I used to consider myself an organized person. Every morning I showered, toweled, and moisturized. I kept toiletries— liquid hand soap, deodorant and lotion—stored together in a single basket close at hand near my bathroom sink for easy reach.
Then one morning after I showered, toweled, and moisturized, I felt strangely hot and itchy. I eyed the plastic container on the counter. I discovered I had just “moisturized” with liquid soap.
Medicine cabinet organization rule number one: Do not store liquid soap next to its identical twin moisturizer.
That’s what my friend Jenny told me later that day when I asked her to help me rearrange my medicine cabinet. Jenny’s the most orderly person I know. She’s so systemized, she alphabetizes her kitchen spices—and she doesn’t even cook.
When Jenny agreed to help, I asked her whether she thought I should alphabetize my medication as she had done with her spice drawer.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “Mistakes are risky. It’s one thing to reach for the cinnamon and grab the cumin,” she explained. “It’s another to reach for the Pepsodent and discover you’ve brushed your teeth with Preparation H.”
I ran my tongue over my teeth and wondered, was it just my imagination or had my gums shrunk?
Jenny taught me how to organize a medicine cabinet in five easy steps:
- Inventory. Take stock of what you have. An empty bottle of aspirin will give you an even bigger headache. Keep a running list of important items taped to the inside door of your medicine cabinet for easy tracking.
- Declutter. Have up-to-date medicine on hand. Once a year, throw out outdated ointments, prescriptions and over-the-counter-drugs. If there’s no expiration date, take a look at the container. If it says, “Dr. Bonker's Celebrated Egyptian Oil for colic, bowel cramps, and cholera," toss it.
- Restock. Once you take inventory, replenish necessary supplies. Is it time to switch from Barbie Band-Aids to adult adhesive bandages? Fred Flintstone chewable vitamins to teen caplets? Write the expiration date in permanent marker on current pill bottles for a quick glance.
- Categorize. Place medicine in a container designated for medication only. Toiletries, generally too large to fit in a shallow medicine cabinet, should be classified by type and placed in a drawer or beneath the sink. Regularly used toiletries can be stored together, as long as they are in distinguishable containers. Remember, liquid soap doesn’t feel good on dry skin.
- Store. Keep drugs that should be stored in a cool, dry place in the kitchen pantry or linen closet. Keep regularly used pills in a caddy that is easy to reach and easy to see what’s inside. Store medicines and pills that don’t fit in the shallow medicine cabinet in another space, using childproof locks as needed. Kids medications should be kept separate from adults, unless you don’t mind the taste of bubble gum cough syrup.
Take Jenny’s advice. Follow these five steps to organize your medicine cabinet from A to Z and keep the H where it belongs—in Preparation.