Junk Drawer 101

By Rhonda McNett

So...What's a junk drawer? They must be something very common, with a common understanding, because we all have them - at least one! Is it a "catch-all?" A "pack rat's heaven?" Does it have a general purpose or is it just a junk collection?

A junk drawer is a reflection, a microcosm of a whole room, or your whole house, just on a smaller scale. It is generally a temporary catch-all, where things of all manner and description are tossed to just get them out of the way. But, sometimes they are there a lot longer than temporarily! These are items that just get thrown in because you don't know what to do with them (they're "homeless"); or, you don't want to take them to their "home" right now (you'll get to it later!); or, you might need "it" someday (even though you aren't even sure what "it" is!).

What exactly is clutter? What does it mean to be organized or disorganized? It is NOT neatness, being clean and tidy. Organization is being able to find what you need when you need it. Also, to get done what you need to have done when it needs to be done.

· It comes and goes, like a pendulum, depending on life's events and circumstances, good and bad (wedding vs. funeral).
· It is not a character flaw! It just IS! You just have to deal with it regularly in order to keep the "homeless" items, the unwanted items to a minimum so that they don't overwhelm you with an immensity that just grows and grows!
· It is a symptom of too much stuff with no where to be!
· When you see your way through all this stuff, you will feel more positive energy, more freedom and have more space surrounding you.
· What is the goal in organizing? To get it "good enough!"

Now, because a junk drawer is a microcosm of a whole room, or house, you would use the same organizing principles you would use in that larger scenario. You...

· Envision and plan the space based on its purpose, what it's used for and the space available. You can even set up little "zones," like you would in a larger space. For instance, my kitchen junk drawer is a combination of the kitchen "office" and "boxed" things, such as Zip Locks, foil, plastic wrap. I have very few drawers in my kitchen, so the few I have must do "double-duty!"

· Purge! Why do we get to this point in the first place? We generally have too much stuff! We buy-buy-buy and have no control. We don't know what we have, so we have duplicates of lots of things...because we have so much stuff that we never found a "home" for ...and thus can't remember that we already bought them! It's a vicious circle! Lots of time and money wasted! So:

o EMPTY everything out of the drawer and give the drawer a good wiping down.
o DISCARD all the garbage and broken items. Do a "quick sort" where you just go through everything very quickly for the types of items that just don't need to be dealt with.
o SET ASIDE everything that belongs in another place. Don't go there now - just focus on the task at hand and get to that later!

· SORT! Initially, sort by use, or like-with-like, and put everything into various piles. What belongs here? What would fit better somewhere else in your home or shop or office?

o There is NO right or wrong - you would sort and decide based upon what's right for YOU, and those who will also use the space.
o You can sort by use, or category, or season, or topic.
o Do you USE this? Where? How often? Do you LOVE it? Then, respect it and place it where you can show that you honor it!
o Now, since this IS just a little microcosm of a bigger area, you most likely won't find things here to donate or sell, but that's the sort of thing you would also keep in mind if you were organizing a closet or china cabinet or garage. Donating benefits in several ways: you help others; can get a tax deduction (get a receipt!); and it frees up your space.


o Find a "home" for the items you have decided to keep in this space.
o Make sure they are in something you can see in. Make sure that containers you can't immediately see into are labeled.
o Group items as you intend to use them, as you think of them, i.e. "office stuff", "tools", etc. based upon your preferences.
o Repurpose other items into storage containers: old checkbook boxes, business card boxes, candy boxes. No need to go out and buy a bunch of fancy plastic dividers, at least initially. Don't ever buy until you know exactly what you need!


o Whatever systems you have set up will need to have modifications and fine-tuning from time to time, as your life changes, events happen, and YOU change. What's working? What's NOT working? If you find you aren't using the set-up you planned, then it is time to tweak your organizing system a bit to fit where you are now, so that you can be more efficient and happier in that space. Make sure you are living in the present, and that systems in your home are functioning for you IN that present.
o Keep it up! It is better to have small, regularly-scheduled purging sessions than to wait until the drawer doesn't close anymore. Don't let your junk drawer become a junk room!
o Maintenance isn't supposed to be fun, no more than house-keeping is! But, don't over-organize. Don't over-analyze! Keep it simple. Focus and stick to the task at hand. Do the maintenance when you have time to devote to the task and can be methodical, not hurried, but do "just good enough!"

A woman mentioned recently that she thought it was silly to have an article such as this, that a junk drawer is just a necessity of life, that everyone needs at least one! I would agree. You should have somewhere to just toss things on an interim basis, but just that! There is nothing in any of this organizing process which has anything to say about being perfect - that you cannot be! In fact, there is case in point that some disorganization is actually good for creativity, so remember the phrase "good enough!"

Keep on organizing - one step at a time. If you see a pile, deal with it! Watch out for flat surfaces - they have a tendency to collect anything and everything. If you're done with something, put it away. If you don't have any more room for certain items, it's time to begin the process of sorting and purging again. Give yourself some "buying" parameters: one thing in/one thing out, or better yet, one in/two out!

After dealing with just one little drawer, you will feel more effective, efficient, confident and in control and ready for the next project! Relax and reward yourself for accomplishing this project, then set a goal for your next one. You can use these same organizing principles in any project you choose to take on, any other drawer, surface or room!

About the Author

Rhonda McNett is a Professional Organizer, member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and owner of Sensible Organizing Strategies. Her company has a commitment to providing a supportive and rewarding organizing experience through client education, cooperative involvement and ongoing personal encouragement. Please visit http://sosbyrhonda.com to learn more about how Rhonda can help you!

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