Simple Saturday ~ Another guest post from Moni Gilbert

Here in the southern hemisphere we are heading towards Spring and I cannot wait for the days to get longer and the temperature a bit warmer. As we have trudged through Winter we have had our share of coughs and flu’s doing the grand circuit through the household. I am, as usual, the last person to go down with the flu and just back on my feet again after two days in bed. Of course, my husband is sure I (Moni) could not have had what he just had because he couldn’t get out of bed for five days whereas I (Moni) seemed to be able to roll out of bed to collect the girls from school and to deal with dinner and laundry. Surely, I must have something less severe. 🙄

So the medicine cabinet has seen a bit of action lately but I am rather pleased with the lower level of stock that we are managing on these days. In previous years our medicine cabinet has rivaled a Pharmacy (Drug Store in US) for the variety and quantities of over the counter meds we had – my annual decluttering of the medicine cabinet was a joy because everything had an expiry date which meant justifiable expulsion from the household. Earlier this year I noticed how many similar items could be found in our medicine cupboard and usually within 3-6 months of each for expiry date. Two lots of antihistamine, three lots of the identical headache/pain tablet, four lots of similar flu meds and so on and so on. I gave this some thought but couldn’t explain the phenomenon until eventually I caught myself in the act. My daughter was sent home from school with a head cold and I beelined for the Pharmacy on the way as I couldn’t recall if I had anything suitable at home already. This is how the fourth set of head cold meds entered the house to sit between an identical half empty packet and two other rival brands containing the same active ingredients.

My daughter is a rather logical thinker and was highly amused in a clogged up, watery eyed sort of way, and suggested I write a inventory of what we have and keep it on my iPod Touch since it goes everywhere with me now that I have discovered Notepad and “Things” app (my iPod is my training ground for an iPhone) . So I did so and included any extra details that were included on the packaging plus the expiry dates. From that day onwards – which fortunately was early Autumn – I have carried with me an inventory of medicines already in the house and thanks to a damp cold Winter and a lot of flu’s going around, a noteable reduction in our stock levels.

This method is working well for me, but it could be as simple as a piece of paper slipped into a pocket of my wallet. What I am doing is Decluttering 101 in that I am reducing the amount of incoming items and hopefully it will reduce the amount of medicines that I have to dispose of at expiry time.

What other clever ideas are there for managing the medicine cabinet?

The Weekend’s Mini Missions

Saturday – Declutter a electric cable that serves no purpose.

Sunday – Declutter something made of paper.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Moni, I like your idea of having an inventory on your iPod (or anywhere with you). We have been having a bit of a Medicine avalanche here because they are trying to get my mother’s blood pressure under control. She has started carrying a list of what she has taken and didn’t work, what she has still around, etc. We are hoping we will soon be able to get rid of all of this to the EPA turn in site on Sept 29. We look like we have started our own Pharmacy for Blood Pressure meds.

    • Hi Deb J – I must update my iPod list as since I wrote this we had another round of the flu. Its been a hard-to-get-rid-of-it flu that has done the rounds this year, as in you think you’re over it and then a fortnight later you’re on round two. I have to try and not look so happy when someone announces that they’re feeling sick again!

      Some years back my son broke his wrist and was referred up to the hospital for an orthopaedic opinion (by that stage of his life we were almost on first name basis with the orthopaedic ward) and in the cublicle next to us in A&E was an elderly lady who obviously was on a long list of meds which had been changed in recent times and she was very confused about which she should and shouldn’t take, some caused side effects and her daughter was helping the doctor unravel which she had and hadn’t taken over the last week.

      I felt so sorry for her as she was putting herself under a lot of pressure to recall details. I’m hoping they set her up with one of those pre-packed pill packages. The doctor told her daughter that it was a common problem with the elderly who have to take a number of meds. (I didn’t mean to listen in but my seat in the cubicle backed up to the seat the elderly lady’s daughter was sitting on and only seperated by a curtain).

      So I think your mum is very wise to keep a list of what she has taken and didn’t work etc.

      • Moni, we have gotten to where we both keep a list of our meds we take, our allergies, our diagnoses, and our surgeries. I have it on the computer and I print it out whenever we go see a new doc. I print the meds and allergies part every time we do to any doc because they always want to know what you are still taking. It’s so helpful to have all of this easily available to print out. The docs are always so grateful for the printed version as they can make sure everything is correct. Mom actually also keeps a list of what she takes and when because they have made so many changes this past year that she can no longer remember what it what. I don’t blame her. I can’t remember either and I hear it just like she does.

  2. Great idea to use the iPod to keep an inventory (and to use it as a trial run for the iPhone – I did the same thing, and now I love my phone!)
    I keep the medicine cabinet decluttered by not believing that most of the OTC remedies will actually help. An awful lot of them are just a waste of money! For a bad cold we have Benadryl (antihistamine that makes you sleepy, which we have anyway for allergies) and Tylenol/Panadol – the former stops your nose from making so much gunk and helps you rest, the latter makes you hurt less. Then it’s off to bed. With meds you get better in 7 days, without it usually takes a week 😉 For migraine, I looked at the ingredients in the OTC medicine – aspirin, acetaminophen (paracetamol) and caffeine – I have all 3 in the house already, all store brands (except the coffee!) And so on. We are lucky not to need Rx meds.
    I did have to do a clean out of some toiletry/pharmacy things recently – bought over 10 years ago… I could tell by the labels we had bought them in Japan. oops! But we obviously didn’t need them, so I won’t replace them.
    btw I am a kiwi living in the US – nice to read some antipodean voices on the ‘net 🙂

    • Hi Joanna – Kia Ora from Aotearoa!
      I agree OTC meds don’t reduce the time it takes to get better, though some relief from symptoms is a bonus.
      Something else I’ve done this winter is to not buy super-size packets of whatever-it-is – not just OTC meds but also vitamins/supplements. The counter staff always assure me that its not the best economy – maybe it isn’t – but as I have a history of ending up throwing out unused and expired meds, I’ll take the risk.

      Just out of interest Joanna – as a Kiwi abroad, do you find the flu’s are different in the states than here down under? Living in a wet and cold winter country flu’s are just part of the winter routine but on TV out of the states a flu is presented as a more scary illness than what we do. I have often wondered about that – though I admit that a couple of years ago we all got Swine Flu and I did not enjoy that one bit at all!

      • Here in the States they like to dramatize everything–more money in the pockets of the drug companies that way.

        With the list of side effects they reel off for most of these things, it’s a wonder anybody wants to take them.

        • Hi Becky – here the general consensus is that Tamiflu meds is worse than the flu, so you need to be really really sick before you agree to it.

        • I agree with Becky – some of it is the media over-reacting. Also a lot of people have strange (to me) ideas about what “the flu” is – a lot of people call stomach bugs the flu, or talk about vomiting when they get a cold/the flu. I don’t understand that at all! I never get a flu shot even though I work with the public. I’ve read a bit about colds (the book was called “ah-choo!” – it was very interesting) and they said most people get the same number of colds year after year – I get 2. The book is also where I got the tylenol/benadryl remedy. A lot of people I work with get sick a lot. But this area of the country (Pacific NW) also has a wet dreary climate in fall, winter and spring.

          • Hi Joanna – that sounds like an interesting book – in my family we all get the flu in the same order every year and the same ones either get it short and bad and the same ones get it mild but lingering, so it would be interesting to know if that is just a personal reaction to the bugs/virus.

            I have noticed on tv shows from the US that what we call “24 hour bug” is called stomach flu over there, and we differentiate between a “cold”, “chest infection” and the “flu”.

            I personally don’t get a flu shot, but that is more because I don’t get organised early enough in the winter season and I feel I am still young enough and healthy enough to weather a flu.

  3. Oh Moni, of course you did not have the same as your husband! No woman has ever gotten as sick, or tired or overworked as a man 😉
    Your medicine advice is brilliant. I’ll save it for the point when we ever are one household enough to actually have ONE medicine cabinet (or drawer or whatever). So far BF has insisted on keeping certain things separate. He has a little case with meds that’s thoughtfully stocked with the basics and is always travel ready. Great actually. Not so great: It apparently can’t live in the bathroom but needs to be kept where „his stuff“ is. That was especially annoying when I cut my finger while he was gone and the bandaids where in his case of course because I didn’t see the need to buy two packets for one household the last time we ran out of bandaids (stupid me …). I could reach him by phone but was, let’s say, not amused …

    Has anyone encountered the problem of a spouse not wanting things to mingle and being very protective of his stuff? I hate having several places in the rather small apartment for towels, bed linen, tools, stationery items … I’ll take any advice on how to convince him to change this craziness (of course hoping, too, that once things live in one place he’ll recognize the overabundance in some fields and maybe accepts letting go of some of his stuff. He fortunately is not too cluttered but he is VERY reluctant of letting things go. Especially when it comes to his vs. mine. I have decluttered as much duplicates from my side as possible but when it comes to functionality – like towels that just have the wrong size for our towel bars and fall off all the time but worked on the hooks in his old place – or aesthetics – stuff color coordinated with the place we live in rather than with the place he used to live in – or good vs. bad quality … I just kept the duplicates so far and hope to find a way to convince him. All the wasted space for things we have too many of and don’t use anyway makes me cringe.)

    • Hi Ideealistin – there’s nothing like Man Flu is there?
      I can’t say that I’ve come across a partner wanting to keep his stuff seperate before, but then Adrian is very happy (over eager even) to let me do the organising and maintaining stock levels in the family. We’ve been together almost 20 years so there is nothing left over that belonged to either of us individually prior, except his New Kids On The Block and Milli Vanilli cd!

      I’ve asked a co-worker who is in a flatting situation with two friends and he thinks most things end up mixed in and replaced ie band-aids via the weekly flat grocery shopping. Mind you my co-work is a pretty laid back guy.

      If you don’t mind me asking did your partner live in a boarding school situation? Or went thru a messy breakup where combined stuff had to be untangled? Or he is someone who needs a particular system to feel comfortable?

    • Wow this is strange Ideealistin – and as Moni asks, I too wonder about boarding school or something similar. I went to 8 years of boarding school, I was a little like this when I rejoined a household (after years flatting etc). I suppose it was partly stock control (knowing there’d be x, and someone else wouldn’t have used it up) and partly knowing where to find it (losing stuff in a house=easy, losing stuff in a room=less easy). But I don’t think I was quite the same? My towels joined the linen cupboard, as did the sheets… Now I wonder what it’d be like if someone came to live with me – actually it sort of scares me, and scared away the last guy (three dates and it died…)

      • No boarding school or bad break ups … I guess he’s just special. (fortunately also often in good ways). And he’s an only child which might add to the whole situation. I have been motivated to at least make a new attempt to decluttering of things superfluous to our needs that belong to him. His reply to a certain kitchen object was that he needed to ask his mum because she bought it for him once. okaaay … Though I don’t get the reasoning behind it (it’s not precious heirlooms) let’s make an ask-mum-pile then …
        I guess after all it just shows how people who declutter with thinking about it differ from non-declutterers – even if I appear to be the much, much more cluttered person. I think the change of mind is the very best thing about this! (and with my packrat parents it is definitely a good thing to not ask for their opinion about stuff all the time …)

        • Ideealistin – I’m with Sanna, he might just be adjusting to cohabiting and if he didn’t have siblings, he’s on a learning curve. Hang in there.

    • Hi Ideealistin!

      When we first moved together, there were some of these tendencies, I think the reasons have been the following:

      – wanting to make the flat “his” as well. He didn’t want to give up his furniture in the beginning, however, when it wore down, he never insisted on special “his”-replacements. While the things we brought along when moving together still have a little of the “his”/”hers” character, the new additions don’t. If I recall correctly, in your case he moved into your apartment, so that might be an important point, to just feel that it really is “his” apartment as well and not entirely yours. Plus, usually are women the ones who “suggest” wall colours, placement of furniture and so on…

      -insecurity about whether living together would work out. (needs no further explanation I think)

      -being able to find things. At first he really wanted all his books/CDs to be seperate, just because he was used to their order and got confused with mine mixed in. It got better when there were less books/CDs overall. Plus, there are still areas in which I don’t meddle at all (his wardrobe, his desk, and a few boxes that hold his papers or computer parts)

      -general ignorance of clutter (he hadn’t been into decluttering before – as he isn’t a big shopper either “too much” wasn’t a problem for him until we moved together)

      After living together and seeing me getting rid of my stuff as well, he realized that I didn’t just want him to give up all his personal possessions, but really wanted to declutter in general. So, when my books got less and less, he started going through his as well etc.

      I think, hardest are those things you point out, giving up on something because it doesn’t match the style. When this style is more “your” style, i.e. when he doesn’t see that his old ones don’t match, he will be unlikely to “give in”.
      Also, most men I know really have a hard time to adjust to new surroundings. For my bf it’s really difficult and annoying to adjust to things being in a different spot to where he was used to find them. Of course after a move, everything was “out of place”, so he really needed those few things that were exactly as they used to be (and that might be the case with your bf’s medicine) As he got more used to this apartment in general, it was possible to suggest changing the contents of some drawers or joining our things together somewhere.

      • Hi Sanna – I agree, decluttering is catching. Adrian is now an ‘armchair declutter’ – he tells me what should go and I take care of it. Its not so bad an arrangement in that I don’t come up against much opposition, just last night he was telling me that he used to feel a bit stressed out trying to find things in the home (before decluttering began) and how we used to spend hours tidying up, picking things up off the floor and shoving things into cupboards before we could even start the housework.

        • I love when the man of the house notices the difference. That’s real progress.

          • Hi Deb J – yes it is great not having anyone blocking my efforts. Last night he was sitting at the computer in our little lounge that is off the kitchen and I reminded him of all the furniture items that used to be in the room that are now gone. Now our little lounge doesn’t seem so little.

            Having said that, it would be nice if sometimes he got rid of something himself but I guess he figures I have a plan and all the methods etc. Its now warm enough that I can go back up in the ceiling storage and finish the last quarter, so he can be my muscle-man for that excursion.

          • Moni, be glad you have a muscle man. We need one. I have a feeling your hubby is like my dad was. He would much rather let Mom and I do the choosing of what and when to declutter. He was fine as long as we didn’t get into his piles (we called them A-F). He knew exactly what was in them and knew if we messed with them. So we kept his cupboard doors closed and left him to it, the one place out of their large house that was off limits. Believe me we could live with that.

          • Thanks girls for all the encouragement with my “special edition”. Being able to find things and hating change, yes, Sanna, that sounds very reasonable. Though I like to stick to a good system I am always eager to change things around when there seems to be a better order but I guess I have to remind myself that he apparently doesn’t work the same way. On the other hand I am always astonished when he asks me where this or that is because I consider knowing where things are as a profound step in feeling at home in a place vs. feeling like a visitor. But maybe that is just one more female “misconception” … I’ll try to be patient. And try to value the little steps. After all, he surrendered an empty box (that he had in “his” shelf while there are boxes of my stuff in the bed room that he frequently complains about, well …), at least after me asking if there wasn’t probably an empty box, to store baby stuff. He hates me getting baby stuff already but I decided to be deaf on that ear as there were three good opportunities (aka flea markets) the past weeks to get stuff cheap and there are a few more coming up and I prefer to get as many things done as possible while I am mobile and energetic. Also, I don’t think we will get tons of hand me downs as the kid will be almost the first one among our friends – and I decided that I won’t stress out about probably not buying the exact numbers in the beginning because I simply can’t know that now anyway. I stay away from big bulky stuff and toys though to see what we will really need. We want to keep it as minimal there as possible. But with clothes I’d rather go (a bit) overboard than be short. (I am astonished at many fleamarket tables though were it seems they had almost as many outfits in one size as the kid would fit into that size. Or more … they do grow like weed at the beginning, don’t they?)

          • Ideealistin, yes babies grow like weeds. To begin with onesies are great because you will go through a lot of them and they are easy to wash. I have noticed that a lot of the babies these days don’t stay in the 0-3 months size very long if at all.

  4. Hi moni, I am not sure what the iPod touch is like ~ my husband has one but I don’t use it ~ I do know however that taking notes on my smart phone is so easy because I can speak them into the phone and it translates what I say to text. Gotta love that technology, it saves me a whole lot of thumb exercise, typos and often the odd swear word.

    • Hi Colleen – an iPod touch is a phoneless version of an iPhone. Dayna uses the app ‘Notes’ a lot. I’m pretty sure it comes standard on iPod touch. The app symbol is like a ruled piece of paper with a margin line. I’m trying to phase out writing myself to-do lists on paper.

      I like the sound of what you’re using on your smart phone! Isn’t technology great!

  5. Good plan Moni – for our work first aid kit in each of our cars, we do an check every 6 months. Now I photocopy it, so I can just transcribe stuff, take out anything out of date (well… I mean, if it’s a bandage, I start lying on the paperwork, cause they really SHOULD NOT have expiry dates..)

    I should start this with my personal stash at home. Thanks for the thought (well, another call to action!)

    • Hi Snosie – I too am baffled why they put an expiry date on bandages. Thanks for the reminder I will go and check our first aid kit.

  6. Great post Moni! And yes men get so much sicker than we women do (and I did roll my eyes as I wrote this 😀 ). My home pharmacy is very small, but duplicates are something that we had a lot of. But we had, as you, a very long and wet winter and we spent a lot on antibiotics and I decided to have a look at everything to see if we had other medicine (like paracetamol and the likes) so we used it up. We had. And had a lot of expired medicine. I like your inventory idea, and I will try and apply it. But I will use paper. I am not very handy with this “IPod”, “IPhone” and “IReally don’t know how to use” this new technology. 😀 😀

  7. Isn’t “home pharmacy” another way of being prepared for each and everything? “Just in case” fits as well perfectly to medicine hoarders 😉
    Regards from Chrissie (who just reduced home pharmacy from board to box)

    • Hi Chrissie – you are correct – and I was the one who wrote about “Just in case” – thank you, I hadn’t made that connection.

      I used to have this huge first aid kit, until a friend who is a nurse pointed out that if someone was badly injured an ambulance would be called or I’d rush them to a doctor. I think it is a hang over from spending my teen years in a rural town near the mountains.

  8. good one. I just decluttered my medicine cabinet, as I got a tonsillitis 2 weeks ago and when that was almost over, I got a cold. first you cant swallow and then you cant breathe – made me appreciate how lucky I am that I am a very healthy person besides the annual cold. As I was preparing for exams I decided to take every medicine I can get and keep learning, as I really didnt have the time to spend the time in bed.
    So I got rid of a lot of pain killers, strepsils, the nose-spray, and another pack of herbal cold meds… my bathroom mirror is getting spacious again. I decided to not stock up on any meds in the future, except for pain killer – those I need in emergencies and I (and others) use them up before the but if I have something serious, I need to see the doctor anyway and the next pharmacy is around the corner…
    I will check the cabinet again for any leftovers, but I think I am quite good in that matter.

    btw. I think I am the only one that will always prefer a paper list over a digital app… I am going for less technology in my home instead. 😉

    • No Lena you are not alone, we are a techie household and I have a techie job but I like paper lists and my filofax organiser best for notes and addresses – my only concession is that I print out my contacts list from my outlook email and cut it up and paste it in when I re do my A-Z pages.

      • Love the cut and paste for the address book (like real cut and real paste!). I’ve tried sticky labels with addresses, to take to put on postcards on holidays (Sadly the adhesive had expired, and didn’t work!)

    • Hi Lena – sorry to hear you have been unwell. Yes I live within 3 mins of a pharmacy and plenty more within driving distance.

      I am a paper list gal at heart but my daughter has me in training for an iPhone for my next phone. And I am infamous for losing my lists.

  9. Moni, you have a delightful writing style, and I’m enjoying your guest posts.

    I have a slightly different view of decluttering over the counter medicines and such. Lately there’s been a shortage of several antibiotics, and other drugs. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that we could see shortages on any of the over the counter medicines as well.

    Because of that, I believe in having an ample stock of whatever we might use. We don’t take medicine for every little sniffle, but in the case of a bad flu or something, we’re glad for those items that make the symptoms a little easier to bear, and it’s a great comfort knowing that there’s plenty in the house.

    I keep our over the counter medicines, cough syrup, and cough drops in a small box in one of my kitchen cupboards. Everything is organized and able to be seen at a glance, but I do try to keep extras of these things on hand.

    I also agree about the “man flu”. I love how men become so helpless when they don’t feel well, but if WE don’t feel well, somebody still has to tend to house, children, and pets–and guess who that usually ends up being? 😉

    • Hi Becky – you are very kind – sounds like you are well ahead of me! I don’t know what it is like where you are, but here Doctors are very reluctant giving out antibiotic prescriptions these days. Of course, the very young, the elderly or the already ill are the exception but with this round of flu we had to have a throat swab confirming bacterial versus viral base flu before a prescription could be filled. It came back viral. I think think this is wise. A few years back we had our first encounter with swine flu here in NZ and basically the Ministry of Health quarintined (at home in the majority of cases) anyone sick. What a week that was for us!
      The Ministry of Health was concerned about antibiotic shortages but more that the average normally healthy people needed stronger antibiotics than was expected, so basically they have recommended Drs be cautious adminstering meds during the non crisis times so that we cope on the lesser stuff.

    • Becky – yes Man Flu – we saw a documentary where millions of dollars were spent researching Man Flu and the conclusion was that men have a lower pain thresh hold and more of a self focus. I could have told them that!

      My younger daugher did the topic of “Man Flu” for her Year 8 speech and it got thru the regional finals, which her dad came along to hear, we didn’t warn him of the topic, so he was a wee bit embarressed, got a fair bit of ribbing as we left.

  10. Moni, what a clever idea! I am one of the last women on the earth without an iPod but I can put the meds on a 3×5 card and keep it in my purse.

    Below is a link about drug expiration dates and how some dates on medications may be a little premature.

  11. I love the idea of keeping a list that is ready at your fingertips. I really don’t like it when I (a) have to buy something because I can’t remember if I have some already at home or (b) if I am on a trip and I forgot to pack it. Things happen though and sometimes it cannot be avoided. Great idea. Allergy medicine is the one item that I carry with me because you never know when something may trigger the allergies. I have also reverted to a medicine box. It seems to work better for me.

    • Hi Jen – that’s exactly what happens! Yesterday my hubby and I were out and he asked if we had any antihistamines at home – normally I’d say I’m not sure and he’d say lets just grab some on the way home to save another trip out. I was able to open my notes app and read him the brand and main active ingredient of both types we had at home.

      Our meds used to sit in two containers in our medicine cupboard but thanks to the flu season and using up part boxes first we are down to one container. When we go away I will just take the whole darn thing with me, because I too also end up buying duplicates when out of town.

  12. I must say, I’m really not used to “hoarding” medicine, i.e. keeping a lot of it at home. This said, my Mum has always worked in the medical field, so I guess she wouldn’t have went “dangerous” in that area. However, we always had to stop by the pharmacy, if one of us got ill, as we never had any particular medicine at home. We just bought what we needed for that period of illness. I still handle it that way. The only things that are usually at home are some bandaids and remedies for small injuries (like something to cool when you got burnt) as well as sometimes a few leftovers from the last cold. At the moment, there is nothing in the house but a thermometer and bandaids (and crutches, because I might need them), but I wouldn’t freak out because of that. Bandaids and a phone are really the only things you need in a hurry at home, everything else can be bought in the nearby pharmacy when the need arises. (or you call for the ambulance anyway) Plus your regular subscriptions, if you have any, of course.

  13. We have two full baths – one on the first floor and one on the 2nd. We keep bandaids and neosporin in both as well as my husbands aspirin that he takes before bed in the upstairs bath. Everything else is in the kitchen cupboards. Both of us take a lot of meds, so we have a small plastic container on the kitchen counter for my husbands meds and I have a zipper container that holds enough for several weeks with the remainder in the kitchen cupboard. Even cold medicine is in the kitchen because it is logical for us since we take our other meds there. We have never taken many over the counter drugs so cough syrup and tylenol are in limited supply.