Are you the sort of person that falls sick easily? That makes you just like me. And just like me, you probably have a collection of medication ranging from flu medicines, anti-inflammatory medicines for those dry sore throats, different brands and colours of Panadol (drowsy and non-drowsy formulas) and the list goes on.
People like us in a bid to save money, and in a way to save ourselves from being labeled as “weak” in the eyes of colleagues, bosses or even family members, we go with the self-medication route first.
And trust me you do not want to be shivering with mucus dripping down your nose, and you trying to communicate to your family that you need this particular medication asap amidst all your medication wrapped in those tiny white plastic bags.
Whether you are a medication hoarder (like me) or someone who is always medication-ready on vacations, here are 6 Ways to organize your medicine cabinet so you can find your medicines fast and to keep them staying fresh a little longer.
1. Toss Out Expired Medications
I’m aware that there are numerous controversies about expiry dates and how pharmaceutical companies are making expiry dates shorter on purpose in order to sell you more drugs. And while some of the claims might seem true, medications are something that is ingested orally, so it is advisable not to consume it past the expiry date. Also when it comes to medicine, the effectiveness of a product tends to decrease or even increase in toxicity closer so it is definitely not worth the risk of keeping expired medication for that 6 months longer.
Besides looking out for just expiry dates as a sure sign to toss out medicine, also pay attention to the appearance and texture of a medication. According to an article from Medline Plus, such medicines are considered damaged as the chemical compounds in the medicine have already broken down and is no longer able to aid you in your recovery. Another consideration here is if you allergic to a particular medicine or if you find that a particular does not work for you, it is also a good idea to toss it out.
When disposing your medication, mix them in with coffee grinds or kitty litter, something that ruins it completely. Do take note that medicines are chemicals that react and you don’t want it to react with something else in your trash. Do not flush your medication down the toilet as this is bad for the water supply.
2. Sort “like” and “like”
Sort all your flu medicines together and all your fever medicines together. When it comes to organizing, always sort “like” items together so that you can easily find all your flu medications together and then make a choice later to figure out which medicine you prefer works best for your symptoms.
When sorting your medication together, keep prescribed medicines in their original bags as it states the advised dosage given by the doctor. For medicines that are purchased off the shelf, you may toss the box if the dosage and expiry dates are already printed on them but I would keep the pamphlet that comes with the box for a more detailed breakdown or ingredients and dosage directions.
3. Sort According to Category with Labels
You know how when you have a really bad flu, it is often accompanied by fever and sore throat? Sort your medicine according to how you use them. So when you have the flu, place your fever and anti-inflammatory medications nearby so you can easily access them together.
For those of us who believe in more than one medical cure or alternative medicine, it is also good to sort your medication according to Western medicine and alternative medicine categories instead of lumping all your flu medications together. As a word of caution, it is not advisable to mix two types of medications together. Chinese medicine often directs that it’s medication should be consumed with at least a two-hour buffer period after consuming Western medicine so keep that in mind. You might also choose to start with alternative medicine first or last, finishing the course and then continue with a regular course of Western medicine so divide them into different categories so you know which box to reach out for first.
4. Have Proper Storage Containers
As mentioned in my Instagram about organizing stationery, it is worth investing in storage containers. And while you think that you are reducing your waste by re-purposing food or cosmetic containers, you really are not. Not being able to find your things at the right time, often results not only in a waste of time but you also often end up buying more of the same item. More of the same item = more waste in the long term.
When it comes to storage containers be very purposeful about them. Buy only when it would really help you stay organized. If you really want to re-purpose previous food or cosmetic containers make sure that they are of a regular size, meaning that they can be used in most instances to store different types of things. Squares or rectangles are most preferable in this instance. You don’t want to keep a flower shaped plastic container that came with the chocolate to store your medicine because of its irregular shape. You might end up dumping different categories of medicine together and that defeats the purpose of organizing in the first place. Also try your best to keep clear or lightly tinted containers. Many of us like to keep any kind of container because we know what we are going to store inside. We might … for now that is. As time goes on, we might forget what was stored inside altogether.
That brings me to my next point which is about labelling. Let us all admit that even for those who trust that they have a photographic memory, it isn’t always consistent and therefore we should rely on tools like labels to help us keep track of what is in a container. And also for the benefit of other people that we share the space with, it is best to label your items so after once an item is used, it can be returned to its appropriate place.
For my medicine, I purchased these containers from Daiso ($2 each) and I made this tiny label folders to sort through the medicine. Here I placed my flu, anti-inflammatory, phlegm and fever medication together. So for the benefit of my family members, I have chosen to label this so that it can be easily found and placed back in its original place.
5. Store Them in a Cool, Dark Place
Never ever store your non-liquid medication in the fridge. Let me repeat, never ever store your non-liquid medication in the fridge. You don’t see the clinic assistant opening up a fridge to take out your medication do you? And never ever place it in the kitchen where it is warm or near a window where there is a lot of light. Keep your medication at a constant temperature, in a dark, cool and dry place. Storing your medication in the fridge exposes it to light which alters the chemistry of the pills, making them less effective or more toxic. Both of which are no good.
Also don’t store it in the bathroom please. The heat and humidity of the bathroom can lead to bacteria growth, while also speeding up the rate in which the chemical compounds in your pills break down and your medication definitely does not want to be there.
I store my medication in a wooden cupboard under the TV with opaque doors. So for your medication to last longer, store them in a cool, dark place away from the sun and heat.
6. Bonus: Store Liquid Medications in the Fridge Once Opened
The only time that you should be storing your medication in the fridge is if the medicine is a liquid one without it’s own set of preservatives. Liquid compounds in food are less stable and more susceptible to bacteria growth. So in order to reduce bacteria growth over time, store them in the fridge at a cool temperature to have them last longer. When storing them in the fridge, store them in the main area of the fridge where the shelves are and keep them away from the doors. Fridge doors tend to have a less consistent temperature compared to those on the shelf especially when we open the fridge several times a day to retrieve or store things in there.
Also for those of us who choose to ignore expiry dates, it is best to toss liquid medication once they have reached their expiry dates or look damaged and no longer than that.
With all medication, please store them in a safe place away from young children who may mistake these colourful pills for sweets.
Medication is something that all of us need and will use from time to time, so its best to organize and sort our medicine accordingly so that we can easily retrieve them when we need it, while being assured that they are safe for consumption in our time of need.