Junk drawer wars

Admit it. You have at least one junk drawer in your home. My family has one in our kitchen. It holds batteries, scissors, a flashlight, glue, and quite a bit of miscellany.

For some people, the junk drawer grows and grows until it eventually becomes a catch-all for everything in its vicinity. Before too long, one junk drawer overflows into another, and then you find yourself going from drawer to drawer looking for a postage stamp.

Apartment Therapy had a helpful post that motivated me to organize our junk drawer. The post suggests easy steps for getting this drawer into tip-top condition. I particularly liked the first three suggestions:

Sort: First, you have to know what’s in it. Find a space to dump it out and sort it. There’s stuff that should go in there (in ours: extra batteries, spare keys, friend’s keys, parking permits, a small accordion file for museum membership cards and takeout menus) and stuff that shouldn’t (screws, tools).

Return: stuff that should go elsewhere should go elsewhere. Put the screws and tools back in the toolbox, the working pens in their place, the broken pencils in the garbage, donate the old eyeglasses.

Rethink: for items that should go elsewhere, make sure there’s a place for them so similar items don’t end up here a few months hence. For example, have a place to put items you need to keep for your taxes so old movie ticket stubs don’t end up here again.

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

23 Comments for “Junk drawer wars”

  1. posted by Gabriel on

    Buy a few decent quality refillable pens (I love UniBall Gell Impact) and throw away any pens other than those.

  2. posted by Squawkfox on

    I see clutter as delayed decisions. The junk drawer is home to unmade decisions. I think I need a house meeting to discuss how to sort my husbands tools and find a better place for appliance manuals. 😀

  3. posted by Amphritrite on

    I must be the only person in the world who doesn’t have a junk drawer – I live in 375 square feet and I literally (literally) only have ONE drawer in the entire apartment. It is organized to the T because I need every inch I can get. From washrags to silverware to large utensils, sponges and tape, everything is in that normal-sized, average drawer.

    Trust me, organization helps when you need your drawer!

  4. posted by sky on

    With only two kitchen drawers there is no room for “junk”. I have a desk nearby for what goes there and cabinets in my laundry room with plastic boxes for batteries, candles, etc. Labeled of course!
    Thanks unclutterer!

  5. posted by Karen on

    I have decided to rename my “junk” drawer my “miscellaneous” drawer. All the clutter gone in an instant! Actually, my junk drawer has things like magnets, string, chalk, batteries, bamboo skewers, timers, extension cords, and locks. None of these things are really clutter because I use them. I’m just careful that I don’t put actually “junk” in the “junk” drawer.

  6. posted by infmom on

    Aw, I think if the space is available there’s a purpose for a junk drawer (and the article seems to agree). Sure, you could put the screws and tools back in the toolbox, but then the next time you need them you have to go get the toolbox.

    We have a junk drawer for things we otherwise have no designated place for–extra candles for the mantelpiece candlesticks, the key that turns the gas floor furnace on and off, a huge pocketknife with lots of useful blades that’s too big for anyone’s pocket, a small retractable tape measure, etc etc etc. The drawer is in an antique dry sink in the parlor and isn’t getting in anyone’s way during their normal travels, nor does it take up a drawer in the kitchen that could more properly be used for something else.

    Is it a junk drawer if the stuff in it isn’t junk?

  7. posted by C on

    @Squawkfox Put your manuals in the filing cabinet (which is what I did) or scan them.

    I’m pretty well organized:

    batteries-tool box
    scissors,flashlight-strategic locations
    glue-craft drawer

  8. posted by becoming minimalist on

    i actually put my entire junk drawer on ebay (minus the confidential insurance cards and gum). unfortunately, no takers. but it did make throwing away 80% of its contents much easier.

  9. posted by Christy on

    The way i see it, either the stuff in a “junk” drawer is un-needed and needs to be discarded, or it is misnamed.

    I cleaned out our “junk drawer” and got rid of the junk and found a ton of useful stuff. I keep a small set of screwdrivers and a small hammer and nails that getb used regularly. I also keep a utility knife, WD40 and other useful things for those never-ending fixits. Now it’s called the “utility drawer’.

  10. posted by Greg on

    We had always had a Junk Drawer in the kitchen – I thought every house had to have one. One day I cleaned it out – found most of the stuff had homes elsewhere.
    Put in a couple small bins for pens/pencils/tape/rubber bands/etc. Now about a year later it is still organized.
    Most stuff in the junk drawer is like in the garage – just one step away from the dumpster away so I just helped it along. I didn’t put any of the items up for discussion, which can be a real hindrance to decluttering!!

  11. posted by Shalin on

    I don’t have a junk drawer ’cause…I don’t have a chest of drawers for it. OMG…wait, I have a couple crates of random stuff and a couple shoe boxes of misc. stationary, postage, and writing implements though…


  12. posted by Becky on

    I love my junk drawers! One in the bathroom, one in the kitchen. It’s the only space I willingly designate to a wild frontier of sheer disorganization. I love how weird and random they are. I will do a semi-purge the second I have trouble closing or opening the drawer. Otherwise, I let my little science experiments thrive.

  13. posted by Jude on

    No. I have no “junk drawers.” I have sort of a junk house, but every drawer has a purpose and is organized. The same is true at work.

  14. posted by Sue on

    “Is it a junk drawer if the stuff in it isn’t junk?”

    Junk is easier to spell than miscellaneous! LOL!

  15. posted by Another Deb on

    I see junk drawers and cabinets ( I have both) as sort of a Purgatory for stuff. You need to decide if an item stays or goes and after years of seeing it in the drawer, you can finally send it on its way to the Other Side with no regrets that you will need it again.

    Of course, I can usually justify keeping almost anything. It’s a teacher thing. After a certain number of years I can now go right to the cabinet, pull out the bin and grab just what I have been saving for 10 years. Last week I made a transparency washing machine out of a large snack cylinder.

  16. posted by JEANNE on

    LOL I’ve done the “dump and sort” thing before and it all comes back… I swear the clutter breeds or something!!!

  17. posted by Gail on

    Hi, with reference to the very first post about postage stamps; I keep them in my purse, next to my money. I buy a book of ten stamps and keep them in a small card space in my purse, they are valuable.

    My junk drawer is right next to me where I have this computer, I know what is in there and it’s all useful, but probably needs sorting, eg., pens.

    Thanks for the prod. Gail, Australia

  18. posted by Dream Mom DBA www.dreamorganizers.com on

    No junk drawer here. A junk drawer means some things don’t have a home or they weren’t put away.

    I like opening drawers and having everything labeled and sorted. Even the center drawer on my desk has a beautiful label with my name on it. It makes me feel good.

  19. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    I hate junk drawers! They’re a necessity because you have to put the stuff somewhere, right? But I find that I never use what’s in the drawer because it’s full of junk! 🙂

  20. posted by Rue on

    The purpose I see for a junk drawer is for those things that you use too often to store them, not often enough to keep them in plain sight, and you don’t have a lot of them so they don’t warrant their own storage space.

    In my junk drawer I keep a lighter for candles, takeout menus (we only have three, so there aren’t enough to warrant a binder as some would suggest), extra gum/tictacs, spare batteries, and a letter opener (it’s right where I sort the mail).

    My mom, on the other hand, has a junk drawer full of office supplies (enough to where she could get a sorter) and another full of things like take-out menus, expired coupons, appliance manuals, a dog leash (even though she hasn’t had a dog in 8 years), sign language flash cards (she hasn’t worked at the deaf school in about 6 years)…those are the kind of junk drawers that don’t need to be junk drawers. Every once in a while I clean them out and re-sort them for her…but they always end up the same.

  21. posted by Lisa on

    We call ours the Magic Drawer. It still needs a good clear-out though…

  22. posted by gypsypacker on

    Harbor Freight makes a good wall-mount battery holder for conventional batteries, but not watch batteries.

  23. posted by SkiptheBS on

    1-Keep the binder clips, paper clips, and one pair of scissors next to the printer paper or near the printer. Stamps go either there or in the purse organizer.
    2-Eneloops are in a nice plastic box, courtesy of eBay. Charger, headlamp, battery tester, and flashlight are stored with them. Several Eneloops and a second flashlight are stored in the emergency “in case of fire or flood” bag.
    3-Post-its and pens go in the bedside drawer, along with a small box containing earbuds (eBay again) and a phone holder. Phone sleeps here at night and a charger cord is run to the drawer.
    4-Keep a magnifying glass (lighted, eBay) and strong scissors where you open your mail and packages. You will need the magnifier to read the small print on warranties.
    5-Keep a tape measure with your Scotch tape and a utility knife for packaging gifts or refunds.
    6-If concert tickets are valuable enough to keep, scan a copy to permanent records and sell the original on eBay or Craigslist.

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