Junk in the Trunk (and the Drawers and Bins)

Junk drawers. They’re like Lay’s potato chips – you can’t have just one!

They’re under our beds, in our kitchens, our offices, bathrooms, you name it – there’s probably a junk drawer there.

The number and type of junk drawer that we have says a lot about us – mine make me look like a just-in-case fanatic.

Last year, I counted at least three bins that I considered “junk drawers” in my apartment, mostly filled with half-blank pieces of paper for later use. I’d been carrying all this crap around for years without knowing it.

Drawers and storage solutions are perfect for intentional storage. But they can be dangerous too – we leave things hidden for so long that we start to forget what we own and why we own it.

A peek inside my junk drawers

When we moved seven months ago, I avoided storage specifically because I don’t want to go back to having multiple junk drawers. But junk drawers always find a way, don’t they?

We have a little built-in vanity and dresser area near our bathroom and we quickly made use of two tiny drawers to fill with everything that didn’t have a home.

IKEA happened, and we got more little booklets and pseudo-tools to add in. Soon, I could hardly open the drawers anymore because they were stuffed with God knows what.

Here’s a look at our junk:

Junk Drawers

I separated our drawers into one for my husband and one for me – before it was anyone’s guess as to whether or not there was any kind of organization.

How to tackle junk drawers without going crazy

As you can see, my junk drawers are very small. However, they really were the start of something much bigger and I wanted to bring them back to a manageable size before they got out of hand.

Start by identifying the offending storage pieces around your house. I would define a junk drawer as any drawer that has three or more different types of things – say tools, pens and playing cards or toys, rubber bands and electrical tape.

Before you get started cleaning them out, there are two things you should know:

  1. Know that you can’t get rid of them completely. Honestly, I think having one dedicated drawer to miscellaneous items is useful. Especially when trying to keep surfaces clear of clutter around the house.
  2. Know that all drawers should not be junk drawers. Don’t let this mentality creep beyond one drawer in your household. Be intentional with your junk and give it a nice home.

Once you’ve identified the drawers, take everything out of them and sort them into piles:

  • Trash
  • Not in use (think of The Minimalists 20/20 rule)
  • Like with like (all tape stays together!)
  • Redistribution pile (junk that needs to go to another part of the house)

What’s most important is to keep all like items together. If you have a designated place for paperwork elsewhere, then why is your utility bill in the junk drawer?

Return things to their rightful homes. When you’re done, take a look at what’s left.

Are there duplicates? If you have more pens than you could use in a lifetime, get rid of them. Toss anything that is broken, about to break, or that you just don’t use.

When you go to put everything back in, you should have significantly less. Put things in as orderly as you can so you can see everything easily and the drawer closes without putting up a fight.

Why bother with junk drawers?

First, the obvious – you don’t need to be carrying around literal useless junk whenever you move.

But there’s more to it than that. I’m guessing that you visit your junk drawers just often enough to get frustrated with them. I know when I opened my drawers to find something, it would stress me out. Not a lot, but enough to warrant a good cleaning.

If there’s a drawer that stresses you out even a little bit when you open it, it’s time to rethink it. There’s no reason for these little things to add stress to our lives.

What’s in your junk drawers?

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Giving in on Storage

We hear it every day. People complaining about a lack of storage and advertisers telling us that we need more. Why? Because we tend to pack things away and keep them, even when there’s no longer reason to.

That’s one of the big, exciting challenges I set out for my husband and I when we moved to Los Angeles earlier this year. I didn’t want to just get storage containers and fill them up again after all the work we did getting rid of things.

But this weekend, I caved. We went to IKEA (which is a wonderful and yet dangerous place when it comes to impulse buying). We purchased plastic tubs, a dresser, shoe rack, baskets…we also bought a giant plant and a wok for some reason, but they’ve been on our “wish list” for a while so it wasn’t too bad.

But we have a huge closet and a built in dresser – why did we need storage? I’ll tell you – from firsthand experience – nothing is always as it seems.

And by that, I mean there are cockroaches in Los Angeles.

The curve ball

We really haven’t had too much of a cockroach problem, but here’s a little story that will make your skin crawl (and might make you might think I’m gross).

A couple months ago, I noticed something that looked like cockroach poop in one of my clothes drawers. I decided to blindly move forward, not accepting the notion that a cockroach could be living among my clothes.

A month later, I finally faced my fear and went through the drawer. Sure enough, there was a spooky little guy scampering around in my unmentionables like it was just another typical day.

[Insert freak out and nightmares about cockroaches. I didn’t calm down for a while after this incident.]

I took all my clothes out of the built-ins and lived out of a suitcase for a month. We talked about it, planned for it, and waited until we knew we needed enough to warrant an IKEA run. Here’s what we got and why we got them:

  • Dresser – to hopefully never find a cockroach in my underwear drawer again
  • TV Stand – to support the long-awaited TV. My husband has been really patient for almost 6 months without a TV, so we took the plunge this weekend.
  • Plastic bins – the rabbit hay and food is also susceptible to cockroaches, and I really don’t want to serve them bugs for breakfast. Rory had the fortune of meeting a cockroach and he threw his hay box at it. He does not like.
  • A “paper-hider” – being a grown person means having a weirdly large amount of paperwork. We got a small bin to organize/hide it all. It’s about time to go through them again and get rid of what we no longer need.
  • A giant plant – I’m giving plant caretaking a go. It’s a Dracaena Marginata, which makes it sound like a Game of Thrones character

    Our new Dracaena Marginata next to my desk. I also switched rugs and furniture around this weekend, as I am prone to do.

    Our new Dracaena Marginata next to my desk. I also switched rugs and furniture around this weekend, as I am prone to do.

Simplify before organize, but still organize

These past couple of months I’ve started to realize that simplifying and organizing are not as mutually exclusive as I thought. I wrongly considered organizing a weak substitute for actually making a change and simplifying.

But when you live simply, you still have ugly things like guitar cords and rabbit food that need proper places in your home. Don’t be afraid to get storage to solve pain points, but don’t use storage as a band-aid to avoid necessary simplification.

I think I’m starting to see the benefits of strategic storage. How about you – is storage your friend or your enemy?