You Should Get Rid of Your Junk Drawer — Here’s Why and How

updated Feb 3, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

We all have that drawer. It’s usually in the kitchen; it might be oddly-sized or weirdly-located; and it always holds junk — some of which you might actually need to use at some point, the rest of which you just haven’t gotten around to getting rid of. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with a catch-all for stuff you use sometimes-to-rarely. The idea is that, by harboring clutter in a single drawer, you’re preventing clutter elsewhere.

The reality? Your junk drawer may be enabling your hoarding habit.

This is certainly my experience. Thanks to my junk drawer, I end up keeping stuff I don’t actually need, which makes it harder to access things I do need. Coupons and half-spent gift cards stay in the drawer beneath dried-out pens and crumbled-up papers. Because I don’t know they’re there, I don’t use them. In short, my junk drawer causes me to lose important things, hang onto things I don’t want, and it takes up prime real estate in my kitchen.

Is this the case for you, too? The truth is, you really don’t need a junk drawer. Getting rid of yours will help tame your clutter habit, and reclaim precious space. Here’s how to do it.

First, empty your junk drawer.

You’ve probably been meaning to do this at some point, so why not now? All you need is 15 to 20 minutes. Put everything on the counter, and sort it into piles. Throw away or recycle anything you don’t need, take action on items like bills or mail, and relocate any other items to places make more sense. If the empty drawer is full of crumbs and debris, now’s a great time to wipe it down.

Create a better junk solution.

If the idea of banishing “junk” altogether feels overwhelming or just not realistic for you, take a cue from our editor, Taryn, who recommends designating a “junk zone” in another room. Allocate a bin or basket and set it up in a spot where junk most commonly accumulates — your entryway, your mudroom, your bedroom. The key here is to go through all the stuff and take action every few days. If it’s out in the open, as opposed to hiding in a drawer, you’re more likely to address your junk. Pay your bills, toss old receipts you don’t need, and finally put those coupons to use. 

Another option? Set up a designated donation box. This could be in addition to your junk bin or instead of it, depending on what kind of junk you tend to hang onto. Once a month (or once a week, depending on how much you accumulate), drop the donations off. Getting into a rhythm of donating keeps “junk” from building up in your space over time and also encourages you to think more critically about what you actually want to hold onto, and what you can let go of. A win-win!

Find a better use for that empty drawer.

Now that you have an empty drawer, and a new junk solution, it’s time to find a new use for your old junk drawer. If you chose your junk drawer because of its odd location or shape — mine is long and narrow, which isn’t exactly ideal for storing silverware or bigger kitchen gadgets—put it to work in a way that solves another problem in your kitchen.

Carla Contreras, a pro-chef, food stylist, and photographer, suggests using your former junk drawer as a home for your spices. Just grab one of these spice drawer organizers and trim it down to size. Already have a storage solution for your spice? Use the drawer for other kitchen essentials like tea towels or actual tea. 

Another idea: put only useful “junk” in the drawer: binder clips and rubber bands for re-sealing open bags, a sharpie and a roll of tape for labeling leftovers and freezer bags, a pen and a notepad for creating grocery lists, and those coupons that you’re actually going to use now that they’re not buried in trash.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Here’s Why (and How) to Get Rid of Your Junk Drawer