4 Ways To Refresh and Declutter Your Medicine Cabinet, According to a Professional Organizer

Photo: Stocksy/ Natalina Mishina
Whether or not you actually have a medicine cabinet above your sink, the reality is it probably wouldn't fit all the various creams, pills, and other miscellaneous items you categorize as your "health stuff." Not to mention the fact that a sizable portion of important medical information is on your phone or the cloud at this point. So, when it comes to organizing all of this junk (for lack of a better word), you may have to think a bit outside the box, or medicine cabinet, in this case.

To help with this seemingly monumental task, we talked with Jessica Decker, a professional organizer with Become Organized, based in New Jersey, who has some advice for getting all of your health-related items organized, refreshed, and ready to go, so you know where to find what you need when you need it. (And, you'll never again have to tear through your cabinets looking for the anti-diarrheal medication you needed 30 minutes ago.)

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4 tips to organize your medicine cabinet and other health items

One of the best ways to start is to take a step back and look at your needs: you have your most used products, like anti-itch cream, bandaids, pain-relievers, other over-the-counter medications, a tattered heating pad that's gotten you through many a back spasm, and the list goes on. You might also have a pile of mystery documents that you aren’t sure if you should keep or toss, bills you might need to pay, and even a knee brace that you needed a few years ago but don’t anymore. That's a lot of stuff to wade through. (Oh, and it’s probably wise to replace a heating pad that is showing any damage due to safety risks).

1. Make decisions about categories of things you need

So how do you make sense of all of these different things? Tier them based on how often you need them and how important they are. Be gentle with yourself about getting it all done in one day because decision fatigue is real. However, deciding what you need frequently and urgently and putting that in an easy access spot is a great place to start, says Decker.

One of the most important aspects of organizing is making sure items have a home, she says. “Organize a medicine cabinet as you would any project by assigning zones, creating homes, and containerizing. Assign homes and containerize your categories back into the medicine cabinet, keeping similar items together," says Decker.

2. Weed out things you don’t use and unrelated items

“Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I love toiletries and experimenting with beauty products as much as the next gal but having everything under the sun clutters your bathroom,” says Decker. Many people will often keep toiletries and skin care coupled with medicine, but it might be less confusing and cluttered for you to zone them separately in your home. This could even mean designating shelves or half a drawer. Remember, you don’t need to go overboard with 100 acrylic organizing boxes to have a functional medicine cabinet.

“Weed out your toiletries to just the things you actually use. Give the extras to friends. Put the samples in a clear baggie and store them with travel toiletries. Only have what you really need and love to reduce overwhelm in the smallest room of your home,” says Decker.

3. Toss expired medications and keep medicine labeled

It's easy to just throw pills in a baggie if you lose the lid of a medicine bottle or want to take it on the go.  But, this can actually be dangerous if someone else doesn’t know what the pills are or if children are around. Additionally, it’s wise to go through your medicine cabinet every now and then and toss expired medication. It might seem obvious, but sometimes people continue taking expired medicines, which can be ineffective or dangerous. For example, medicines are made to keep their functionality and formula only as long as their expiration date— after that, they may not help your symptoms, or they could cause illness, according to National Capital Poison Control. 

If you’re not ready to do a complete overhaul, just getting rid of what you don’t need is a great step to staying organized and aware of what you have in your home. How many times has heartburn driven you to dig through every drawer in your bathroom trying to find that one bottle of antacids? Taking just 15 mins to sort through things can save you the heartache, or rather heartburn, Decker explains.

4. Get a file folder for your important papers

You're probably going to want to do this on a different day than when you did your cabinet, but at some point, you're going to need to sit down with your pile of paperwork. Decker recommends using an accordion-style file folder for different family members' records if you have more than one person to keep track of (and an additional one for pets). “Make sure everyone has their own medical records under a separate folder so that when you’re looking up something important for one person, you don’t have to sift through files for the whole family,” says Decker.

Then, she adds, organize your paperwork within each folder based on the following:

  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Vision

You can also add, as appropriate:

  • Health insurance information
  • Explanation of benefits
  • Awaiting reimbursement
  • Reimbursed

At the end of the day, there isn’t a perfect science for organizing all of your health items. Everyone has different needs to consider, so you'll want to tailor these recommendations to your specific situation. The truth is, organizing can be stressful, but having a plan of action can help you weed through all of your health clutter from the past few years, and make room for only the necessities.

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