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full junk drawer

A junk drawer is meant to be an accessible resource spot -- not a dumping ground. Watch as our DIYer makes sense of this clutter zone.

My friend Heather doesn't have a junk drawer. No, she has an oven mitt drawer that happens to be full of junk. As you can see in the photo above, the mitt dominates the drawer -- and it doesn't even belong there!

Luckily, Heather was willing to reveal her junk drawer to the world in all its glory, so that we could organize it together and show you our process. I've organized many drawers on my own, but working on Heather's made me realize how helpful it is to have an organizing partner who can approach the challenge with a fresh set of eyes and zero attachment to any of the stuff.

First, we established a basic rule: This isn't going to be a dumping ground. The junk drawer is meant to house a variety of mismatched items, each of which you need and use regularly. Despite its name, the junk drawer requires order to function properly. Enter the Resource Drawer.

Here's how I suggest transforming your junk drawer into a hub of resourceful items for your every day life.

1. First, empty the drawer onto a table, the floor or another clear work space. I'm willing to bet that at least half of the items in your junk drawer don't need to be there, so be prepared to purge. Heather had a big stack of takeout menus that she doesn't even need, thanks to websites like Menu Pages (and her penchant for ordering from the same few places all the time).

emptied out junk drawer Francesca Clarke

2. Clean the drawer.
It's best if you can pull it all the way out (as in, off its hinges) and wipe it down with a damp cloth. Depending on how long the drawer has been neglected, it could have anything from a few crumbs to spilled sunscreen and rotten snack packs. Fortunately for us, Heather's drawer was just run-of-the-mill dirty -- not over-the-top disgusting. Once the drawer is clean, set it aside and start working with the drawer contents.

clean the drawer Francesca Clarke

Sort your items into three categories.

Items to Relocate
Chances are, most of the items in your junk drawer actually belong somewhere else. If it has a home, put it there. In Heather's case, party streamers were stowed away in the closet with the rest of the party paraphernalia, a missing can opener was returned to the utensil drawer, and a lost set of spare keys were hung on a hook by the door.

Items to Toss
If it's junk, trash it (or recycle it!). Dead batteries, outdated coupons and flyer, empty tape rolls, expired condiment packets -- it all goes.

Items to Keep
Items that stay in the drawer are those that you use regularly and don't have another, more logical place to stash. This includes everything from odds and ends like rubber bands and paperclips to larger items like Sharpie markers and a calculator. Kitchen drawers are prime real estate, so don't give up the space for once-a-month items, or duplicates of things found in another cupboard. Pick out the items that belong in your newly branded "resource drawer", and set them aside.

storage solutions Francesca Clarke

Now that you've got your pile of Items to Keep, group like items (and like-sized items) together and assess what type of storage you need. Here are some inexpensive store-bought and DIY solutions:

For small items, such as safety pins, paperclips, stray buttons, elastic bands and other little things that might easily get lost in the drawer, try baby food jars, ice cube trays or a fishing tackle box, depending on how many of these little items you have around the house.

For larger items, you'll want drawer dividers, plastic containers or pencil boxes. Anything that fits your things and fits in the drawer, plus keeps like items together and separate from other things. It's best to choose something with a clear lid or none at all. If you go with closed containers, take the time now to label everything.

jars for storing small items Francesca Clarke

Once you have decided on the items that belong in the drawer, and selected the best storage, you're ready to start assembling the drawer. Remember, you don't want to overfill the storage compartments. Leave space for new items, otherwise it will quickly overflow, leaving you another mess to deal with. (You'll notice my friend's new drawer is sans oven mitt!)

organized section of the drawer Francesca Clarke

After reassembling the drawer, consider adding a few items. Yes, adding. I know, it sounds counterintuitive; you are, after all, trying to minimize things aren't you? Well, yes, but you're also trying to establish the junk drawer as a usable resource drawer, so here are some key items you might want to add in:

- Notepad: For taking down messages and writing up shopping lists.
- Pens: It's always good to have one in an easily accessible spot.
- Screwdrivers: Whatever kind you need most often, for tightening that pesky lock or changing batteries.
- Sewing kit: This doesn't have to be a lot of stuff, but even a little hotel mending kit will come in very handy.
- Flashlight: Know where it is during the next power outage.

add a few items such as a notepad and penFrancesca Clarke

Once you've put things in their place, tossed the junk, and assembled a usable resource drawer, you're probably feeling pretty smitten with yourself, vowing never to let it get that bad again. The problem is, that resolution can only take you so far. If you really want to maintain order, you have to address the problems that led you into chaos. Here are some common issues, and ways you can set yourself up for success.


I don't have time to put things away properly.
Sometimes, stuffing things into the drawer is just a way to get them off the counter, and out of sight. Instead, try setting out a small, decorative basket where you can quickly toss those orphaned items. At the end of each day, empty the basket. It will only take a few minutes.

But I do use that!
The drawer shouldn't house your entire battery collection, or multiple packs of pens. It's intended as a quick go-to place, not a storage drawer. Keep a few in the drawer and find a home for the rest. It might even help to have a place in the storage room -- a small bin for example -- where junk drawer overflow can be stored. Move items into the main drawer as needed. Be careful not to let this overflow area become the new dumping zone.

I'm not the only one using the drawer. Other people in the household are cluttering the junk drawer too.
Everybody who uses the drawer should be responsible for basic upkeep. Take on the project of organizing it together, so everyone has some ownership over it. Make sure you listen to how other people use the drawer and identify anything that you may have missed in your initial sort. Maybe you don't use the screwdrivers often, but somebody else might. If you're having trouble, take stock of everybody's interests and make a plan together.

Here's the finished drawer. Heather's life will never be the same!

organized junk drawerFrancesca Clarke

Got your own junk drawer solutions? Share your tips in the comments!

  • Karen

    Use leftover baby food jars instead of buying new and store the jars upside down so the lid isn't blocking the view of what's inside!

  • debz

    I use many of my recycling items to store and organize drawers at home and work.
    Tuna fish cans are great for push pins, paper clips, elastic bands, extra keys, tape measure, candles & matches, etc. They are shallow yet wide at the top for very easy access and have no annoying lids to take off and replace-a time waster! These are also perfect for shallow drawers.
    A small, battery-operated pencil sharpener is very handy kept in the drawer near pencils instead of another location. I keep scissors there as I use them for countless jobs each day. Scissors, pencils, pens, letter opener, etc. store well in cardboard containers that may have boxed candle sets or other items before being recycled.
    Leftover wallpaper scraps make attractive drawer liners and are easily cleaned when the task becomes necessary.
    Have an extra desk organizer? With several different sized compartments, it will make good order of that multi-use drawer! With any space left along the sides, you can place long items such as a ruler, small fly swatter, barbeque lighter, etc. in this handy location.
    The possibilities are endless. Have fun!

  • pete

    I tyr not to organize the junk drawer because it's so facinating to just open it from time to time and marvel at it. And why in the Sam Hill do we keep old batteries? Like somehow they are going to come back to life Ha Ha

  • omega watches

    I tyr not to organize the junk drawer because it's so facinating to just open it from time to time and marvel at it. And why in the Sam Hill do we keep old batteries? Like somehow they

  • poshh

    shoe box!

  • 5 Comments / 1 Pages

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