When it comes to organization, medicine cabinets are closets in miniature. And if you’re like most busy folks, you keep your closet door shut in hopes that no guest ever opens it to find the vacuum hose or a tangle of dirty clothes spilling out. Of course, medicine cabinets are in a highly trafficked room, so keeping them shut tight isn’t always a surefire way to hide that clutter of cough syrups, tweezers, aspirin and rusty nail files. After all, it is just the place a guest might go for a Band-Aid or a cotton swab or — let’s be honest — to just have a snoop around.
So how do you find a place for everything and keep everything in its place in a medicine cabinet? Well, follow the same advice closet organizers have been selling for years: Get rid of anything you’re not using. “Most of us are pack rats,” says designer Lori Carroll of Lori Carroll and Associates in Tucson. “Go through the medicine cabinet every six months and throw out stuff you don’t use.” That means discarding tubes of used-up lipstick, rusty nail files and empty Band-Aid boxes.
It also means purging your medicine cabinet of drugs and other products whose expiration dates have passed. Medicines can spoil beyond the date on the bottle. One of the best ways to dispose of drugs is to flush them down the toilet. That way, children and pets won’t be able to get a hold of them.
Here are a few more tips for keeping the bathroom medicine cabinet organized:
Medical supply stores have great glass surgical jars for storing cotton swabs and bandages. They keep the items dry and within easy reach.
Keep only the items that you use regularly in the medicine cabinet. Store other items, such as Aloe Vera or extra tubes of antibiotic cream, in a drawer or linen closet.
Decide exactly what you want to keep in the medicine cabinet and don’t deviate from the plan. In other words, don’t give in to the temptation to cram stray items into the cabinet when you’re in a rush to clean up.
Consider moving drugs to a different location, such as a high kitchen shelf. High humidity and heat can cause some medicines to lose their potency. Wherever you store your medicines, make sure they are out of reach of children.
If you do store your medicines in the bathroom, consider buying a medicine cabinet that includes a lock-box to keep your prescription drugs safe. Manufacturers such as Robern and Jensen make medicine cabinets with lock boxes.
Keep your first aid supplies together so you can find them easily in case of an emergency. You might consider reserving one shelf for emergency supplies such as aspirin, first aid cream and gauze.
Or buy a small emergency kit to keep on the medicine cabinet shelf and store the larger boxes of Band-Aids and tubes of antibiotic creams in the linen closet.
Take advantage of the removable shelves in your medicine cabinet and organize items by size with the taller items on the bottom shelf.
Use small plastic organizers to store tweezers, combs and nail files in separate upright compartments. Arcs and Angels offers one organizer called the Slide & Tilt that attaches to your medicine cabinet.
And finally, consider the storage capacity of your medicine cabinet. One manufacturer, Zaca, makes a fully patented medicine cabinet that functions like a closet organizer.
“What makes our cabinets so unique is the split shelving arrangement,” says Zachary Aisley, vice-president of Zaca. “It’s completely modular. If you picture the old style cabinets, you’ve got three steel or glass shelves so when you have a short bottle and a tall bottle next to each other, there’s a lot of wasted space.”
With Zaca cabinets, the split shelves slide in and out, allowing the user to store short and tall items next to each other while maximizing space. In fact, says Zachary, the split shelving gives the user about 40 percent more space and the end result is a well organized cabinet that might even impress visitors taking a peek inside.