The Dreaded Junk Drawer

We all have one.  It’s usually in the kitchen, and it contains a little bit of everything, but rarely anything we ever use in the kitchen.  However, the kitchen is often the heart of the home, so it makes sense that we want to have everyday items stored in a singular space in that room.  What good is that space if you can’t find what you need in the drawer, or you’ve forgotten altogether what you have in there?

“Junk Drawer” is often a bit of a misnomer.  It’s typically not full of junk at all.  In fact, you’ll find some of the most useful items in a junk drawer! The trouble is, it’s hardly ever organized in a way that makes these things easy to find and access. 

Some of the items you will most commonly find in a junk drawer:

  • Small tools such as screwdrivers, hammers, and pliers
  • Measuring tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Batteries
  • Tape
  • Safety pins
  • Flashlight
  • Lighter/matches

All of these things are useful and important to some degree.  What if you need one of these items in a pinch? If you can’t find your flashlight in the dark, what’s the point? I recently took it upon myself to analyze and fix my own Kitchen Junk Drawer.  Here’s the BEFORE:

Pretty embarrassing, especially for someone who is supposed to be helping others get their own lives organized! I decided to follow every bit of advice I would give a client and straighten this drawer out. 

Step 1: Is this the best drawer to be using as a Junk Drawer? Is it in a convenient location?  Is there something else this drawer would be better suited for? I love the location of this drawer for this purpose.  It’s at the end of our kitchen island.  It’s a small drawer, which is great because I don’t want this drawer to become a catch-all.  So, yes, I think this is the best drawer to use for this purpose.

Step 2: Empty all the contents of the drawer and assess what we have. Are there lots of duplicated items? Are there things in the drawer that should not be there? Is there something you would like to have in the drawer, if you only had room? When I did my drawer, I found all kinds of things that didn’t need to be in there.  Rubber bands are stored in my desk drawer, so I didn’t also need them in the adjacent room.  But if I did find that rubber bands were needed in the kitchen, the fridge is where I would put them. Did you know that refrigerated rubber bands last longer? Same thing with batteries, but we don’t have the storage space to spare in our fridge right now, so I keep most batteries in the junk drawer. I also found more matches than any one household needs.  I decided it was best to keep them all in one place, even though it is a lot.  This will help me avoid adding more to the supply, because I’ll be able to see that I already have a lot!

Step 3: Sort what you would like to keep in the drawer.  Once you see what will be going back into the drawer, you can decide how you want to organize it.  I find that dividing the drawer into small spaces is most helpful.  But not everything needs to go into a little tray.  If it is a sustainable system, meaning you can keep up with it over time, it will work for you. 

That’s how my drawer turned out.  I’m really happy with it. And here we are, several months later and it still looks like this!

Step 4: Put away or throw out the items that were eliminated from the drawer.

Here is what I eliminated from the drawer.  This was not the best place in my home for the baggie full of picture hanging hardware.  I had other picture hardware in the basement, so these hooks and wires joined their friends downstairs.  I didn’t need eight lighters in the drawer.  Five of them were also relocated to the basement with my event supplies. Silicone caulk is not an everyday item for me. That was put away with the other caulks and sealants in the tool area.  The empty tape dispenser? Garbage! The small flashlight doesn’t even work.  Garbage also! 9V batteries, specifically for the smoke detectors… Well, I put them in the smoke detectors.  (It was daylight savings time, so that worked out perfectly.)

A Serious Side-Note:
You might have noticed I have some Epi Pens in the drawer.  Can you spot them in the before picture? That’s right… buried under a lighter, some batteries, and that empty tape dispenser! I needed an Epi in a hurry a few months ago, when we learned the hard way that my son is allergic to salmon.  Thankfully, I knew the Epi was in there, and it was easy enough for me to find in that moment.  But what if it hadn’t been me? What if a family member needed to access it for my son? Now that the drawer is neatly organized, the Epi Pen is in plain sight. (PS, we have Epi’s all over the place, but this is the one spot that is easiest to get to from the main part of our house.)

It was so satisfying to cull through all the items in this drawer and decide how I really wanted this drawer to function for my family, the way we live our lives. My 4-year-old son loves to measure things, so I am thrilled that he can grab the tape measure whenever he wants, without any hassle with the other items in the drawer.  And when it’s time to put the tape measure back, he knows just where it goes. I challenge you to follow these 4 easy steps with your own “Junk Drawer,” and see how long you can keep it neat and tidy. Let me know how it goes! Happy Organizing!  

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