Declutter Your Medicine Cabinet

Like all stuff, medications have a way of accumulating.  For safety reasons, it’s important to declutter your medicine cabinet every six months or so.  Medications are chemical compounds.  Over time, they break down.  Expired medications can be ineffective or even toxic.  This is true of both prescription and over-the-counter medications.

As you declutter your medicine cabinet, discard any of the following:

  • Any medications that have reached their expiration date - this includes such things as eye drops or nasal sprays.
  • Any medications that are discolored, dried out, separated, or in any way appear suspect.
  • Leftover prescription medications from a previous illness - this is the part where I warn you about the dangers of self-medicating.  Always seek a doctor’s opinion before taking prescription medication, even if it’s something you’ve taken in the past.  While your symptoms my be similar, the underlying cause might be different.
  • Any medications which are not in their original container – even if you’re sure you know what it is, others probably won’t.  There is always a danger that someone will take the wrong thing by mistake and that could have devastating consequences.    

Proper Disposal of Medications

It’s great to declutter your medicine cabinet, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when disposing of prescription medications.  Illegal use of prescription medications is a concern, as is safety. 

Federal guidelines recommend removing medications from their original packaging, crushing them up, and placing them in a seal-able container such as a plastic bag.  Add coffee grounds, kitty litter, or some other undesirable substance such as sawdust to make them even less tempting to anyone with nefarious intent.  To avoid potential contamination of the water in your area, do not flush medications down the toilet or pour them down the drain. 

Many communities have collection days or locations for turning in unused medications.  Find out from your local pharmacy if such a program exists in your area or ask them how best to dispose of specific medications.  You can also contact your local hazardous waste facility for instructions.    

Separate unwanted medications from the medications you use until you are able to dispose of them properly in order to prevent any mix-ups.

Tips for Storing Medications

Once you declutter your medicine cabinet, it’s time to find a safe, effective way to store those medications you’re keeping.  Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep all medications out of the reach of children.  You already know that.
  • Store medications in a cool, dry place.  Generally speaking, this is not the bathroom since bathrooms are frequently hot and humid.  Instead, consider storing your meds in a hall closet, upper kitchen cabinet, or other convenient, yet safe storage space.
  • Store all medications in one location where they can easily be secured if need be.  This way everyone knows where to look for what they need and there is no danger of a little one accidentally gaining access to something dangerous. 
  • When multiple family members are taking prescription medications, it’s important to keep them separate to avoid confusion.  Store different individual’s medications on different shelves or try labeling a tiered organizer with a separate shelf for each person.
  • Store over-the-counter medications on a Lazy Susan where everything is easy to see and easy to access.  

If Not Medicine, Then What?

While the medicine cabinet may not be the best place to store medications, it does have its uses.  Use your medicine cabinet to store those items that you access most frequently such as dental care items, cosmetics, shaving equipment, or nail care items. 

Medicine cabinets are also a great place to store first aid items which fit nicely on the petite shelves. 

Consider designating a shelf in your medicine cabinet for each type of storage (cosmetics, nail care, skin care, etc.) or for each family member.

Get the most out of the space in your cabinet by adjusting the heights of the shelves to best accommodate those items you wish to store with the least amount of wasted space. 

Add hooks with suction cups to hang small items like nail clippers or scissors from, or attach small magnetic bins to the inside of the door (assuming it’s metal) to extend the storage capacity of your cabinet.  Measure first to make sure the containers will fit and the door will close.

If the inside of your cabinet door is metal, try using it as a message board. Post reminders, love notes, or important information (such as first aid tips).

Declutter your medicine cabinet by removing anything you don’t want, use, or need and moving medications to a safer, more hospitable environment.  Then reclaim it as a functional storage space for items you use every day.

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