You know the drawer: It’s to the left of your sink, or the right of your stove, and it is full. You might have resigned yourself to the idea that’s it’s a magnet for old receipts, expired gift cards, gum, or leftover takeout ketchup packets—but it doesn’t have to be! In fact, your junk drawer can actually be useful, but for it to get there, you need to make sure it’s stocked with things you’ll actually use.
Of course, a crucial part of the equation is making sure that you can actually find those useful things. Here, pro organizers offer their tips for creating an ahh-inspiring, uncluttered haven—plus what you should keep inside to ensure your junk drawer works for you.
How to organize your junk drawer
First, to the business of cleaning and organizing. If that drawer is removable, it’s time to dump it out on a counter, and remove trash, old papers, and anything you haven’t used in a few months. Next, make some categories so you can make one trip to other locations in the house. For example, if you’ve acquired some small tools or other hardware, group those together to take to the garage toolbox.
Laura McHolm, home organization and storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company in Los Angeles, recommends lining the drawer with shelf paper and purchasing insert dividers. Adding another layer of organization by using a top clear drawer organizer can expand your space. And be liberal with what you toss. “Do you really need 1,000 rubber bands?” McHolm asks—a question that applies to coupons, wine corks, take out menus, business cards, spare change, and pens.
All done? Now you’re ready to create functional categories for your around-the-house essentials. Here, nine surprising things that are definitely worth making space for.
Miniature beauty products
… But not for the reason you think! Many beauty products can do double-duty as household fixers. For example, a drop or two of baby oil can help in de-tangling necklaces, rubbing dried paint off your hands, or un-sticking jammed zippers. Petroleum jelly can help with stubborn soap scum and prevent rust on garden tools. And a bobby pin is handy for holding small nails in place while working on projects, or for accessing teeny-tiny reset buttons on electronics.
A multi-head screwdriver
Laura Kinsella, owner of Urban OrgaNYze, in New York City, says “junk drawers get a bad rap, but they can easily become the most utilized space in our home.” She calls the space “highly coveted,” and is a big fan of a frequently-used-tools section. Hers would include a screwdriver, which comes in handy often: “Kids require a lot of battery changes, not to mention television remotes, smoke detectors, or even arm clocks,” she says.
Make your screwdriver work extra hard by choosing one with multiple heads so that you can be prepared for any scenario—whether it requires a Philips or a flathead.
Another small essential you’re sure to use frequently? The thumbscraper tool, which home organizing expert Laura Bostrom, founder of Everyday Order, says is the perfect small tool for cleanly removing stubborn product stickers.
Kinsella is a big fan of Goo Gone, which she calls “the honorary mascot of parenthood, getting us out of any sticky situation no matter how old our kids are.” The next time a kid has gum on their shoe, you will be ready.
Safety pins, binder clips, and zip ties
These handy problem solvers are great for in-a-pinch repairs, from pinning or clipping up too-long curtains to tying together a bundle of messy cords underneath your TV.
This is wall-friendly, so it’s great for temporarily hanging kids’ artwork or party decor. Painter’s tape is also a pretty useful tool when it comes to visualizing the rough size and shape of furniture before clicking “buy.”
Rubber cabinet bumpers, felt furniture pads, and furniture pens
Creating quick access to these tools means you’ll fix our small tasks now and not allow them to linger on your to-do list, Kinsella says. So if you notice your cabinet doors slamming or your chairs wobbling, you can reach for a rubber cabinet bumper or a felt furniture pad.
Likewise, if you see a scratch on your floor or coffee table, you’ll be able to quickly grab a furniture pen to do an instant touch-up.
If you have the room, it’s a good idea to make space in your junk drawer for “extras” for your kitchen space, such as knobs or lightbulbs. That way, these things are right where they’ll be used in case you need a replacement.