When you feel lousy, the last thing you want to do is make a trip to the drug store for over-the-counter relief. Besides, you probably have medication somewhere in your house. If only you remembered where you put it...

When common ailments like the flu strike, having a well-organized medicine cabinet can relieve some of the stress of dealing with illnesses and injuries, says Jennifer Ford Berry, an expert organizer, speaker, and author of the Organize Now! series. Ford points out that most people have quite a few medications in their homes, but they often aren't housed in a central location, so they can't find them when they are needed. In addition, many medicines have a short shelf life and may be expired just when a bad cold takes hold. Her solution is simple: devoting a little time to a major medicine cabinet clean out and reorg.

8 Easy Steps to Clean up Your Act

Berry offers these simple steps to accomplish the task:

1. Assign a designated spot to store all medications. Berry says that while the term "medicine cabinet" typically refers to the traditional storage area near the sink in your bathroom, it might be smarter to stash your supplies in another location like a kitchen cabinet, linen closet, or wherever else makes sense given your home's layout and family situation. (If you have young children, just be sure all medication is out of their reach.)

2. Collect all of the medications and first-aid supplies throughout your home and put them on your kitchen table so you can see what you have.

3. Check the date on each item. Discard anything that's expired, no longer needed, or a flavor or consistency you or your children don't like.

4. Take inventory of what's left. Berry suggests using an index card to record what you have; for example: headache/fever reducers, cold and flu remedies, digestive aids, allergy treatments, and first-aid supplies. Then group the items by category accordingly. This will enable you to see what you have on hand and also to make note of what you may be missing.  

5. Weed through your stash to have no more than two or three of any type of medicine. If you have more, it can be difficult to find what you need when you need it and the medicines will be more likely to expire before you use them.

6. Arrange your medicines in a way so you can access them easily. Berry says she uses a spot in her kitchen cabinets to house her medicines, with some of them placed on a small turntable. This makes it easy to spin it to see what she has. You can also purchase inexpensive plastic baskets—or use empty shoe boxes—to store medicines by category.

7. Keep tools such as medicine-size measuring cups and droppers inside a plastic container or zip lock bag right next to your medicines (or in a separate plastic basket).

8. Revisit your medicine cabinet twice a year to restock it and weed out anything that's expired. Berry says she approaches this as a seasonal task—at the beginning of the fall to be sure she has plenty of cold and flu remedies for the coming months, and then again in early spring to be sure her allergy treatments are updated.

For more of Berry's organizing tips, you can visit her website or look for her books on Amazon.

Jennifer Ford Berry reviewed this article.



Jennifer Ford Berry, expert organizer. Interview 24 July 2013.