Reader Question: Organizing medications

Reader Deborah wrote to us to ask for some help with her situation:

We are overrun with pill bottles and medicines of all kinds — bottles, jars, tubes, etc. of prescriptions, headache pills, cold pills, skin creams, vitamins, and more. Years ago, I got a new cabinet to put next to my sink and it’s now overflowing too. You pull out the bottle you want and others fall out too. How do you corral these?

Dealing with dozens of little bottles that fall over all the time can be frustrating! Here at Unclutterer we’ve got some advice on how to corral these small containers.

Step one is to unclutter. It’s time to dispose of all of the medications and toiletries you no longer need or use. Gather everything up and spread it out on your counter or dining table to see what you have. Collect all of the prescriptions that are no longer used and any expired over-the-counter-medications and vitamins. Ideally, place them into a sealed bag or bucket out of the reach of children and pets until you can dispose of them properly. Check your toiletries such as face creams and cosmetics for expiry dates and dispose of any that are expired.

Now it is time to organize what is left — the items that you are currently using.

You have not specified exactly where you would like to store your medications (pharmacists say that the bathroom medicine cabinet is one of the worst places to store medications) so there are several alternatives listed here.

If several people in your home are using prescription medications, you may want to store each person’s bottles in small, different coloured baskets. It will be very easy to see whose medications are whose. Unless the vials are full of liquid, lay them down flat. They are less likely to tip over and you will still be able to see the labels.

Another option is to use a three-drawer desk organizer. Assign each person their own drawer and lay the vials flat inside. This unit does take up some counter space but it could be easily put on a closet shelf — out of the reach of children.

If you have liquid medications, you could use a turntable. One with high sides and interior dividers will prevent the bottles from falling over when it spins. The dividers would keep everyone’s medication separated and you could easily label each section. You would need counter space or a shelf at least 12-inches deep for this item.

Stackable, transparent storage bins with hinged lids would work for storing vials containing both liquids and solids. Again, each person could have their own bin or you could arrange the medications by category such as, “headache & pain relief” and “cough & cold.” This type of container is nice. Because the lids are hinged, they won’t get separated from the containers and lost or end up in a big pile at the bottom of the cupboard.

If you are limited in counter and shelf space, spice racks can be mounted to walls or the interior of cupboard doors. They are ideal for holding small bottles and vials. A spice rack with several shelves would work if you have multiple bottles of the same height. If some bottles are taller, opt for single spice shelves so you can mount them further apart to accommodate the various sized bottles.

If you travel frequently, consider storing your medications in a transportable, lockable, travel bag. It will keep everything in its place when you are at home and you can just zipper it closed and put it in your suitcase when you are ready to leave.

If you are having difficulty keeping tubes of medication, cosmetics, or even toothpaste from getting lost and tossed around in your cupboard, check out this idea to keep tubes of paint organized. You need not use nails on a piece of plywood in your bathroom, just attach a binder clip to the end of the tube and hang it from a small Command hook on the wall or inside a cupboard door.

Thanks for your great question Deborah. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject as “Ask Unclutterer.”

4 Comments for “Reader Question: Organizing medications”

  1. posted by Deborah on

    There are some great suggestions here! Thank you for such a thoughtful response!

  2. posted by Carla on

    I keep meds used daily separate from meds/supplies used on an as needed basis.

    I keep vitamin and Rx bottles in Eagle Creek Pack-It system zipper bags (blue for husband, red for me, black for refills that I haven’t yet opened). These are kept in a decorate basket, out of reach from visiting children, since this is where I call in refills. Once a week I fill pill minders from these bags. We don’t take many meds, but pill minders still help! I put our pill minders where it makes sense for each of us… husband’s is in pantry and mine is in nightstand drawer.

    All of our other meds and medical supplies are in a linen closet. I separate them in small shallow labeled baskets where I can see and grab what I need without pulling the basket out. Categories are: Stomach. Pain. Cold-Allergy. Emergency (like eye-wash). Vitamin C lozenges. Misc (like stuff for travel motion sickness). Instruments (thermometer, tweezers, bulb syringe, penlight, etc…).

    I have a different shelf with same type baskets for: Skin (like ointments). Antiseptics. Band-aids. Gloves. Large Gauze sponges/Washcloths used only for wound cleaning. Cottontails/Qtips. Bandages/splints/medical tape.

    Finally, a basket with Rice Buddies. Other Heat/Cold. An old wash basin used when someone is sick to their stomach. A coles container with a few braces and foot boots. A grab-and-go snap-top container with Essential Oils (and a travel soap container with oils we use for bee and wasp stings, labeled with instructions). Sunscreen. First-Aid Book.

    It sounds like A LOT when I write it out. I’m a nurse, and it took me awhile to come up with this system. We don’t access it very often. But when we do it’s so helpful to have everything visible and in reach. I tested it with my husband, asking him to find various things, to make sure it made sense to him. When you are sick or in an emergency you need things clear and simple.

    I hope something I’ve shared can help someone else as they put their meds and first-aid supplies together. 🙂

  3. posted by Carla on

    “decorative basket”
    “closed container”
    Sorry! 🙂

  4. posted by Carla on

    Just to clarify, I keep the decorative basket with our meds in it in my study, since that’s where I call in refills. Sorry for having to correct myself several times. My phone is not allowing me to see and proof my Comments before sending! Hopefully I’m done now! 🙂

Leave a Comment