How to Organize a Junk Drawer

Tackle the messiest spot in the house with this straightforward guide to junk drawer organization.

Organized desk drawer

David Prince

Even the most organized among us have a place where miscellaneous items are tossed to be dealt with at a later date. Often, that place is the junk drawer. Keys, pens, takeout menus, and random odds and ends make their way into the drawer because they either need to be accessed regularly or they don’t have anywhere else to go.

If junk drawer storage isn't your strong suit, don't worry. Controlling the clutter of a junk drawer is easier than you might think. Follow our simple step-by-step process to transform a messy drawer into a tidy storage space that's functional for your family. Organizing your junk drawer takes minimal time and resources but can have a big payoff.

drawers with organized office supplies
Marty Baldwin

1. Take Measurements

If you’re using organizers inside the drawer, you'll need to measure both the drawer and the organizers. Carefully note the width, depth, and height of the drawer. If the junk drawer is really stuffed, you might need to move things or empty the drawer in order to get proper measurements. Once you have them, it’s time to find some organizers. Either repurpose what you already have or purchase new ones. These are a few of the most popular solutions for junk drawer storage:

  • Individual inserts: These work well for junk drawers because they come in a variety of sizes and you can move them around as needed. Typically they come as a set of several small containers that can be configured just right.
  • Organizer tray: Usually expandable, an organizer tray has different size compartments but cannot be reconfigured like inserts.
  • Drawer dividers: Spring-loaded dividers by themselves aren’t ideal, but the type that comes with customizable separators can work well.

2. Pull Everything Out and Declutter

Once you've chosen your organizers, clear everything out of the drawer. If possible, take the drawer off the rails and place it on an empty surface, like the counter or kitchen table. Once you've removed everything from the drawer, sort the items into the following categories:

  • Items to keep in the junk drawer
  • Items to store elsewhere in the house
  • Items to discard altogether

While the drawer is empty, take a moment to give it a good clean. Vacuum out any crumbs (a lint roller works in a pinch) and wipe with a damp cloth. Let it dry before you put anything back in.

3. Sort into Categories

Once you've determined which items are staying in the drawer, organize them further. Sort everything into like categories, so you can easily group them together inside the drawer. These are a few areas to consider:

  • Office supplies: Pens, pencils, permanent markers, sticky pads, paper clips, stamps, letter opener, scissors, and tape.
  • Electronics: Chargers, headphones, batteries, and flashlights.
  • Personal care: Chapsticks, lint roller, hair ties, and hand sanitizer.
  • Tools: Screwdriver, measuring tape, hammer, and level.
  • Household items: Adhesive hooks, furniture markers, flower food packets, lighters, and matches.

If you have loose papers like takeout menus, consider using a hole punch and adding them to a binder to be placed on a shelf. Or toss them and bookmark the online menus on your phone. Avoid throwing condiment packets or plastic utensils in the junk drawer going forward. As tempting as it can be, they almost always cause clutter and are rarely used again. If you do want to keep them, find a spot in the pantry instead.

If you ended up with a pile of items to store elsewhere in the home—like stray makeup, tiny toys, or medicine—take the time to put each item in its proper place rather than tossing them back in the drawer.

drawer organization
Adam Albright

4. Organize Junk Drawer

Ready for the fun part? Place your organizers into the empty drawer and do your best to arrange the items while keeping them in their categories. Some things, such as pens and scissors, will need to live in long, narrow compartments while others, like hair ties and paper clips, can fit nicely into smaller sections. You might have to co-mingle some items to maximize the space. This makes it easy for anyone in the house to find what they want and—more importantly—return it.

To ensure that happens, add labels inside the drawer. Place label tape on the inside lip of the drawer below specific categories. It won’t be seen when you shut the drawer and can easily be removed and replaced when needed.

If you're using individual containers, use museum gel or putty to prevent them from slipping and sliding inside the drawer. A small piece of rug gripper pad cut to the size of the drawer works well too.

5. Maintain It

Maintaining the junk drawer is the key to keeping it organized. Give it a weekly once-over to remove whatever doesn’t belong and reorganize anything that got out of place. If one section gets to be too full, consider adding items to a bin and placing it somewhere nearby so it doesn’t become too overwhelming.

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