How To Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

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Don’t bother inviting me to a dinner party, because I don’t have to snoop in your bathroom to tell you this: You have a mess in your medicine cabinet... or whatever you use for storage in there. Hundreds of plasters, but none where you need them? Expired medications? Yeah, I’ve been there too.

Bathroom closets and cabinets are actually kind of fun to clean (I say this as a person who hates cleaning) because they tend to be small, and everything already has a designated function, so it’s easy to tell what should stay and what should go. Pull everything out, and deal with it thusly:

Toss or Relocate Your Medicines

I know, it’s a medicine cabinet, right? But you shouldn’t actually keep medicines in the bathroom. It’s hot, it’s humid — just keep medicines in your kitchen, which is another place you have easy access to glasses of water.

While you’re at it, look through and figure out what you don’t need. Expired medicines are often still safe, but that’s a guess, not a bet you want to stake your health on. Toss that old Panadol — or if you’re a dirtbag like me, toss all but your newest container, and set a reminder to buy more next time you’re at the store.

And when we say toss, we really mean dispose of properly. Especially if you have old codeine or something, it’s best to bring these to a drug takeback program or ask your pharmacy if they’ll take them back.

Replace Your Toothbrush

Toothbrushes tend to get worn out and frayed after about three months of regular use. Check if it’s time for new ones.

It’s handy to keep an old toothbrush around to clean small objects or awkward areas, but that isn’t a licence to accumulate a stash of old ones. Pick one toothbrush that’s for cleaning, and mark it in some really obvious way, such as wrapping the handle in black electrical tape.

Evict Anything Expired

Everything expires, especially makeup and lotions. It’s sad if you only got to use that amazing sparkly lipstick a handful of times, but now is no time to be sentimental. If something is past its best days, say goodbye.

You may be pleasantly surprised when you check labels, though. Check for a little image of an open jar with a number and a letter “M”. If it says “12M”, for example, that means the product is good for 12 months after opening. Mascara expires quickly, but dry powders last a while and sunscreen is good for three years.

Get Rid of Duplicates

Be honest with yourself: Do you really need all five of those travel toothpastes you forgot you had? That half-full bottle of shampoo you didn’t really like but feel kind of guilty about throwing away? Toss the extras, and be free.

Assemble a Real First Aid Kit

Grab a shoe box (or some other container that has been liberated during your cleaning efforts) and fill it with medical supplies in an organised way.

Consolidate your multiple boxes of plasters. Check out the other items on the Red Cross’s list of what belongs in a first aid kit and gather what you have; make a shopping list with anything you don’t have.

You’ll use some items more than others. Large gauze pads are a once-every-few-years kind of thing, but tweezers and antibiotic ointment tend to come in handy every few weeks or more. Consider setting up a smaller, easy access area for that (I use a small set of plastic drawers for the frequently used things).

Put Cleaning Products In a Special Home

Set your supplies in a place where you can easily get to them. If you can easily grab a mop when your kid pees on the floor, you’ll be in a much better position than if you have to dig the mop bucket out from under a million other things.

If you have kids or pets, find a place for cleaning products that’s up high or in a secure cabinet. Remember that after everything is all clean and reorganised, those products will be easier to see and find — that’s the whole point, right? — so they’ll pique your little munchkins’ curiosity.

Rearrange Things by Category

When I rearranged my bathroom closet, I was on a KonMari kick. (I didn’t actually KonMari my whole life, but I read the book and cleaned a few closets, OK?) One of her refrains is to store similar objects together, which feels kind of duh. But as you unpack your cabinets, ask yourself: Have I really been doing this?

It turned out that I had not. I had barrettes in a basket full of unrelated things, a hairbrush on a faraway shelf, dry shampoo in yet a third place, and hair elastics literally everywhere except the one place I always looked.

I ended up designating a basket just for hair-related supplies, and guess what? Now I always know where my hair elastics are, and I even put them back when I’m done with them. (I clip them onto a carabiner, by the way.)

Rearrange your own things accordingly, and you’ll be surprised at how easy everything is to find. And now that you’re free of all those expired medicines and lotions, your cabinet will be presentable to even the most judgemental dinner-party snoops.


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