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Organization Skills – The Medicine Cabinet

The medicine cabinet, linen closet, hall closet, every household has a different name for where they store the majority of their medicines. For us, it’s in the same closet as our linens, but for ease and the sake of this article, I will from here on out, refer to the area as a cabinet.

It’s one of those dreaded areas of the house that seems to never stop accumulating pill packets, leaking bottles, and those annoying measuring cups that are NEVER the same size. The number of individuals in your house seems to compound the number of different meds required. My family, in particular, never finish a prescription or OTC med. So, from time to time we have between 5 to 10 different bottles with only 1 or 2 pills left. And don’t get me started on those disgusting cold meds they try to pass off on kids. Heaven forbid you buy the wrong kind and have to bribe, threaten, and force-feed your child to get them to take it. But I digress…In my line of work, I like to think that I have it a bit better than others. I’m pretty self-aware, and yet, in spite of this, I still came across over a dozen bottles of expired and/or no longer needed medication.

I recently re-organized my medicine cabinet, again. It’s an annual type of thing because no matter what, a towel that neither my husband nor I recognize turns up. This year seemed to be worse with Covid going around too. Any little sniffle and we’d freak out, test negative, run to the store to stock up so that the next time we’d be prepared, only for the next time’s symptoms to be completely different…rinse, repeat. As a result, we have a mini pharmacy and a plethora of semi-used medications.

This year I have made the massive leap into making DeclutterOKC my sole priority and main revenue stream. As a result, I’ve been seeking out content for my channels and this cabinet fit the bill to a T. So here are the steps I took to declutter and reorganize my cabinet and what I recommend any prospective client do as well.

Prep:

Open the cabinet doors and think, “Holy crap, where am I going to start?!” It’s ok, have a minor panic attack, I’ll give you a minute…Ok, you good? Great, now take a deep breath, you can do this!

Step 1: The big mess

Pull everything out. Yes, everything. Lay it all out on whatever surface is large enough to contain it all. I piled it all on my bed. Oh yeah, remember those leaky bottles, maybe strip the sheets down to the mattress protector before you get started or lay down a trash bag. Something to protect your sheets…lessons learned.

Step 2: Categorize

Sort everything by category. Towels, hand towels, wash rags (we don’t use these so why do we have them at all?), cold meds, allergy meds…you get the idea. This is an important step! This will show you, IRL, how many of the same item you actually have. Seriously, where did all this Benadryl come from?

Step 3: Past the point of no return

Get rid of expired medication. WAIT WAIT, hear me out! I know, it’s a scam, they’re just trying to get you to spend more money, aunt betty has been taking the same aspirin from a bottle she bought 50 years ago. I know, I get it. BUT, according to the FDA:

“Expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance.” –Expired Meds – FDA

Ummm, bacterial growth? Soooo, like mold? So gross.

Step 4: The Detox part 1

Still have too much of the same item? Our towels, I swear, come apart and rethread themselves into something new at least once a month. As a result, we only have 6 towels that I would say match, and by match, I mean 3 pairs of towels that came from separate households, and yet could probably be sold as a set. But we had 10, yes I said 10, completely different and mismatched towels on top of that. No two were the same. Why?!

When taking a look at your excess items, really ask yourself:

  • Q: Do I need this item?
  • A: Yes, I need towels.
  • Q: Do I like this item?
  • A: No, these towels are old, one side is smaller than the other, they don’t match, and I can’t even wrap myself completely in them.
  • Q: So, do you need this item?
  • A: Well…no, I have 8 others that are perfectly good, I suppose I could get rid of these 3.

Same goes with any medications. If it’s the same medicine, just in multiple bottles (which are sold in a 2 pack but come half-empty with a cotton ball anyway. What a waste), combine the two and move on.

Step 5: The Detox part 2

Go through everything else. All the one-off items, all the miscellaneous and misfit items that don’t fall into a category. Go through it all. Touch every item. Hold it and remember the last time you used it. If you’ve never used it, ask yourself, “Why did I buy this?” If you can’t remember, or the answer is “because it was a good deal”, it’s time to let it go. If it helps to go through the question and answer again, do it! Whatever it takes to eliminate the mess.

Step 6: Repeat

At this point, you should be feeling really good about yourself! Look at all the headway you’ve made! Now that you have your “I’m getting rid of stuff” hat on, go back through all the stuff one more time. I promise, you’ll come across something that slipped past you the first time and you’ll be glad you did this.

Step 7: Your new reality

Now you have a true visualization of the amount of the items that need to go back into your cabinet. Hopefully, you’ve been able to pare things down enough that keeping similar items close together isn’t as unrealistic as it once was.

Staying

Going

Step 8: Everything in its place

Load your cabinet back up. INTENTIONALLY! Don’t just throw everything in there. A clean space is more likely to stay clean. Designate a space, make a label, do whatever necessary to encourage all those who come after you (and you!) to maintain the space.

Sidebar: There’s a myth going around out there by some very greedy people that you can only organize a space with acrylic bins or fancy baskets, but I’ll let you in on a secret, you don’t. Do you buy a new pencil case for your kid(s) each school year and as a result have 20? Use ‘em. Do you keep all your shoe boxes? Use ‘em. Heck, cereal boxes too! Get creative! Have those pesky pencil box hoarding kids help you cut up some of that cardboard. Anything to help keep your newly decluttered space from returning to the hot mess that it was. If, however, you want to invest in a bin system, ride that acrylic train to your heart’s content. End sidebar.

Now, not everything will fit into a bin/box. For those items, sheets and towels to name a couple, fold them well. A well-folded towel is not quick to fall apart. Same with sheets. Take the time to learn how to fold a fitted sheet and your cabinet is less likely to attract additional eyesores. Here, let me help. Watch here: How to fold a fitted sheet – HGTV

Step 9: Admiration

Step back and enjoy. Give yourself a pat on the back. You did it!

Step 10: Clean Up

Haha, thought we were done, didn’t you! Ohhhh no. Remember all those items that WEREN’T being put back in the cabinet? Well, you have to do something with those, now don’t you! I highly recommend donating what you can. Some items may be too ratty, too old, or too broken to donate. Do everyone a favor and just throw it away (always reuse, recycle, repair, or repurpose when you can to cut down on waste). For medications, make sure you take them to a drop box to be disposed of properly. Depending on your area, it may be a police station. If you’re not sure, do a quick google search. If there isn’t one in your area and you’re not sure how to dispose of your medicine, the FDA has some helpful information here: Disposing of Meds – FDA

Coaching Session

Ok, so now on to the coaching bit, which is what sets me apart, in my opinion, from some of my peers in the organizing business. Why and how do you suppose your cabinet got to this stage in the first place? For me, I have a hard time letting go of useful items, even if I have too many (towels). Maybe I was traumatized in my youth by the lack of a towel and the necessity to run through the house naked. I don’t know, I don’t remember. But for some reason, 16 towels for a family of 3 who rarely has overnight visitors just seems a bit excessive. From the standpoint of the excess medicine I really do blame those brands that make God-awful tasting meds for the kids. I tried one to show my daughter it was no big deal. It made my eyes water and I agreed that I would not make her take it and that I would go back to the store to try to find the one we usually get. But again, trying not to be wasteful, I put it in the cabinet. Why? No one was going to take it. It should have been disposed of, then and there.

So, lesson for the day! Don’t let yourself get in your own way of staying organized and tidy. Put your big person pants on and admit to yourself that yes, it was a waste to buy this item in the first place, BUT it will be even more of a waste if you continue to hang on to the item and move it from place to place is frustration and annoyance as you look for something else. It’s ok, you can call me your fairy godmother, I’ll allow it, and you’re welcome. Thanks for hanging out with me today! If you liked this, click the links below and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok for some additional content!