Dirty Secret No More: Junk Drawer Clean Up

Everyone has one: that drawer in your kitchen or mudroom that’s filled with the oddest mixture of items—duct tape, safety pins, Sharpies, shoelaces, even gum and spare change.

There’s really no way to eliminate it. And why should you? We all need a catchall. Your best bet is learning how to manage it.

Dump It

The best way to tackle any junk drawer is to start by completely emptying its contents. Only after you take out everything from the drawer can you assess what you have, what you really need and how to store it better.

Clean it

Get the vacuum out and suck up any debris left inside the drawer, then give it a good cleaning with a wet rag and spray cleaner. If the drawer is looking tired or stained inside, give it a facelift with a brightly patterned shelf liner or sheet of your favorite decorative paper.


Once the contents of your drawer are spread out, it’s time to take a hard look at what to keep or toss. Half-used lip balms, mystery keys, old coupons or dried-up markers can be pitched. Sunblock tubes more than a year old should also be thrown away. And if you have no idea what that odd part goes to, chances are you’ll never need it, so pitch it.


Of course, the junk drawer is a useful catchall for all those little things you often need but don’t know where to put. But it doesn’t have to hold every little thing. Remember, anything that can be sorted by category should be stored with like objects.

For examples, picture hooks, screws, nails and even rubber and felt furniture pads fall within the household repair category. Stick them in a lidded plastic bin and put them with your tools—instead of the bottom of your junk drawer. Errant buttons should be collected in a box and put with your sewing kit.


Once you’ve sorted and categorized, get creative with your storage and take a walk through the kitchen section of your local hardware store. Drawer dividers, spice jars and food storage bins make great junk drawer organizers, especially when they’re easy to see what’s inside.


If you’ve got the extra drawer space, think about giving every family member their own junk drawer and make them “own” it. Your son can put whatever he wants in his drawer (as long as it closes), but he is responsible for cleaning it out every six months or so. Even if you don’t have a spare drawer in the mudroom or kitchen, designate a spot in his own room.

Revisit and be diligent

Commit to cleaning out your junk drawer every couple months. Resist the temptation to throw that button or sticker in the drawer. Think first whether you actually have to keep the item, then consider the easiest spot to find that item next time you need it. If you can’t answer those questions, only then should you resort to the junk drawer.

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