We are halfway through the final week of the Get Organized Challenge. Today let’s organize your supply of medication.
The medicine chest fills up for a number of reasons:
- we are sick and get a prescription which we don’t finish;
- we start a medication which doesn’t end up working;
- we buy OTC (over-the-counter) medicines that we don’t use up completely;
- we stock up on medications we’ve found useful in the past.
Often, we forget to go through and clear out the medications we no longer need. Stockpiles of medicine are both cumbersome and potentially dangerous, as old medications sometimes end up in the wrong hands. Here are a few guidelines for helping you sort through the backlog that may be crowding your space:
- Empty the cabinet (whether in the bathroom, kitchen, or elsewhere) to a clear sorting surface. Wipe out cleared shelves with a damp rag.
- Separate prescription from OTC medications.
- For OTC medications, look at the expiration date. Most medicines are good for one year after the date on the package. When it doubt, get rid of it. Also, let go of any that your family doesn’t find helpful for any reason (e.g. it didn’t work, your child has grown out of liquids, etc.)
- For prescription medications, begin in a similar fashion by removing any that are past the expiration date on the container. Then, sort out what you use from what you don’t. Any prescriptions that you will never use should be disposed of.
- For non-medicine items (e.g. makeup) that you keep in your medicine cabinet, simply sort through and pitch whatever you aren’t using.
Now take the pile of medications you have decided to get rid of. If you have only a few medicines and they are encapsulated in plastic, you can throw them away. Otherwise, it is a bad idea to throw it in the trash, flush it down the toilet, or pour it down the drain as it can enter the water supply. To safely dispose of medicines, either…
- Place the medicine in a “waiting place” in your home until your town has a hazardous waste collection;
- Find a pharmacy that recycles old medicine. Some pharmacies sell bags for around $4 into which you can put unused medication and ship for safe disposal (directions are on the package);
- Contact your town to see if there are any drop-off locations. Some police stations now have 24 hour drop boxes.
When it comes time to reload, it is helpful to try and group like items together. For example, prescriptions on one shelf, cold relief on another, pain killers on another. You might find it helpful to use an organizer inside your medicine cabinet.
Many people need to store medication in a larger space, such as a linen closet shelf or a kitchen cabinet. For these situations, consider getting some small plastic bins or baskets that you can label.
This pull down rack from Rubbermaid is handy for a kitchen cabinet that is a bit above eye level.
If you have small children, remember to keep all medicine out of reach, with safety caps on the containers. Another tip is to highlight the name of the patient on the bottle using a different color for each family member… this makes getting the right medication quick and easy.
Cleaning out the medicine cabinet not only creates order but helps to keep your family safe and healthy.
Have you done this recently?