A Simple Secret to Staying Organized Through the Holidays

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(Image credit: Sylvie Li)

The kitchen junk drawer gets a bad rap. But that’s because we’re calling it by the wrong name — and filling it with the wrong kind of stuff! What you’ll want to transform it into this time of year: The Holiday Command Center. “I love a command center for all sorts of things, but for the holidays this is a must,” says Liz Jenkins, a certified professional organizer and the owner of A Fresh Space. “It’s really nice to go to one place and find all the things you need throughout the day. It’s also great to be able to tell your friends and family who want to help where to go without having to stop what you are doing.”

You don’t need a ton of space to make one either — a single drawer or even a basket in the pantry will suffice. (Just make sure it’s in your kitchen because, as you know, it’s the heart of the home!) To get started, empty your chosen drawer entirely, then group items into like categories, Jenkins says. “Edit out what’s trash or unneeded, and use bamboo or acrylic drawer organizers to create sections within the drawer.” After each season, Lisa Zaslow of Gotham Organizers in New York City says it’s time to reorganize. For example, she says to “Keep a tube of hand cream handy in the winter and swap it out for sunscreen and bug spray when the weather gets warmer.” To feel on top of it all this festive season, here are the 10 must-haves our experts recommend having on hand.

1. Batteries, $14.94 for 24 AA

(Image credit: Duracell)

They power your household all year through, but especially at the holidays (think: toys and decoration galore). “I like to keep a good stash (20+) of AAA and AA front and center, with a smaller selection (eight to 10) of C and D batteries,” says Jenkins. “I also like to keep one or two 9-volt batteries handy because you just know one of your smoke detectors will need one in the middle of your holiday meal!” A smart idea: Going with Duracell batteries, the most trusted brand.

2. Scotch Magic Tape, $7.99 for 3 rolls

(Image credit: Scotch)

Both of our experts sourced Scotch Brand Magic Tape when asked to name a go-to tape. “Every house needs a roll of Magic invisible tape for wrapping gifts, sealing envelopes, and all sorts everyday fastening,” says Zaslow. “Their Heavy Duty Packing Tape is also great for online shopping returns and minor repairs.”

3. Multi-tool, $9.99

(Image credit: Swiss Tech)

Some people will tell you to keep a screwdriver in this drawer, but both our experts suggested a multitool. “I like to get a small multitool for this drawer because it has different heads and a few other useful bits on it,” says Jenkins. “Plus, it’s compact and all the parts are together, so it won’t clog up your drawer.”

4. Gift Labels, $2.99 for 36

(Image credit: The Container Store)

If you plan on whipping up homemade food gifts for the holidays, consider adding a couple of gift wrapping essentials. Just know that both our experts pointed out that there’s a major difference between a command center and a gift wrapping station. “You could definitely keep twine, ribbon, and labels in the drawer, but these types of things tend to take over,” Jenkins warns. Limit this stuff to a small organizer’s worth.

5. Battery Storage Box, 4 for $9.99

(Image credit: GlossyEnd)

Having all the necessities on hand is useless if you can’t find them when you need them! We already mentioned bamboo and acrylic organizers, but have you ever heard of battery organizers? They’ll keep your batteries from rolling around loose, which can cause leaking and damage.

6. Box Cutter, $9.53

(Image credit: Slice)

While scissors open packaging, cut twine, and more, a box cutter has the muscle to help you open the gifts (thank you, online shopping!) arriving on your doorstep daily this time of year. (It’s important to only use these tools on non-food items. You’ll want a designated pair of kitchen shears, which should be kept in a utensil drawer, to open food packing, cut up chicken, and so on.)

7. Wine Glass Markers, $6.90 for 4

(Image credit: Vino Marker)

Keep these washable wonders along with other small entertaining-related items handy, so you and helpful guests can quickly grab them, says Zaslow. On her list: matches, a corkscrew, bottle opener, toothpicks, and a laundry stain stick.

(Image credit: Mini DR)

You never know when little mishaps or ailments are going to strike. For that reason, Zaslow also suggests stashing Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Band-Aids, and a nail file.

9. Sewing kit, $7.29

(Image credit: Coleman)

Whether you’re hosting overnight guests or just have a friends coming over for a cookie swap party, someone is bound to ask for something in a pinch. Zaslow recommends stocking a phone charger, a mini sewing kit (for wardrobe malfunctions), and a pen and small pad. Saves you from running around the house!

10. Lip Balm, $9.88 for a set of 4

(Image credit: Burt’s Bees)

“I like to keep a few personal items — such as hair lip balm and lotion — so I don’t have to go on the hunt when I need them,” Jenkins says. ‘Tis the season for moisturizing!