These are the first two shelves of my medicine cabinet. I’m not going to lie, I don’t actually know what’s in here except for the stuff I can see in the front. As you can probably tell, I have no organizational system happening here.
It’s time to declutter because I’m tired of buying things I already have hidden in this mess or looking for Advil in the middle of the night and realizing I don’t have it even though I could’ve sworn I did.
I don’t expect this project to be all that difficult since I’m pretty sure most of what I have is expired. (It really has been that long since my last declutter.) This is simply a matter of clearing things out and creating categories to make finding my medication, supplements, and other medicine cabinet supplies easier.
Let’s get started!
Oh, and if you want to see me go through this medicine cabinet declutter, check out my video.
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Where to Store Your Medication
I know this is a decluttering project and my location is already set but if it wasn’t, I’d recommend keeping your medicine cabinet somewhere other than your bathroom. Yes, bathrooms are traditionally where medicine cabinets live but the moisture and heat in the bathroom can wreak havoc on your medication and shorten their shelf life.
We keep our medicine cabinet in the kitchen. We use a smaller kitchen cabinet above my desk that has just enough space to house everything when it’s not full of forgotten medication and clutter. However, you really can create a space just about anywhere in your home that isn’t moist and hot. We chose the kitchen because that’s where it made the most sense for us but a bedroom drawer, wardrobe, or linen closet are some other places that might work.
You really won’t need very many supplies but here are some that may come in handy.
It’s a good idea to have some bags (for expired stuff, trash, recycling, etc). But don’t put expired medication or supplements out with the trash. These will need to be disposed of in a different way. More on that later.
Baskets or containers could be helpful if you plan to separate your medication into different categories. And don’t forget wire organizers –like this one on Amazon– which allow you to see things at the back of the cabinet. I happened to have one somewhere else in my kitchen that I wasn’t using. And I got a second one for free from a Facebook Buy Nothing group. I also used a glass jar to keep droppers and syringes. (So I literally spent no money to organize this space.)
And finally, you may want to use a label maker to label the containers and/or shelves so that items are easier to find. I won’t be using a label maker this time around because I only have four categories and I don’t think I’ll have any problem figuring out where things are.
Step 1: Empty It Out
It’s time to take everything out of your medicine cabinet. It’s helpful if you have an open, uncluttered surface with plenty of space to sort and separate all of the items.
I used my kitchen table and was surprised by how much stuff I had.
Step 2: Sort
This is where you’re going to want to start sorting things into different categories. I kept my categories simple:
- Medication (prescription and over-the-counter)
- Bandages and ointments
- Miscellaneous (blood sugar monitor, thermometer, items I don’t use often, etc.)
I decided to sort before removing anything that was expired. Once things were categorized, I looked at expiration dates and discovered that about half of my supplements and medications were expired. I had a lot of stuff to get rid of!
Step 3: Purge…Maybe
To be honest, I used the expiration dates as a way to purge medications and supplements I didn’t want to keep but I decided to do a little research on the issue. I wanted to make myself feel better about the hoard of pill bottles I was combing through.
I found out that companies that produce medication, both prescription and over-the-counter, are required to include an expiration date on the packaging. This is optional for supplements. However, the expiration dates don’t necessarily indicate that the medication or supplements are less effective or dangerous if taken after that date.
At the request of the US military, the FDA conducted a study to test the effectiveness of drugs that would normally be considered expired. They discovered that many drugs, if stored properly, can last for many years, even decades, beyond their expiration date. I guess I’m not a hoarder after all… at least not of the stuff in my medicine cabinet.
Step 4: Put Items Back In Categories
Since I don’t have all that many categories, I didn’t use organizing containers. I had four categories and four shelves. Easy! I also didn’t bother with the labels because, again, I only have four categories.
I could have separated pet medication from human medication but since we have so few of each I didn’t see the point. I could have also separated the supplements and had a container for each family member but we don’t have that many supplements and I take most of them, so I put all the supplements on the same shelf.
I placed the items on each shelf from most to least used. I take supplements everyday so they are on the first shelf. The second shelf has prescription and over-the-counter medication and the third shelf has bandages and ointments. Finally, the miscellaneous items are at the top because I hardly ever use them.
Step 5: Safely Dispose of Medication and Supplements
This is probably the hardest part of a medicine cabinet declutter. What should you do with all those pills and potions that need to leave your home? Let’s get into it.
I actually ended up getting rid of half of my medication and supplements. I knew that medication needed to be disposed of at a drop-off location but I wasn’t sure about the supplements. After a little more research, I learned that both should be disposed of in the same way. Most medication and supplements can be dangerous if you throw them in the trash. I probably should have looked this up sooner. It would have saved me the time I spent digging through my garbage trying to find the supplements I threw out.
If you live anywhere near civilization, there should be a designated drop off location somewhere in your city or town. Here are the options I found. A few nearby towns have special events at least once a year for disposing of unwanted and expired medication. Some pharmacies also have drop-off programs. In my town, there is a drop-off box at the local police station. That’s the option I’m going with.
If you don’t have these options available you can also empty your medicine and supplement jars and dump them into something gross like cat litter. To learn more about how to safely dispose of your meds head on over to the FDA website for more info.
Small Space, Big Impact
My goal was to end up with only the things I take on a regular basis and to create more space so I can find what I need. Mission accomplished!
This was a short and satisfying project that delivered big results. I use this medicine cabinet daily so having it organized properly really makes life a lot easier. Having designated shelves for different categories saves time because I can grab what I need quickly and get on with my day.
If you’ve decluttered your medicine cabinet recently and have any useful tips to suggest for how to create a streamlined space, leave them in the comments.
Until next time, happy decluttering!!