Tuesday, March 02, 2010

SOS! Organize Your Junk Drawer

"How do you organize a junk drawer so it stays organized?" - Mary Beth
Almost every kitchen has one: the junk drawer. In it you will find a wide variety of things necessary to being functional - and then some other stuff. As an organizer you would think that I would be categorically opposed to junk drawers. But I'm not. I think many of the items that are found in junk drawers are actually very utilitarian. What I am opposed to is the name: "junk drawer." Is it any wonder that "junk" collects here? How about changing the name to "utility drawer," remembering that labels indicate not only what belongs in a drawer, but also what doesn't belong?

To organize the "utility drawer" follow these steps, and make sure you have a trashcan handy:

1) Dump the contents - just make sure you have enough room so you can spread things out.
2) Sort the items into trash, relocate and stay piles. "Trash" is self-evident. "Relocate" items already have a home elsewhere. The "stay" pile belongs in the drawer.
3) Toss the trash and of course recycle anything you can.
4) Sort the "stay" items into categories. Make a little pile of paper clips, rubber bands, batteries, nails and whatever else you find in the drawer.
5) Put the items into the right-size containers with labels. There are "junk drawer" inserts but I prefer just using small bins because I can arrange them to my liking. Empty check boxes and small gift boxes work very well as containers. Ice cube trays and scrupulously clean egg cartons are great for organizing tiny things.
6) Put the "relocate" items away. At some point it might be a useful exercise to think about how these items ended up in the drawer and not in their home. There may be an undiagnosed organizing problem behind the item being misplaced in the junk drawer.

Just for fun, here are some of the items I have found in my clients' "junk drawers:" paperclips, staplers and staples, brads, coupons - mostly expired, receipts, scissors, widgets, magnifying glass, poster tack, glue, tape of all varieties, hammer, screwdriver, nails, picture wire, cup hooks, fast-food toys, fridge magnets, appointment reminder cards, bandages, back scratcher, sewing needles, thread, buttons, old cell phones, batteries, note pad, envelopes, pens and pencils, flashlight, stamps, catnip mice, small hardware leftover from building a piece of furniture, lip balm, keys to places unknown, ticket stubs and a school ring (which made the owner very happy when I found it). Some items are so useful that it makes sense to keep multiples.  Good items to keep multiples of are scissors, hammers, and flashlights. A few common nails, a screwdriver, and magnifying glass might also be worth duplicating.

Coupons need a home that can be taken with you to the store. Receipts need to be filed so they can be found when needed. Spare pieces from furniture construction can be taped to the warranty and filed, taped to the back of the furniture or tossed. Old cell phones can be recycled. Before tossing an item into the drawer, ask yourself if the drawer is really the best home for it. A little thought will go a long way in preventing your "utility drawer" from turning into a "junk drawer."

Thank you Mary Beth for your question and your nomination of The Cancer Society to the donation drawing at the end of the year.
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