Just about every household has pills. Where’s the best place to keep them? It’s not the medicine cabinet — or your kitchen counter.
About 82 percent of American adults take at least one prescription medication, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2017 survey by the Council for Responsible Nutrition found that 76 percent of Americans take dietary supplements, whether vitamins, botanicals or others.
“Dietary supplements are like a food; they are sensitive to light, heat and moisture,” says Duffy MacKay, senior vice president at the Council for Responsible Nutrition. “We recommend consumers store their supplements in a dry place in their original containers with the lids tightly closed, in a location that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight or humidity.”
Beyond safety concerns, bottles of pills are a real decorating buzzkill. (Whether the bottles bring you “joy” may be something you discuss with your doctor.) Designers and professional organizers are often tasked with helping clients find convenient yet discreet places to stash them. “Please, no baskets of pills on the kitchen counter,” says Alex Papachristidis, a New York interior designer. “Don’t have anything out there except a basket of fruit.”
You should keep your pills in a place where you will remember to take them. Here are some do’s and don’ts from experts.
Yes, it’s called the medicine cabinet. Don’t use it for medicine. Showers and faucets can create a humid atmosphere, which can be a problem for the potency of vitamins and medications.
Do keep pills in your bedroom. A bedroom is the ideal choice for medications, says Mohamed Jalloh, spokesman for the American Pharmacists Association. “Don’t leave them on the counter; a bedroom drawer is a better choice. It’s dry and cool. If someone comes into your room, they won’t see them, so this gives you privacy as well.”
Don’t keep pill bottles out on the kitchen counter. There are a host of reasons not to keep your pills out in the kitchen. First, it makes them accessible to children and pets. (Here are the CDC’s tips on storing medications away from children.) Fluctuations in temperature near stoves and dishwashers may affect the condition of supplements and prescription meds. And: It’s nobody’s business but yours to know whether you’re popping turmeric, B12 or Xanax.
If you are going to keep your pills in the kitchen, do come up with creative ways to store them safely. It’s best to keep pills a fair distance from your dishwasher, oven, stove or microwave. MacKay suggests that next to a coffee maker, a place where you might start your day, could be a good spot for your pill organizer. Washington designer Mary Douglas Drysdale has been outfitting kitchens with custom spice drawers for years and is using this type of drawer for vitamins and supplements. She is renovating her own small kitchen, putting in vitamin drawers instead of racks for cinnamon and cloves. “I don’t need spice drawers,” she says. “Cooking for one is a lot of work.” Washington designer Pamela Gaylin Ryder says appliance garages or charging drawers are good places to make room for vitamins.
Don’t toss original containers. Even if you use a weekly pill organizer, you should always hang on to the original bottle for instructions on dosage and how to take the medication or supplement. Also be aware that some medications and supplements are packaged in opaque or dark bottles for a reason: to prevent them from being exposed to sunlight or humidity, conditions that could make them lose potency over time.
Do keep your pills organized. Compartmentalize your vitamins and other pills using bins on a shelf, says Joy Cho, founder of the Oh Joy lifestyle brand and website. You can also repurpose interesting containers you find online. “I like using things like old card-catalogue bins that I see at flea markets or on eBay,” Cho says. “You can tuck vitamins or medications into each drawer to organize them and keep them stored away.” She likes modular flip-out bins, clear plastic cabinet organizers and white plastic storage bins with handles, all at the Container Store. She also recommends the Crafty Things Bins, metal organizers with compartments available in pastel colors from Crate & Kids (formerly Land of Nod).
Do upgrade your ugly drugstore pill organizer. It’s worth bringing a little joy to even a mundane task such as pill-taking. If you prefer sorting them into a seven-day container, make it a nicely designed one. One Kings Lane sells chrome-plated pill boxes that look like silver ($29, onekingslane.com), and Annies Hours’ silver and gold pill boxes ($13.50 to $22.50, annieshours.com) are even engravable. The sleek $15 weekly pill organizers from Port and Polish (portandpolish.com), about the size of a cellphone, tout themselves as “designed to look as good at brunch as they do on your nightstand.” The pills you don’t need for the week, D.C. designer Caryn Cramer says, can be put in a wood or woven box in a cabinet or closet.
Don’t just pop all vitamins and meds in your fridge. Consumers should read storage instructions on supplement or prescription bottles. It’s best to keep them in the refrigerator only if the instructions say so. Jalloh encourages patients to check with their pharmacist if they have any questions about the proper way to store a medication.
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