Interior Design

For an A+ Organizing Win, Start With the Medicine Cabinet

Your morning routine will never be the same.

May  8, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

I am no expert on home decluttering. In fact, I currently own three separate jars of peanut butter, each about a quarter full. They're not even different varieties of peanut butter, which might make it excusable—they're all the creamy, natural kind. Opening the doors to my tiny pantry is about as relaxing as walking blindfolded into a paintball arena: Various bags of flour, bottles of olive oil, jars of anchovies, and bulk bin sacks of freeze-dried strawberries from a decade ago threaten to topple from the precarious stacks I've constructed to keep everything entrenched.

There's no easy solution, short of using my bedside table as spice storage, or disavowing half of the condiments I regularly dragoon into sauces and dressings; I've spent a lot of time staring vacantly into my over-stuffed pantry, considering options.

And the pantry's just one of many decluttering conundrums I have in my home. Don't get me started on the stray sock bag, or the drawer where we keep batteries, passports, and, inexplicably, old ribbons and charging cords.

That's why I know an easy organizing win when I see it. Like my latest mark: the medicine cabinet. I realized it was a prime target for decluttering one recent morning as a bottle of Advil came flying off a top shelf, ricocheted against a shaving razor, rebounded on a Band-Aid box, and hit me lightly in the center of my forehead, as if to say, "Wake up—you can't live like this."

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Top Comment:
“Hi Dorie, Thanks for the nice comment! I'm so happy to hear you were inspired by this little project. :) Ella”
— Ella Q.

Unlike my pantry, or the Drawer of Cords and Tangled Doom, the medicine cabinet is well-suited for quick, streamlined decluttering. It's small (highly tackle-able), and contains lots of the type of clutter that has resulted from acquiring useless duplicates of the same items, versus the type of clutter resulting from a variety of different items. Plus, I look inside it every morning and every night—so, ostensibly, changing that view to a pleasant one would, in addition to making my life logistically easier, have the sort of intangible benefits that I really believe will one day lead to me having a relaxed, glowy demeanor that makes people think I always just got back from vacation.

If you've got 10 minutes, you can tackle my medicine cabinet clean-up plan, too.

A 10-Minute Medicine Cabinet Revamp

1. Take everything out

Give the shelves a wipe-down; if you've got a mirror in there, wipe that down, too.

2. Combine any duplicate items

Put anything that can be consolidated (like bandages) into a single container or package, for each genre.

3. Purge

Get rid of anything you truly don't use—you are not going to start using it, ever (hi, adorably small shampoo bottles from a hotel stay in 1995).

4. Put like with like

All prescription bottles and over the counter medicines can hang out on the same quarter of a shelf.

5. Prioritize shelf space as prime real estate

Toss any duplicate or back-up products that can't be combined (like that second tube of toothpaste you preemptively bought) into a storage box in your nearest closet, or nestle it within under-sink shelving.

If you have a more than 10 minutes, you can tackle the next phase...

Employ All Those Tiny Jars You've Been Saving for No Reason

Forlorn, cleaned-out jam jar that lost its matching lid years ago, meet your new tenant: Q-tips.

Tiny jars left over from condiments are the perfect size to fit on medicine cabinet shelves and house essentials like bandages, cotton swaps, disposable razors, those four tubes of Neosporin, and bobby pins. This will allow you to decant items from larger packaging (like those Q-tip supplies that seem to last six years) and stow the larger packaging somewhere out of eyesight.

Use Your Under-Sink Space or Closet For Bulk Storage

Stock your medicine cabinet like you would stock a hotel room with toiletries for a week or two. Giant, unseemly supply packages can get tucked behind closed doors, as you parcel out a manageable amount into one of those pretty aforementioned jars.

Get Creative With How You Define Medicine Cabinet

I've lived in apartments wherein the bathrooms lacked any closet or cabinet space—don't give up! Hang a few shallow floating shelves to make a plein-air, open-faced medicine cabinet to show off your newfound organizational skills.

What are your best easy-win decluttering tips? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • auntali
  • Dorie
  • Ella Quittner
    Ella Quittner
Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


auntali May 14, 2019
Prescription and over the counter medicines should not be stored in the bathroom due to humidity, etc. Keep them in a kitchen cabinet or bedroom drawer instead.
Dorie May 8, 2019
Tried all of your ideas, every single one, then, so inspired, I raced to my favorite store and bought a new bath rug and shower curtain. Framed a magazine print and hung it over my newly bought towels! Reading your article set me back a few bucks but makes me laugh at how you inspired me!
Ella Q. May 9, 2019
Hi Dorie,

Thanks for the nice comment! I'm so happy to hear you were inspired by this little project. :)