Dejunk Your Junk Drawer

The junk drawer. The thought of yours may make you groan. But, take heart – you’re not alone!

Every home has at least one “junk” drawer. Kitchens are notorious for these hidden jumbles, but we also find them in the home office, bathroom, and other places around the home.

A junk drawer is any UN-purposed drawer collecting clutter. It is where we shove things that we think we may need at some point, but don’t know what to do with. So, we tuck these treasures out of sight (and often out of mind) to clear our counters. Eventually we end up with a JUNK drawer (or three).

Portland Professional Organizing Services - Drawer

The thing is, your junk drawer doesn’t have to be JUNKY! “Junk” drawers are actually useful because they keep necessary items close-at-hand and convenient.

Now, there may be some actual JUNK in there – throw it away!

Then, use these fun strategies to DE-JUNK your junk drawer!

Assign a Purpose

Remember that the definition of a junk drawer is an un-purposed drawer? Well, the fist strategy for de-junking your drawers is assigning them a purpose.

Organized Office Supply and Utility Drawer

These are my own kitchen drawers. The left is the “office supply” drawer and the right is the “utility” drawer. Every kitchen needs both! But, now that the individual drawers have been given a purpose, they ONLY collect those items.

Creating a separate purpose for each category of things is the first step in de-junking your junk drawer! Put an end to the catch-all space by putting it to work with a purpose.

Let’s look at these two essential drawers:

  • Office Supplies: Most people’s kitchens inevitably become a “processing center.” A drawer is a great place to store the necessary items at arm’s reach – letter opener, pens, pencils, scissors, tape, stapler, checkbook. Keep only the items that you actually use in the kitchen.
  • Utility: These are the tools that you need on-hand for activities done in or around the kitchen – lighters, tape measures, frequently used tools, matches, superglue, etc. Reserve this drawer for items that are used often enough that you want to have them nearby.

Like I mentioned, the kitchen isn’t the only junk drawer culprit.

  • Bathroom: De-junk your drawers by organizing each drawer into specific categories of products:
    • Face
    • Body
    • Hair, etc.

Abandon the “everything” drawer and it will be easier to find what you’re looking for!

  • Home office: End the catch-all conundrum by organizing them into:
    • Paper goods (post-its, envelopes, stamps, etc)
    • Writing implements
    • Office tools, etc.

Optimize Drawer Space

One of the main problems with junk drawers is that the space isn’t optimized. We just pile items into the drawer making it difficult to find or remember what’s in there!

Drawer organizers are very useful in junk drawers. But, before you run out and buy the prettiest (or first) drawer organizer you can find…stop! Organizing products should always be introduced at the END of an organizing project. You must know WHAT you’re storing before finding the perfect drawer organizer for your home.


So, you’ll need to unload the drawer or drawers and spread out and group the contents. I find that using boxes or box lids for this purpose is helpful and keeps like items together.

Once you know what is going to live in a drawer and you can see how much you have of each item – measure! You want to optimize both WIDTH and DEPTH. Some drawers are deep – these benefit from taller containers to allow your items to fill up the vertical space in the drawer.

Dejunk Your Junk Drawer - Vertical Baskets

In this office drawer, we used paper cups as an easy solution for separating smaller items!

Custom Drawer Organizers

Rehome Go Elsewhere Items

When you organize your junk drawer, you’re going to have a bunch of items that need to go elsewhere.

Proceed with caution! To avoid creating another junk drawer or shelf around your home, be thoughtful about finding homes for these items!

These may include things like: lightbulbs, batteries, gloves, cords, paperwork, warranty manuals, wallets, chargers and more.

These are items that we often find in junk drawers, but that really should be living somewhere else in the home. They often end up in the junk drawers because the home lacks systems for storing these items (or the family doesn’t know where they belong).

In fact, our junk drawers are a treasure trove of CLUES pointing towards other systems that we need in our space!

Use the items you’re finding as clues to what organizing systems you need to create. It may include creating a household reference binder (link) if you’re finding menus, business cards, gift cards, schedules, and scribbled notes.

Or, you may need a few plastic storage drawers for extra batteries and office supplies.

In my home, we use these gym baskets in our mudroom that hold the overflow utility items from around our home. It’s so helpful to have everything stored in one location – easy to find and easy to put away!

Gym Basket Organizers in Portland Home

Gateway to Ordered Living

One reason we love organizing the junk drawer is that it is a small, non-intimidating project that can break organizing paralysis. When you’re overwhelmed by your clutter and the scope of what needs to be done, start small! We often recommend starting with a small project – like a junk drawer – to gain some momentum toward getting organized.

If you’re thinking that organizing your junk drawer is overwhelming in and of itself, don’t fret! Sidestep obstacles by being creative and thinking outside the box. Here are some problem-solving ideas:

Custom Drawer Dividers

Stumped about which drawer organizer to purchase, or don’t want to spend money on another organizing product? Use what you have!

  • Muffin tins can be a great tray organizers in a pinch
  • Check boxes & business card boxes make great implement organizers
  • Tins without the lid can subdivide a drawer
  • Paper cups
Muffin Tin Organizer

If you are stuck because you’ve hunted all over and can’t find a perfect fit for your drawer, get creative!

For the crafty type, Pinterest is a great resource for all your junk drawer problems! There are many ideas for building custom-made drawer dividers. (If you go this route, please share! We’d love to celebrate your craftiness with you!)

Superfluous Stuff

Have you tried organizing your junk drawer and it still feels overloaded?

Pen Organizing Tins
  • Make sure you’ve pruned your items to just what you need ON HAND in that location
  • Look for other places to store some of the items. For example, perhaps you can store pens and pencils upright in mason jars or a mug to save drawer space.
  • Consider commandeering more space – Maybe you need more than one drawer. Take stock of your adjacent drawers and consider a larger reorganizing project.

Constant Clutter Collection

After getting your junk drawer organized, does it quickly revert to a catch-all? This isn’t uncommon, but here’s what you can do to control the constant clutter:

  • Label whenever possible so everyone know what does and does NOT go in the space
  • Make sure everyone knows the purpose you’ve assigned to the drawer
  • Schedule time on your calendar monthly to tidy up the drawer, removing items that don’t belong (you only need about 10 min if done monthly!)
  • Re-evaluate your organizing systems. Do you have a drawer organizer that doesn’t fit your needs? Do you need to add a drawer organizer or bins? Keep tweaking until the drawer really works for your home!

Have fun tackling this small project. You’ll get satisfaction and traction!

The ultimate goal is to reclaim real estate in your home that is causing mental clutter. When you de-junk your junk drawers you’ll save time searching for what you need and enjoy the peace of mind that follows.


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