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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

Easy Ways to Get Your Junk Drawer Under Control

This article is from our friends at LearnVest, a leading site for women and their money.

There's nothing junky about a junk drawer: It's a fantastic catch-all for odds and ends around the house, to keep them right at your fingertips should you need them in the future. Well, theoretically.

In reality, our junk drawers tend to be "I know it's in here somewhere" situations. That isn't a big deal when hunting for a purple pipe cleaner, but it is problematic when looking for a receipt to return a purchase, that halfway filled-out W-4, or roughly 20 wasted dollars in change.

Everyone's junk drawer might look different, but—whether or not yours, like ours, includes rubber bands, old thank-you notes, paper clips, spare buttons, highlighters, orphaned staples, and anything else you find on the floor, counter, or car seat—we'd all like to get these black holes under control.

So, your junk drawer might start like this:

But what if, instead of an incomprehensible jumble, it looked like this?

The best part about this impeccably organized junk drawer is that it repurposes unused things around the house, thereby tackling even more junk—for free.

Here's how we did it:

1. An Ice Cube Tray

A 99-cent ice cube tray is the perfect organizer for the little stuff: spare buttons, matches, rubber bands, hair ties, safety pins, bobby pins, beads that fell off your favorite sweater, orphaned sticks of gum, and more. By picking a cube (or two) for each type of junk, we kept our littlest stuff accessible and orderly.

Don't have any? Try using egg cartons, muffin tins, cleaned tuna cans, or cupcake liners instead.

2. Teacups

We repurposed some of our least favorite teacups (that just happened to cost $1.50 each) as containers for change, lipstick, half-used Metrocards, bracelets, rings, sunglasses and more. We sorted our junk by theme (for instance, makeup and jewelry share a cup). If you don't have teacups that you want to dedicate to the cause, recycled plastic or paper cups are just as effective.

Don't have any? Try using bowls (we added one for our bigger junk), clean takeout containers, or saucers.

3. Freezer Bags

We're big fans of going as paperless as possible (see our guide to doing that here), but the odd takeout menu and postcard tends to clutter up our junk drawer faster than we can say "recycle." The obvious answer is to invest in some 99-cent folders, but the less obvious is just as effective: freezer bags. Oversized Ziploc bags will hold nearly any document, so designate a bag per document type—one for receipts, one for takeout menus, one for notes you scribbled while on the phone. The bags are also great for unwieldy things like phone chargers and headphones.

Don't have any? Try clothespins (to keep your paper together, at least) or baking sheets to serve as makeshift desk trays (like this) instead.

Tips to Keep Organized

Now that we've gotten our junk drawer under control, we want to keep it that way:

  • Be ruthless about what goes in the drawer: A receipt from lunch goes in the trash. (The expense has been recorded in your Financial Inbox anyway, right?) Leftover screws from putting together your shelves: Trash. Stretched-out hair tie? Trash.
  • Line the drawer: So things don't slide around and get increasingly messy every time we open and close our masterpiece, we lined the bottom with simple non-slip drawer liners, which we got for $3 on Amazon.
  • Reorganize every three months: Or whenever the mood strikes. But we like to set a calendar reminder to remind us to go through our junk drawer while talking on the phone or watching TV, to keep things from getting out of hand.
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