I Refresh My Junk Drawers Using This 3-Step Method (That Works Every Time)

published Apr 24, 2023
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Organized kitchen drawer
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Although I’m steeped in cleaning and organizing knowledge and do my absolute best to put expert plans, products, and tips into practice for any home organizing project, there’s one area that I find myself having to return to again and again: my junk drawer

Maybe it’s because I embrace the “junk” part of the junk drawer, allowing small objects like LEGOs, knickknacks, and game pieces to collect in it. Or perhaps it’s due to the fact that I haven’t limited the junk drawer’s contents through clear, precise labeling. No matter the case, periodic junk drawer resets are a routine kitchen maintenance task, and I’ve accepted that. 

Recently, I cleaned it out because we moved and I stuffed actual junk in the designated junk drawer, including extra kitchen tiles, flyers and coupons I thought might be of use, and loose screws from who-knows-where, as well as things that didn’t have a home yet, like refills for a plug-in bug catcher

Whether I’m doing a light reset or a complete overhaul of my junk drawer — and no matter how many times I do it — the process is always the same. Every time, this reliable method brings my drawer from a disordered mess to an organized haven to keep things that we actually need to have on-hand. 

Here’s the three-step method that works for me.

  1. Empty. Find a large-enough (preferably cleared-off) surface, like a countertop or table, and completely empty out the drawer, including any drawer dividers or organizers. If warranted, I like to give the drawer and organizer a quick cleaning at this point with a slightly damp microfiber cloth.
  1. Declutter and categorize. This is the most important step. First, throw out any obvious trash. Goodbye, broken kitchen tiles and orphan screws! Next, separate out belongings that aren’t trash but don’t belong in the junk drawer, such as puzzle pieces or loose batteries. Categorize the remaining items. For instance, put all pens in one category, paper pads or sticky notes in another, office supplies like rubber bands in another, etc. At this point, thin out any “collections.” For example, you probably only need a couple of pens; the rest can get stored somewhere else. Consider anything that might be missing, such as packing tape, and fill in these blanks. 
  1. Put everything back. Start this step by putting away items that belong somewhere else. This way, you can then focus on putting your no-longer-junky junk drawer back together (aka the fun part!). Replace everything that you need to have handy in the kitchen back in the junk drawer. Of course, this step will be different for everyone, but it’s a good opportunity to implement an organization system. Be purposeful about where you place each item, considering again whether each thing really needs a place in this key kitchen spot. 

Following this failproof organizing strategy ensures you’ll end up with a junk drawer that you don’t have to dig through, but rather, that serves you exactly what you need right when you need it.