The junk drawer. It doesn't matter if you're a minimalist or training for an appearance on Hoarders, everybody has one.
But as the weather warms up and the urge to purge sets in, it's time to pause and ask why, in a world that still considers elbows on the table an affront to civil society, it's perfectly acceptable to cram a lifetime supply of spare batteries, keys, corkscrews, elastic bands and old bills into a tiny drawer whose contents seem to only multiply each year and is never opened when company comes over.
Then comes the even more perplexing dilemma about what to do about a drawer filled with years of odds and ends and household leftovers. Even the thought of tackling the junk drawer is exhausting. But it turns out even the worst offenders among us aren't beyond help. In fact, having one messy drawer might be the key to organizational Zen.
Everyone – no matter how organized – has little household items that don't seem to belong anywhere else. So, in the drawer they go.
The problem sets in when those few odds and ends begin to multiply. Clutter begets clutter, explains Tina Blazer, director of Spot On Organizing, a Toronto-based professional organizational service. For many, it becomes easier to throw loose change, rolls of tape and pens in one drawer than find a dedicated space where each item belongs.
"It's just easy to open a drawer and toss it in and close it and move on," Ms. Blazer said.
Hectic schedules can make junk-related problems worse. Months and years go by, and before you know it, your quaint junk drawer can morph into a junk cabinet, closet, or worse, room.
"Once you've got chaos piled, it's just easy to toss stuff into it," Ms. Blazer said. "It is just hard to catch up."
Okay, so not everyone with a drawer full of junk is two steps away from keeping jars of fingernail clippings or being buried alive in stacks of old magazines. Having one drawer in the house designated for odds and ends is actually recommended by professional organizers.
"Most often when working with clients I try and leave them one drawer," said Ms. Blazer, noting a small, contained space for "junk" can prevent the flotsam from spreading throughout the house. But there is a fine line between leaving a few stray items in a drawer and relegating a serious amount of household space to needless junk. So what is the best way to control the chaos?
Start by emptying the entire drawer. Sort through the items and pick out those that seem to go together and put them in their place. That may be in a dresser, medicine cabinet or even the garbage. (In fact, the answer is often the garbage.) Just be ruthless and get it done.
Purchase drawer organizers or use containers to create some order among the miscellany of items that made the cut and are destined to stay in the junk drawer.
Now, maintain the order: Make sorting through – and parting with – junk a regular part of life. Resist the urge to throw dry cleaning tags, leftover foreign currency and the weird souvenirs from conventions into the newly reinvented junk drawer. Find a place for those items now (hint: the garbage) or you'll always be the person racing through the house to slam the drawer shut when a guest goes looking for the corkscrew.