Making Life easier: The junk drawer


Be honest we all have a junk drawer. You know the drawer that you never open in front of friends or guests for fear that an explosion of coupons, pens, rubber bands, stamps, hair clips and mail pop out and then you can’t close it without having to use one hand to push the crap back in!?! My kitchen has one and yesterday I performed my monthly junk drawer cleanse.

There is no greater feeling than to have my house in order. Sadly it’s rare that every room is organized at the same time. Every two weeks we have our house cleaned…yes I have a maid…{gasp}… a stay at home mom has a maid?? Yes and she is worth every penny. Prior to having a maid and Lily, Mike and I reserved our Saturday mornings to cleaning. After some time we were tired of wasting those precious weekend hours scrubbing and dusting so we hired a maid to enjoy our time off from work. Maybe when Lily gets older and I don’t have a baby on my hip, I will take over those responsibilities, but for now it’s a sanity necessity.

Back to the junk drawer. I set aside time each week to organize an area of the house. The laundry room can be flooded with junk found in pants, buttons, clothes still waiting to be hand washed (I try not purchase these type of clothes for this reason!), shoes and so forth. The bathroom cabinets need to be cleared of old prescriptions, empty product bottles, hair accessories like rubber bands and clips need to be grouped back together. My kitchen junk drawer is stocked with pens, note paper, coupons, receipts, a lighter for candles, Bentley’s heartworm medication and numerous other items.  For my monthly cleanse I do the following:

  1. Take out all the items. You never know what is hiding in your junk unless you go through every piece. Case in point my speeding ticket. Last night I discovered the hidden ticket and the reminder to complete online traffic school hiding under my coupon case….and yesterday was the last day to complete it!
  2. Wipe down the drawer. Start the purge with a clean slate. Even if you think it’s clean you would be surprised what a wet paper towel will reveal.
  3. Create specific piles for sorting. I have a trash stack, coupon pile, area for pens and a place for mail. Sorting your belongings only makes it easier to weed out the trash and organize the leftover items.
  4. Toss the trash. A rule of thumb my mom always taught me was if you have not used an item in the last 6 months throw it away. Your junk drawer should hold items that you need/use frequently.  Go through your coupons for expired dates. Glance over receipts and see if you are passed the period for returns or exchanges. Chances are if you’ve lapsed the 30 or 60 day window for returns or exchanges the store won’t honor it. I found a receipt for a chicken salad from Pei Wei (a favorite) and I’m positive I won’t return the fortune cookie because I didn’t agree with the words of wisdom (BUT funny how those little pieces of paper speak to some area of your life!).
  5. Have storage containers. What is the purpose of cleaning out your junk if all of the items will just jumble altogether when you put them back in the drawer? I have a small plastic container for all my pens. An old iron candle tray for miscellaneous items. All my receipts and coupons are individually grouped in labeled Ziploc bags and then placed in a free fabric diaper/wipe case given to me when I registered at Babies-R-Us (score!). I take sandwich sized Ziploc bags and label them with the store name with a sharpie. Now if you have a nifty label machine- I’m a little jealous! Since Sharpies can smear when first applied to plastic bags, I apply a piece of tape. I write on the tape and then apply another piece of tape on top so I don’t have to worry about smearing the perma ink on my fingers! I have bags for Carter’s, Babies-R-Us, JoAnn Fabric, and BJ’s(like a Costco). You can also make a misc. bag for stores you don’t frequently visit. I also have a separate bag for gift cards. Gift cards are FREE money people, knowing exactly where they are is a lesson I have had to learn far too many times, like when I misplaced a loaded Nordstrom’s card…whomp whomp! There is a bag just for business cards as well. I keep the most important ones(like Lily’s pediatrician) in my wallet, however; I like to have a copy at home for those just in case moments. Really important cards(closest urgent care & after hour hotlines) are taped inside the cabinet above our phone. Cards for the dog groomer, lawn service and pool guy stay at home in this bag for organization of the drawer and my wallet(business cards start to pile up and can keep me from zipping my wallet shut!)!
  6. Placement of items. When you finally tossed the trash and organized the remaining items it is time to put them pack in the drawer. I am obsessed with making lists, even lists for lists! For this reason I have my pens and note pads in the front of the drawer. Candles are always lit in my house, so the lighter is up front too! In the back I have the iron tray with scissors, tape and Bentley’s once a month heartworm medication.

And that’s it! It only takes once a month- totally doable! The time it takes to clean will be considerably smaller than if you wait every 6 months. You never know what great coupon deals you have hidden, restaurants gift cards you forgot about or even the traffic school reminder! So go take 15 minutes and clean people…that way you won’t be afraid to open that drawer in front of people!

View Comments
  1. Elizabeth commented:
    June 20, 2012 Reply

    Great tips! I put my receipts in envelopes 🙂

    • Amy Romano commented:
      June 22, 2012 Reply

      Thanks and my husband puts his in envelopes too!

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