The Dreaded Junk Drawer: A Mess That Always Comes Back

Some time ago, I wrote about how my discarding and decluttering habits helped me empty my junk drawer. Well, it's a couple of years later now and the chaos slowly crept back. This time, I'm going to tackle it once and for all... but with a different end goal in mind

What is a junk drawer?

For anyone who doesn't know what a junk drawer is, it's a pretty ubiquitous phenomenon across American homes. My parents, my husband's parents, tons of our friends' parents all had junk drawers... and we do, too. The junk drawer varies from home to home, but generally it's a potpourri of seemingly useful objects all mingling together in a useless and chaotic way. For my parents, the junk drawer was where rubber bands, paper clips, one-off nails and screws, screwdrivers without a matching set, and other small tools ended up. In other junk drawers I've seen, there have been souvenir spoons, thimbles, tiny dollar store sewing kits... all sorts of things. The worst part about all of these junk drawers is that they're invariably a bit grimy and always leave your hands feeling sticky and dusty, and usually smelling of pennies.

Now, I have nothing wrong with having a junk drawer. Honestly I feel foolish for thinking I could go without one. There are likely always going to be some odds and ends of items that truly are useful but don't have a sensible place among other categories of items. So instead of trying to eliminate my junk drawer again, I'm out to tame it in such a way that I can keep it organized.


Why I've kept a junk drawer

Nothing that I have in my junk drawer is something I want to toss out. Quite frankly, they're all useful things, but small enough that they'd easily get lost if they mingled with like items elsewhere. Plus I like to have a centralized location for small odds and ends like that. 

I'm starting off with small handfuls of the following items: rolls of dog poop bags, packs of batteries, matches and lighters, touch-up paint for a bicycle, can coozies, a spare headlamp for the cars, various sizes of batteries, letter and box openers, spare drawer handles, lint roller, travel wipes, and rolls of tape.

My junk drawer is far from the worst that I've ever seen. It's not grimy or dusty or full of rubber bands. It started off fairly organized, but some loose items just began to sprawl and take over. I don't think it will be terribly difficult to organize and keep it that way this time around.


How to organize a junk drawer

I was determined to make this organization effort cost me nothing but a few minutes of my time. I felt no need to have the prettiest organizers inside the drawer, so I gathered up a couple of small boxes from recent online shopping orders and cut the top flaps off. I'd had a small plastic basket in the drawer already, so I pressed that back into service.

Into the small plastic basket went the rolls of dog poop bags and the drawer handles. Into one of the small boxes went a pen and a marker, the letter and box openers, kitchen scissors, small rolls of tape, and batteries. I pressed a tiny jar into service to house the spare headlamp and batteries for the key fobs and set it next to the other batteries (kept in the plastic trays of their original packaging). Into the other box went the lint roller and travel wipes. The can coozies made their way into the kitchen towel drawer where I had the perfect amount of space for them. The only items that stayed loose but sort of Tetrised into comfy places were a roll of packing tape, boxes of matches, and the lighters.

The trick to organizing a junk drawer is to put in dividers of some kind. Small, shallow boxes work wonders for this kind of project. It costs nothing to reuse a shipping box.

Once you have your organizers or boxes placed in the drawer, use them to hold categories or groups of items that make sense to you. In my case, the batteries and scissors are the most likely to be needed regularly, so I put them in the same bin in the front of the drawer. The less frequently an item is used, the closer to the back I placed it.

As I've gotten older and customized minimalism to my needs, I've realized that I don't need to be a minimalist for minimalism's sake. I love minimalism for my own very personal reasons; the most important of which is to have a very comfortable and clean house to come home to, and to share it with my husband and our pets. Will I ever fully get rid of my junk drawer? Maybe some day. But for now, it's serving a useful purpose--especially since I reorganized it--so I'll keep it around. 

I don't want people to feel like as a minimalist you have to have everything 100% perfect and 100% decluttered all the time. Life happens. Clutter happens. Junk drawers happen. Just ride out the chaos until you have the energy to tame it. And remember, you don't have to discard anything you don't want to discard. Happy organizing!