Living with Less: The Junk Drawer and More


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By this point, if you’ve managed to get through your entire house feeling pretty darn good about yourself, you deserve an award, or a margarita.  Whichever makes you happier.  But, more than likely, you probably have an area or two that are still not quite as clear as you’d like.  And by now they probably stick out like a sore thumb in your lighter, airier, less cluttered home.

Every house has a junk drawer, the place where things with no home collect. Mine was overflowing and I was out of ideas. I didn't want to just organize it, I wanted to get it down to just the essentials (without being a minimalist). Finally I got through my messy drawer using my precious storage space for only the items I truly need.

The Junk Drawer

In fact, in my house, we have no less than 5 junk drawers.  At his point it’s basically a “junk hutch.” There’s the tape and scissors drawer, the “big stuff” drawer, the paper drawer, the craft drawer, and the random junk we don’t want to put away/ doesn’t have a home.  Honestly, it’s best to tackle these drawers all at the same time.  That way you can rearrange where things go as you clear them out.  But if I had to pick one place to start, it would be the craft drawer.  If you’re a regular reader of Creating My Happiness, you know I am a handy person, but not a crafty one, much comfortable with a power drill than a Cricut. Most of the crafty, creative things in our house have been bought in a fit of self-delusion, and it’s time for them to go. Many things in this drawer are sill in their original packaging, so I’ll either donate them or bring them to my daughter’s old preschool.

Next up would be the manual drawer. Any manuals for items we no longer own are a no brainer.  Other manuals are a toss-up, since most can easily be found online, along with helpful how-to videos. So if you’re a person that would rather just google how to do something, let go of manuals and free up that space. The big items are things like pillar candles (half-burned), my sewing kit, the door knob I never installed… you get it.  With each item you have to ask, “Am I really going to use this, or am I keeping it ‘just in case?'” If it’s just in case… well, you haven’t needed it so far, and how long has it been in there?

Then there’s the tape and scissors drawer.  This started as a place to put things where my daughter couldn’t reach them.  The fact that she’s now completely capable of bring a stool or chair over to get what she wants is just a detail. These are items we need, we use, and don’t want to get rid of.  But since the purpose of expanding into a 5th drawer was to keep the small people out of it – which is no longer the case – it’s time to consolidate.  The junk junk drawer is just a straight-up toss and go.  The remaining items will fit neatly into 2 drawers, big and small, and we now have 3 extra drawers to use for legitimate homes for items we really need or want.

Regift Pile

Come on, I know you have one. I’ll admit I have one. It’s nothing personal, but sometimes even with the best of intentions, we get gifts that either we already have or just don’t fit our lives. I know this one makes people feel bad because someone spent their hard-earned money to gift them with that… thing… and now we’re going to give it away?  How horrible of us!

But not really. Gifts are given to bring people joy, to express appreciation or affection, not to cause guilt or stress. Do you really think Great Aunt Roberta would be happy knowing that you’re holding on to the Hutzler Banana Slicer she gave you is just clogging up your utensil drawer?  No!  (By the way, if you have a minute and want to laugh check out the reviews on the banana slicer page.)

When I go through my regift pile I ask myself 1 question; Do I know someone who would love to get this for a gift?  If the answer is no, or I think of someone I could simply pass it along to, out it goes. I don’t feel the need to hang on to something that I may or may not find a new home for… someday.

Furniture

It’s possible that I’m the only person that keeps old, used, non-guest-quality furniture stored away… but I doubt it.  In my case I always think about what that piece of furniture could be if I take apart, rejig it, and paint. Now my rule is that if I’ve had it longer than a year without redoing it, it’s got to go.  Others may be planning for a future home – we might need that end table set from 1977 when we move to a bigger place.  To you I say, “They’re never going to be in style. Let them go.”  There are plenty of people out there that could make quick use of the items you’re hoarding, so it may be time to everyone a favor and get rid of them.

What to do with miscellaneous items

If something was in your junk drawer, the chances are good that you should just toss it.  After all, you don’t want to clutter up anyone else’s place with your junk.  Well, maybe you do, but now’s the time to be the bigger person.  If you have things that are new, or like new, you can try to find them a new home on Craigslist, Facebook groups, or donate it to an appropriate charity.

Since regifts are typically still in the box, they make awesome donations or resales! There’s a market for everything, so don’t toss out that copy of Microwave Cooking for One just yet. List it for sale, give it as a gag gift, or leave it in the freezer section of your grocery store.  Just kidding. Don’t do that last one… and if you do, you didn’t get the idea from me.

Furniture is a horse of a different color. It can sell quite well online, or have a friend with a flea market booth try to sell it.  You can consign furniture in good condition, or simply donate it. Habitat for Humanity is always looking for furniture in good condition to sell in their ReStore or place in a house they build.

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