When my husband had the flu a few months ago, I went to find him some Lemsip. I found some, that expired in the year 2000.
A well organised medicine cabinet will not only save you time and money, it will make your home safer. It also has the potential to remove little frustrations like scrambling for a Band-Aid in the middle of meal prep, especially if you are not good with knives, or indeed any sharp utensil, like me!
You will probably find that if you open the door on your medicine cabinet right now, it is stocked with all manner of things, some useful, some not and a few that should have been thrown out years previously. I’m sure we have all experienced loose cotton wool balls that jump out unexpectedly inviting a mad scramble to put them back and shutting the door as quickly as possible to stop any escapes. Whilst we may have put stuff in there because it seemed useful at the time, some things end up forgotten. It can easily become a black hole for ten different types of band-aids that have lost their ability to stick and a mish-mash of other stuff we never knew we had.
1. Take It All Out
Start from scratch and take everything out and sort into piles; what’s useful, what’s not, current or expired, prescription medication, painkillers, creams, ointments and general first aid items. Now you have a clear place to start. Separate out the expired items including medication, anything that is damaged looks old or unusable, leaking tubes, old band-aids, rusty scissors and remove items which don’t really belong in the medicine cabinet such as makeup and soaps, shampoos etc.
2. Start the Organisation
Start off by making a list of what you feel are necessary items to keep in your medicine cabinet and based on what is left after the clean out, purchase these items at your next shop. You may also find it helpful to have a sheet of paper or a small erasable board stuck inside the door to note down items you run out of, that need replacing in the future. You could also use blackboard paint on the inside of the door for a more permanent note board.
3. Use Containers For Smaller Items and Put Labels
Use storage containers for smaller items such as cotton buds, band-aids, cotton wool balls (stops them from taking on a life of their own!). Cups are ideal for storage of tubes that don’t stack or take up too much room laying down. Small baskets or shelf organisers will keep painkillers, antiseptics, vitamins, tweezers, scissors, tapes and bandages secure and can be labeled for quick and easy access. Write on the bottom of bottles and tubes when the product was purchased or opened and be diligent about throwing out if it has been open for too long. Things like eyedrops only have a short shelf life and can harbour bacteria after opening.
4. Always Check Expiry Dates
Frequently check expiry dates and regularly throw out anything that is old or damaged. If an item has a month of expiry on it, it means the end of that month.
5. Store for Convenience
Store the items you use most often at eye level, those things used less frequently on lower or upper shelves. If you need to have dangerous medications in your medicine cabinet, ensure they are always kept out of the reach of children. Store on the highest shelf possible and lock the cabinet if at all possible.
6. Disposing of Unwanted Medications
Expired and unused/unwanted medications should always be disposed of properly. They should never be flushed or washed down the sink as this can cause damage to our environment and waterways. Disposing of some medications in the garbage also leaves open the risk to animals, wildlife and even children accidentally ingesting them, as well as the potential to further contaminate landfill sites. If you are unsure about whether the item is okay to throw out in your general rubbish, check with your local pharmacy.
The RUM (Return Unwanted Medicines) project ensures safe disposal of any unwanted, unlabelled or out-of-date medication. Just drop it in at your local pharmacy and they will take care of it for you.
Organisation makes it easier to find things in case of an emergency! Here are the must-have items for your medicine cabinet:
- Pain Relief Medicine
- Throat Lozenges
- Bandaids, Bandages and Dressings
- Childrens medicine (pain relief, antihistamines)
- Calamine Lotion or Stingose
- Anti-fungal cream
- Antiseptic Cream
- Saline Eye Drops
- Insect Repellant
- Cold and Flu Medications
- Cream for potential yeast infections (Caneston for example)