5 Steps to Organizing a Junk Drawer

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Does your home have a junk drawer? A junk drawer is a designated drawer for storing various items that are handy to have around. It’s a “home” for all the little things you need, like pens, pencils, rulers, lighters, etc and it can reveal a lot about a person. The problem with junk drawers is that the “junk” multiplies and it can get out of hand, especially if there’s no structure. Organizing a junk drawer doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but you need some kind of system.

Organizing a Junk Drawer in 5 Simple Steps

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Where should a junk drawer be?

My favorite spot for a junk drawer is in the kitchen, in a drawer at one end of the kitchen counter—maybe closest to your table or an open surface where you can write a check or glue a broken toy back together. Junk drawers rarely don’t contain items you use within the kitchen to prep food, so you don’t want them taking up valuable real estate in your work zone.

5 Steps to Organizing a Junk Drawer

Don’t be overwhelmed by your junk drawer. Yes, there are a lot of things in there, but when a space has a specific purpose and function, you have a clear path to take and organizing can be simple. If you’re thinking about tackling an entire kitchen, it’s a good idea to start with a small, manageable space like a junk drawer. Here are 5 simple steps to organizing a junk drawer:

Step 1: Empty & Clean

Take everything out of the drawer and place it onto the counter. Vacuum and wipe out the drawers.

The first step to junk drawer organization is to take everything out and clean your space.

Step 2: Sort

All the items on your counter should be placed into categories (pens, pencils, measuring, lighters…). Every home will have different categories in their junk drawer, there’s no right or wrong here as long as it makes sense to have that item in that space.

Step 3: Remove & Re-home

So what if it DOESN’T make sense to have an item in that space? Remove items that do not belong or are too large—put them where they belong or find a new home for them. A flash drive makes more sense near a desk than in a junk drawer. Batteries make sense in a junk drawer if you’ve got a few, but if you’ve got a larger collection, it might make sense to give them their own home elsewhere.

Go through every category and make sure each one makes sense in that drawer.

All the contents of my junk drawer.

Step 4: Purge

Now that you’ve got each category laid out and you’re sure it belongs here, go through each pile. Minimizing and simplifying are the goals this time. Weed out broken pencils, crusty rubber bands, and rusty paper clips. Be honest about what you actually use and how many of each item you need. Two adults in a home probably don’t need 50 pencils. 10-20 is still plenty and is much easier to manage. That pen you always grab by accident and toss back in the drawer because you hate it? Get rid of it.

Having too many items in one tiny drawer is a sure path to failure.

Step 5: Divide & Contain

When you’ve pared down your categories and the number of items within each category, it’s time for dividers. There are two paths to take here:

Individual bins

Acrylic drawer bins are a great product for organizing

Lots of small, narrow bins, one for each category, arranged neatly within your drawer, are a great way to store your items. This post explains exactly how to use these dividers for maximum efficiency.

Pros: uses space efficiently, very customizable

Cons: may shift, potentially expensive

Tray with dividers

My junk drawer with a white plastic tray

One tray broken down into sections is another good junk drawer organization tool.

Pros: simple to use, more secure, inexpensive, sometimes adjustable

Cons: Less customizable, potentially a cleaner look, but harder to clean

Depending on which path you take, you’ll want to measure your drawer and have a general idea of how many and what items you’ll be storing in each section.

Grab your drawer tray or bins and arrange them within your drawer. Once all the items are back in the drawer and in their own section, you’re done!

Match the section to the item as closely as possible so you can use every inch of your drawer when organizing.
Organizing Tip:

You’ll want each bin or section to match the items as closely as possible. If the section is too large, you’re wasting valuable space. If the section is too small, items won’t fit nicely and it will be annoying to take things in and out. If a space is annoying to keep organized, YOU WON’T KEEP IT ORGANIZED.

My Junk Drawer Makeover

My junk drawer recently got a makeover. A few years ago I purchased acrylic dividers for my drawer. They worked perfectly and kept my drawer organized, but the interior of my drawers are a natural wood color and the acrylic dividers on top of the natural wood, plus all the junk, made my well-organized junk drawer look cluttered. I tried adding some drawer liner to brighten the drawer up a bit, but it still looked jumbled and chaotic. I have similar dividers in my bathroom drawer and they’re perfect there, but I just wasn’t feeling them here.

My junk drawer with acrylic bins

Finally, I tried the tray method instead and grabbed a Youcopia Small Stuff Organizer. I decided to go with this one because it’s white, and I really felt like the white might be a good solution to my dark, jumbled space. I also liked it because it was extendable and came with inserts to break sections up.

Youcopia small things dividers

I followed all the steps above… emptied my drawer, cleaned it out, sorted by category, purged each category, and then fit every category into the best-sized compartment in the drawer organizer.

While I have some concerns about the tray staying clean looking, it brightened the drawer up nicely and it holds everything I need it to hold. I had a few spare inches on the side of the tray and in the back, so I added a few acrylic dividers back in.

Organizing Your Junk Drawer

Organizing a junk drawer is a great activity to jump start a whole-house organization session. It can be a quick win if you’re motivated and ready for a change. Containment is key, so grab some dividers or a tray if you’re going to tackle this. What’s your junk drawer looking like these days?

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