I remember visiting my grandmother’s house and being endlessly fascinated with the drawer that she kept below the bread box. It was filled almost to the top with the paper and metal twist ties that came on bread bags and other baked goods. She would pull them off the bag, flatten them out and add them to the drawer. For years. I finally asked her one day: “What are you saving all those twist ties for?” She replied: “You never know when you’ll need a few.” The funny thing was, she never used them.
“You never know when you’ll need XYZ” is the mantra for keeping all sorts of things that you don’t really need and the junk drawer is the number one place for finding the smaller of the species. Everyone has one: it’s easier if you just admit it. Then, you can get on with the project of dealing with it!
© kitchen drawer image via Shutterstock
Is a junk drawer such a bad thing?
Not always! It’s good to have a place for those odds and ends, like paper twist ties, that have no other home. You don’t want to start cluttering up your countertops with piles of things. BUT — you knew there would be a ‘but’, didn’t you? — there are good ways of maintaining a useful junk drawer and things to avoid at all costs.
How do I start organizing my junk drawer?
First off, dump out your drawer on the table and go through each item. Question your long term need for each thing you discover. If you need the item, think about whether there is a better place to store it, freeing up space in the drawer. If you don’t need it? Ditch it. I know, I know, you can hear your mother saying: “Waste not! Want not!” (or is that just in my head?) but there is waste in having valuable drawer real estate taken up with useless junk.
After you’ve sorted and moved some of the items to their proper homes and some of the items to the garbage can, what’s left? These are the items you need to organize so that the ‘junk drawer’ becomes the ‘useful little items’ drawer, the place for things that have no other place. In fact, rename it. Call it the ‘utility drawer’. Perception is reality and if you and your family see the drawer this way, you will act accordingly. I realize I’m putting a lot of weight on the whole concept of a junk drawer but you might be surprised what useful things you find in there!
This quote says it all: “Junk attracts junk. Clutter attracts clutter. If that wasn’t the case, your junk drawer wouldn’t be so full. If you want more clutter, keep it up. If you want more time, space, and peace…you know what to do.” (Source)
Organize your utility drawer so that it stays that way!
Never has the dollar store been a more wonderful place than when you are on the search for ways to contain small items. Buy little plastic baskets / containers that will fit into your drawer and compartmentalize it so that each item is grouped and accessible, without digging and making a mess. A pen basket, a rubber band basket, extra batteries basket… whatever you need.
Alternatives? A cutlery tray might just be the ticket, depending on the size of your drawer. Ice cube trays for very small things, boxes that you have in other parts of your house that can be pulled into service, baby food jars.
For things like paper menus and coupons, you will more than likely need a different solution, outside of the drawer. A good way is with an upright magazine holder. A tip for takeout / delivery menus: when you get new ones, check for an older one from the same restaurant and throw that one out. Mark the date on the new one so you know how old it is! Better still, order online and get rid of them altogether!
For things like cords, that become messy just by opening and shutting the drawer, a little piece of velcro can make all the difference!
Once it’s clean, keep it that way
Be ruthless about keeping the drawer free of other items, items that don’t have a compartment. For a while. After all, you can’t let the junk drawer, sorry, I mean the utility drawer dominate your life! But if you keep a regular cleaning / sorting / de-cluttering schedule (a great idea, by the way!), add this drawer to your list for a quick look through every six months or so.
With all these idea, you can conquer your junk drawer once and for all. Just do me a favour and throw out the twist ties, okay?
What does your junk drawer look like right now?