If you can’t remember the last time you decluttered your medicine cabinet, it’s time.
Guest Post by Donna Smallin Kuper
What’s in your medicine cabinet? If you can’t remember the last time you decluttered your medicine cabinet, it’s time. But how do you decide what to keep and what to toss? Is there a right way to store medications? What would your medicine cabinet say if it could talk?
Get Rid of Unused and Expired Medicines
If you’re like most people, you hang on to unused and expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines longer than you should. Maybe you think it’s okay to use medications even if they’re out of date. Or maybe you don’t know how to safely dispose of them.
It’s important to get rid of all expired medications as well as medicines you are not using, even if they are not expired. Do this every six months or when you add new medications to your medicine cabinet, to limit the chance of you taking the wrong medication or one that is ineffective.
Here’s an idea: When you purchase new items or have a prescription filled, use a Sharpie marker to write the expiration date on the label. This will make it easier to see when something is past its prime.
Dispose of Meds Properly
Proper disposal of medicine helps prevent accidental poisoning of children and pets. And it keeps drugs from leaching into our rivers, streams and other sources of drinking water.
Do not flush medications unless instructed to do so, which may be the case for chemo drugs and fentanyl pain patches. Instead, look for an authorized collection center near you—it could be your local pharmacy, hospital or law enforcement agency.
If there’s no take-back program in your area, pour liquids into a sealable plastic bag or empty can with lid and mix with dirt, kitty litter, or coffee grounds. Do the same with medicines in pill or capsule form, adding water to dissolve. Before recycling prescription bottles, remove the label or scratch off your name, your doctor’s name and prescription number to protect your privacy.
Store Medication in an Organized Way
If your medicine cabinet is overcrowded, adjust the shelves up or down to maximize vertical space within the cabinet. Use shelves to separate medicines for different family members. Or organize by type such as cough and cold, digestion, allergies or minor first aid.
Keep medications in their original containers, but corral them in recycled plastic containers or even leftover food containers on shelves. Label the containers to make it easier to find what you need—and to put them back so you can find them again.
Be sure to store medications in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. A medicine cabinet is very often the ideal place. But if ventilation is poor, or the medicine cabinet is subjected to excess heat or moisture, find a better place as these conditions may cause medications to deteriorate.
Keep Medicines Out of Reach
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, in 2012, more than 64,000 kids were treated in an emergency room for medicine poisoning. That’s one child every eight minutes. In three out of four of these cases, the medicine belonged to a parent or grandparent.
Keep all medicine up and away when young children are around—even medicine you take every day or that is intended for the child. Install and use a child-safety lock on your medicine cabinet. But also be alert to medicines stored in other locations, like pills in purses, vitamins on counters and medicines in or on nightstands.
Consider Buying in Smaller Quantities
Take shelf life into consideration when buying over-the-counter medicines. Loading up your medicine cabinet with large containers that you use infrequently can take up a lot of space. If you don’t plan on using a lot of something often, then that large container of pain reliever or cough syrup may not get used before it expires. Smaller sizes may be a bit more expensive per unit, but you’ll spend less up front and may save in the long run.
Award-winning organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper is the author of a dozen best-selling books on uncluttering, organizing, cleaning and simplifying life. Currently writing for Home Depot, Donna is often quoted by the media, in Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple and Woman’s Day. An array of bath vanities options to organize your home can be found at Home Depot online.