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 out.
Check the expiration dates of the keepers before returning them to their containers. If you can’t find the date, this website will help: http://checkcosmetic.net/.
Prescription drugs or over the counter, it is important to go through your 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 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. On their websites, spice companies have guidelines as to how long a spice is good. Some containers are marked with expiration dates. Here are a couple of quick decision makers:
- For McCormick’s spices, 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 – when you finally find a recipe that calls for that spice, why would you want to risk ruining your creation with something gone bad?