Many organization experts claim there is no need to collect all that stuff we lovingly call “junk.” For them, it’s a black-and-white issue. They reason that if you have everything in its place, you don’t need to keep a collection of stuff that doesn’t belong together. And they have zero tolerance for anything that resembles a junk drawer. We’re all familiar with that unrelated stuff: a night-light bulb, a fork left over from a flatware collection you no longer have, bits of plastic that have come off something you’ll discover the minute you toss them away and an assortment of flotsam that to the naked eye seems practically worthless.
Well, I believe life and the home aren’t black-and-white but awash in a variety of grey areas, and one of my compromises to an organized living space is a big, beautiful, cluttered junk drawer. On the sitcom Friends, my fellow neat-nik Monica was discovered to have an entire junk closet. It was revealed by her pals to be the secret reason why she could keep everything else so tidy. Personally, I draw the line before stuffing an entire closet with disparate items unless you are shopping for Christmas presents year-round. But one drawer is a logical extension of an organized way of life.
My personal preference for organizing stuff is to use a variety of baskets. I have a basket sickness that takes hold alongside my circle sickness. (If I ever find a basket with circles on it, I will be in heaven.) I have seagrass baskets in my office, a couple of synthetic ones in the kitchen and assorted others here and there where needed. But a home can suffer from basket overload if you’re not careful, so I try to stop short. And there really isn’t an appropriate basket for a half-dozen leftover felt floor protectors. It would be wasteful to throw them out, but they don’t belong to the other families of items I keep in baskets and boxes.
Essentially, they’re junk until they’re useful, so into the junk drawer they go. A junk drawer only becomes problematic when it’s a catch-all for everything small and there’s a lack of organization elsewhere in the house. If you regularly need batteries and you have some of various shapes and voltages, they should be kept together in one container and labelled. But if you somehow ended up with a single workboot shoelace and you know you’re going to eventually need it, giving it its own basket is overkill. Besides, I think it’s easier to find such an item when you remember you put it in the junk drawer. Otherwise, how would you categorize it? Does it go with shoe polish because it’s shoe-related or with string because it’s string-related? Let’s face it: it’s junk-related. The stuff in my junk drawer is far from forgotten. Paint pens for repairing nicks and scratches on furniture are in there. A few luggage tags, a couple of cigarette lighters (we don’t smoke) and the obligatory shoelaces also reside in the drawer, along with extra key fobs, a deck of playing cards and a small piece that came off the new fridge when it was moved in, only we haven’t yet been able to figure out from where.
Because everything else in the house is pretty well organized, we don’t ever experience those frustrating moments of pawing the drawer’s contents back and forth in a vain attempt to find something that’s not there. If your junk collection needs expand beyond a single drawer, you need to rethink some of its contents and scale back. As the saying goes: A place for everything and everything in its place – including our junk.