If it takes you several minutes—and maybe several expletives—to find the right pill to alleviate your ailment, it’s probably time to cut the clutter in your medicine cabinet.

“When you aren’t feeling well, the last thing you should have to do is dig around for the remedy,” said Melinda Massie, owner of Organizing with a Side of Fabulous in Fort Worth, TX.

Whether you take medication several times a day or just once in awhile, periodically organizing your medicine can make your life easier, and it might even be a matter of safety for you and your family. Take a look at these four tips for bringing order to your medicine cabinet.

Reconsider the Bathroom.

Before you start organizing, determine whether you need to find a new spot for storing medication.

According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, keeping medicine in the bathroom or anywhere with high humidity levels can reduce the potency of your pills. You also should avoid areas with high heat and direct exposure to sunlight.

“I recommend keeping your medicines where you are most likely to take them, which is often the kitchen,” said Lauren Williams, owner of Casual Uncluttering in Woodinville, WA.

She pointed out that many medicines need to be taken with food or water. So a drawer or cabinet in the kitchen is a smart option; just make sure the medications aren’t too close to the stove or another source of heat.

Even though exposure to sunlight is potentially damaging, you shouldn’t hide your medicine in the dark. You need enough light to comfortably read the labels on the bottles.

 Group your medicine by type and use baskets to keep them organized. Photo source: honewerehome.com
Group your medicine by type and use baskets to keep them organized. Photo source: Honey We’re Home

Safely Dispose of Expired Medicine.

Remove all your medication and create a separate pile for anything that’s out of date or that you no longer use.

If you’re tempted to hang on to a bottle of expired pills, don’t. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), out-of-date medicine can lose effectiveness or even change composition and become dangerous to take.

While you should get rid of older pills, don’t flush them down the toilet or toss them in the trash just yet. Although some medicines are safe for regular disposal, others require environmentally safe disposal methods.

“Many pharmacies are now taking them back for safe disposal and some police stations have ‘bring them back’ days,” Williams said.

If you can’t take your medicine to a professional, consult the FDA’s list of recommendations for preparing medicine before doing your own disposal.

Sort Medicine Based on Your Habits.

“There is no one way to organize your medicine,” Williams said. So before you start sorting by pill size, consider what works best for your medicine-taking habits.

A few options Williams recommends include sorting alphabetically by name, by purpose (all heart meds grouped together, for example) or by the time of day the medicine is taken.

In addition to creating an overall system for organizing your medicine bottles, Williams suggested using a pill organizer for day-to-day doses.

Use Baskets to Improve Efficiency.

If you have a large amount of medication or you have family members with different health needs, try sorting the medication into separate baskets. Not only will your medicine storage area look better, but baskets make it much easier to grab—and put back—all the right pills and supplies.

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