Photo courtesy of Paho Mann (

The ubiquitous junk drawer. It is the centralized repository where a plethora of useful and not-so-useful, like and not-so-like items seems to congregate. Think about it. Where else might you find a yo-yo with a broken string, rolls of tape, keys to unknown locks, full and half-used matchbooks, loose buttons, an undeveloped roll of film, outdated menus, loose change, and questionable batteries in one place?

The junk drawer seems to be a socially acceptable place for disarray. My professional organizer ears have heard few people express embarrassment about the condition of theirs. The drawer offers regular opportunity for impromptu treasure hunts. It also serves as a safe haven for things that are in the process of finding their way “home,” or that have no place else to live until, perhaps, they eventually find their way to the trash. For many, this collection and dispersal system works just fine.

But what if you wanted to rethink the junk drawer and remove some of the junk to make way for the more functional? Imagine being able to open the drawer and putting your fingers on the exact thing you need while eliminating the risk of being stabbed by a rogue push pin.

Here are some steps to help you bring about some transformation to your drawer:

  • Separate the contents of the drawer into three categories: stays, put away, and junk.
  • Sort the items that are staying in the drawer by putting like with like (i.e. batteries with batteries, menus with menus, tools with tools)
  • Look around the house for small unused receptacles that can contain some of the smaller collections in the drawer. Be creative. This is a place where actual “junk” can become your solutions.
reuse a butter dish to store paperclips

When a butter dish breaks, the lid can still be useful.

35mm film canisters are great for storing all sorts of things

Film canisters (yes, film is still around!) are great for small sharp items like tacks, nails, or safety pins.

a toilet paper tube is reused to store wires and cords

A toilet paper tube can be helpful for containing loose wires.

blueberry container with Albert Einstein

Thank you berry much, Mr. Einstein, you can help transform my drawer! Cut the seam of a plastic clamshell container, and you’ll have two receptacles that can hold any number of small items.

  • Gather the collections in the various receptacles you’ve assembled, and begin to fit the pieces in the drawer. This part of the process is akin to assembling a puzzle without a guide to follow. Be patient. You can do it…
junk drawer by Paho Mann

Store-bought drawer organizers can bring the right sense of order and containment to your drawer. If you have room and literal change to spare, you can reuse a tin for the coins! (Photo courtesy of Paho Mann)

organizing a kitchen junk drawer using trash

Reusing objects such as plastic clamshell berry containers, plastic film canisters, packaging from a friend’s iSomething-er-other can be employed to create usefulness and organization out of “junk” at no extra cost!

  • Enjoy your drawer of (re)usefulness.
  • Take a few minutes and put away those items that need to return to their usual places (i.e. the spool of thread to the sewing kit, the address book to the desk, etc.)
  • Sort “trash” and recycle, toss, or find new homes for these things.

And dare I say, if you have the luxury of spare drawer in your kitchen you can always make a true “junk” drawer. Or better yet, consider keeping it empty.