Getting your house organized: The junk drawer

Acrylic drawer organizer set to divide and conquer clutter.
Acrylic drawer organizer set to divide and conquer clutter. (Container Store)
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Problem: An overstuffed drawer that has become a catch-all for the small items of life, many of which have no assigned storage places in your home. Your crammed junk drawer is an embarrassment to your family.

Expert: Stacey Platt, a New York professional organizer and author of "What's a Disorganized Person to Do?" (Artisan Books; $16.95).

The fix: Platt prefers to start any organizing project with a clean slate. She advises you to empty the drawer, turn it upside down and shake out dust, then wipe clean. Invest in small organizing trays to keep things in order.

Then, begin your sort-and-toss cycle. Throw out whatever actually fits the definition of "junk." That would be soy sauce packets, grungy plastic forks, inkless pens and ancient crumpled receipts. Put items back where they belong, such as screws back into the toolbox, and keys back on your key rack or key box. Put stray quarters and nickels back in your wallet.

Platt says that "good junk" is whatever you actually use frequently and need to put your hands on quickly. Some might be duplicates of useful things you also keep in other rooms. Frequently, the household junk drawer includes these items: scissors, tape measure, tape, Post-it notes, a screwdriver, a few rubber bands (not 50), a highlighter and a glue stick.

"Cleaning a junk drawer is something you can do in a very short amount of time," Platt said. "It is instant gratification, a little organizing project that . . . brings immediate results."


1.Loose keys are a challenge, especially if they are unmarked. From now on, if someone gives you a key to their house, bike or boat, put it on a small keychain and label it with the person's name or some other identifying code. Keep all keys together on a rack or in a metal box. Platt has one client who puts all unidentified keys in a folder labeled "dead keys."

2 If you unearth chargers and cords in your junk drawer, figure out what they belong to and put them in small plastic bags marked with their gadget of origin. Stash these in a separate tech supplies drawer or box.

3 A junk drawer is not a great resting place for batteries. Many are probably dead. Put all your family's fresh batteries in a plastic shoe box with a label on it. That way, anyone can find a battery fast when they need it.

Read on for more organizing tips: Family photographs, Kids & paper, Hall closet.

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