Free Your Space: Use It or Lose It

It can be a challenge to keep on
top of our stock of supplies, especially those things that are used in the
background of our busy lives.
While we run to keep up with kids, new gadgetry and demanding jobs, we grab
new products along the way, push the old stuff to the back and, before we know
it, our cupboards are overflowing with “I-don’t-know-what.”

Seasonal clean-outs are cyclical
opportunities to address some of the ‘stuff’ of our lives that have outlived
their expiration dates. “Spring
Cleaning” is a perfect time to go through some of our familiar-yet-forgotten
supplies. To name a few:
cosmetics, medications and spices are some accoutrements of our daily
lives. And, while these staples
can last a long time, they rarely last forever and require an occasional review
to curtail and maintain our collections.

Did you know that makeup and
lotions have expiration dates?
Sometimes we collect extra cosmetics because of a good sale, a one-time
whim or phase, or because we receive samples. After a while, it’s easy to forget exactly what we have and
even where we have it. To address
this issue, set up a staging area - a made-bed with a towel (not your favorite)
laid out to absorb any leaks. Then
go on a treasure hunt. Check
bedroom and bathroom drawers and cabinets to find all your makeup, lotions, and
perfumes and gather them to your stage.

Begin by weeding out the items
that you know you will never use again:

If it’s been
opened, toss it in the trash.

If still
sealed, check the expiration date to decide if you will pass it on or throw it

Check the expiration dates of
the keepers before returning them to their containers. If you can’t find the date, this
website will help:

Prescription drugs or over the
counter, it is important to go through you stock of medications at least
annually. It can be confusing and
dangerous to keep medications around that no longer work for you or are not
compatible with your other meds.
Clear the kitchen table and empty out all your medications from one
cabinet. (Unlike toiletries, it is
best to tackle these items one area at a time so as not to mix any medications
up). Dispose of the drugs that
have expired and the ones that you are no longer supposed to be taking -
expired or not. Return the drugs
you will keep to their cabinet, keeping over-the-counter drugs separate. As for the rejects, it is important to
be responsible about their disposal.
Many medications have safe disposal methods posted right on the
containers. Some medications are
flushable. Others can be thrown in
the trash after mixing them with coffee grinds or kitty litter first (to ensure
that some unsuspecting animal or child does not consume them). Protect yourself by removing any
identifying labels before discarding the container. Visit the FDA
website for more about safe drug disposal and the DEA
website to find out about prescription drug “Take Back Days” in your community.

Whether you’re an avid gourmet
chef, a casual Rachel Ray, or the microwave queen of the east coast, I’ll bet
you have a few spices in your kitchen.
And, unless you are a college student just starting out, I’d also bet
that they’ve been there for a few years.
This is okay since most spices have a shelf life of up to five years. As you can see I said five, not fifty. Ok, so they’re sitting there not hurting anyone – big
deal. Well they are also taking up
lots of cupboard space that could possibly be better used for getting some of
your more current inventory off the countertops. Also, just because you
haven’t touched them in years, that doesn’t mean that they’ve remained
untouched. Spices are edible and
if you’re not going to eat them, there may be a bug or two that would be happy
to help (trust me on this, I know).
Some of the spice companies have guidelines as to how long a spice is
good for on their websites. Some
containers are marked with expiration dates. Here are a couple of quick decision makers:

If it’s in a little rectangular tin can (with
the exception of black pepper), throw it out. Those cans have not been made since the 90’s.

If you haven’t used it at all in five years,
throw it out. If you finally find
a recipe that calls for it, why would you want to risk ruining your creation
with something gone bad?

For more information about how
long to keep your spices visit the McCormick
website or

* To contact Annette Reyman for
organizing work, productivity support, gift certificates or speaking
engagements in the Greater Philadelphia area call (610) 213-9559 or email her
Reyman is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers
(NAPO®) and Board Member of its Greater
Philadelphia Chapter
Visit her website at
or follow All Right Organizing on Facebook.

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