junk drawer

Update! Kitchen Junk Drawer from Chaos to Calm in 3 Easy Steps (It Works Every Time)

Im going to go on a limb and assume that you have a junk drawer. We all have one, and I dont know about you, but Im not about to get rid of mine. After all, where else would we put our … junk?

junk drawer

Recently, a reader wrote asking how to conquer his junk drawer. I cant find anything in there, so I keep re-buying all the stuff I bought already!

Having never thought much about junk drawers, I decided to see what the experts have to say. Emilie Barnes, author of More Hours in My Day, says the secret to junk drawer organization is proper dividing containers.But wait! Dont run out to the mall to buy all kinds of pricey dividing containers. Emilie says you already have what you need: muffin tins, silverware tray, ice cube tray, coffee can, small box, even (hold on!) egg cartons. I stopped short on the egg carton. Seemed a little gross to me.

Next, I checked with Marla Cilley (aka The FlyLadyand author of Sink Reflections). Marla 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 in its own place. Sounds simple enough.

Step 1: Dump, Clean

Knowing I couldnt advise my readers if Id not experienced this myself, I took the plunge. I approached my junk drawer with intention, determination, and resolve. I dumped that sucker right onto the kitchen rug. Boy, was I shocked to see the drawer was lined with lovely vinyl paper. Believe me, its been years since Ive seen the bottom of that drawer!

Now empty, I cleaned that vinyl drawer lining (its very pretty) and slid the drawer it back into its compartment.

Step 2: Divide, Conquer

Next, I went in search of dividing containers. I found a muffin tin I havent 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 didnt 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 I mean hidden in my junk … cupboard! Oh dear, yes I do have one of those, too.

Anyway, I cut the egg carton into shapes to fit around the divider and managed to fill the entire junk drawer with a series of small compartments. And now for the challenge: facing that pile on the floor.

Step 3: Categorize, Tidy Up

First, I pulled out anything with a cord, wound each one, and secured it with a rubber band. Next, I began to segregate: screws in one pile and 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 wouldnt believe all the neat stuff I found things I really, truly need and, like my reader-friend, items Id repurchased because I forgot I already had them. Well, no more! And finding the missing top for my beverage vacuum pump was worth the entire effort.

It took me the better part of two hours to wrestle back control of our kitchen junk drawer. Thanks to Emilie and Marla, now it is so useful and so beautiful Ive decided to rename it. I dont have a junk drawer anymore. I have a brand new Help Drawer!


I don’t know if it is possible for any junk drawer to stay organized. Perhaps it is for a one-person household whose said person is on permanent vacation. Abroad. Any busy household’s junk drawer is bound to need routine freshening. That means right back to the Steps above—1-2-3. Done.

Ever after …

It’s been a year or more since I first approached my junk drawer, as you read above. Take a before photo was the absolute last thing on my mind. While writing is my life, I don’t approach every moment with that in mind. In fact, I was hoping no one would ever in a million years take a look at the mess known as our kitchen junk drawer. That would have been right up there with The Chair as measured in embarrassment.

Upon publishing this post, my email inbox experienced an outpouring (tsunami might be a better description) of requests, pleas, and even demands to see before and after pictures. Here is my response:

The photo in this post above is a stock photo. That means it’s not my actual before drawer, albeit, a very apt illustration. Recreating a “before” photo would not have been on my radar, and even if I’d thought about it … nope.

Below is my junk drawer as of 10 minutes ago. Taking camera-to-drawer, even I was surprised to realize I didn’t have to do anything to get it ready for a photo shoot. Much like my closet, once organized, where everything has a place, and everything is in its place, it’s easy to keep it that way.


after photo junk drawer


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  1. Ann L says:

    Everybody’s essential are different, but some are basics that are needed in “the heart of the house”, like staples, rubber bands, scissors, tape, and dividers mean everything is in its place and quickly findable. With the dividers, you aren’t going to need to the big dump for a long time.

  2. Chris Norlund says:

    Ok, Mary —
    Your people have spoken!
    Indulge us in an AFTER PHOTO of the notorious Junk Drawer, please?
    The great article, and your experience is so helpful, but incomplete without that triumphant After Photo! We’re not expecting it to look magazine perfect, afterall there is an egg carton that is functional, if not picturesque.


  3. Amy T. says:

    I too, like several others, want to see a pic of Mary’s completed organized junk drawer. I love that Mary found organizers around her home and recycled an egg carton. I purchased some interlocking plastic containers in various sizes to tame my junk drawer, but the containers were a good investment for me ’cause no matter what I do to an egg carton, it always still looks like an egg carton that was decorated by a kindergartener!!!

  4. Doris Schrier says:

    I too wanted to see the finished, organized “junk drawer”! Especially the spray painted egg carton!

  5. Kate Machinski says:

    Had to laugh at the “junk drawer challenge”. Our 7-year-old granddaughter referred to the drawer as “the handy-dandy drawer” and we’ve called it that ever since!

  6. Mary Davis says:

    I love Emilie Barnes! And her “More Hours In My Day”. Years ago, with some church friends, we visited her place in Riverside, California. Such a memorable experience. Now, off to re-name my junk drawer.

  7. Janet says:

    I want to see the finished product. Your junk drawer completed I want to know what you did with egg carton??????????

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