Minimize Your Medicine Cabinet

Organize the Contents of Your Medicine CabinetDo you ever worry that the urban myth that guests check out the contents of your medicine cabinet when they’re in your home is true?  Are there things in there that should have been disposed of months, or even years ago?  With a busy lifestyle keeping track of the use by dates of items in your medicine cabinet is probably not at the top of your list – but every once in a while it’s good to take stock.  Dedicate a few hours to clearing out your medicine cabinet every six months and don’t worry about what the guests will see. Usually we recommend you keep a donate pile when de-cluttering, but the bigger concern on this project is safety .  You will need to determine what items should go in the garbage, and what is a little trickier to dispose of.  The top two concerns in the bathroom are medicines, aerosol cans, and cleaners.

Expired Medicines – tempting as it may be to flush or toss these items into your household garbage, that’s not good for the environment or your city’s waste water treatment system.  One option for disposal is to check with your pharmacy to see if they’ll take back your un-used medicines. In September of 2010 Walgreens launched a safe medication disposal program for prescription or over the counter medicines that you can take advantage of.  Learn more about it here.    If the pharmacy isn’t an option, check with your local hazardous waste collection agency to see if they have a policy for medicine collection.

Aerosol Products  – aerosol cans aren’t that simple either.   Ideally, you should use up the contents of the can and recycle the empty aluminum or steel can in your usual curbside pickup or at the recycling center.  However, if you bought a product you won’t use up it should be taken to your hazardous waste collection facility – liquid left in aerosol cans might explode under pressure, so it’s better to let the pros take care of it.

Bathroom Cleaners – germs and grime in the bathroom are tough to combat and you may find yourself trying a host of products to find out what really works.  Containers and leftover product need to be disposed of through your hazardous waste facility.  If you have products you didn’t find effective, get rid of them now even if you invested money in them, age isn’t going to improve their cleaning power.

Now that you know what exceptions to be on the lookout for, go through your cabinet and check the following:

Medicines –get rid of any prescription medicines that you didn’t finish up during your last course of treatment and anything with a use-by date that has passed or is coming up before you’re likely to make use of it.  If the cough syrup expires next month but cold season is four months away, why keep the clutter?  Make a note to re-supply with new product for anything you need regularly.

Makeup – it’s easy to pick up extra makeup items on a whim and then it’s tough to throw them out when they didn’t get much use, but makeup doesn’t last forever and should be disposed of on the following schedule:

  • Liquid Eyeliner & Mascara – 3-6 months
  • Concealer, and Cream blush or eye shadow – 12 – 18 months
  • Nail Polish – 1 year
  • Lip Gloss – 18-24 months (check organic versions sooner)
  • Pencil Eyeliner or Oil–free foundation – 1 year

All other dry products like eye shadow, bronzer, and powders as well as lipsticks and liners last about 2 years.  If you can’t remember when you bought it, you’ve never actually worn it, or last time you put it on you washed it back off rather than wear it out…dispose of it.

Toothpaste and Toothbrushes – Dentists recommend that you replace your toothbrush every three months but interestingly enough, toothpaste doesn’t lose effectiveness over time.  But if you have an old flavor nobody in your household likes, don’t keep it around.

Bandages and Topical Creams – While most adhesive bandages don’t have an expiration date, changes in temperature or moisture can ruin the adhesive on bandages, so if you don’t go through them fast you should open one up and check them out.  If the bandages come with an antibiotic on them, they will have an expiration date and should be replaced if they’re old. For topical creams check for an expiration date or poorly closed containers – exposure to air and age can reduce their effectiveness and allow invasion by bacteria.

Unopened personal care products or samples – If you overstocked on personal care products you won’t manage to use, have the tendency to pick up samples for travel, or can’t help taking home the bottles from the hotel bathroom yet never use them it’s time to come clean.  Shelters and disaster aid organizations will make good use of these items and you can feel good about it while reducing your cabinet clutter.

Now that you’re down to the essentials and usable products, how does your cabinet look?  Do you still have tubes and bottles that end up jumbled on the shelves?  A clear acrylic organizer can help them stand at attention so the labels are easy to read.  If you find you have too many items to fit into your medicine cabinet, you might want to consider a drawer organizer to handle the overflow.  We have a great selection of organizers and drawers.

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