How to Organize Medicine in 3 Easy Steps

Amy from Utah wrote to me this week for help with her medicine supply cupboard.  Here’s an excerpt from her email…

I am out of room for all the stuff that has to be in the meds cupboard, we purge the contents of the bins as the needs change, but it still leaves me with a mess.  Now I have 4 bins above my microwave, one for my meds and medical needs, one for the kid’s things, one for pain relievers (Tylenol, Tums, Motrin etc…) and one for the misc. things- band-aids, Benadryl, disposable thermometer covers, motion sickness bands, ear plugs, Nyquil, etc… I straighten them quite regularly but as soon as someone has a need for something out of that cupboard, we close our eyes as we open it and hope nothing falls from above and bonks us on the head!

Thanks for the questions, Amy.  I’ve got a house full of sickness this week so it’s a great time to share a few of my favorite tips for controlling my medicine mess.

Step 1: Divide and Conquer

We’re all organizers at heart so we tend to put like things together.  Unfortunately sometimes keeping everything in one place contributes to the problem.  So my first recommendation is to divide up your medical supplies into two groups – the stuff you use on a regular basis and the stuff that you need on random occasions.  Keep the most-used supplies in your kitchen and shift the less-used and bulk items to another spot (like the top of a linen closet or cleaning cupboard).  *While you’re sorting, be sure to check expiration dates and purge any old stuff.  I found some allergy medicine from 2006 when I was prepping to take pictures for this post.

Step 2: Ged Rid of the Excess

One of the things I hate about medicine storage is the packaging.  No two bottles/boxes are the same size so they’re impossible to store neatly.  I solve this problem by ditching the original bottles of our frequently used meds and adding the pills to spice containers instead.  The spice containers store neatly in my kitchen cupboard and have a clear front so I can see when I’m running low.  I bought my set of 6 at WalMart for $6.  If I need to make notes about the dosage, I just write it with a sharpie on the bottom of the bottle.  The same concept would also work with small Gladware containers.  I only use this trick for our frequently-used meds.  The less-used meds have more specific dosing info and are more likely to expire before we use the whole package so I keep them in their original containers.*If you have little kids, be sure to put your containers in a safe place because these containers aren’t child-proof.

Step 3: Keep It Contained

When it comes to organizing our less-used medicines I have a simple 3-box strategy – Kid Meds, Adult Meds, and First Aid.  Each is stored in a small plastic bin in the linen closet of our master bath; bigger things like heating pads and humidifiers are tucked behind the bins on the same shelf.  I prefer these cheap, hinge-lid bins because they’re big enough to hold the basics and small enough to store side-by-side on the shelf.  Again, I try to get rid of excess packaging (like the band-aid boxes) but hang on to any packages that give me important dosage information.

Amy also asked about where to store daily pill boxes so they’re not in plain view of visitors but also not ‘out of sight-out of mind’.  The solution to this problem is easier than you think, Amy.  Just find another location in the kitchen that is used everyday – like the cupboard where you keep your glassware.  Add a few velcro strips to the back of the pill box and the inside of the cupboard door (I like 3M Command Adhesive Strips).  That way your medicine sorter is in plain sight to those who need it but out of sight to visitors.  If the cupboard isn’t an option, try adding magnetic tape to the back of your sorter and popping it on the side of the fridge.

Thanks for the all the great questions, Amy.  I hope these simple tips will help you and everyone else out there get your ‘medical messes’ organized and under control.  Just thought I’d pass it on.


7 Comments

  1. I really need to do this! we have the “bonk on the head” incidents all the time and I know I don’t “need” half of what’s in our cabinet! Thanks for the incentive ;-D

  2. I went through this a year ago when moving. Something that helped was one of those shoe bags that you put behind the door. I have one behind the door of the master bath, and then suddenly I had a place for inventory. I didn’t have to throw that much away, just put like with like–now I haven’t had to buy any of this stuff for eons and I know just what I have.

  3. I’m sorry you have sick kids and a new baby…. somebody always gets sick around here during Spring Break. ..uh?
    This is a great post. I actually did this a month ago. I found stuff dating back to 2000! Ah! I thought is was a problem but by the time I threw all the expired stuff away I ended up with two small bins that fit nicely in the designated spot. My office on the other hand….I need to email you about that.

    Thanks for all you great posts!

    • Thanks, Tomena. My little guy came down with RSV last week so we’re trying to keep a close eye on him. I know what you mean about the medicine. I think I threw away about 20 packs/bottles of expired meds when I was going through my supply. Feel free to email me about your office – I’d love to take a stab at it. If you have pictures be sure to add them to the email. I do much better if I can see the space you’re working with. Thanks!

  4. I am catching up on all the great meckmom tips. I absolutely love this suggestion and I’m adding the spice bottles to my Wal-mart list as we speak.

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