The junk drawer never sets out to be a junk drawer. It usually starts out as something completely functional, like “the place where we will put our pens” or “the keeper of the cheese knives.” And then life happens. And suddenly the cheese knives are mingling with the ballpoints, as well as batteries, matchbooks, a half-empty bottle of superglue, and an unopened bag of cough drops.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Junk drawers may have a bad rap, but they are typically the first place we look when something is missing. When they deliver, we are happy they exist. When they don’t, they become one more thing on our to-do list to clean and organize.

When you are faced with organizing a junk drawer, the best thing you can do is embrace its diversity. Get a rough idea of what you are currently storing there. Decide if it seems relevant. And then divide the drawer into sections. Never create a section for items that are better placed elsewhere (those cheese knives, for example, should find their way into a utensil drawer). For other items, like batteries, earphones, and keys, the junk drawer is the perfect home.

It’s also a good idea to keep a small, removable container in the drawer for life’s randomness (spare parts, found game pieces, bus tokens). In our house, we call this “junk purgatory,” a place for items that could be junk or are destined for a higher purpose. Since the container is small and portable, sorting its contents takes just a few minutes, and its chaos doesn’t interfere with the rest of the drawer.

What is the craziest thing in your junk drawer right now?

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