Lifestyle

Face to Face With the Junk Drawer

I’m going to go on a limb and assume that you have a junk drawer. We all have one, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to get rid of mine. After all, where else would we put our junk?
Recently, a reader wrote asking how to conquer his junk drawer. “I can’t find anything in there so I keep re-buying all the stuff I bought already!” he said.
Having never thought much about junk drawers, I decided to see what the experts have to say. Emilie Barnes, co-author of “More Hours in My Day,” says the secret to junk drawer organization is proper dividing containers. But wait! Don’t run out to the mall to buy all kinds of pricey dividing containers. Barnes says you already have what you need: muffin tins, a silverware tray, an ice cube tray, a coffee can, a small box and even (hold on!) egg cartons. I stopped short on the egg cartons. Seemed a little gross to me.
Next I checked with Marla Cilley (aka “The FlyLady” and author of the book “Sink Reflections”). Cilley says you cannot organize clutter. The only way, she says, to get control of any space is to empty it and clean it and then put things back, each thing in its own place.
Knowing I couldn’t advise my reader if I’d not experienced this myself, I took the plunge. I dumped that sucker right onto the kitchen rug. Boy, was I shocked to see the drawer was lined with lovely paper. Believe me, it’s been years since I’ve seen the bottom of that drawer.
I cleaned it and slid it back into its compartment. Next, I went in search of dividing containers. I found a muffin tin I haven’t used in years, a desk drawer organizer and a silverware tray. And just to be fair, I did empty an egg carton. I hit it with a coat of spray paint, and you know, it didn’t look half bad. I opted for the desk drawer organizer because it was larger than my other choices. I have no idea where this thing came from. It was stashed in my junk … cupboard. Anyway, I cut the egg carton into shapes to fit around the divider and managed to fill the entire bottom of that drawer with a series of small compartments.
And now for the challenge: facing that pile on the floor. First I pulled out anything with a cord, wound it and secured it with a rubber band. Then I began to segregate: screws in one pile, nails in another. Pencils, pens and small tools fit neatly into the long, narrow compartments. Tacks, washers and small, round things were perfect in the egg compartments. I kept putting like things together into the remaining compartments until all that remained was authentic junk destined for the trashcan.
You wouldn’t believe all the neat stuff I found … stuff I really, truly need and, like my reader-friend, items I’d re-purchased because I forgot I had them already. Well, no more!
It took the better part of two hours to wrestle back control of my junk drawer. Thanks to Emilie and Marla, now it is so useful and so beautiful I’ve decided to rename it. I don’t have a junk drawer anymore. I have a brand-new Help Drawer.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014.

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