The number one question I get from people when they hear that I write an organizing blog is “Is it okay to have a junk drawer?”
Yes, it is okay to have a junk drawer. But don’t think about it like that.
Junk Drawer makes it sound like a place for stuff that doesn’t have a home or a purpose to accumulate. Which is what it usually ends up being.
Think of it more as a utility space. Your junk drawer should be a place to keep tools and items that you use frequently and need to be easily accessed often.
We bought our house almost two years ago and did some renovating before and after we moved in. Our original plan was to put lower and upper cabinets along the wall in the dining room where the door in from the garage is. Because of it’s proximity to the kitchen and it being a high-traffic area, the junk drawer would be included in the lower cabinets. We did not include a junk drawer in our kitchen when we renovated it because it was going to be in the dining room.
Then we decided not to put an addition on the house, which meant no renovating the dining room. That also meant no lower cabinets. So I’m stuck with stuff for a junk drawer and no drawer for the stuff.
We had a junk drawer organizer in our last house, so that organizer sat on a shelf in our hall closet holding it’s contents. It wasn’t so much a junk drawer as it was a junk space. And not a very well-utilized space.
It was time to come up with a junk drawer alternative.
The hallway closet was a great place to keep our “Utility Drawer” (formerly known as the junk drawer) contents, because it’s centrally located on our main level and is in a high-traffic area. But the closet didn’t lend itself to shallow storage. I needed something that would utilize the vertical space of a closet shelf, but also compartmentalize items.
These plastic drawers on the clearance shelf at Target called my name as I walked passed them. I would have much rather had clear drawers than the blue, but they served the purpose for which I was looking. That and they were half the price of the clear drawers. Not being able to see the contents inside was a great excuse to bust out my label maker, so everybody wins.
These small drawers did double duty as drawers and an organizer all in one. This isn’t the ideal situation for everyone, but it can be helpful to see how thinking outside the box can often be the best organization solution.
Step 1 – Empty the Junk Drawer
The best first step to any organizing project. It’s the only way to know exactly what’s in there.
Step 2 – Purge the Junk Drawer
Your junk drawer is not long-term storage. This is a space for items that you use often and need to be accessed easily and quickly. Minimizing is the first step to organizing.
As far as quantity of items, only keep the number that you need for one use. For example, this is not where you keep all of your extra batteries. Just keep one or two of your most frequently used sizes to be able to grab quickly when they are needed. (Sidenote: See how I organize batteries here)
Step 3 – Sort Items that will stay in your new Junk Drawer
The best way to do this is to group items of similar purpose (i.e. cutting, writing, measuring, etc.)
Step 3 – Get an Organizer or Divider
The two most important factors when choosing this are:
- Size: Make sure that the organizer will fit in it’s intended space. Beyond that, you also want to maximize the space you have by getting an organizer that uses as much of that space as it can. Short of a custom-built piece, using 100% of the space is unlikely, but get as close as you can.
- Compartments Fit What You Have: Don’t buy a drawer organizer with mostly small compartments if the majority of you utility drawer contents are writing utensils, scissors & glue. Those little space will be wasted. Again, only a custom-built piece can do this perfectly, but do a little searching (let me introduce you to my friends, The Container Store & Amazon) to find the best fit.
Step 4 – Fill the Organizer
Fill, like the put the stuff in it. Not fill, like shove it full of so much stuff that you can’t get to items when you need them.
As much as you can, utilize the compartments of the organizer to keep your categories separate. It’s not always possible to do completely, but start with that as the goal and go from there.
Step 5 – Fill the Space Surrounding the Organizer
I had a couple inches between the top of the drawers and the bottom of the next shelf, which was the perfect place to keep my bottle of whiteboard cleaner. All of my other whiteboard supplies fit in one of the drawers, but the cleaner didn’t. It did, however, fit in that little space. I killed two birds with one stone. The previously wasted space got used and all of my whiteboard supplies are in one spot for easy accessibility.
Throw a few labels on the compartments if you feel so inclined, and you have yourself a completed project. Well done.
See how I used some of the same techniques to organize my makeup drawer here.