Junk Drawer Wisdom: What to Keep, What to Toss, and How to Keep It Organized

Junk Drawer in Organized Home Book by Matthew Williams

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a junk drawer. That’s not counting the years when I lived in an apartment that had a kitchen so small I couldn’t spare a drawer to devote to junk. (During that period, I resorted to a junk bin: a basket, with a lid, that sat on the counter and held coupons, appliance manuals, outdated phones, old keys, and other random items). This idea—that we all need a tiny section in our home that doesn’t require upkeep and allows us to give in to our inner hoarder—has always appealed to me. It’s the one space where I got to let go and not be uptight about neatness.

Thing was, every time I opened my junk drawer (or junk basket, as it were), I had a hard time locating what I wanted. I also had a hard time remembering what was in there in the first place. So earlier this year, I figured out another way, a better way to junk-drawer. Here’s what I learned.

Featured photograph by Matthew Williams and styling by Alexa Hotz, for Remodelista: The Organized Home.

1. Don’t think of it as a junk drawer.

Think of it as a miscellaneous drawer. Stupid as it may sound, thinking of it as a junk drawer gave me license to put all sorts of items in there that should have, frankly, gone into the trash. Why did I keep a coupon for a Carvell ice cream cake when there was no Carvell near me and I had no special occasion coming up? Everyone should have a drawer in a convenient location to hold random essentials—but no one needs a drawer of junk.

2. Put limits on what goes in there.

If what you’re tempted to store in the junk drawer is kitchen- or office-related, chances are there’s a better spot for it. Here’s what I ended up storing in my junk drawer:

  • Batteries
  • Scissors
  • Tape (masking, packing, and clear)
  • Box cutter
  • Measuring tape
  • String or twine
  • Rubber bands
  • Flashlight
  • Matches
  • Candles
  • Sharpies

3. Ban paper from your junk drawer.

Trust me on this. Menus, manuals, coupons, permission slips, maps—they will get lost and forgotten in there.

4. Don’t get hung up on drawer organizers.

If I’m honest with myself, the reason it took me so long to overhaul my junk drawer is because my spatially challenged brain didn’t want to have to figure out the right organizers to fit the space. When I finally committed to the project, that Tetris-like puzzle was every bit as maddening as I thought it would be—and the organizers I ordered definitely did not end up filling the space like I thought they would. But you know what? It didn’t matter. The organizers didn’t fit perfectly, but they did their job. In hindsight, I could have just used old jewelry and stationery boxes and little dishes to hold my various junk drawer items.

N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published on April 18, 2018.

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