An Organized Medicine Cabinet

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Is Your Medicine Cabinet Under The Weather?

Does your medicine cabinet make you feel a bit sick when you open the door? Too many bottles? Outdated prescriptions? Expired sunscreen that may or may not be effective?

Perhaps you also store your makeup, toothbrush/toothpaste, razors, shaving cream and lotions and potions in this multifunctional space. If this is case, the prognosis may seem grim. But don’t despair! We have the cure!

medicine cabinet open mirror design

Photo: Done and Done Home

Symptom: Expired Medications

For a variety of reasons, people often have left over pills from prescriptions they no longer use or need. Frequently, we come across this situation when working with our clients and it’s because they are trying to be responsible to their community and the environment. This is entirely understandable because trying to figure out how to dispose of medicine can be confusing! Should you flush? Throw away? Find a Rx take back program?

We were also feeling a bit ill about the whole situation, so we looked into it. Below are a few resources that will help clear up the problem.

The FDA has some incredibly helpful tips on how to safely dispose of medications in your home. Read more about how to throw away or recycle medications (i.e. inhalers) in the following article:

If you don’t feel comfortable putting your medicine in the garbage, we found a resource that can help you locate drop off centers in your state and county:

Additionally, you can check with your pharmacist. Some pharmacies (certain CVS locations, for example) have kiosks where you can drop off your unwanted meds, and if they don’t, they may be able to assist you in finding one who does.

Often extra prescriptions aren’t your own but those of a deceased family member. People often need help handling medicine and medical supplies from loved ones who have passed away and they have no idea where to turn. We’ve recently become aware of an outstanding resource from the National Council On Aging.

To help support families navigating this difficult situation, NCOA created this guide, How to Manage Unused Medical Supplies, that addresses how to handle these meds and supplies without letting them go to waste, including:

  • Participating in drug take back programs in-person or over the mail
  • Donating or returning major equipment like wheelchairs and mobility aids
  • Organizations that take donations of supplies like gloves and masks
tablets and pills

Photo via

Symptom: Endless Bottles of Sunscreen

Does this sound familiar? Winter has finally lost it’s grip and summer is just around the corner. You start thinking of sunny days out in the fresh air and know you are going to need the powerhouse sunscreens that will keep you safe from sunburns. So you head to your medicine cabinet and see what you have leftover from last summer…lots and lots of half full bottles. Was that last years bottle? Or the year before? Is any of it still good? Damn, sunscreen is expensive…do I really have to replace all of this?!? Ugh…this bottle doesn’t even have an expiration date…now what?  This article from the Mayo Clinic has the answers to your questions but to sum it up…

1.) Sunscreens last for 3 years, so yes, last year’s is still good. ***There are apparently some exceptions to this rule. For example, if your sunscreen has been stored in a place with excessive heat, it will break down more quickly.***

2.) If your sunscreen doesn’t have an expiration date, make sure to write it on the bottle yourself on the day of purchase.

3.) If the sunscreen has changed color or consistency, toss it.

4.) Use sunscreen liberally and often.  Generally speaking, a one ounce application is necessary (about the size of a shot glass) and should be reapplied every couple of hours.  Reapply after swimming or perspiring.

5.) Use a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF.

photo of sunscreen on dock

Photo: @korinori via unsplash

Symptom: Makeup Overload

Do you spend way too much time getting ready in the morning? Five minutes looking for your mascara? Five more minutes replacing all the bottles you knocked over trying to reach your perfume? Another few wondering if that eye liner is still safe? If this is you, then you might have Makeup Overload. Not a problem, we have some treatments that will help!

The first thing that will get this condition under control is to eliminate the issue at the root. Take out all of your makeup (yep, all of it) and go through every item one by one. We hate to tell you, but it is entirely likely that some of those cosmetics need to go in the trash. Makeup expires and can be hazardous to your health. Different types degrade faster than others so here’s a quick roundup…

2 – 3 Months: Mascara, face masks and acne pads

6 Months – 1 Year: Liquid eyeliner, liquid foundation and concealer

2 Years: Lipstick, lip and eye pencils, and nail polish

3 Years: Shampoo and conditioner, perfume and hairspray

You can find a more extensive list here.

After you have gone through every item and disposed of everything that has expired, you need to go through it all again. Be ruthless and get rid of anything you know you won’t use. Yes, we know, you payed a lot of money for that foundation. But after you got it home and put it on, you realized it wasn’t exactly the right color. No shame in that, mistakes happen, but holding on to it isn’t going to change anything. Let it go and make space for a foundation that is perfect for you.

Now that you have gotten rid of both of the unusable and the unwanted, you should only have left what you truly love. This alone should help tremendously with your makeup overload problem. We do have one more suggestion that would completely wipe out any further clutter issues. If at all possible, consider moving your makeup out of your medicine cabinet and into a drawer or onto your countertop. There are a number of great dividers and bins that can make organizing your cosmetics a breeze. We love acrylic containers, in particular, because they are easy to wipe out and clean. For drawers, we often use this divider and this insert. For countertops, lazy Susans are our go to and we love this bin specifically designed for makeup. See our store for many more options that may work for you!

makeup in a divided drawer

Photo: Done and Done Home

Symptom: Hygiene Hijinks

Now that we have medicine, makeup and sunscreen under control, the only thing left is hygiene. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, shaving cream and skin care products are the items we use daily and are hopefully in good shape. As always, go through everything and if it’s not being used, toss it.

The Dr. Is In

But do you also need to be concerned with expiration dates in this category? As it turns out, you do. We spoke with Dr. Robert Barron, PhD, retired scientist and career employee at P&G. We specifically inquired about toothpaste and whether or not it goes bad, or just loses it effectiveness.  Here’s an excerpt from his answer:

“Fluoride is a special case because it is an element and can’t degrade any further. However, it can be bound to other components of the toothpaste, which would typically be the abrasive. Eventually, through the binding process, 10% of the fluoride will be lost and that is the expiration date. The expiration date is set at a time when either a certain amount of degradation of the active ingredient has taken place (usually 10%) OR in certain cases, when a smaller amount of a toxic degradation product has formed. When the effectiveness is deemed to be low enough, the product should be replaced with fresh product.”

We learned something new today! Theoretically, your hygiene products are used everyday and so probably won’t reach the expiration date, but carefully check your back stock to make sure it is still usable.

To keep all of these products contained and organized in your medicine chest our go to product is the medicine cabinet organizer from The Container Store. It’s perfect for storing like with like and will allow you to see where everything is and what you’re running low on.

acrylic countertop bin

Photo via The Container Store

Hopefully, there are enough tips, tricks, resources and supplies to help cure your medicine cabinet woes.  If you still have any questions, feel free to leave a question in the comments and we will do our best to give you a diagnosis!

If you need help organizing the rest of your home, you can see our dedicated course, here.

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