Everybody has at least one dreaded junk drawer in their home. It’s where everything that you don’t know what to do with accumulates until it’s a heaping mess and you can’t find anything.
However, it also holds items that you need easy access to—like notepads, pens, scotch tape and scissors— and it’s no fun to have to rifle through a bunch of junk to finally get to what you need.
Here are eight tips to make cleaning and organizing your cabinet calamity easier than saying “dreaded junk drawer” three times fast.
1. Pull Everything Out of the Drawer.
“If you have multiple junk drawers around your house, you should tackle them all at the same time, as there may be similar types of items in each drawer,” said professional organizer Natalie Schrier, president and founder of New York City-based Cut The Clutter.
2. Discard Obvious Trash.
Do you really need old ketchup packets, expired coupons and old business cards? And what about that one shoelace that ended up in there? And of course, recycle what you can, like old newspaper articles that you clipped and never got around to reading.
3. Sort Items into Categories.
“For example, all the twistie-ties in one pile, stamps in another and rubber bands in a third,” said Amy Trager, a professional organizer in Chicago. “Once the drawer is completely empty, wipe a cleaning cloth across it.”
4. Decide What You Need to Keep.
“Do you need all those store reward cards still?” Trager asked. “Or can you enter your phone number into their system just as easily? Do you ever actually look for extra buttons? Whittle down whatever you can.”
5. Discard Obsolete and Duplicative Items.
I mean, do you really need six bottle openers?
6. Find Each Thing a Better Place
“Think about if any of the items in front of you have an assigned ‘home’ elsewhere in your abode,” Schrier said. “If so, deliver them there.”
For example, “Maybe safety pins make more sense in your sewing box, and bobby pins should go with your hair styling tools in the bathroom,” Trager said. “Set those items aside to deliver to their rightful homes once you’re done with the drawer. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get distracted if you walk away now.”
If objects don’t necessarily have another “home,” decide whether or not they’re “junk drawer-worthy,” or if it would make more sense to store them somewhere else, Schrier advised.
7. Arrange Your Storage.
“Put items you decide to keep — that are otherwise ‘homeless’— back in the drawer and incorporate drawer organizers, if necessary,” Schrier said.
Drawer organizers are designed to help you organize and find objects easily.
“If someone doesn’t want to spend a bunch of money on drawer organizers, they can make homemade ones by using old cell phone boxes, old jewelry boxes, the bottom one-quarter of cereal boxes, oatmeal boxes or any other consumer food packaging that they have on hand,” Schrier said.
“It doesn’t have to be fancy,” Trager added. “It just has to hold what you need.”
8. Be Selective About What You Put in Your Drawer
“Train yourself to create new habits about where you should or shouldn’t toss certain items now when clearing off the counter or emptying your bag,” Trager said. “Even junk can be organized!”
And don’t forget to sort through the drawer regularly so it doesn’t get out of hand again. Maybe make it a once-a-month ritual.