Junk Drawer Psychoanalysis: What Your Crap Reveals

Megan Van Schaick

junk drawer
Don't let junk happen to you.
We all have one, possibly more. It’s where we put things like batteries and receipts and other things we find useful. It’s where all the odds and ends from the kitchen counter go when company is at the door.

You know what I’m talking about: it’s the junk drawer.

It’s the great abyss, Streganona’s pot of junk. It grows until finally there is so much crap you have no idea what’s in there. You open it intending to organize it only to slam it shut in disgust. Those drawers are some intimidating beasts!

So I rounded up photos from six of our staffers and brought them to Jill Pollack Lewis, organizer extraordinaire and quite the junk psychologist.

Did you know your junk has a type? It does. Jill took one look at the photos and identified each type of junk and the perfect solution. See if you find your brand of junk in the mix.

junk drawer










The Archaeological Dig

She's made an attempt at organization, with the use of trays and dividers, which are great.

Cons: Although she has the trays, she has created layer upon layer of dividers and stuff. All these layers are like an archaeological site that you have to dig through to find anything -- and things get lost in the sifting.


  • Throw out expired offers and coupons. If offers are for stores you frequent, keep them in the car, not in the drawer -- that way they get used instead of expired. For offers that have an expiration date, put them somewhere in sight, like a bulletin board. But the bulletin board is a revolving door -- as soon as the offer expires, throw it away.
  • Keep like with like. Mouth stuff should all go together, hair ties together, thumbtacks together, etc.
  • Store extras separately. There’s a lot of gum -- keep some in the drawer and the rest in the pantry instead of letting it eat space.
  • Make sure you have usable items. Dump the chip clip and switch to rubber bands; they work better and use less space.

junk drawer











The Underutilized Drawer

There's actually not much in this drawer, so there is more space than she thinks.

Cons: Although there is space, it isn't usable because of the way things are floating around.


  • Get dividers. Even one that just splits the drawer in two sections will be a big improvement.
  • Put things away. Sponge should go under the sink (or in the trash), photos go in albums or other storage, labels need to go with wrapping supplies, candles stored with other candles, etc. 
  • Sort the papers. Shred or recycle anything not useful and, if they are needed, move to a file or other appropriate place, like the office. 
  • Miscellaneous items like the green change purse and babyproofing plugs need to be taken care of. If the purse holds something, label it or move it to a transparent container, otherwise trash it. If the plugs are still in use, move them to a toolbox, and if not in use, get rid of them.

junk drawer












The Corner of Chaos

This is an established command post with an attempt at containment. Points for having essentials in one place.

Cons: This screams, "I'm trying to deal with my life but I don't know where it's going." All the attempts at organization are completely ineffectual.


  • Install hooks and a bulletin board to contain all the keys and miscellaneous papers that are still needed.
  • Go vertical with storage to get rid of counter clutter. A hanging file can hold all the papers, datebooks, and receipts.
  • Invest in a charging station that removes the need for cords -- all devices can be charged in one place.

junk drawer











The Purgatory Drawer

This could potentially be an entirely new, empty drawer.

Cons: This drawer is spiralling fearfully into hell. It's saying, "I'm terrified to get rid of things, even if I have no use for them."


  • Clean it out. Old wallet? Eyeglass case? Ticky tacky notepad and folder? Use them or get rid of them.
  • Check those cords at the door. They are stuffed in the back and probably aren't even for current devices.
  • Toss the layers of paper. The paper is like the seven circles of hell -- it needs to be sorted, shredded, recycled, and filed if appropriate.
  • The checks! It's just downright dangerous to keep anything financial in a drawer. It shows a disrespect for your finances and that your financial life is not in control. Put them in a secure place with all your bills and statements, instead of a drawer.

junk drawer












The Nostalgia Drawer

Pros: This drawer is actually fairly well organized already. She repurposed containers to create a neat storage system.

Cons: It's a bit of a mish-mash and hanging on to those sentimental items can quickly turn into a hoarder mentality. 


  • Take inventory. If you try a piece of jewelry on five times and reject it five times, it's time to get rid of it. Check for broken pieces that need to be repaired or sold.
  • Get a clear container to hold the buttons, and trash the envelopes. If you can't see it, you don't know you have it.
  • Sort the memorabilia. Any sentimental pieces should be gone over. Keep just one or two in the drawer and store the rest somewhere.

junk drawer











The Black Hole

Pros: This drawer has a lot of space left in it and could become very useful.

Cons: Right now it's a black hole -- there's no way to know what's actually in there.


  • Check the menus. Get rid of duplicates and organize the remainder into a folder. Toss a menu if it's a place where you always order the same item.
  • Put things away. Office supplies go to the office, crayons go to the kids' rooms. And throw things like that random chopstick away. Move the baggies and waxed paper to the same place the foil and parchment is kept -- get an undersink organizer if necessary.
  • Check the mystery bag. If it's something useful, store it in a clear container so you can see it. If not, get rid of it.

Junk Drawer Lessons:

  • If you can't see it, you don't know you have it.
  • Purge, purge, purge.
  • Be ruthless.
  • Keep things where they are used.
  • Organization is just like staying fit: you have to work at it every day or it all falls apart.


We showed you ours, now you show us yours! What's in your junk drawer? More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

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