April 10

How to Figure Out that Mess of a Medicine Cabinet

How to Figure Out that Mess of a Medicine Cabinet

Medicine cabinets should be the one place in the house where organization and certain priorities are carefully planned out, even if you’re an unorganized person. Failing to do so allows expensive prescriptions to become expired, or worse, you won’t be able to find the Ibuprofen to provide you with some much-needed pain relief.

Chances are, you’ve run into one or both of these scenarios already. After all, why else would you be here? We have a few strategies and methods on how you can tackle the mess in your medicine cabinet and keep you from having to dig.      

Consider its Location

You probably know that your meds and vitamins should be tucked away in a cool and dry place, but what about if you have smaller children? Tragically, accidental overdose happens more often than you would think with young children.

Every day an estimated 165 U.S children are rushed to the emergency room for unintentionally swallowing prescriptions and pills. That’s 60,000 kids every year!

That’s 60,000 reasons why you should reconsider your medicine cabinet location. Wherever you decide, just be sure you choose a cabinet that is out of the reach of tiny fingers to prevent such an emergency. You can even put a lock on them to be even more cautious. 

Throw Out Expired Products

In order to get a “fresh” start on your medicine cabinet, you’ll need to throw out expired medicine and vitamins.

You don’t need to worry about becoming deathly ill if you accidentally take expired prescriptions or over the counter meds, it’s just that expired medicine will not work as effectively on doing what it was intended to do.

If you have to, replenish with new meds that will help you get better faster. While you’re at it, see if there is anything else in the cabinet that you find worthless and throw it out. 

Label Everything 

Whichever way you decide to organize your medicine pantry, it’s a great idea to label everything with a label maker. You’ll be surprised how much quicker you can find something and how much easier it is to organize when you have medicines and vitamins sorted by categories. If you don’t have one, a printer or magic marker will do.

Color Code

Another way of identifying your bottles of medicine is by color-coding all of them. Each color should represent something your other family members can understand. For all your vitamins you could pick a color that makes the most sense to you, while your pain relievers will be a different color.

Magnetic Strip

Make finding your tweezers and small scissors (and millions of bobby pins) so much easier by adding a magnetic strip to the back of your medicine cabinet door. 

Prioritize Shelving

It’s important that you think of priority when you decide what shelves to put what on. You need to put the items that you use on a daily basis right at eye level and easy to grab.

If you fly on a plane once a year and have to take Dramamine, you probably don’t need to have it on your top priority shelf.

Keep Travel Kit Separate

To make sure that you’re not ripping through your organized medicine cabinet, keep your travel medicine kit separate.

Stackable Plastic Storage Bin Box

One good idea for storing your medicine and vitamins is by putting them in clear stackable plastic storage bin boxes. Everything stays neat and orderly and if you’ve labeled the front of each box, you shouldn’t have any problems.


Pantry Lazy Susan

There’s no right or wrong answer with organizing, whatever works best for you. A pantry lazy Susan might work for you, as you’ll be able to sort each layer by category and give it a good spin to find your needs. 

Door Wire Organizer

Maybe you’d prefer not to have a cabinet for all your medical needs? You could always get a door wire organizer that has deep bins to hold all your medical supplies. If you have children, your bedroom closet door might be the place to put it.


Stackable Letter Trays

Some people have been clever enough to use stackable letter trays inside their medicine cabinet. They have multiple levels to sort out each medicine and vitamin by category and are pretty easy to pull a tray out if you absolutely have to. Just be careful not to make a mess doing so.

Medicine Cabinet Organizer

Purchasing a medicine cabinet organizer might be the best way to go if you have a medicine cabinet large enough to hold one. They have nice little compartments that provide ample space for medical products and with it being well-labeled, you can’t go wrong.

These are a few methods that should tidy up your medicine cabinet and make it easier to find what you’re looking for. What drives you nuts about your current medicine cabinet situation?

Ready for more organizing tips, How to Organize Your Home by Reusing “Trash”

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What’s the best way to sort through expired medicines?

    Keeping on top of expiring and expired medicines in your medicine cabinet is crucial for both your health and home organization. Medicines beyond their labeled expiration date may have reduced effectiveness, develop bacteria or fungi if liquids/creams, or even become toxic over time as chemical compounds change. So properly sorting through them is key.

    First, commit to tackling your medicine cabinet clean-out. Set aside at least 30 minutes up to an hour for this project. Gather a box or bag for discarding expired medicines, a notepad to log what you find, permanent marker, and sticky notes.

    Then remove everything – all medicines, creams, supplements from the shelves. Check each item’s expiration date against today’s date, making organized piles for expired & unexpired medicines. If an expiration date has rubbed off a container, be safe and put in expired pile.

    For expired medicines, use your permanent marker to fully black out any personal information like your name or prescription details on labels before discarding. This protects you from medicine misuse or identity theft if anyone accesses your trash. Place expired items immediately into your discard box/bag.

    For unexpired medicines you’re keeping, make notes about quantities and dosages needed on your notepad so you know what to repurchase. Also make notes about any items close to expiring that you need to use soon.

    Finally, put back unexpired medicines onto cleaned shelves in a systematic way. Group together medications for specific health conditions, supplements & vitamins, first aid items, etc. Use sticky notes to label the groups on shelf edges for easy identification later.

    Doing a full clean-out annually is best. But be sure to do quick checks of expiration dates every 1-2 months to stay on top of what’s expiring soon. Keeping an organized, uncluttered cabinet clear of expired medicines takes diligence, but is well worth it!

  • Should I throw away medicines that have expired or are close to expiring?

    Deciding whether to discard expired or soon-to-expire prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs requires careful evaluation. While the labeled expiration date offers some guidance, it may not tell the whole story. Additionally, improperly discarding some medicines can have unintended consequences.

    In general, once a medicine hits its expiration date, it should be discarded. Drug companies extensively test stability and duration of potency to determine expiration dates. After that point, chemical breakdown may reduce effectiveness of active ingredients. However, the FDA conducted testing revealing about 90% of drugs remain chemically sound for at least five years. Even so, reduced potency is likely.

    For expensive brand name drugs you currently take, consult your pharmacist or doctor about whether that specific medication retains any effectiveness for some time beyond expiration. If so, using them a short period beyond might provide some benefit if cost is a concern in replacing them.

    When ready to discard, do not simply toss medicines in household trash that ultimately reach landfills. Regarding privacy, remove or fully black out personal information from labels first. Most importantly, many medicines can be environmental pollutants. Follow federal guidelines to mix medicines with unappealing ingredients like dirt, cat litter, coffee grounds in a sealable bag or container to throw out with regular trash pick-up. Some local governments also provide periodic medicine take-back programs.

    For antibiotics or other prescriptions you did not finish that others might take from your trash, put them in the mix as well. This also prevents contributing to antibiotic resistance by not properly finishing doses. When in doubt if a medicine could be misused if accessed in your trash, take the safer route and mix it for disposal.

    Be diligent about regularly checking medicine expiration dates every few months. This allows you time to properly discard unusable medications before purchasing replacements so important medications you rely on remain accessible. Consistent monitoring also prevents clutter build-up over time.

  • How often should I go through my medicine cabinet to check for expired drugs?

    Keeping on top of expired medicines and supplements in your medicine cabinet or other bath and bedroom storage areas should be an ongoing process. While it may seem daunting, developing the habit of regularly checking expiration dates prevents last-minute medicine cabinet cleanout chaos and ensures you properly discard unusable medications. Getting in the routine also saves you money since you can toss what’s expired before excessively stockpiling more than you need.

    Optimally, you should be checking medicine expiration dates about once per month. Set aside 5-10 minutes each month to take stock of what you currently have, what quantities you realistically need based on your household size and health conditions, and expiry timelines.

    When checking dates, examine prescription medications first since those are highly personalized to health conditions and often more expensive out-of-pocket to replace. Note which prescriptions will need refills soon and inform your doctor ahead of time. This prevents gaps in availability if you finish current supplies before securing more.

    Next, examine over-the-counter medicines, supplements, ointments or creams. Look beyond just the medicine bottles themselves – also check supplies like extra asthma inhalers, EpiPens for severe allergies, medical devices, and first aid kit items. Make notes on your inventory so you remember to replace anything getting low in time.

    To stay organized going forward, keep an updated list on your phone or posted inside the medicine cabinet detailing all current medications and supplement quantities, dosages per pill, uses or conditions treated, and expiration timelines for fast reference.

    Doing a full clean-out of expired items every 6 months is also wise. Mix together soon-to-expire medicines with unappealing ingredients like dirt or coffee grounds before tossing to prevent misuse and environmental pollution. Some pharmacies and government facilities also collect medications a few times per year for safe disposal as well.

    Getting into the habit of diligently monitoring expiration dates monthly and doing a major cleanout biannually keeps your medicine cabinet clutter-free and your household ready with the most up-to-date medications you rely on. Consistency is key, so set reminders on your calendar to regularly check dates.

  • What’s the easiest way to create an inventory of what’s in my medicine cabinet?

    Keeping an up-to-date home inventory provides immense benefits whenever medical issues arise or if unexpected events happen. Knowing exactly what medicines and medical supplies you have avoids sending family members scrambling through cluttered cabinets or drawers in a crisis. Instead, essential healthcare items remain conveniently accessible.

    Creating a medical inventory requires a bit of time upfront, but saves effort long-term. Start by pulling everything out of bathroom and bedroom medicine cabinets, storage closets, first aid kits – any location holding medical items. Sort into groupings on a table or counter.

    As you document each item in your inventory notes, check expiration dates, making sure properly stored. List all medications first – prescription and over-the-counter. For each, record the generic and brand names, strength/dose per tablet, quantity remaining, expiration date, prescribing doctor, pharmacy details, and medical condition it treats. This provides a thorough reference.

    Next list medical devices like blood pressure monitors or glucose meters, noting model details and last replacement date for batteries or wearable parts. Also inventory first aid supplies like bandages or ice packs, plus any ointments, supplements, emergency auto-injectors for allergic reactions, and so on. Details like scent, flavor, or packaging colors help distinguish when you need to reorder a specific type.

    For easy updating later, create your inventory as a computer document, cloud-based spreadsheet, or list on your phone. This allows reorganizing entries alphabetically by medical condition or item type for quick lookup anytime. Make extra print copies for your emergency preparedness kit, safe deposit box, or to provide care facilities if family members undergo treatment.

    To maintain accuracy, schedule time twice per year for inventory review. When discarding expired items or buying new over-the-counter medicines per doctor recommendations, immediately update details. Keeping an organized, thorough inventory takes diligence but offers invaluable convenience identifying what you already have during medical events before purchasing more. It also minimizes accumulating duplicate or unneeded items over time, saving costs and storage space frustrations.

  • What kind of organizing systems work best for medicine cabinets?

    With the array of medicines, medical supplies, and self-care products the average household accumulates, having an organizational strategy for your medicine cabinet is essential. An effective system clears out clutter, saves you money on duplicates, and most importantly – provides fast access to first aid and daily use healthcare items when needed.

    When designing your medicine cabinet organization, categories and visible labeling are key. Group like items together – prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, first aid supplies, vitamin supplements, skin/hair care products, oral hygiene items, feminine products, etc. Consider your household demographics and medical needs to customize groupings in ways that make sense for your family.

    Next, use shelf dividers or storage bins to separate the groupings. Clearly label each section with removable tape or label makers. For cabinets without existing shelves, use adjustable wire racks or tension rod systems to create customizable storage options.

    Arrange categories smartly based on frequency of use. Keep first aid supplies, bandages, medical tools like thermometers centrally located on eye-level shelves for emergency accessibility. Daily oral hygiene products should also be readily at hand. Lesser used items like supplements or specialized ointments can go on higher/lower shelves.

    Finally, when returning items to storage locations after each use, always make sure bottles and boxes face forward so labels remain visible. Keeping organized only works if other household members properly re-shelve items in assigned spots. Consider posting visual charts reminding all family members about categorization systems and frequently used items demanding prompt returns to dedicated areas so your efforts aren’t undone.

    Revisit your medicine cabinet organization twice per year to account for changing needs or new products. Ensure nothing is kept beyond expiration and remove unused items cluttering prime real estate to maintain an efficiently functioning system through the years.

  • Should medicines be stored in their original containers or is transferring them okay?

    Whether prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs, properly storing them in original containers or appropriately labeled alternatives is vitally important – both for effectiveness and safety. However, safe options exist for transferring medicines when original packaging limits accessibility or proper identification.

    Prescription medicine bottles and over-the-counter boxes provide protection against light, moisture and temperature fluctuations. Bottles also clearly display vital information like patient name, dosage instructions, doctor details, expiration date and pill descriptions – allowing easy identification in emergencies. So when possible, keep medicines stored using original containers and packaging.

    However, pharmacy issue bottles are often similar shapes and colors. Transferred medications can then be impossible to quickly differentiate when needed urgently. Pharmacies can provide larger print labels for distinguishability. Or repackage pill volumes for scheduled dosages into organizers with clear lids, compartmentalizing morning, noon, night, etc. doses. Just be sure any container substitutions remain well-labeled.

    When decanting medicines into new containers is unavoidable, strict protocols must be followed. Never remove pills from packaging without fully labeling replacement containers first. Use permanent marker to record the drug name and dosage on lid and sides of the new sealed container. Note the expiration date, prescribing doctor, pharmacy phone number, refill details, and patient name. Having these details visible ensures proper medicines get taken when needed.

    Also inform your pharmacist about any repackaged medications to update your medical administration profile in case combining medicines. Never transfer different medications into a single replacement container – keep every type separated. Only transfer enough doses for a short duration, keeping original containers stored safely as backup.

    Ultimately, how you store and transport medications requires balancing safety and accessibility. But by proactively planning ahead with properly labeled containers suited to your unique needs, you can feel confident the right medicines get securely stored and remain identifiable when urgently needed. Discuss options with your pharmacist whenever uncertainties arise.

  • How can I ensure my medicine cabinet stays organized after cleaning it out?

    You’ve finally tackled the chore of fully clearing out and wiping down your medicine cabinet to address the expired medications and cluttered product overflow behind its doors. But after all that work, the last thing you want is having disorganization quickly creep back in. Fortunately, some simple planning during and after your medicine cabinet purge can ensure organization lasts long term.

    When sorting items while cleaning, carefully analyze what products you realistically need regularly versus situational supplies that just take up prime space. Does your first aid kit contain redundant items already stocked in the cabinet? Can infrequently used skin ointments be stored elsewhere to free up main shelves? Edit down to essential daily use items.

    Next, define categories that make sense for your family’s needs and assign dedicated storage zones – prescription medications, supplements, oral hygiene, first aid, skin care, etc. Install shelf dividers or use removable vinyl labels to clearly demarcate sections. This facilitates easy re-shelving later. Consider using clear plastic bins within each area to further separate categories.

    When returning items to shelves, arrange by category and rotate older products to the front to ensure first to be used. Face all labeling outwards for quick identification. Edit down supplies if overcrowded. Any products not needing refrigeration that won’t fit can be stored conveniently in a labeled bin elsewhere with other bathroom supplies and rotated in as needed.

    Going forward, immediately replace items in their assigned places after each use. Designate one family member to be accountable for monitoring stock and expiration dates monthly. They can then coordinate replenishing needs and prompting other household members to weed out unused items before acquiring more.

    Finally, when purchasing new products, before bringing them home analyze if they duplicate existing supplies already available. Limit impulse purchases. Follow this simple system, and your medicine cabinet makeover results will maintain beautifully for years ahead!

  • Where should OTC medicines be stored – in the medicine cabinet or somewhere else?

    When it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like pain relievers, cold and flu treatment, allergy medication, etc., having a designated central storage spot makes household access convenient when health issues arise. The most common go-to location tends to be the family medicine cabinet. However, depending on your unique home storage constraints, some creative alternatives exist.

    The bathroom medicine cabinet does allow consolidating OTC drugs alongside prescription medications, first aid supplies, and common toiletries for quick one-stop access. However, humidity and temperature fluctuations in bathrooms can shorten shelf lives for oral medicines over time. If cabinet space is limited, consider keeping just small supplies of your most frequently used OTCs there.

    A bedroom closet, office cabinet, or kitchen pantry shelf may provide cooler, darker alternatives better suited for bulk OTC storage. Wherever you designate as the central spot, be sure to clearly label shelves or bins for easy refiling. You want to eliminate time wasted searching every possible location when urgently needing to locate a specific medication.

    If you create an alternate OTC storage area in a closet or cabinet, install interior lighting and slide out drawers for easy visibility and access. Spinning “lazy Susan” style turntables are also useful allowing you to rotate organized medicine groupings to see everything housed inside. Wall mounted vertical medicine organizers work wonderfully to maximize storage density while keeping contents viewable.

    No matter your storage approach, maintain an up-to-date written or digital household inventory detailing all OTC and prescription medications you have on hand along with quantities and locations. This prevents over-purchasing duplicates when forgetting what’s already available. Keeping medications properly stored and cataloged saves money and certainly pays dividends when family members inevitably need to quickly source pain, allergy relief, or cold medicines on short notice!

  • What are the bathroom storage solutions besides the medicine cabinet to help maximize space?

    The quest for adequate and organized bathroom storage plagues most households, no matter the size. And the common medicine cabinet over the sink typically gets disproportionately burdened with items piled beyond reasonable capacity. But implementing a few upgrades beyond that central storage fixture can tremendously alleviate day-to-day clutter and overflow issues long term.

    If you have wall space on either side or above your existing medicine cabinet, consider flanking it with matching smaller cabinets to distribute the contents load. Below the main one, installing a pull-out cabinet with a flip down door creates easily accessible storage at the lower level, without compromising moving around space.

    Wall mounted metal shelves or woven storage baskets secured with concealed mounts provide decorative options for staging extra toiletries, cleaning supplies, prescription bottles or first aid items. Keep added storage consistent with the main medicine cabinet in style and color palette forcohesion.

    For more sizeable bedrooms, purchase complete wall units with glass doors that span from floor to ceiling. Adjustable interior shelves with when combined with cabinet doors keep all your backup supplies concealed but easily accessible as needed seasonally.

    In cabinets specifically, installing organizing inserts, pull out trays and doors with mirrors on the back maximize visibility and access to contents. Fold down cabinets built into walls at the inner corners are fabulous for tucking away hair tools. While slide out trays under sinks or in vanity lower cabinets house cleaning products or toilet paper.

    Consider a wall mounted bathroom organizer unit in the shower stall for body wash, shampoos, razors. Or for large families, an organizer on the back of the bathroom door with mesh pockets for everyone’s essential supplies helps eliminate cabinet crowding altogether.

    Taking advantage these scaled storage additions beyond your bathroom’s medicine cabinet effectively removes its burden as a solitary dumping ground unable to gracefully meet household needs. Distributed storage capacity finally grants you sufficient space centralized for everyday toiletries while liberating your main cabinet for strictly medical items.

  • Are there any safety issues I should consider when organizing my medicine cabinet?

    Your medicine cabinet naturally organizes many vital health and medical supplies for your household. However, ensuring its contents remain properly stored calls for careful attention to some key safety considerations. After all, vulnerable groups like children, seniors, or pets accessing medications could prompt emergencies.

    When organizing your medicine cabinet, always position to deter unsupervised access – installing top height over refrigerators or closer to ceilings work well. For standard bathrooms, choose cabinets positioned higher, out of sight and reach when doors open. Handle-less cabinets add protection. Consider installing child safety locks if you have babies on the move or toddlers tall enough to open doors. These deter curious youngsters.

    Assuming you choose a wall mounted cabinet, securely anchor to studs for earthquake safety and prevent tipping if weighted down or climbed on. Also ensure plumbing doesn’t run behind medicine cabinet placement risking punctures. Check with building codes in your state regarding requirements around placement near electrical outlets in moisture prone areas.

    When placing supplies inside cabinets during organization, position common first aid items – bandages, gauze, antiseptic creams – on middle shelves for convenient access by family members if treating minor injuries. Reserve upper shelves for medications or chemicals demanding greater protection.

    Always store all medications, supplements, and hazardous cleaning products locked up in child-safe boxes clearly labeled “Medicines” even inside cabinets. Elevate liquids off bottom cabinets shelving to prevent damage if leaks occur. Regularly check expiration dates and immediately discard anything expired.

    By taking a few critical safety measures in organizing medicine cabinet contents accessibility and anchoring the choices, you protect all family members against avoidable accidents while keeping the most vital healthcare products protected yet conveniently accessible. Reassessing for risks twice annually ensures you overhaul storage placements or security methods as household circumstances evolve.

  • If medicines need special storage conditions like refrigeration, what’s the best way to organize those?

    Certain prescription medications and some supplements require specific storage conditions like refrigeration or temperature control to maintain potency. This complicates keeping medicines organized since refrigerated items get scattered about instead of consolidated alongside shelf-stable healthcare products. But a few key approaches help streamline organizing temperature-sensitive medicines needing chilled environments.

    First, assess all family member medications to determine which truly demand refrigeration year-round versus those simply advised to be stored at cooler room temperatures below 77°F. This avoids overpacking the refrigerator unnecessarily. For room temperature medications, organize together on a bathroom or bedroom closet shelf away from heat vents or direct sunlight.

    For prescription medicines or supplements confirmed as requiring true refrigeration, try to cluster dosage times. For example, store thyroid medications alongside afternoon insulin pens or eye drops taken before bed. Consolidate items by dosage schedule on a dedicated refrigerator shelf rather than sporadically mixed in.

    Stack identical medicine types together in clearly labeled lidded plastic bins or trays distinguishing morning, afternoon or evening doses. Use durable peel-and-stick vinyl labels marked “Medical Supplies – Do Not Ingest” on shelving to clearly designate. Bins protect meds from spills and allow quickly transporting associated dosages directly to users when required.

    Maintaining a list of refrigerator contents posted at eye level streamlines regular inventory checks to confirm nothing gets lost behind food items. Also set calendar reminders to periodically double check temperatures using freestanding display thermometers stored alongside medication bins.

    Lastly, whenever family members or household circumstances change, examine if new medications introduced need special storage. Proactively plan optimal consolidation or shelving adjustments in advance for a streamlined system that evolves efficiently as needs arise.

  • How often should I check medicine cabinets for safety issues like leaks, spills, or expirations?

    Medicine cabinets conveniently store invaluable healthcare items from prescription drugs to wound care supplies. However, their contents also introduce contamination risks if spills seep onto shelving, products exceed expiration, or child safety mechanisms fail. While completely avoiding hazards is impossible, diligently monitoring cabinets routinely identifies and resolves safety issues before they prompt health emergencies.

    Optimally, a thorough safety check and wipe down of your medicine cabinet should occur quarterly. Additionally, make brief weekly scans standard particularly if you have infants or curious pets around. Glance inside for an overall sense of order and hazards in just a minute or two per week.

    On a quarterly basis, remove everything from the shelves to fully inspect interior conditions. Check expiration dates on medications, supplements, reusable cold packs, etc., disposing anything expired. Wipe down all shelf surfaces checking for sticky residue signaling leaks. Scrutinize medicine containers, inhalers or pill bottles for drip marks. If leaks present, replace containers and repackage contents after thorough cleaning.

    Pay particular attention to liquids like cough syrups or acetaminophen which can dry into toxic concentrations if concentrating from minor leaks over time. Also examine any security latch mechanisms to ensure properly functioning, especially if toddlers in your home can now reach cabinets doors.

    Reorganize shelves to prevent heavier glass bottles or supplies from being stored precariously above light plastics risking future spills during opening. Finally, take some time re-educating household members, particularly teenagers, about properly securing child safety latches or returning items to designated areas.

    Building regular medicine cabinet safety and hazard checks into your household routine supplements quick weekly scans to prevent unsafe conditions arising. The minimal time investment offers exceptional insurance protecting your family’s health and the accessibility of medical supplies when urgently needed.



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