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A Professional Organizer’s Tips For Organizing Your Junk Drawer

They might surprise you.

neatly organized tools
The drawer of your dreams.

A good junk drawer is a treasure.

It’s a time capsule of projects past, present, and future. It’s what a new client will often pull out as evidence of a disorganized home.

"Look! We've failed as homeowners. Please help!"

But, contrary to your opinion of what a professional organizer deems acceptable, I don't equate the value of your existence based on a junk drawer, or even two.

I won’t judge you harshly for it, unless it’s not assembled correctly.

Stocking it well requires time and procrastination.

Like all good artwork and treasures, a well-crafted junk drawer doesn’t happen quickly. It grows slowly.

Pens and markers

Twenty-seven pens, markers, and eraser-less pencils are the minimum you should plan for. Four of the pens from your dentist and Who-waz-dat should be aged to perfection to drag ink blotches across the paper properly. Throw them back into the drawer and grab the next. Repeat.

Your stock of Sharpie markers will have just enough ink on a blunt tip to draw an unsatisfactory faint grey line. Soothe your frustration with the balm of optimism that they’ll magically moisturize to full black with more aging. Avoid overtaxing a landfill by throwing them away. Toss back into the drawer and try again.

Note pads

Your swag stash of post it notes with "Benny's Plumbing" and "Sew Smart" in giant letters makes you a marketer’s dream. It doesn't matter if there is not enough room to write on it or if out of business.

The magic number to collect is 28 assorted not-helpful note pads from the same folks that gave you those skippy pens. The printed logo and phone numbers stop you from recycling what used to be good tablets, before they got dusty and curled in the drawer. Fond memories and advertising stick, even if the note gum doesn't.


You’ll need 3, two of which work. The third is there to remind you to buy batteries.

piles of batteries
How many do you think are still viable?


You'll need lots of keys; the more sizes and shapes the better. It’s not important right now to know what locks they fit. Trying every key in every door is the perfect activity for a cold rainy day. Maybe someday. Let's pencil in January 2025?


It’s essential the strings you save be two inches shorter than needed. Stock the drawer with assorted sizes and types: kinked clothesline, twine, and shoelaces. The clothesline is for tying your car trunk closed, so be sure not to keep it in the car.


The ideal mix has a bit of plumbing, electrical, duct, and painting tape.

Verify the edges are appropriately fuzzed with drawer dust. For added security, include the years-old shiny gift wrap tape that you’ll never use because it doesn’t tear right and highlights your wrapping failures on the wrapping paper.

Picture hooks

Picture hooks multiply and tangle like wire hangers, so you can start with a few and wait for the rest to migrate to their tribe in your drawer.

Here’s a test you don’t want to fail: How much does the picture you want to hang weigh? Will it fall off the wall if you use a hook rated for 10 pounds? 20? Should it be a one-nail hook or three? Can you use 3M sticky products? How do you weigh a picture anyway?

Reduce the stress of not knowing which hanger will be strong enough. Stick the picture in the hall closet or the attic to find another day.
Scavenger hunt anyone? All for the want of the right sized nail.


Since the average project requires even numbers, odd numbers of nuts and bolts, screws, or hooks are required. This means you’ll always have one left for next time, which will need two, and a trip to the mega-hardware store, where they will only have the economy gigundo box available. Economy boxes of specialty nails and such are the perfect antidote to your unspoken fear of depleting your drawer inventory.

Bits and bobs

The true measure of junk drawer excellence is the miscellaneous section. Throw nothing away because you know you’ll remember what that little red plastic thingy is for the second after the trash truck departs.

Keep the stuff you think you’ll use most often toward the front of the drawer by filling the back section with

  • 6 clothespins

  • 3 mouse traps

  • 7 dirty birthday candles

  • 2 tiny holiday light bulbs

  • 5 packs of half-used cut flower food

  • an assortment of plastic bag twist tie

  • Dust to flock the tape roll edges (see above)

  • 2 adapters for some electrical device you’re sure you tossed but….

Increase your drawer efficiency with pre-made junk drawers

The next time you go to the hardware store for the three bolts you’re missing, remember to grab a few of those sexy little plastic containers of assorted hardware. A mini-junk drawer, pre-organized with little dividers!

Just think of how you can repurpose the container when you’ve used the contents. Earrings? Watercolor pan? Seed sorter? The possibilities are endless, so buy three. Hell, they make great holiday stocking stuffers; buy lots.

man looking at sparkler
Shiny object syndrome

What to do when the thrill of your junk drawer is gone

Option 1

Close the drawer and look away. It’s worked before, right?

Option 2

Throw it all out and start fresh. What’s your tolerance for regret?

Option 3

Buy drawer organizers. Assuage your self-doubt that you don’t measure up to the standards of the rapturously organized people who ascribe to the latest organizational guru’s TV series by searching for a set of plastic drawer organizer containers. Grimace when you realize the sizes almost fit your drawer, the part TV editors leave out.

Option 4

Ask for help, and try really hard not to resist suggestions to try the keys, recycle old note pads, donate the economy boxes of fasteners, and toss the nuts and bolts because it feels like there are more important things to do.

Option 5

Forgive yourself with the reminder that what you own is evidence of how you spent your time, money, and attention.

Remember, a life well-lived can attract stuff.

Tools, bits and bobs, people, memories. Your collection is your collection and this organizer gives you permission to organize your junk drawer, or not, exactly as you see fit.

Now, would you pass me the hammer? I have a picture to hang.

**Yes, I have not one, but two 'miscellaneous' drawers, which I will always call junk drawers. Symmetry?

Email me with comments, questions, or just to say hello!


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