How To Evaluate Your Relationship by Cleaning Out Your Refrigerator

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Time to defrost the refrigerator. Evaluating our relationship wasn’t a planned part of the process–how to find time to get around to the defrosting job was the only issue at hand, I thought–but guess what? My wife passed by the open fridge door and exclaimed, “Pee-yew! What stinks?!”

I couldn’t smell it at all, but I didn’t think it was me. Wasn’t too sure it was the refrigerator, either, but hey, it was pretty crammed full of stuff inside the white box. And come to think of it, I couldn’t remember the last time we (meaning me) had really given the thing a good interior cleaning, getting rid of outdated foods, so why not? Time to go for it.

Besides, it was a perfect excuse. Pam’s not a severe hoarder, but she does like to save those little packets of salad dressing from McDonald’s, the parmesan cheese from Pizza Hut, and anything else semi-edible she doesn’t believe is rotten yet.

Mucking this puppy out would be a good thing.

So there’s your first clue about how to evaluate your relationship when it’s time to clean out your refrigerator. If you’re the sort of husband who instantly divines the benefit of getting rid of junk by following your honey’s Honey Do list to the letter rather than making a fuss, then hey, happy wife, happy life.

Besides, that E-Z Freeze unit really did look…cluttered.

Our refrigerator was clearly overdue for a defrosting...and yes, with the top shelf cleared off for the task, the next shelf down does look overstuffed.

Our refrigerator was clearly overdue for a defrosting…and yes, with the top shelf cleared off for the task, the next shelf down does look overstuffed.

Naturally, since defrosting this unit takes several hours even though we never defrost the refrigerator and freezer parts simultaneously, there were other tasks that filled in the gaps during much of the afternoon and early evening. At one point, though, I knew it was time to change out the big plastic jugs we use in the back of the fridge instead of the dinky little drain cup that came as original equipment. I sauntered back there and–

“–%%&#@!!!!”

“What’s wrong?” Pam called from my office, where we’d been looking on Amazon for more stuff to buy, a padded bath mat (immediately) for her little bird bones and a gas powered fence post pounder (some pie in the sky day) for me.

“I (bleeped) up! The paint can I leave tucked against the plastic jug so it can’t tip–it’s not where it should be! We’ve got a gallon of water on the floor!”

Okay, so I exaggerated. It turned out to be much less than a gallon. Still, the mistake was infuriating, enough to keep me cursing myself at length while I mopped up the spilled water with a roll of paper towels Pam handed to me.

It wouldn’t be a big deal, see, but ours is not a linoleum floor. Enough water seeping down between the interlocking rubber flooring tiles and soaking into the OSB strand board subflooring can produce mold, which produces more work for me as I clear the space, lift the tiles, let things dry thoroughly, and coat with bleach water to kill the mold.

Pam didn’t ask how it had happened, but I told her anyway. “The gallons of yellow and lavender paint we’ve been buying to repaint your room, there are too many back there now.”

“You trapped yourself.”

“I trapped myself, yes. Exactly.”

Aha. What we have illustrated here, then, is teamwork (paper towels handed to me by Pam) and understanding. (“You trapped yourself.”) Better than a $100 per hour counselor any old day, eh? And all for free, just for the labor of defrosting and cleaning out your refrigerator.

With the glitches ironed out–and the pile of paint cans shifted to my bedroom, where else–it was time to get with the fridge cleaning, and…

…wow. There were containers in there, ranging from little cans of V-8 juice to a big jug of prune juice (don’t ask) to salad dressing and–well, at least everything was identifiable, more or less, but some of it had expired in 2011. (And this is being written in September of 2014.) With the momentum going my way after my wife insisted I get rid of the bad smell (which turned out to be coming from a trash can and not from the refrigerator at all), I calmly dumped every little packet of whatever she’d stored in the cheese drawer.

The was quite possibly the first real “eliminate the excess” cleaning the beast had experienced since being installed in July of 2010.

When all was said and done, we were both a bit stunned and amazed. The excess from the fridge had filled a good two thirds of a tall kitchen trash bag and felt like it weighed around 20 pounds. And that didn’t even count the just-turning-sour gallon milk jug or the several big juice jugs I’d emptied before tossing them in the bag.

Whoa. Talk about lightening a load.

An estimated 20 pounds of expired or otherwise undesired food from the fridge nearly fills a tall kitchen trash bag, seen here in the truck, ready for our next run to the landfill.

An estimated 20 pounds of expired or otherwise undesired food from the fridge nearly fills a tall kitchen trash bag, seen here in the truck, ready for our next run to the landfill.

In fact, cleaning out the overstuffed refrigerator not only gave us the opportunity to evaluate our relationship; lightening the load also allowed us to elevate our relationship.

Besides, Pam’s new hired companion starts work on Monday. We couldn’t let her see the mess, now could we?

How to tell if your refrigerator needs to be defrosted.

How to tell if your refrigerator needs to be defrosted.