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Maximize your medicine cabinet

Maris Callahan is the author of "In Good Taste," and, as an avid self-taught home cook, is widely knowledgeable about all things culinary. She is especially passionate about helping women on-the-go cook healthy, delicious meals and snack...

For many of us, our bathroom medicine cabinets become a graveyard for expired prescription bottles, discarded lotions, creams and toiletries and make-up that we've had in our cosmetics cases since the late nineties. To keep your medicine cabinet from becoming a virtual junk drawer, organize it regularly. "Most of us are pack rats," designer Lori Carroll of Lori Carroll and Associates in Tucson told HGTV. "Go through the medicine cabinet every six months and throw out stuff you don't use." That means finally parting ways with your eyeliner from Y2K, empty bottles of Tylenol and dried-up lotions and face creams.

Crowded Medicine CabinetWHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT

If you're having trouble find a place for everything because you just have an excess of jars, bottles and boxes on your medicine cabinet shelves, take the advice that closet organizers have given their clients for years: if you haven't used something in at least a year, throw it out. If you think you might use it again someday? Throw it out anyway.

PAY ATTENTION TO EXPIRATION DATES

Medicines and cosmetics both have expiration dates and storing them in warm bathrooms is a surefire way to expedite their expiration. One of the best ways to dispose of drugs is to flush them down the toilet to avoid kids or pets from finding them and thinking they're candy or toys.

START WITH THE SHELVES

Empty all of the items from your medicine chest and rearrange the removable shelves to your advantage. You can often replace the shelves at various heights to accomodate your possessions, so arrange them in whatever way will keep you best organized.

SHOP MEDICAL SUPPLY STORES

If you have too many loose objects strewn throughout the cabinet, shop medical supply stores. They have great glass jars for storing cotton swabs and bandages that are made to keep items dry and sterile, so you can store them neatly and within easy reach - instead of in a tangled mess at the bottom of a drawer or pile.

Have a backup plan

Only store designated items in your medicine chest and designate a place for overflow - such as organized neatly in a basket underneath your vanity or on an out-of-sight shelf in your linen closet. It is difficult to resist the temptation to cram stray items into the cabinet when you're in a rush to work in the morning, but you'll be happy if you take the extra thirty seconds to keep it neat.

Keep your medicines out of the medicine chest

Consider moving drugs to a different location, such as a high kitchen shelf. High humidity and heat can cause some medicines to lose their potency. Wherever you store your medicines, make sure they are out of reach of children.

In Case of Emergency...

Designate one shelf in your medicine cabinet for emergency supplies, such as a first aid kit, inhalers, allergy medicine or anything that you need to grab in an emergency. Keep frequently used items here too: aspirin, first aid cream, band aids and gauze, this way you'll always be prepared for unexpected illnesses or injuries.

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