The (Bottomless Pit) Junk Drawer

I think every household has a junk drawer. Usually this catchall space is in the kitchen. It is often a bottom-less pit for pretty much anything that you don’t know where else to put. It’s also a really convenient space to stash things when you need to clean off the counter in a hurry. It can also become a large chasm that swallows up and consumes things. Have you every put something into the junk drawer one day only to spend no less than 30 minutes looking for it all over the house and then eventually check the junk drawer last and find it. Of course it doesn’t belong in the junk drawer so there is no reason that you would have thought that it would be there to begin with. Despite the chaos it usually contains, a typical junk drawer can also house some items that are really useful to have at your fingertips when needed.

Let’s dive into the junk drawer today and start with our S.I.M.P.L.Y. Organized 6-step process to help us out with this project.

Step #1 – Start With a Purpose

Of course mustering up the courage to start a project is probably the hardest step to overcome. No doubt, feelings of inadequacy and lack of time are among the top cries you are hearing in your head right now. Push them aside and conquer your fears! You can organize this small project and I will give you step-by-step instructions to help you along. Once you see the results you will be so glad that you started. So once you have talked yourself into starting, you must determine a purpose for your junk drawer. What kind of things do you really want to keep in this space. Mine is in the kitchen and primarily I want three different types of things in my junk drawer. I want office supplies like scotch tape, a ruler, and scissors. I also want small household tools like a hammer and screwdrivers. Finally, I want misc household things like the extra keys to the car, the extra felt feet that I put on the chairs legs, and a nail file. I use this area as a all encompassing drawer for things that normally would be housed in various other parts of the house or garage, but that I want to have more easily accessible in the kitchen. You decide what your purpose is and write it down. You can create a list, sketch a drawing or blob a mind map to help you get your thoughts on paper.

Step #2 – Identify Your Stuff

Now that you have purpose on paper, you will begin by emptying out the drawer. Take each item out and place it in a pile or container with other like items. Group things together like all the papers in one container, the tools in another container and the office supplies in another container. The point of this step is to determine what you have in context of all the other things that are similar. Once you have your many piles of items you will further identify what you will do with it. Now that you see you have 4 hammers in the drawer you can decide if you really need four hammers in the drawer. At this point you will need four labeled containers: KEEP (in the drawer…does it fit your purpose?), RELOCATE (Keep but move to somewhere else in your house or garage), TOSS and DONATE. You will pick up each item and choose which container to place it in. Most of the items in this drawer are likely not very emotional items. Chances are likely that these items are either paperwork or they are items that have primarily a useful purpose rather than an emotional attachment. However, if you need to review some of the basic questions to ask yourself to help you through this process, go to part 2 of the Six Steps Post.

Step #3 - Move It Out

After identifying each item and placing it in the correct bin, your next step is pretty simple. Take all of the trash and toss it. Take all of the items that belong elsewhere in your home and leave them in the bin and put them in another room. You can plan to put those items away when tis project is done. For right now you just want them out of your sight. If you have any items to donate you can bag them up and put them right in your car. That way it is out of your way and it is ready to be dropped off at the donation center. What should be left are only the items you want to keep in this drawer that fit the purpose of the space. Now you have a more clean visual area in which to work. This step really makes a difference in your ability to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed. Up to this point you have had to make a lot of hard decisions. By moving the items out of your line of vision that you have already made a decision about will not only help you to not second guess your decision, but will also help you to keep focus on the project at hand.

Step #4 – Plan Your Space

Now that you know exactly what you want housed in this drawer it will be so much easier to plan out the space. Take a look at what you have in front of you. What do you want easily accessible? Are there large quantities of any given category? What are the sizes and shapes of the objects? Since this is a drawer, we will assume that all things will be hidden when the drawer is closed and nothing will be visible. How you arrange and contain things that are visible to anyone who passes by is quite different than how you might contain things in a drawer that stays closed. When I planned my junk drawer, I needed some small containers for keys and rubber bands, a large and long container for a hammer and screw drivers. I grouped all of my tools on the right side and the office supplies and household supplies on the left side. This allowed me to measure my drawer and go to the store to buy exactly what I needed. So this is the step that lets you take into consideration what you are storing so that you can plan your space to get the most efficient use of space while still keeping in mind ease of accessibility for what you need all the time and visual interest as well.

Step #5 – Label everything

This particular step is often overlooked and usually one of the most difficult steps to implement. It isn’t really difficult; it just seems rather pointless, which makes people skip this step. When they skip this step the chaos returns much sooner than if they walk through this step. Labeling everything you can label is one of the most important elements in your ongoing maintenance plan, which you will establish in the next step. In addition, this step tells the rest of your family what you want them to do without you having to continually remind them. So, now that you have placed things in containers in the drawer in a way that makes sense to you, now you should label the containers. When you place a label on each basket or container, you are being very purposeful about deciding what you want there.

In my junk drawer I have a generic label of “Tools”, which encompasses the hammer, screw drivers and a few other items. Then I have one that says “Cutting” which includes both scissors and craft knives. For the compartment labeled Nails and Screws I also include cup hooks and anchors because to me they relate. But I don’t want rubber bands in that same container and so I have provided another place and label for those items. This process can be pretty personal and it totally depends on what makes sense to you and what you have in your drawer.

So let’s talk a little bit about labels. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be as simple or creative as you want. You can use any size Avery labels from an office supply store or I have purchase chalkboard tape and white board tape that is in the same size rolls as duct tape. With those fun types of labels you can write on the surface and then change it as needed and the rolls of tape also allows you to create your own size of label. Another super simple and no frills type of labeling system is to purchase a label maker. This would allow you to go crazy and label everything in your house. Some fancier products are pre-cut chalkboard sticky labels that are cut into cute shapes. You can purchase thin wooden hanging tags, which could be tied onto a basket with twine, raffia or ribbon. There are even iron on labels for cloth baskets and containers. Just go walk through your favorite craft store or organizing store and you will find so many options that something will fit right for your project.

Step #6 Your Personal System

This is the last step. You now have a fully organized drawer. The question is how long will it stay that way? Now that you have gone to all of this work, you need to share it with whoever will use this space other than you. If this were your master closet then that would primarily be your spouse. If it was the play room then you would need to train your children in where everything belongs. So share your newly furnished drawer with your family. Tell them that the expectation is that when they get something out they will put it away and that if they don’t remember where it belongs, the labels should direct them. The junk drawer doesn’t require an entire maintenance system like the mail does or the kids homework papers, but it is very likely that every few months you will have to spend 5 minutes tidying up your junk drawer.

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