Small Project Organizing: The Junk Drawer

Photo of an organized drawerFirst, I would like to thank all of you who took the time to take last month’s poll “What Organizing Topics Are on Your Mind?” The clear winner was “Small Organizing Projects I Can Do Myself.” Toward that end, I would like to present to you the subject of the junk drawer.

By its very definition, the junk drawer is a catchall for anything that does not have a home. Anything could be in it…batteries, old coupons, bottles of hand lotion, gift cards, loose change, mementos, pens, paperclips, keys, business cards…anything! But, we want to easily locate what we need, right?

Let’s break down the process into steps:

  1. Take the drawer all the way out and set it on a work surface. You need room to work.

2. Get a wastebasket or garbage bag.

3. Empty the entire contents onto your table. As you do, sort into these four categories:

Keep: will remain in the drawer (more on that in a moment)

Garbage: toss these as you sort

Action: anything that requires a task, such saving a phone number, making a call or asking another family member a question

Relocate: will be moved somewhere else in your home

4. Next, I want you to name the drawer. No, I don’t mean call it Joe or Sally. I mean give it an identity to define what belongs there. For example, if this drawer is in the kitchen, it could be your desk-backup drawer (pens, paper, batteries, paper clips, calculator, and spare keys). If the drawer is in your bedroom, it might be the comfort-supplies drawer (lotion, Kleenex, medications, reading glasses). Anything that does not fit your drawer’s identity goes elsewhere.

5. Now, take a look at the items to relocate. If you already have a spot for them, then move them to their proper homes. It doesn’t matter if that spot is not yet as organized as you wish it to be, you will be taking care of that as you progress. If the items don’t yet have an assigned spot, then you can temporarily bag/box them until your next organizing day. Each time you work, incorporate the strays into an assigned space. A note of caution: don’t wait too long before choosing a home for your stray belongings, or you might forget what’s in the bag, and it becomes a junk bag instead of a junk drawer, which of course is not helpful.

6. Lastly, you will be left with some action items. Take your donations to the car right away, so that you can drop them off next time you’re doing errands. Take out the recycle. Enter that stray phone number. Following through with each of these tasks marks that drawer as complete, and you’re ready to move onto the next drawer.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Avoid looking at the entire contents as one mass. Pick up each item and make a decision.
  • Consider placing temporary sticky notes on the drawers, until every drawer has an identity.
  • Continue organizing your room until everything has an assigned space.

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