Declutter Colds and Flu

With flu vaccines often in short supply and increased contact in enclosed spaces, getting a bug this winter is inevitable. We can’t organize the germs away, but we can organize to fight off the germs and keep us in relative comfort when they do strike.

Organize the Medicine Cabinet

Commit to spending 30 minutes so you can methodically toss anything expired. Past-expiration medication may not make you ill, but its efficacy is definitely reduced over time. Discard any unfinished antibiotics. (Remember, always finish all of a prescription antibiotic unless your doctor tells you otherwise.) Use anti-bacterial cleanser to kill germs and spiff up your in-home pharmacy before returning items to the cabinet.

Next, lay in a supply of the following over-the-counter medicines (or their generic equivalents) and health-related staples:

  • Digital thermometers are inexpensive and easier to use than breakable glass & mercury varieties. Use disposable covers or rubbing alcohol to decontaminate.
  • Pain and fever reducers like Tylenol or aspirin substitutes like acetaminophen are essential; also keep the childre’s-strength versions recommended by your pediatrician. (Please note that children should NEVER be given aspirin, as it has been linked with Reye’s Syndrome.)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin)
  • Anti-diarrhea medications like Imodium
  • Decongestants/cough remedies recommended by your doctor
  • Petroleum jelly for chapped lips, dry skin and diaper rash
  • Homeopathic medicines like the Oprah-touted Airborne, or Zicam
  • Throat lozenges with zinc and/or throat-soothing sprays

Organize the Kitchen Cabinet

While the exact contents of your medicine cabinet will largely be guided by the advice doctors and pharmacists, a health-inspiring kitchen cabinet is the province of Doctor Mom. Stock up comforting, soothing essentials like:

  • Bouillon cubes and favorite varieties of non-cream soups (The steam from soup soothes nasal passages, but rich, creamy soups can exacerbate phlegm production.)
  • Frozen orange juice concentrate (When you’re ill, making juice is preferable to driving to the grocery store for another carton.) Other citrus juices (as well as tomato juice, apple juice and others) are good for you, too, but always check the instructions included with your medications to be sure citrus juice (and sometimes, specifically grapefruit juice, isn’t contraindicated).
  • Gatorade or a similar sports/power drink to power up your lost electrolytes
  • Popsicles or other frozen juice treats to sooth sore throats

Organize Bonus Items

Comfort isn’t always about what we take in at meals-sometimes it’s about creating a soothing environment. Makes sure you have these comforting extras on hand in case someone gets sick:

  • Pop-up boxes of tissues (let you grab the tissue without touching the box), antibacterial soap (for bathroom and kitchen) and individually-wrapped hand-wipes help keep germs from being transferred within the household.
  • Your child’s (or your) favorite soft blanket for snuggling—LAUNDERED in advance–and lay in a supply of warm, fuzzy socks for keeping away the chill.
  • Tuck away a small box of puzzles, coloring books and other quiet-time toys to pull out only when the kids are sick. This box of gentle “surprises” will distract from fretful symptoms and help you confine feverish kids from wilder activities. (Be sure to wash or use anti-bacterial spray to clean the toys before returning them to the cupboard.)

Exercise, eat healthy, and wash your hands frequently to prevent illness, but organize your home so that you’ll be comfortable and prepared if stricken by colds or flu this season.

Copyright © 2005 Julie Bestry and Best Results Organizing. All rights reserved.


About the Author:   Julie Bestry is a professional organizer, speaker and author, who helps individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems. Her most recent book is 57 Secrets for Organizing Your Small Business. For information on how Julie can turn your chaos into serenity, visit Best Results Organizing at

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