Organize Your Medicine Cabinet

I finally organized the stuff in my medicine cabinet, which I am very happy about because before it looked like this:

Band-aid wrappers. Open blister packs. A few almost-empty bottles. Some was at the bottom of a closet in a cardboard moving box, and the rest was scattered around the house after various colds and illnesses this winter.

I wanted to have it all in one place so I could find it, and also so I could tell the babysitter where to find the first-aid supplies. I wasn’t even sure what we currently had.

The Mayo Clinic has a list for what you should put in a first-aid kit. (Click here.)

Part of the reason why the medicine was unorganized is because the bathroom looks like this, in half-renovated fashion. There is no sink and no storage. I didn’t have a place to put anything. I’ve actually gotten used to it.

Then Jules at Pancakes and French Fries showed how she puts her medicine in the kitchen. It was so clear and simple. I was just sitting there, thinking, “Oh. So that’s how to do it.”

I even had some empty cabinets at the far end of the kitchen, away from the heat and cooking, and conveniently close to the back door.

I sorted the medicine into three sections: one for medicine that is just for the kids, one for first aid with a few more grown-up medicines tossed in, and a group of supplements such as Vitamin C, enzymes, and the calcium chew-ables that taste like Starburst candy.

What took the longest was deciding to dispose of the ones that were expired. It was hard to do because, basically, I felt like I was throwing away money. In addition to the cost, I was thinking about calamity and how in a disaster, wouldn’t I prefer to have recently-expired medicine instead of no medicine?

Then I realized what I was looking at was not life-saving medicine but stuff like honey cough suppressant and anti-itch cream. In other words: no big deal.

Maybe disposing of unused medicine was good because it meant we hadn’t needed it after all, and when my family does get sick, I will take five dollars to the drug store and buy them some new medicine.

Now everything is easier to find, and it’s also harder for the kids to reach.

How do you keep your medicine organized?

clear the clutter

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. We also keep our medicines in a big plastic container in a high up cupboard in the kitchen. At the moment though it’s all just thrown in there. I would have no idea what we do or don’t have, or what has expired. Your cabinet looks great! It has inspired me to go and sort mine out. Thanks! xx

  2. We always kept the medicine in a kitchen cabinet when I was growing up!

    Ours needs redoing. Often used items are in a drawer in our bathroom, and less used items are in the medicine cabinet in E’s bathroom. But she keeps getting into the drawer, so we need a new solution, ASAP!
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s last post…Currently…a Thursday Afternoon

  3. I keep my meds in a high kitchen cabinet as well, but it’s definately needing an overhaul. We moved here to Papua New Guinea six months ago without our old supplies. It’s amazing to see how much we’ve amassed already.

  4. Ours looks like a bit like your before photo. With limited storage space, I just keep everything in a small plastic tub at the top of my closet, out of the reach of little hands. I need to go through and check expiration dates – that alone would help us pare down. Thanks for the reminder!
    Erica {let why lead}´s last post…Make It Simple (5) – My Closet

  5. This is one area I don’t have problems with. We don’t have medicines in our house so that’s not an issue, only a small compact First Aid kit and a vitamins shelf, spartan but thorough in the kitchen. Thanks again for a great post.
    Tasmanian Minimalist´s last post…Child Support Agency

  6. Honestly, we have nothing in our bathroom… except a bottle of shampoo on top of the shower and ten toothbrushes and one tube of toothpaste on a high window sill. Seriously the bathroom is the one room where my kids can vanish for hours and get up to all sorts of unattended mischief – and the temptation to try things out or paint the mirror with shaving cream and earbuds just never seems to go away! When we renovated our bathroom and had to take everything out I realized we didn’t need most of the stuff… So we got rid of everything that wasn’t absolutely essential to us. We have one bottle of kids medicine and we keep that in the top of the fridge and the rest is all my husbands medicine, he’s diabetic and has a heap, that he has that in a drawer well away from the kids… for obvious reason!!! I would never have guessed that we wouldn’t need all the stuff that I had thought was essential when we first had kids, but once we got rid of it all we’ve never looked back!!!

  7. In Portugal, half a world away, pharmacies will take expired medicine back for proper disposal. Putting medicine in the trash will leave out in the open and they will eventually come in the food chain.
    I have been reading your work for a short time, but find it very inspiring. Keep it coming!

  8. I haven’t checked if this has been mentioned already in the comments… but *don’t* keep expired medicine no matter how much it cost. It is not better to have expired medicine than no medicine. In a worst case scenario it is possible it could poison you as various components break down/stop being active and the balance of the thing is thrown of of whack. Which is a very laypersons way of describing what a nurse and a chemist have both told me to convince me I must toss my expired medications.

    • This isn’t quite accurate. Most medicines are still potent, even 15 years after the expiration date, and with a few exceptions, no ill effects will result if one takes an expired medication. Please don’t feed into the idea that if a medicine is one month past its expiration date, it has to be thrown out.

      http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update1103a.shtml

    • Rachel Meeks says:

      I saw the Harvard article too and I thought it was informative, but when my family is sick I don’t want to wonder about the medicine. Especially when I can buy a new bottle of fully-potent, over-the-counter medicine for just a few dollars (I buy generic). But mostly I’ve found that if something expired, it’s not likely that I’ll use it in the future either.

  9. I don’t want to throw a wet blanket on your happy organized vibe, but storing medicine in the kitchen or bathroom is not ideal. The humidity and heat in either place accelerates the deterioration of the medication. They won’t make you sick, but they won’t work as well sooner than if they were stored in a cool, dry place. I store our medicines and supplies on a high shelf in our linen closet. I realize that not everyone has that luxury, I just wanted to let you know.

  10. Funny, my Mum always had our medicine in a kitchen cabinet too so I do the same. I have a nice high cabinet and everything is sorted into matching wire baskets I bought at the Target dollar section. We keep all our vitamins there as well. I go through periodically and throw out expired stuff and stock up the first aid kit (not that it needs it very often).

  11. In a house that’s seriously lacking in storage, we do have an excellent cupboard in the shower room (the actual bathroom is another story…) The cupboard is very high and very shallow – hard to get to for the kids, and impossible to lose stuff in it, because it’s so shallow we can only have one row of things.

    Tip for young players, though – when one does do a giant cull and chuck everything with active ingredients that’s past it’s use-by date, pop it aside until you replace it and chuck it once you have new ones. Learned that from experience one horrid night when my son was really ill and I had absolutely NOTHING in the house.

  12. :) I actually do JUST what you did–with the baskets. But mine are black instead of white! :) Makes it so nice!

  13. We keep ours in the linen closet, but my sister also keeps her in the kitchen. Up high, where the kids can’t reach it!

    I bought a bunch of medicines with coupons, anticipating the sick/flu winter season, but my kids have been very very healthy this winter! Now I have too much medicine on my hands… darn. Maybe I could donate the unopened bottles…
    Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry´s last post…It Ain’t Rocket Science

  14. I keep our meds in the kitchen as well. I have an extra bin for the dog! It’s allergy season and he’s on his own meds…:)!

  15. I keep my medicine in a plastic box with lid in a cupboard, up high. Whenever we travel by car for more than two days, I just take the box and put it in the car. This is really the best solution for us, because finding a doctor and a pharmacy in a foreign country is so complicated and time consuming.
    Natacha´s last post…On our bookshelf

    • Rachel Meeks says:

      Oh tell me about it. And when you do get sick with a high fever, it will be on a Sunday with a Monday holiday, and the pharmacy will stay closed until Tuesday.

  16. I did a blog post on this very thing last month! I made it the link for my website if anyone cares to see.

    I found a medium sized three-drawer plastic system at a garage sale and it has worked wonderfully. I do prefer the plastic because some of the bottles leak from time to time if they are tipped over, which is also why I prefer some kind of box where they can be kept upright. I keep my drawer system on top of the fridge well out of reach of the Littles.

    My three main categories are Herbal/Homeopathics, Skin Care/First Aid, Rx/Traditional Meds. I love having everything in the same place.

    Works for me!

  17. I keep mine in the kitchen too, in baskets. I need to go through them and organize them as it has been a while.

    If you’re throwing out prescribed medicines (and even those that aren’t) it is a good idea to get them disposed of properly so they don’t end up in our water system or in the landfill with birds and animals eating them. About a year ago I cleared out all our outdated medications and dropped them off at our local pharmacy.

  18. Just wanted to make a quick note for you and others: do not dispose of expired or unwanted medicines down the toilet. we have learned that drugs flushed down the toilet make their way into our water supply. to properly dispose of medicines, empty pills or liquids into a plastic disposable container (like yogurt tub), add something undesirable (coffee grounds are perfect, kitty litter works too), seal and throw away. this way they will be kept out of the waterways, but not be accessible/pallatable to kids or addicts who may get into the trash bin.

  19. Thank you so much for the link, Rachel. Funny to see me inspiring you for a change! ;)

  20. Right now, because of some medical issues, I have a pharmacy on my nightstand that I’ve had to separate into “morning and night,” “only night,” and “as needed.” I was so glad to see your sticky notes because that’s as fancy as I went too.

    As far as our regular medications, I go through them fairly often, but we keep them in a plastic bin in the bathroom closet and call it good. They have a home, so I don’t feel the need to keep them staunchly organized.

    Thank you for always keeping things simple, not the looks-simple-but-is-actually-very-complicated style that seems to accompany several “simple” websites.
    Jennie´s last post…Overcoming Setbacks

  21. We store them in our linen closet, up HIGH. My husband has a medical background and is very good about tossing our expired meds out every now and then. He also saves us money by purchasing generic Tylenol, Motrin, and other cold/flu meds. I always feel like I’m cheating the system when I see how much less the generic brand is in comparison to the “real” kind. And they have the exact same ingredients! Doesn’t make you feel as bad when you have to throw them out either.

    • Generic medication is the way to go. Incredibly cheap. Just compare the active ingredients.

      Apparently in studies, they found people do respond better to branded medication even when they know its the same ingredients as generic. Its just part of the placebo effect. So don’t feel too bad if you prefer branded – it might actually work better for you!

  22. With our house recently empty of kids, I find that I actually have an overabundance of out of date, and unnecessary medications in 3 different locations. In the kitchen, in my bathroom, and we have a large “linen closet” in the hall bath. I really should go through all of it and consolidate. Most of what is in the hall bath probably expired several years ago!
    Bernice @ The Stressed Mom´s last post…Where did the day go!?

  23. Found your blog a couple of weeks ago and really love it! Lots of good ideas.

    I store my medicines and first aid in the kitchen in labeled, plastic containers just as you have. I recently went through them and tossed old medicines, empty packaging, etc. My shelf now looks like yours.

  24. I use the same basket technique, on a couple high shelves in our linen closet. Only we seem to have a lot more stuff, and thus more categories… we have First Aid, Cold/Allergy, Stomach Upset, Pain Reliever, Sunscreen (we live in Florida), Vitamins, and a smaller basket for all those little tubes of itch cream and various other ointments. Wow, I sound like a pharmacy. And I really do purge regularly. At least it’s easy for everyone to put stuff back where it belongs, thanks to the labels!

  25. Denise C. says:

    We keep a small basket on the top shelf in our pantry that has basics (Advil, allergy stuff, tums). Vitamins sit on the counter so we remember to take them. Our more potent stuff (migraine meds, nasal sprays) are in the medicine cabinet in the master bath. Kids Motrin and Tylenol are in the medicine cabinet in their bathroom. Bandaids HAVE to stay in our medicine cabinet (a few are in the kitchen), my kids like to wear them, even without boo-boos. :)

  26. I have a white plastic bin identical to yours in a high cabinet in my kitchen. I try to keep it all fitting in that one bin, though it is a bit overflowing at the moment, and probably due for some expired medication tossing. Sounds like a good little quick job for this evening.

  27. I enjoyed your post (partly because I did this a couple of months ago & your post reminded me of that great feeling once everything is organised) & partly at the idea that you have kitchen cupboards empty!!!

    I’d luuurve to have an empty kitchen cupboard… Can you share your secret??? Lots of cupboards or just not much ‘stuff’, what I guess I’m asking is… Will you show us your kitchen cupboards please? I’m considering adding a kitchen cupboard it’s got so drastic at our house!xxx

    • Carolina says:

      Oh, I also want to see the cupboards!

    • Rachel Meeks says:

      The reason I have a few empty kitchen cabinets is because we changed from an apartment to a house, and in this house I put in a big pantry. More kitchen pictures are coming soon, but I want to finish a few details first.

  28. I have a cupboard in the bedroom which is lockable and one shelf is for medicines (excluding our chronic prescription meds) which I keep in oblong 2 liter ice-cream boxes. They are labelled colds & flu, pain, skin, stomach, bandages & dressings and various. The six boxes fit exactly into the cupboard and I find this method of classification very useful.

  29. Great article! I really love how you keep it real!

    I sorted my medicine a little differently. First, I used a stair-step organizer from our local big box store. Then I grouped the medicines the way you find them in the grocery store, so all of the cold/flu stuff is together, all the upset stomach stuff together, etc. For us, this is the easiest way to find the Tylenol in the middle of the night! If you are curious, you can read more about it here: http://respacedpdx.com/2011/07/where-is-the-tylenol-dos-and-donts-for-organizing-the-medicine-cabinet/
    MaryJo @ reSPACEd: Budget Organizing´s last post…My TV debut talking about ways to gain an extra hour each day

  30. We keep bandaids and medications on a kitchen shelf, and keep extra boxes of bandaids in each bathroom. The kitchen is always where we ingest the meds, so it makes sense to keep them there.

  31. i also keep our meds in the kitchen in just one drawer (my essential oils are actually separate in the kitchen in my spice cabinet). we don’t use much traditional medicines so i don’t have a lot in there really, but still probably need to go through and check expiration dates and clean it out. thanks for the inspiration.
    charis´s last post…a little bit of real life (and my 37.5 week maternity pics!)

  32. Carolina says:

    I am a doctor so if there’s one place in my home that is organized it is the medicine cabinet! we also use a high kitchen cabinet, away from the heat.
    I keep the prescription drugs in their boxes up on top and only the opened ones reachable. The rest is in clear plastic tubs without lids so they are easy to reach. Sorted after kids and adults. I always keep some antibiotics at home ( the luxury of being a medic ) since our daughter is extremely prone to tonsillitis. Oh, and the cat has his own container too :-) Our kids have actually never been interested in trying to reach the meds, they know it is Mom’s cupboard :-)

  33. Cynthia Jo says:

    I use the same system. It came in so handy when we were doling out various medications to our son when he was undergoing treatment for Leukemia. He had two of his very own baskets that we would get down, one for morning and one for evening. Now we just have 2 baskets total, one for adults and one for the kids. It is so much easier to have it in the kitchen, high up and I do keep mine away from the cooking area (thank goodness for a big kitchen!). The kitchen is in the center of the house, our bathroom is clear on the opposite side of the house. This is great for the before bed or *gasp* middle of the night wakings.

  34. I live in Washington State and was able to take our expired prescription medicine, along with expired over-the-counter meds, to a local drugstore for proper disposal. I did this to keep my children safe and to protect the environment. Here the county will also dispose of icky household cleaners for the same reason.

  35. I keep mine in the top of the bathroom linen closet in 4 shoebox sized boxes with lids that the littlest kids could not get off too easily.
    One box is band aids/bandages and ointments, including neosporin, eczema cream, and poison ivy medication (my hubs is highly allergic).
    The next box is for fever/pain relief so tylenol & motrin in all of its forms (some kids need liquid, some chewable, and we range from infant drops to big kids to adult) and the thermometers.

    The third box is for cold/flu/nose stuff so we have ny-quil or benadryl or zyrtec or whathaveu as well as cough drops/lozanges and whatever else might help a cold for whatever age. Plus a small neti pot.

    The last box is stuff for tummy troubles including tums, prilosec,pepto and immodium.

    It sounds like a lot to write down (it isn’t a complete list) but I like having them sorted by type. The boxes aren’t huge and they are clear, so I can find what I’m looking for quickly. And with a family of 6 someone is always sick with something.

  36. We keep our supplements and medicines in a kitchen cabinet in bins, but our first aid supplies are in the bathroom, under the sink. I never thought of putting that in the kitchen, but it might be a good idea!

  37. vermontmommy says:

    We have a similar system. I have ours in our pantry. I have two plastic drawers. One has the kids’ meds. On top of it I have a plastic container with our first aid stuff. Meds for hubby and I are stored in the cabinet above our toilet. I like having the first aid where the kids can grab it. Oh, and our vitamins are on a shelf in our pantry. All accessible by the kids.

    Pretty simple and seems to do the trick.

  38. I have divided my medicine supplies in a similar way – adult medicines, children’s medicines, and first aid (such as bandages). I keep these baskets in the kitchen also as they are more easily accessible to me here, but stored high so the kids can’t reach them. When throwing away expired medicines, it’s also a good indicator of what perhaps doesn’t need replacing (unless it’s an essential medicine for your family).
    Kim @ Extra Organized´s last post…Values over goals

  39. Have often heard it’s better to keep meds in the bathroom, not the kitchen. But – as my husband and I have aged, a few meds are necessary and most in our case are related to taking at mealtimes. So we have embraced the need for convenience, and use the kitchen pantry, using the small stair-stepping shelves. And we do keep first aid items both up and down-stairs in the bathroom cabinet. All about maintenance, for us,reviewing the meds regularly, keeping them current – or not at all. Love the organizing posts!

  40. Awesome! Love how nice and simple everything looks in your med. cabinet. My only problem is that I have one of those really narrow cabinets that are only about three inches or so deep so I can’t fit decent sized baskets.

    I organize things by shelves mostly and place larger things in a basket under the sink.

    The kids meds I keep in a plastic storage tote with a top on a shelf high up in the linen closet. Now that my two year old can push any chair up and climb-I have to put things even higher : )
    Christyn@StrivingforSimple´s last post…Two More Months Until Bathing Suit Season!!!

  41. P.S. I’d love to use the kitchen, but I need every ounce of my minimal kitchen cupboard space!!

  42. I keep all the stuff in a locking toolbox that is in a closet close to the laundry room. I noted its location on the list of emergency phone numbers in our kitchen cupboard that I show babysitters.
    I don’t keep a lot of medicine on hand because we don’t use a lot and I end up throwing out stuff and yes, it is money! I clip coupons for medicine when I see them, so I have them on hand if I need to run out for cough syrup at the last minute.
    Margo, Thrift at Home´s last post…A Patchwork Blender Cover for Aunt Nancy

  43. I was just explaining to my 7 year old last week that throwing out expired medicine is not a waste of money. It’s like life insurance. Your glad you have it if you need it but glad when you don’t need to use it after all.

    I keep our medicines in the kitchen too. Actually, I’ve never thought of keeping them in the bathroom :)

  44. Lisa Anthony says:

    Great post! If you don’t mind me asking, what is the brand of calcium supplements that tastes like starburst? I have the worst time motivating myself to take the normal ones!

    • The brand is Vitafusion and in the top photo it’s the bottle with the green lid. I have to keep myself from eating them. I bet they have a lot of sugar.

  45. I love the idea of keeping them all in the kitchen. Right now mine are spread out between 3 bathrooms. I just need to declutter my way to an empty shelf. :-)
    Elizabeth@ReadySetSimplify´s last post…Junk drawer? What junk drawer? Oh! The organized drawer!

  46. This is the one I’ve been waiting for! Organizing the meds is a GREAT need in my house. Thanks for the tips and inspiration! I am off to the cabinet!!!
    Debra Bell´s last post…Too Tired to Find Rest?

  47. I am a pharmacist and this is a pet peeve of mine. Only keep expired medications for no more than six months after the expiration date and this is only if you have kept them in a cool dark dry place. (YOUR BATHROOM DOES NOT COUNT) There are a few exceptions like tetracycline which can cause kidney failure if you use expired and aspirin breaks down into unwanted substrates.
    The big thing is to disposed of the medications THE CORRECT WAY. Most cities have a pharmacy that takes back and disposes of expired medications or medications that you are no longer taking. If you do not have access to a pharmacy that takes back medicines, then the best way is NOT in to dispose in the water system. The new recommendation is to throw away the medications mixed with coffee grounds or egg yolks, etc…put into a sealed zip lock baggie. Then place the ziplock into a sealed garbage bag. If it ends up in a land fill at least it doesn’t end up into the water supply.

  48. We keep our medicines and first aid supplies in similar containers. I like the clear shoebox size containers with lids. The lids keep me from dumping everything out when I reach for it in our linen closet.=) I agree with some of the other comments about not keeping meds in the bathroom. I’ve read that the humidity and temperature changes are not ideal.

  49. Praise God for unused medicine!

  50. I keep it all in a cute box under the sink. All liquids are just in the box upright, bandaids are all in a zippable pouch, and the rest is categorized in ziplock bags labeled “allergies & sinus” or “stomach issues” or that sort of thing. All the baggies fit in a clear snappable box that goes in the bigger box.
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Week 34 and Lots of Firsts

  51. I keep mine in the kitchen cupboard in the same white plastic baskets. I have one basket for “internal” and one for “external” such as first aid supplies, antibiotic ointment, salves etc.

  52. Kimberly says:

    Growing up, my mom kept everything in the kitchen pantry – in a large rectangular tupperware container. Now, in my own house, we do the same: in the kitchen, cabinet above the kitchen desk. Its even in a tupperware container, 1/2 sheet cake size …. vitamins and band-aids same place but on the shelf below. That seems to be what we use the most!!! Rarely anything in the bathroom other than bathroom type medicine …. eye drops/icy hot …. (well icy hot is in both places!!!!

  53. I keep the kids’ medicine in the bathroom nearest their bedroom. So my little guy’s infant medicine was near his room, and the children’s medicine was up by the big girls’ room. I found it more convenient to have them close when you need them, instead of running all over the house with a feverish child!
    Thanks for the tips!

  54. Hi,
    We finally found a similar solution that works well – plastic containers with clip-on lids for each person. Keeps us from mixing up the kids medicines and also the lids reduce the chance of our toddler from getting into them. A lid also enables the containers to be stacked.

    I work as a poison control center officer and field calls daily from parents of children who have ingested medicines not intended for them, a very common problem. So please, always keep medicines out of reach and out of sight of children. In theory they should be locked away, but how practical is that?
    Mike McArthur´s last post…Choose your sword wisely

  55. After getting rid of a bunch of expired botles and tubes, I now buy smaller containers at the pharmacy.

  56. clothespin says:

    In the old house, we had put all medicines and cleaning supplies in the laundry room. We were severely limited on storage in the house and it was the only place up high that we could find.

    In our new “giant” house, I don’t know what we’ll do. I put closets in everywhere I could but am still limited in cabinet space (upper level) in the kitchen. Not only will we have 2 kids under the age of 4 but we are also very tall people, so low stuff is just harder to get to for us. I want to keep the vitamins in the kitchen, just so that I remember to take them. I was going to put the rest in the master bathroom but after all of the comments about humidity and temp change – they might get moved to the top shelf of the linen closet. We’re still not into the house yet, so who knows…

    In the RV where we’re currently living (post disaster housing, it works) all of the meds are in the tiny cabinet above the kitchen sink. NOt my first choice but then…

    I do LOVE the plastic bin idea though! So much more organized. My mom still has lazy susans in her bathroom closet with meds on them… and that works well, too, though eats a lot of space.

    So much to think about in the new house!

  57. Pjjunker says:

    We happen to have 3 medicine cabinets, so I put all the pain stuff in one, cold stuff in another and stuff for owies in the the third. Tell me your symptoms and I’ll point you in the right direction. Oh, and the rule is…if you’re not willing to take something for it, you can’t complain about it!