The next time you declutter, don’t forget to do this…


Excess clutter can be an issue in every area of the home including your medicine cabinet, first aid and makeup bags.

Most municipalities will schedule a Drug Take back day (usually in April)  or they may provide a permanent kiosk to safely recycle your prescriptions and over-the- counter drugs.

Beauty experts say makeup containers and applicators are breeding grounds for bacteria.  My colleague, Margit Novack, explains her eye-opening experience and lessons learned with her makeup and medicine cabinet clean out.

Expired cosmetics are actually unsafe – a fact I learned the hard way. I attended a wedding and decided to wear makeup, which I don’t often do. I guess “often” is not the right word, since years can go by between my makeup applications. At any rate, I applied the makeup, thought I looked pretty good, and then my eyes began hurting. “Wow, I really must be getting dry eye,” I thought. I made an appointment with my ophthalmologist and explained what happened.
“Your eyes are fine,” she said. “How old are the cosmetics?” Hummm. I wore eye makeup daily in my prior career, before starting Moving Solutions. I left my job in 1994, and the makeup wasn’t new when I left…so, say 20 years old?
“You can’t wear 15-year old cosmetics,” she said. “They develop bacteria.” Well, duh…I guess I should have known that. I went online and most sites recommend that once you open that blush, bronzer, concealer, eye shadow, eyeliner, foundation, lip liner, lipstick, mascara etc., you should only keep them for about three months. Even when products don’t become harmful, they can change smell, color and texture. Into the trash went my decades-old cosmetics.
Continuing on my expiration mission, I went to our medicine cabinet. The bottom of the Pepto Bismol bottle had solidified. It went into the trash, as did 6 bottles of nose spray, most over 3 years old, and dozens of unidentifiable cold pills that had been removed from their packages. These were joined by jars of leftover antibiotics (with 2 or 3 capsules left because I had started to feel better). I assembled our collection of antibiotic ointments and got rid of any that were more than 2 years old. Nine containers of sun block, most over 3 years old, went into the trash as well. I discovered 5 large unopened boxes of Q-tips. I didn’t realize I was a Q-Tip hoarder. These have a long shelf-life, so we probably have a lifetime supply. Out went 3 jars of decade-old Vaseline, 11 partially used Chapsticks, a dozen nail polishes (most solidified), 4 ancient body lotions, 3 huge extra firm hold hair sprays (do I even remember using hair spray?), 4 stiff-bristled hair put in the closet because I didn’t like using them, two curling irons, perfumes (when was the last time I wore perfume?), 4 tubes of muscle rub that were completely used up, and a heating pad whose cover had a disgusting growth on it. I found three hair dryers — good thing — I was thinking I needed to buy a new one, 9 unopened dental flosses (do they expire too??) and 6 brand new toothbrushes. I parted with my old toothbrush (wonder how long I have been using that), so now there are just 5 new ones.
The ironic thing is, I would not have guessed that we had that much stuff in our bathroom closet. I am not even sure how it all fit.
My new medicine cabinet is a thing of beauty. Everything is organized in small white plastic baskets and three tiered shelves so there is clear visibility, and I know where everything is. When my husband asked where we now keep antibiotic ointment, I proudly told him, “in the white basket, third shelf down, in a small box holding 4 tubes of ointments”. He was impressed, and so was I. Being uncluttered helps you be more in control, and being in control feels good.
Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “No way do I have that much stuff hanging around in my medicine closet.” Go ahead, empty your medicine cabinet and see. I challenge you.

Margit Novack, author of Squint: Re-visioning the Second Half of Life, available on Amazon. Profound, uplifting and memorable, Squint opens our eyes to the abundant possibilities of later life. It’s a must read and a must have for an enlightening, joyful journey.
Read more of Margit’s blog posts at

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