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Weekend Project: Organize and Purge Your Medicine Cabinet

Medicine cabinet shelf with various bottles and tubes, and an empty pill bottle tipped over.
Tim Masters/Shutterstock

Depending on the size and contents of your medicine cabinet, organizing it might be quite a job. You could also be keeping the wrong things in there. This step-by-step purge will help you get it in shape!

Why Bother?

Before you start cleaning, let’s look at why you should even bother. Even in big homes with larger bathrooms, medicine cabinets are usually cramped. Every inch of storage space is precious. Right now, your medicine cabinet is probably a mess of old and current prescriptions, frequently used and totally forgotten makeup and other hygiene items, and more.

Not only is this a misuse of precious storage space, but you’d also be better off if you didn’t store your medication there in the first place. According to pharmacists, the medicine cabinet is the last place you should keep medication. The darkness is ideal for medication storage, but the heat and humidity of the bathroom are not.

Aside from pulling the pills, if you organize your medicine cabinet, it can help you streamline your daily bathroom routine because it’ll be easier to find stuff when you need it. Plus, you can clean up any dust and spills while you have the cupboard empty. Let’s get started.

Take Everything Out

Your first step to gut your medicine cabinet is to take every single thing out of it. As you remove each item, sort it into a pile. Make separate piles for medications, first aid items, dental care stuff, and other goodies you keep in there.

Once you have everything sorted, it’s time to move to the next step: getting rid of stuff!

Start the Purge

Sort through one pile at a time. Check expiration dates on medications and sort out those you don’t use anymore. Make a pile of these, separate from those you plan to keep. To dispose of expired and unwanted pills, you have a couple of choices.

The best choice is to contact your doctor’s office or pharmacy to see if they accept unneeded or expired medication for disposal. Many do, and this is an ideal way to dispose of your medication safely.

If there’s no local disposal program, take your medications out of the original containers, mix them with kitty litter or old coffee grounds in a sealed plastic bag, and throw them away. Seriously, that’s the official FDA recommendation for disposing of meds in the absence of a disposal program.

Remove your info from any prescription medicine bottles before you toss them, or you can keep them to store other things, like nails and buttons.

Continue to go through your piles and purge things you don’t use. There’s no reason to hold onto half a bottle of mouthwash you haven’t touched in three months; dump it down the drain. Get rid of empty toothpaste containers, toss old toothpicks, and check the dates on the ointments in your first aid kit.

Clean the Cabinet

Even if you try to prevent spills in the medicine cabinet, dust and grime still collect in there. The humidity in the bathroom makes it even worse.

If your medicine cabinet has removable shelves, take them out and clean them thoroughly in the sink with some warm soapy water. If there are sticky spills on them, a little rubbing alcohol might help remove anything stuck on glass or plastic shelving.

If the shelves don’t come out or aren’t that dirty, use a damp cloth to wipe them off. While you’ve got the wet cloth, take the opportunity to wipe down any small storage containers (like the toothbrush holder) and position them before you start filling up the cabinet again.

Relocate Your Medications

Some things don’t need to be in the medicine cabinet. This saves space for the stuff you use when you’re at the sink, like dental care items and hair gel. Because most medicine cabinets are so small, try to move any bulky items—like your overstock of shampoo—to the linen closet or another shelving unit.

Reserve the space in your medicine cabinet for frequently used toiletries, grooming tools, and other items you use while standing there.

Again, your medications should also go elsewhere. Don’t store them in the bathroom at all. Pick a closet outside the bathroom, or store them in a drawer in your bedroom. They need a dark space, but they also need protection from moisture.

Refill the Cabinet

Now that your medicine cabinet is clean, and you’ve relocated items that don’t belong there, it’s time to organize (not just throw everything back in there). Try to put the stuff you use regularly near, or at, the bottom, where it’s easy to see and reach. On the top shelf, store the stuff you use less often.

Keep the piles your sorted earlier together. Try to put dental products together on one shelf. If you keep your deodorant and shaving products in the medicine cabinet, these are ideal “first shelf” items.

The middle shelf is great for first aid items. It makes them easily reachable for most of the family, and you can readily see when you’re low on things like gauze and bandages. Again, the top shelf is best for stuff you don’t use often, and also for things you want to keep out of reach of little hands. Some items you might keep on the top shelf are nasal sprays, eye drops, and other treatment items that are okay to store in humid areas.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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