Most professional organizers will advise you not to have a junk drawer, or to at least organize the one you have.
But I’m here to propose that we all need TWO junk drawers!
Allow me to explain….
The Junk Drawer
I think we have all experienced the type of junk drawer that is overflowing with, well, junk. There might be some, or a lot of, useful items in there – like scissors, tape, and batteries. But those things are often hard to find in the drawer when we need them. Or, they’re difficult to put away because the drawer is crammed full of not-so-useful items like expired coupons, old fast food condiment packets, flyers, and whatsit doodads. Right?
Part of the problem is the word “Junk”.
It attracts, well, junk.
And names matter!
As I wrote in 10 Silly Things Organizers Argue About:
I have seen junk drawers, full of junk, where people stash worthless things willy-nilly. Or, if the items are worthwhile, the owners don’t even know they’re in there and can’t find them when they need them. I have also seen totally organized drawers with designated spots for small, useful, household items that are still called junk drawers because people are just used to that term. I do think language matters, and I prefer the term utility drawer for the organized ones. I delight when useful items have their own designated spots. But it’s also handy to have a drawer where you can toss stuff you don’t know what to do with yet. I approve of such a junk drawer AS LONG AS it gets purged before it overflows.
The Utility Drawer
So, organize your junk drawer and call it a Utility Drawer!
That way you always know where to find your scissors, tape, and batteries.
But then, where do you put your junk, though?
Realistically, we’re going to continue having junk.
We might as well have a place to put it, no?
I suppose if the drawer is big enough, you could use Ziploc bags to corral small pieces of junk too.
Why not have a Utility Drawer AND a Junk Drawer?
I do realize that not every kitchen or utility room will have two equally convenient and available drawers.
Still, I recommend a Utility Drawer for household tools and supplies AND a Junk Drawer (or Bowl/Box/Basket/Bin) for:
- Temporarily placing little things you bring into the house that don’t have a home yet, like business cards, flyers, and other business networking clutter.
- Temporarily placing things you found around the house, and don’t know what they are, and want to keep for a while in case you figure it out.
- Temporarily sweeping stuff from the counter into, because company is coming in five minutes. (Not to be confused with the plastic shopping bags that people sweep things into to get them out of sight, throw into a spare room, and never see again because they forget they’re there and what’s in them.)
Have you heard, “Don’t put it down, put it away!”—?
That’s a really good idea! It’s just not always feasible.
Here are 3 tips for maintaining a Junk Drawer:
- First, the Junk Drawer doesn’t have to be a drawer. It can also be a basket, bin, bowl, or box. Like laundry baskets, and action files, it’s more likely you’ll use the container if it does not have a lid and you can toss random stuff into it easily. What it looks like in terms of size, shape, or color depends on where you plan to keep it — it needs to be extremely handy — and what you plan to toss or sweep into it. Don’t forget that this is a designated temporary home for things. Make sure it is deep enough to hide the contents, but not so deep that items settle to the bottom and become buried forever. If “Junk Drawer” doesn’t work for you, call it something else. How about “Clutter Corral”?
- Choose a super-handy location and a container that suits the location. For example, if you’ve chosen your utility room by the back door, because that’s where you enter your home after parking your car, and you want a Junk Box on top of your washing machine because it’s a handy spot for you, a clear plastic shoe or boot box will work nicely. If, however, you want to use an attractive bowl on the counter of your open floor plan kitchen, that would be lovely. A place to corral inevitable clutter will free up surfaces and create a calmer, more inviting space.
- Don’t let your container overflow! It’s important to decide how much clutter you are willing to collect temporarily before dealing with it properly. If you start putting things on the counter NEXT to the drawer/bowl/box/basket/bin, you have, in effect, overflowed your container and it’s time to de-clutter. I recommend doing this once a week. Pick a regular time to sort the contents, throw away trash, put things away where they belong, and create permanent homes for things that need them. If your items are project-related, you might need a Project Box.
Do you have a Junk Drawer? How ’bout a Utility Drawer?
What do you call them? Are they organized?
Do you have another way of dealing with clutter?
Please share with us in the comments below!
Copyright 2022 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life and Beyond
Author of What’s a Photo Without the Story? How to Create Your Family Legacy
Please contact me for reprint permission. (Direct links to this page are welcome!)
What a great idea! I have two junk drawers in my kitchen. Inspired to organize both drawers and have a utility drawer and a not sure what to do with this drawer.
Love it! I think the “Not Sure What To Do With This” designation covers a multitude of clutter/junk items!
I don’t think I have a junk drawer. I do have a utility drawer. It’s in my desk, and that is where my scissors, pens, tape, paper clips, nail file, stapler, ruler, etc. are.
I have clear, acrylic organizers in this drawer, and it works well.
The place I tend to accumulate disparate stuff is in the cabinet at the lower right of my desk. This is where I keep various “technology” items, and these can get a bit cumbersome. Every now and then I clear it out.
And then, there is my husband’s desk, where I drop a lot of stuff I don’t want. Sorry honey:)
LOL! (Apology to husband.) I think everyone has their own special category of things that pile up and need to periodicaly be cleared out.
Your wisdom abounds, Hazel! I thought about what you said and then walked around my kitchen. What I call my junk drawer is really a utility drawer. It’s got tools, spare lightbulbs for the fixture nearest it, and electrical doo-dads, with each category in its own drawer organizer flat-bottom basket.
Then I have two other drawers in the kitchen used for non-kitchen things. (I have way too much kitchen space!) One has things that are less tool-like, but also utility-oriented (packing tape, thread and needles, but also one tiny flat-bottomed basket with assorted randomness (my combination lock that I’ve had since middle school, a dreidel, the kitchen scissors (not to be confused with the office scissors). Not junk, but if I removed the non-essential items, it would probably only yield two square inches of space. The other drawer is in an inconvenient spot and has fridge magnets and really old check registers (that I really should shred!), but I don’t know what I’d put in that drawer in their place!
But where I do I keep my junk? Have I finally achieved adulthood now that there’s nothing in my house that doesn’t have a place to live so that I can quickly and easily put it away? Is it possible I have no junk?
I can relate to the check registers in that I wouldn’t worry about them either unless I suddenly DID want the space for something else. It’s always good to have a category of stuff that can be easily ditched!
Also, if we all agree that Utility Drawer is a better term than Junk Drawer, we might still need to distinguish between Junk and Clutter. One person’s Junk is another person’s Treasure if we’re talking about things we are going to keep and find homes for whether someone else values them or not. “Junk” can equal miscellaneous treasures and useful items. And “Clutter” is often a miscellaneous category too, a variety of items — Useful, Junk, Treasure, Used-it-and-didn’t-put-it-away, Trash, etc.
Nice reframe with using “Utility drawer” in place of junk drawer. As you mentioned, the things that end up in typical junk drawers are often items that would be better served in the utility-type drawer or container.
I don’t have any junk drawers. But part of the reason is I have wonderful repurposed old dentist’s cabinet which has about 24 drawers of varying sizes. It’s an organizer’s dream cabinet. So instead of co-mingling items, I can get very specific about objects’ homes. There is a post-it note drawer (because you can never have enough post-its,) a markers drawer, a gifts drawer, and even an empty boxes/containers drawer.
Our utility-type items are in the laundry room closet.
Thanks, Linda! Your dentist’s cabinet does, indeed, sound wonderful!
We have limited space in our kitchen so there isn’t any room for a “Junk drawer”. We have a utility bin – small for the basics housed in the small pantry.
I would definitely use your idea of 2 utility drawers if we had a larger space.
Super smart! I love having a basket for this purpose, because you can take it around the house and put items back where they go. A drawer can be useful too, but the mobility of a bucket is something I really value.
Good point, Katherine!
My junk drawer is built into my paper towel holder, so it’s pretty small. It holds scissors, tape, twist ties, and some other stuff. I suspect the “other stuff” is junk or that I wouldn’t think to look for it there. 😀
Your post gave me a great idea. I have two, clear, acrylic, veggie trays that I have never used. I plan to put one on my work bench, half of the ping-pong table, for a quick dump of miscellaneous screws and bolts until I have time to sort them into plastic jars.
I’ll let my husband have the other tray for his side of the table. He might use it for small parts when he is repairing cuckoo clocks.
Love it! Let me know how it works out!