrigerator full of food with some areas labeled
Same pic as above, but this time with helpful labels.

A couple of unintended consequences:

  • Some of the bottles of condiments ended up being too tall to fit in their designated spot. So I solved this by transferring their contents to a short, squat canning jar with a label.
  • I opted to put all frozen fruit and most frozen meat substitutes into reusable zippered bags labeled with a Sharpie and which lined up beautifully like file folders. However, said bags open stubbornly when they’re coming right from the freezer. This results in requisite cursing under my breath each and every time. Their size and shape work great for the freezer drawer, and they’re easy to label, but perhaps there is a less irritating option.
Freezer drawer full of food
Top drawer: frozen fruit, frozen veggies, tofu and tempeh, meatless sausages, and frozen desserts/popsicles.
Freezer drawer full of food
Bottom drawer: frozen cranberries, hemp seeds, meat substitutes like bacon and burgers, frozen smoothies, French fries. The white square containers have shredded coconut and alternative flours.

Now that the months-long project is finally finished, I’m quite satisfied. And exceptionally grateful. Despite my grumblings, I understand this is a first-world problem. And besides the joy and hassles, there is privilege in having a couple of thousand dollars of disposable income to buy a new appliance. And every time I open the French doors and instantly find exactly what I’m looking for and notice it feels perfectly 40 degrees, I hope this one beats the average fridge life and lives forever.





3 thoughts on “The Joys and Hassles of Buying a New Fridge and Organizing It”


    What a story! I think it’s funny that we go through the process of determining an appliance issue, figure options of fixing and then are deflated when the fix doesn’t fix! And then to sort-of ignore it for a week or two…..I’ve done this many a times. I’m so glad you’re perseverance paid off! And the refrigerator looks shiny, new and oh-so organized.

    1. Appliance woes are a bit of a shared experience among many. Glad to know I’m not the only one who tries the “ignore it” strategy. 🙂

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