Before & After: How I Transformed My Junk Drawer Without Buying a Single Organizer

Kitchen Organization

This, my friends, was the sorry state of my kitchen junk drawer last week — a mess of miscellanea, and as far away from "neat and tidy" as it's possible to get. In fact, it's like it saw the words "neat and tidy" and just ran in the other direction — fast. As in, sprinted. It was sad.

When I finally got around to clearing the drawer out, I took the advice in this life-changing tidying book I told you about and decided not to buy anything special for it: no organizers or dividers; no little boxes or bowls or containers. I'd have to rely on items I already owned to tidy up and organize whatever was left over.

This is how I organized my junk drawer without buying a thing.

Why Didn't I Buy Anything?

What was the reasoning behind not buying any organizers?

It was about more than saving money. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, tidying guru Marie Kondo says that your home already contains all the storage it needs:

People often ask me what [organizers] I recommend, no doubt expecting me to reveal some hitherto secret storage weapon. But I can tell you right now: There is no need to buy dividers or any other gadget. You can solve your storage problems with things you already have in the house.

She goes on to sing the praises of shoe boxes, check boxes, business card boxes, jewelry boxes — "basically, any square box or container of the right size will do" when it comes to finding storage for your tidying projects.

I liked her thinking on this, so I searched through my apartment and picked up anything I thought could be used to organize the junk drawer. Here's what I found — all items that have been in my possession for at least a year.

All the boxes and little containers I collected from around my apartment

The Boxes and Containers I Found Around My Apartment

  • A shoe box lid ("the lid of a shoe box is shallow and can be used like a tray" — preach it, Marie Kondo!)
  • A cardboard box for checks
  • Metal lids from some tin containers in the kitchen
  • Various cardboard boxes — bottoms and tops — from an old Birchbox subscription (bonus: they have cool interiors!)
  • A couple small pink and green boxes I'd had around for years
  • A small ceramic bowl
  • A birch wood container from IKEA
  • A jewelry box
  • The lid from an (almost) empty stationery box

I knew I wouldn't need all of them, but it was nice to have options for the next step: finding an arrangement that would work in the drawer.

Playing Tetris with the junk drawer, while all the "junk" sat on the countertop

It took about 10 minutes and a lot of swapping various boxes in and out — changing their orientation, moving up, down, and around — until I found an arrangement that used up the most available space in the drawer, and resulted in a tight fit, with most boxes nestled snugly next to each other.

Then the fun really started:

A box for everything!

I assigned a storage task to each container: a box for all our pens, pencils, and dry erase markers; a box for paper scissors; a few boxes for our medicine bottles; and another box for my label maker (I have this one and I love it).

Even my ceramic bowl was put to use.

I used the shoe box lid to hold my two kitchen scales, and the ceramic bowl for rubber bands. Two more boxes went to hold all our batteries (which I left in the plastic packaging so they wouldn't roll around and become a fire hazard), and a roll of masking and painter's tape (a very handy thing to have in the kitchen).

And the jewelry box? I stuck the safety pins in there. This solution made me a little giddy, actually. The jewelry box has a snap closure, so the lid doesn't open unless you really pry it open — which makes it the perfect box to store a collection like paper clips or safety pins that you don't want spilling all over the floor.

When I was done, the whole thing looked like this:

BEHOLD THE DRAWER.

Since it is no longer full of junk, I hereby change its name to simply Drawer. This is Drawer. It knows nothing of this junk you speak of.

Let's recap:

HORROR DRAWER
DREAM DRAWER

And that's how I revamped my junk drawer for $0.

If this project has also been on your to-do list, I encourage you to go around your house and see what little containers, boxes, and storage goods you already have that can be repurposed or recommissioned. I was surprised to find I owned so many readily available containers. Believe me — I love a good "official" organizer as much as the next person, but doing it this way was quite satisfying.

What are your junk drawer solutions?

(Image credits: Cambria Bold)