Does Your Medicine Cabinet Need a Makeover?

16 Dec

photoI 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 Once a year, throw out outdated ointments, prescriptions and over-the-counter-drugs.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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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43 Responses to “Does Your Medicine Cabinet Need a Makeover?”

  1. Traci December 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Speaking of grabbing the wrong spice, I once dusted an entire platter of deviled eggs in cayenne pepper instead of paprika. Given the fun that generated among the party guests, I affirm that medications should be handled with decided care and decorated with large font labels.

    • Main Street Musings Blog December 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      That is such a coincidence! I also mistook paprika for pepper when I made egg salad for my husband last week. Fortunately he pours tabasco on everything anyway. Your situation sounds like it made for a good conversation piece.

  2. Carrie Rubin December 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Ha, I can relate. I once put Benzoyl Peroxide on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste. But in my defense, I was traveling (so no medicine cabinet involved), and my toothpaste was travel sized with the same size and look of the acne cream. Happy to report my teeth have since been pimple-free.

    Now, where can I get me some “Dr. Bonker’s Celebrated Egyptian Oil”?…

    • Main Street Musings Blog December 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      Traveling gets me confused too! I’ve transferred lotions and hair products to 3 oz bottles and I can’t tell them apart anymore. I labeled them but the ink wore off. I wonder how many times I’ve conditioned my hair with hand cream . . .

      • Carrie Rubin December 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

        Ooh, bet that leaves some nice greasy locks. 🙂

  3. tomwisk December 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    There’s a unhydrated loofa sponge in mine. Is it dangerous?

  4. Kathryn McCullough December 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    GREAT idea for a post. I don’t have a medicine cabinet, but I STILL need to do these things. I suspect I have stuff that’s been around for years. Heck, I know I do!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Main Street Musings Blog December 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Thanks, Kathryn. I had some pretty old medications in my bathroom. I found vitamins so old they’d actually turned moldy!

  5. nancytex2013 December 16, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    I love this! I’m a crazy person when it comes to de-cluttering and organizing. I think Jenny and I would get along just fine. 🙂

    • Main Street Musings Blog December 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      I do feel much better about my medicine cabinet now. My spice drawer on the other hand . . .

      • nancytex2013 December 17, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        One day at a time, sister.

  6. paywindow7 December 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Speaking of medication: I have never been on medication in my life other than aspirin or the occasional antibiotic for flu or some such. Three years ago at the age of 70 I developed double pneumonia and a pulmonary embolism and after all the dust had settled in the ER I was assigned 13 meds per day and have continued with that drill ever since, my medicine cabinet looked like a chemistry lab….. until a month ago. I decided I’d had enough and stopped taking all but two of all that dope and that’s it. Told my doc and he advised against it. My point here is that at my age who would want to cringe inside of a medicine cabinet. If I died right now it would take a SWAT Team of morticians to get the smile off my face. I’ve had a good run that includes really good times and some really bad times. Now days I refuse to eat or drink anything that is marketed as something that is “good for me”.
    More than you ever wanted to know, I’m sure. Sorry but when I saw the gist of your post it triggered the rant. It’s over now, shortened here in respect for your space.


    • Main Street Musings Blog December 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      Wow, that’s remarkable. Thanks for sharing. I hope that smile remains on your face for a long time, and that you continue to have lots of really good times!

  7. I suck as a parent December 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    I’ve actually used Cetaphil as shampoo once so I can relate. I love the idea of a permanent marker to note the expiration date – the writing is so small that I need a magnifying glass to find it. Good ideas!

    • Main Street Musings Blog December 17, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

      Don’t even get me started on font size. I tried to read my lipstick tube this morning so I could buy another one and couldn’t even read the make, let alone the color!

  8. Lou December 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    As a retired Doc, I have some thoughts about medicine cabinets and such. More isn’t better but that may be a factor of age, sex and mental status. If it looks too good, tastes too good, claims to be good, most often it isn’t. My philosophy…..if it will keep me alive for another day, I’ll keep it handy.


    • Main Street Musings Blog December 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Maybe we’d all fare better if we simply kept a bar of chocolate in our medicine cabinets.

  9. Professor Taboo December 17, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Some excellent tips and suggestions Lisa… and Jenny! I think the “power” of the bathroom might be taken more for granted than respected, huh? It can have a nasty “bite” when we are at our most…..”vulnerable” and blinded moments, don’t you think?! 😉

  10. Perfecting Motherhood December 18, 2013 at 1:37 am #

    Haha, thanks for the laugh! I recently went through my medicine containers to clean things up. Some things were in there and I have no clue what they are, so I figured I’d just toss them. Hope I made the right choice!

  11. Paprika Furstenburg December 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Educational and entertaining! What more could anyone ask for in a single post. Enjoy your newly organized medicine cabinet 🙂

  12. December 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I think I need a visit from Jenny !!! : )

    • Main Street Musings Blog December 23, 2013 at 8:34 am #

      I can already use another one!

      • December 27, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

        It’s so hard to get organized with only 24 hours in a day : )

  13. Audubon Ron December 20, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    Happy Holidays!!!

  14. mj monaghan December 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Ha, that’s an awesome post, Lisa! Just a few days ago, I almost put my hair gel on my toothbrush. Not sure if it’s organization, or early onset … let’s hope not! 🙂

  15. earthriderjudyberman December 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    For the organizationally challenged, great advice, Lisa. Long ago, I threw out my last bottle of Dr. Bonker’s Celebrated Egyptian Oil. It expired sometime during the Jurassic Period.

    Seriously, as someone who stumbles to the medicine cabinet in the middle of the night in search of an Aleve or Zantac, it’s good to know where stuff is. Life is confusing enough as it is.

  16. Glynis Jolly December 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    I don’t have a cabinet in the main bathroom. I have a large pantry-type closet. I try to keep same-type items on the same shelf in groups. It would work just fine if Hubby didn’t get in there. Does Jenny train Husbands to be organized by any change?

  17. WordsFallFromMyEyes December 25, 2013 at 3:48 am #

    I’ve got time freeeeee! this Christmas Day & just wanted to say merry Christmas & thanks for reading Daniel & my life. I’m gearing up to make it a book this year. And then – yup, ’twill be a movie 🙂

  18. anotherday2paradise January 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Just to give you a smile; my dad once sprayed under his arms with mom’s extra strength hairspray, He didn’t have his glasses on at time. 🙂

  19. Shakti Ghosal January 8, 2014 at 2:29 am #


    At the outset I need to say how much delighted I am to meet another ‘musing’ blog. And even more delighted to notice the ‘tongue in cheek’ flavour within your musings.

    That being said, I get the distinct feeling that the effort needed to “organise and declutter” one’s life ( the way you have elaborated) would take more effort and energy than to remain the way we are. So why do it at all, I would say?



    • Main Street Musings Blog January 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      Likewise, it’s nice to meet a fellow “muse.” I hear your point about the effort, but with a disorganized medicine cabinet the risk we run is having more than just a tongue in our cheek!

  20. reocochran April 3, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    It had been awhile since I checked out your posts! I was cracking up! There are dangerous confusions when I take off my glasses or don’t have my contacts in! You have a great list of suggestions to try to make life easier and safer! Smiles, Robin

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