13 Things to Toss from Your Junk Drawer ASAP

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Contrary to its name, this drawer shouldn’t actually be filled with junk. Create a more functional space with these tips.

As a professional organizer who’s had her hands in many junk drawers, I can easily tell you what the common clutter offenders are in most households. I can also tell that it’s possible to avoid having a junk drawer altogether. However, they do serve a purpose, so long as they’re kept neat and tidy—and the easiest way to do that is by regularly decluttering the drawer.

Unnecessary items can easily make their way into the junk drawer when we’re in a rush to tidy up. Even if your junk drawer is organized perfectly, you’re sure to accumulate unwanted clutter over time. This is totally normal, but it’s important to take the time to comb through it consistently and remove anything that doesn’t belong.

To help you get started, these are the items I recommend tossing from your junk drawer.

1. Cords and Chargers

On the off chance that everyone in the house uses the same type of phone charger, leaving one charging cord that works for all in your junk drawer is not a bad idea. But, label it or make sure everyone understands that it’s the designated junk drawer charger, and they can’t walk off with it. All other chargers, cables, and cords should be organized elsewhere. Otherwise, they’ll quickly create a jumbled mess inside the junk drawer.

2. Takeout Packets and Utensils

As a professional organizer, the amount of times I’ve pulled out ketchup and soy sauce packets from the depths of a junk drawer is incalculable. While you should never store food in the drawer to begin with, keep in mind that these items do actually expire—so if you’re going to keep them, at least leave them in the pantry or refrigerator so you’ll remember to use them.

Additionally, don’t use the junk drawer as the place to store those packets of plastic utensils and straws that come with takeout orders. Like with condiments, they’ll probably get forgotten about or, worse, dusty and dirty from being mixed with other items. Instead, store them in your silverware drawer or in your desk at work in case you forget to pack a fork for lunch.

3. Coupons and Menus

Thankfully, in today’s digital age, physical coupons and menus are a rare sight. Of course, if your favorite local pizzeria doesn’t have an online menu, feel free to keep the menu that came with your latest pie delivery—just not in the junk drawer. Paper menus tend to get caught and stuck at the back of the drawer which can be frustrating. Instead, use a magnet to hang it on the side of the fridge or slide upright it in a cabinet, alongside cookbooks if possible.

When it comes to clipped coupons, the likelihood that you’ll remember to grab them from the junk drawer when you leave the house is slim. Instead, tuck them into a small, clear zippered envelope that can fit in your purse or the car console so you have them with you as you run errands. Oh, and if you’re still hanging onto those oversized Bed Bath & Beyond coupons, you can toss those entirely as they’re no longer accepted as of May 2023.

4. Paperwork

Aside from the risk of getting jammed, the junk drawer isn’t the ideal place for paperwork because it’s easy to forget it’s there. Important bills, receipts for items you intended to return (but never did), or last year’s holiday cards all should be removed from the drawer and shredded, recycled, or filed.

5. Excess Pens and Markers

Stashing a handful of (working) pens and a permanent marker in the junk drawer is totally fine. But if this space is serving as the holding place for all the pens in your home, it’s time to clear it out. Test all pens on a piece of scrap paper and keep a few good ones. The rest should be kept organized in a desk drawer or a cabinet with other backstock office supplies.

6. Office Supplies

Speaking of which, the junk drawer shouldn’t double as a desk drawer (unless that’s your intended purpose, of course). Random rubber bands, stray staples, and paper or binder clips are bound to get lost in it. Not to mention, you could easily hurt yourself if you tend to toss in loose thumbtacks. Alongside a select few writing instruments, one pair of scissors, roll of Scotch tape, and a paper pad are really all you need to keep in the junk drawer. Any excess office supply items should be kept in your designated home office space.

7. Beauty Supplies

Similarly, this space shouldn’t mirror your bathroom vanity, either. I like keep one tube of lip balm and a small bottle of hand lotion in my junk drawer in case I’m in need of either while cooking or cleaning up the kitchen. A small bottle of hand sanitizer and a dedicated hair tie or clip to grab when you’re deep in chef mode are also acceptable. But all makeup, skincare, hair products, and even sunscreen should be kept elsewhere, as they’ll take up too much room in the drawer. Plus, a hot kitchen generally isn’t the best storage environment for most of these items.

8. A Sewing Kit

Unless you can see yourself whipping it out to stitch a button back on your coat right at the kitchen table, there’s no reason to store a sewing kit (even a travel-sized one) in the junk drawer. Like with thumbtacks, you run the risk of injury by needles and thread will inevitably end up unraveling and creating chaos. What’s much more reasonable to keep in the drawer are the things you probably will need a pinch such as eyeglass lens cleaner or a repair kit, a stain remover pen or wipes, and a lint roller.

9. Household Tools

A measuring tape, compact multi-tool, and tiny tube of super glue are all justifiable junk drawer contents. But there’s simply not enough space to store an entire toolbox worth of things in here so it’s best to find another way to organize your tool collection.

10. Medicine and Vitamins

Depending on the size of your household, a junk drawer is typically too cramped to hold everyone’s daily prescriptions or occasional medicines. But more importantly, for safety reasons, you don’t want medicines or supplements falling into the wrong hands. Instead, place them on a shelf in an upper cabinet either on a lazy susan or into small bins, sorted by family member. Don’t forget to let go of expired meds by checking for your local disposal locations via the FDA.

11. Money

Even if you’re like me and live alone, leaving any substantial amount of money in the junk drawer is a bad idea since it’s not secured. You should also find another storage spot for your credit and debit cards, your checkbook, and gift cards or certificates. A $20 bill to go towards a delivery tip or a coin assigned specifically to scratch-off games should be the most amount of currency kept in this drawer.

12. Mystery, Duplicate, or Broken Items

With the exception of pens (because those easily go missing as you use them), there should be no duplicate items in the junk drawer because it leads to unnecessary clutter. Identify obscure keys and parts and, if you can’t match them to anything or figure out their function, let them go. Broken things that you have no intention of fixing should follow suit.

13. Trash

This one is self-explanatory: Things like clothing tags, straw wrappers, and general debris should be routinely cleaned out of the junk drawer. When you’re doing your monthly decluttering, take an extra minute or two to pull everything out that you’re keeping, vacuum and wipe the inside of the drawer, and then place everything back in, organizing as you go.