The junk drawer: from chaos to organized

August 16, 2018

As I get older two things happen when it comes to stuff around our house -- 1. I have less and less tolerance for clutter and 2. when our spaces are disorganized it makes me itch more than ever. Do I have/need a perfect house? Absolutely not. But tons of crap makes me uncomfortable and annoyed. 

We've been here for about ten months and there are only a few unorganized spots left that bug me every time I open them/walk in. I've given myself a pass because after moving I've realized it takes a good year to get settled. At least it has for us. 😂

Unpacking the boxes is half the battle. I unpacked so many and dumped them right into drawers...just to get the box out of my house. Totally worth it. :) But our junk drawer in the kitchen is an example of that. And it bothered us EVERY single day. 

This one elevated my blood pressure daily so it was time to get it DONE! This junk drawer is twice the size of our old one so it feels silly that it was this bad for so long...but the bigger the drawer the more random stuff we could stuff in there, duh!: 
The junk drawer makeover -- before

You won't even believe how much crap was in there. It was so bad it was rarely shut all the way. The cords (curses!!!) were the worst -- I was always stuffing them back in. 

This was all stuff I just dumped as we got settled. Don't know where to put this doodad in the new house? Junk drawer! Something small and random? Junk drawer! I'm too lazy to put it where it belongs? JUNK DRAWER!

I tackled this one by categories. I started with paper items -- notepads, checkbooks, receipts, etc. Most of that went right to the recycling bin. Then I grabbed similar things and would bring them to the island to spread out. I'm going to say it again (I know I've said it a million times)...when you're not organized you spend more money. You buy things you already have. 

Thankfully since decluttering our house using the Konmari method years ago, this occurs less than ever around here. But as you'll see, even a small unorganized junk drawer wastes money. Look at all the hand sanitizers I found!:
Organize your spaces and save money!

Dumb. It never fails that I see the dollar signs as I do this. Every time! 

I found four one drawer. We don't have that many candles. WHY.
Why organizing saves you money

I continued sorting by category -- this was all random tools/house stuff that was in there: 
Tips for organizing the junk drawer

By the way, this (affiliate) handy little battery tester is a favorite gadget of mine: 
Battery tester

It saves a lot of frustration because we know which ones are working. Especially helpful when you find them in random spots and you don't know if they've been used or not. 

Ugh. Cords. They're bad enough, but random cords are the worst of the worst. Am I right? Those all went in one spot and I'll be sorting through ALL of the ones I've found (since moving) at one time: 
Decluttering drawers -- electronic stuff

Side note -- we got the Amazon Echo years ago and never use it. We just didn't find many reasons to have it plugged in. Are we missing out on something awesome? It was a prime day find so we didn't spend much. I feel like so many of you use them and I need to know why you love them so much! 

This wasn't even half of what was in there! As I took things out, I sorted each category into four sections:
  • trash
  • donate
  • keep but put away somewhere else (this was the biggest pile by far)
  • keep in the junk drawer
These little trays are awesome and I used them all over the house. They are perfect for drawers like this where you want to keep like items together: 

small trays for organizing drawers

When I was deciding what to keep in here I thought hard about what we really needed handy. Extra office supplies went to my office (not too far away if we need them). Tools went back to where the tools go (again, not far). We don't need 50 pens and pencils here. Or four pairs of scissors. 

Check out the after!: 
Organized junk drawer tips

Not pictured in this after photo is our absolute favorite set of scissors because my husband was using them at the time. I use them almost every day. **And I am currently freaking out because I tried to find a link for you and they aren't available anywhere anymore! 😩 Uh, I found one set on Ebay for more than $300. 😳 If you find one for around $12 send them to me! ALL THE SCISSORS.

Anyway, quite the before and after right? Even tiny transformations are great ones! It's like a breath of fresh air when we open this drawer! Once I get a space organized we are pretty good at keeping it up. Not perfect, but much better than how it started! 

Where are your problem areas? Does your junk drawer look like my before or after? Do you have any tips for keeping these areas organized? 

You can find our kitchen cabinet hardware here and our granite name here. :) 

**Affiliate links including for your convenience! 

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  1. I think we have the exact items in our junk drawer! Actually, we have two. Yikes! I've slowly been organizing the house lately, but haven't gotten to the kitchen yet. It does make you feel so much better when it's done.

  2. I thought I would share how I use the Echo. The most frequent use is to play music "Alexa, play Black-Eyed Peas". I know I can do this with my phone and a speaker, but the voice commands allow me to not have to search for my phone. I also have a couple of smart-home outlets connected to lamps. My living room is programmed to be on from 7 to 7 , or I can do voice commaned. My bedroom lamp is operated by voice command. I also set the echo with a morning routine that turns on the light, gives me weather for the day and reads news headlines.

    I love your new house and appreciate you sharing your home with your readers!

    1. Wow I love this! Can you come over and help me set it all up? 😂

    2. :). I joke with my husband that turning in a light isn't actually all that difficult, but the voice command is just cool! You should put your son on it because I am in Iowa or otherwise, I would be there for you!

    3. haha, we use our Echo dot for exactly the same things - playing music and turning on and off our smart plugged lights. I also use it for reminders - "Alexa, remind me to switch the laundry out in an hour" or "Alexa, remind me every day at 7:05 that it's time to get ready for bed" and sure enough, every evening at 7:05, my kids get a reminder from Alexa that it's time to put pjs on! I'm not the bad guy anymore!

      Also, I'm the least tech savvy person ever and found these things pretty easy to set up. Take the 10-15 minutes...worth it for us! :)

  3. What you have is the Amazon Dot...Echo is the bigger device with a better speaker. I have two Echos and use them daily. I love them! I ask Alexa to play music all the time (it's connected to my Amazon Unlimited Music). I use it for timers, alarms, white noise when sleeping, ask random questions without having to get my phone, and best of all as a smart device hub for controlling our lights by voice...Alexa, turn off bedroom light, dim lights to 40%, etc. Echo/Dot is awesome. If you are not using it, I'll take it!

  4. Uhmmm... my kitchen junk drawer looks worse than your before pic! Just cleaned it out about 3 months ago. I think items in there procreate!

  5. We have way too many lighters in our junk drawer too! Thanks for sharing your organization tips.

  6. Ok, I rarely comment on blogs I follow, but I had to comment on this. :) And I'll issue a disclaimer that I'm a complete tech geek and I love trying and testing all the latest tech and having my house completely wired and integrated.

    We have 3 Echo Dots (or Alexas, as we call them). We don't have full sized Echos because we have a Sonos speaker system in the house and so we don't really need the sound quality of a full Echo.

    2 Dots belong to my Amazon account - 1 downstairs and one in my bedroom. 1 Dot is my roommates and hangs out in his bedroom. They're all linked to all the other tech in our house (Philips Hue lights, Sonos system, etc.)

    I use them ALL. THE. TIME.

    The one downstairs I use to set timers while cooking, to set reminders throughout the day, to add things to my grocery list or my Lowes/Home Depot list, or my "spices" list for when I go to Penzeys. It's really nice to be cooking in the kitchen and say "Alexa, add ketchup to the grocery list" or "Alexa, add cinnamon to the spice list" and just keep going rather than have to stop and write something down. Then it's all in my phone the next time I go to the store.

    I also use it to set cooking timers or exercise timers or even to set timers for work (I work from home). Or for cleaning projects. Sometimes I do the "15 mins of decluttering and tidying" thing and I'll tell Alexa to "set a timer for 15 mins" and then I'll get to work.

    I route music through Alexa to the Sonos speakers by saying "Alexa, play Bruce Springsteen radio in the Living Room". Or I can say "Alexa turn on the TV to CNN" (I have an LG TV that's connected through a hub).

    I ask questions of Alexa all the time. My boyfriend and I will be in a discussion about movies or TV and it's super easy to say "Alexa, who played the father in Footloose". Or ask "Alexa when was the battle of Yorktown". I mean, totally random questions that come up.

    The Dot in my bedroom is linked to my Headspace app (meditation) so in the mornings I wake up and say "Alexa, play Headspace" and it'll take me to my next scheduled meditation. Or at night I can say "Alexa, play Headspace sleep exercise" and it'll take me to the nighttime sleep meditation.

    You can also load tons of "skills" for everything from white noise to games to trivia to news.

    The downstairs one has a bunch of skills loaded so that when I come downstairs in the morning I say "Alexa, Good morning" and it replies "Good morning, Kara", turns on all the lights, plays a news briefing, plays a weather briefing, tells me what my calendar is for the day, and tells me any reminders I've set.

    At night I go upstairs and say "Alexa, Good night" and it shuts off all the lights downstairs, turns the bedroom lights to 30%, and begins to play my nighttime playlist.

    Now, I'll admit that sometimes it glitches. I have a lamp in the corner of the living room that I've named the "torch" lamp. And I'll say "Alexa, turn on the torch" and it'll respond "I don't know a device named porch". Which always really annoys me because I don't slur!!! :)

    And sometimes you'll tell it to do something and it'll respond "I don't know that" or "I'm not sure". And you have to repeat.

    But mostly, I love it and I can't remember what life was like without it.

    1. Wow! If someone would set all that up for me maybe I'd use mine other than to play music! I will definitely try linking the Headspace app. Thank you for replying! I read the comments just to see how people use it :)

    2. We use ours as an alarm clock in case my hubby falls asleep in the living room. And as a reminder for me to take my nighttime meds so I don't forget and take my designated sleeping pill at 10 and then am unable to get up at five in the morning.

  7. Ugh, the dreaded junk drawer! I have yet to tackle mine but ours are filled with totally different things. Mine is all notebooks, pens and other stationery items, haha! ❤️❤️

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  8. Oh, also the Dots in our house are connected, so if my roommate is up in his room and I'm downstairs in the kitchen and I need to tell him something, all I do is say "Alexa, drop in on John" and then when I get the beep acknowledgement that the connection is there, I can deliver my message. And it will beep and talk to him in his room.

  9. We have Alexa in our bedroom connected to our bedside table lamps. I don't get hard is it to reach over and turn off the lamp? Seriously, the only time I use it is when I am wrapping Christmas gifts and I want to hear Christmas music. I guess someday it will be like the TV remote...invaluable now that I don't have a kid around to change the!

  10. Great job getting the junk drawer organized! That's on my agenda for the day... Thanks for asking about the Echo. I had to come check out the comments to see how other people use it. My two favorite things we can do with it are to "drop in" & set reminders. Our kids rarely answer the phone when they are home alone, so we can use the app on our phones to drop in on them & talk to them like it's a speaker phone. If the kids are supposed to bring certain things to school, we can set a reminder. For instance, last year my daughter had Girls on the Run every Monday & Wednesday, so we set a reminder for every M & W before school so she wouldn't forget her running stuff. Alexa would say, "This is a reminder... pack running stuff." We use it to remind us when it's bedtime & when the kids are allowed to be on & off devices. I especially like that it makes Alexa the bad guy instead of me! This year I plan on using it to remind my son nightly to charge his headphones & computer & to take his medicine & pack his lunch in the morning.

  11. Following for the dot usage suggestions!

  12. I do not have the dot but do have the google home mini and it is pretty similar. I also purchased it because there was a good deal at the time and didn't really look into what it can do and ran into a similar situation you find yourself in- we didn't really use it. I found that for a lot of these devices you have to buy more to take advantage of all the uses.

    We bought special plugs for our outlets so google can now turn on lights- I actually really like this aspect because something very common in my area is no overhead lights in the living room area. My condo only has overhead lights in the kitchen and bathroom so we use lamps in the main living area and the bed room. It is nice to have google turn on all of them in the living/dining at once instead of having to individually turn things on/off. We also use it to ask random questions. Other than that, we don't use it too much. My SIL has the dot and she uses it to speak to another dot in the playroom when its time for dinner. My nephew also uses it to set a timer to brush his teeth so I think it can be used well with kids to set reminders and timers.

    I think it is one of those things where the set up can take some time. Then you have to get used to using it instead of doing things the regular way.

  13. I'm pretty sure my junk drawer is worse than your before. Where do you plan to keep your cords? I hate having to keep shove them back in there but i do like having most of them in one spot so I don't hav to hunt around the house because I cant remember which i stored where. :) I'm pretty sure I also have at least 20 used batteries in mine-- I feel guilty just throwing them out but don't know where to recycle them.

  14. I finally got my junk drawer in order. There aren't kids here full time anymore, so I think that will help it stay neat. I honestly feel like a crime scene chalk outline of the scissors, pencil lead, tape, etc., would be helpful. Haha! Then everyone would know exactly where the item is supposed to be! I do have an exact place for everything without the outline, and I think we will finally be able to maintain it. Chrissy

  15. For the cords, I attach those plastic bread bag 'ties' to the cord, and label it with a Sharpie to ID what the cord goes to.
    A tip I am sure I learned on another blog... :D

  16. I have so many junk drawers it's ridiculous. I recently pulled out the desk cabinets in our kitchen as we are making it into a beverage center and I cannot believe what I all had in those drawers and cabinets. I threw out so much and it felt so good!

  17. I need to do this!! I think I have 5 drunk drawers in the kitchen alone! You want something off the counter...junk drawer!

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  19. I want to thank you, Sarah, for the book recommendation. I'm about 1/4 way through and I can already see a change in my mindset. I have always hung on to stuff because I felt like I needed to; my mom died in 2000 and I've been the elected keeper of the memories (they must have voted when I was out of the room!). I can honestly say that my thinking about my belongs is slowly changing. Can't wait to get through this book and get started. Again, thanks! And LOVE your blog ... read it every day!

  20. We have two Dots, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. For SURE I thought we'd use it for music and smart plugs, etc. You can see on your phone app what you've used it for. There are about 73 identical questions in a row: "Alexa, what's the weather today?" LOL!
    Another cool thing is you can call anyone who has a Dot (or an Echo) by simply saying "Alexa, call Patti." It'll call their cell phone if you sync your contacts with the Dot. And you can drop in on the other rooms if you set all your Dots up to allow it...

  21. I was intrigued by the scissors and finally found a way to contact the Zibra company. The scissors are currently unavailable because they are going through a redesign. Hopefully they'll be even better than before!


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