Junk Drawer Confidential

Mike’s junk drawer: “Before”

Entire redecorating plan hinges on kitchen drawer cleanout

By Michael Turton

People in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and other steamy, sultry locales have no seasons to contend with and as a result lack the urge to do spring cleaning – something that is an inherent part of northern life. For some at least. I have not always immediately jumped onto the spring-cleaning band wagon and other domestic necessities.

In fact, I admit that on more than one occasion I’ve purchased new jumbo packs of sox and underwear to put off doing laundry for a few days. But this spring for some reason, perhaps due to the freaky atmospheric conditions we’ve experienced, I felt a very foreign yearning to rearrange, tidy up and otherwise put my little house on Garden Street in order. I came up with a vision easily enough and immediately felt a wave of smug satisfaction as I imagined making good on one of very few New Year’s resolutions I’ve made in the current century – to make my house more accurately reflect who I am.

One cube down: 14 to go

The hazards of Cubism
I immediately bought 15 cubes that double as storage and shelving units. They’re cool – made of sugar cane with a touch of bamboo – though the ad did contain the ominous words “Assembly required.” Luckily it did not say “So easy an eight year old can do it.” The cubes are the key element in my decorating plan, the primo domino that must fall before everything else can find its rightful place. They will form a five foot tall right angle triangle – with five cubes on the bottom and one on the top. They will house and display my most treasured books, a sculpture, vases, lanterns and other prized pieces. I cleared away the only wall that can accommodate the cubes, assembled one and placed it against the empty wall. It looked damn good. My project was underway and taking shape as planned.

That was at least two weeks ago. Maybe three. Cube number two has not yet been assembled. My kitchen now overflows with extra chairs, a huge antique trunk, a bookshelf filled to capacity, boxes of books – not to mention the boxes containing the 14 unassembled cubes that now sneer at me each time I enter my house. I can’t get into the fridge and most of the cupboards. I’ve begun to worry that my kitchen, now barely passable and definitely a safety hazard in the dark, may in fact be the true reflection of who I am.

The strategy
I need to regain my momentum. I need a quick victory – something more reasonable than assembling 14 more cubes – or doing the laundry. I settle on a strategy. I will clean out the kitchen junk drawer. It’s been more than two years since I moved in and it’s getting very difficult to open and close the drawer. Its time.

This is a live report. I am actually sorting the contents of the junk drawer, now spread across a table at Philipstown.info headquarters at 69 Main St., as I write this piece. I brought the contents here because I could not get to or sit at my kitchen table. Here goes. 

Anatomy of a Junk Drawer
What I found:

1 Sierra Nevada beer cap – wonder why only one?
1 pair work gloves – very clean
1 Ming Moon Menu (spring roll; chicken rice soup; chicken, beef and pork with garlic sauce circled)
2 large broken pairs of scissors
1 generic book of matches
1 deck of Bicycle brand playing cards – assumed complete due to presence of both Jokers
1 night light
1 empty washable marker package
2 washable markers (6 missing)
1 good restaurant-style corkscrew
1 CRC3 camera battery, unused, camera now trashed
1 Sharpie
8 bottle openers, about half of my loose collection from: The Greater New York Brewery Co., Ballantines, Schmidt’s, Linzer
merican, the FDR home, Travco, Hotel Statler and Schafer.
5 boxes of Diamond wooden matches
1 package of Jobes plant fertilizer spikes – my Jade plant will be very happy.
1 pair heavy square nose pliers
2 highlighters – pink and yellow
1 roll of imitation invisible Scotch tape
1 pair needle nose pliers
1 thin red marker pen
1 weird triangular marker pen from Hudson Heritage Credit Union
1 small pair of scissors in good shape
1 Phillips screwdriver
2 small knives believed to be for cheese
1 plastic putty knife – unused
1 oversized, ugly pair of sunglasses I wore coming back from the optometrist
1 empty key chain marked “All 3 keys to house”
1 bladeless exacta knife handle
1 roll brown Scotch packing tape – 4 inches left.
1 lighter in working order
1 mermaid-shaped bottle opener
1 fake copper pillar candleholder
1 wooden stir stick for paint – unused
1 roll Scotch of clear packing tape – unused
1 roll of picture hanging wire – gage unknown
4 plastic pegs for securing screws in drywall when the hole has become too big
1 carabiner – that thing rock climbers use – unused
3 $1.00 corkscrews
4 small thin screws
1 key to my estranged brother’s house
1 fake but good blue Swiss Army style knife
3 paper clips of different sizes
1 large Hudson Heritage Credit Union paper clamp – looks like the end of jumper cables
5 finishing nails
1 spare set car keys – YES! Found at last!
1 empty Coors Light key chain
1 non-functioning remote car opener/locker
4 elastics – aka rubber bands
1 hockey puck
1 single blade, bone handle jack knife
4 lightweight picture hooks
5 AA batteries – condition questionable
87 ballpoint pens (includes some Optiflows which really aren’t ballpoints)

The best rediscovery

Junk drawer content awards
Biggest surprise: so few ballpoint pens
Best find: my lost, heavy, cast iron mermaid-shaped bottle opener. Spare car keys came in second.
Biggest disappointment:  absolutely no money
Most annoying discovery: eight mouse droppings
Most shocking: no duct tape
Total: 177 objects in all, mouse droppings excluded 

Natural laws
The world seems intent on solving what it sees as the junk drawer “problem.” I Googled “kitchen junk drawer” and stopped looking after 50 pages of websites – talk about junk! Entries consisted mainly of products and services aimed at ending junk drawers once and for all. An unlikely scenario and hardly the point. Trying to eradicate junk drawers is about as likely as stopping little kids from playing in puddles – or eliminating fighting in hockey. It’s not about putting an end to junk drawers.  It’s about seeing how long you can go between cleanouts. It’s like driving with the “you’re almost out of gas” idiot light on and hoping you’ll make it to the next gas station then passing just one more for good measure. A “perfectly organized junk drawer” may be the best oxymoron of all time, narrowly beating out “too much garlic.” An organized junk drawer simply cannot exist. It’s a natural law. Thank the gods that George Carlin isn’t still alive to give this any thought. 

Mike’s junk drawer: “After”

Moving forward
My strategy now is quite simple. Throw out the few really useless items like the four inches of packing tape along with any offensive objects such as the really ugly sunglasses. Put the pliers and screwdriver back in the toolbox once I find it. Return as many of the stolen ballpoint pens as possible to their rightful owners. Buy a mouse trap. Feed the jade plant – it’s been more than two years. And put everything else back in the junk drawer where it belongs.

The pledge
What about the 14 remaining cubes? I now have the confidence I need to tackle assembling them. Compared to the junk drawer it will be child’s play. I guarantee that by 9 p.m., one week from tonight, they will all be assembled and in place. I will post a photo to prove it.  What’s in your kitchen junk drawer?
Photos by M.Turton

7 thoughts on “Junk Drawer Confidential

  1. Having just cleaned out one kitchen drawer I am in awe of the contents of your drawer. I had no where near 177 objects and no mouse droppings (they seem to be confined to the cupboard below the kitchen sink).

    I look forward to that picture you promised next week of the assembled cubes – who knows, I might move in that direction myself.

  2. I would not have believed 177 items could fit in one drawer! I am, however, impressed that you have begun that New Year’s resolution, no matter the decade in which you made it. No one ever said you had to finish all that you start. Every journey, or in this case…resolution, begins with but a single step. You, my friend, have taken that first step and it’s only a matter of time before you can walk into your kitchen, open the fridge and cupboards and not fear injury. Your living room will be filled with cubes, all neatly arranged, proudly displaying your treasures, no doubt including your mermaid-shaped bottle opener.

  3. Just threw away a bunch of prepackaged plastic forks, knives and spoons. Voila! Now have a nearly empty drawer. Great article Michael, made me laugh. Don’t forget, if you need help with those cubes, I work for beer!

  4. I enjoyed reading this article, as I have been helping people for 13 years tend to their clutter and time management as a Professional Organizer. I love to observe the happiness that clients feel when they are able to reach goals that they were so anxious about for so long. Some people simply need someone to guide them through the first step and then they can try to handle the rest on their own. Others need regular guidance, in which they sometimes call me, as I am a specialist with chronic disorganization and compulsive hoarding tendencies. One thing about there currently being so much information about organizing is that the info is usually about what you can “do” or what you can “buy”… when it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, about the *stuff*… it is supposed to be about the *person*. I tend not to read much, if anything, that is “out there” due to this reason and tend to stick to the specialized psychology classes I attend regularly— classes which train POs to help the client as a person, rather than simply sticking a bandaid on a project as a temporary fix. Thanks for the article… and like Leonora, I also look forward to your update/photo. You have done great work, thus far! I am impressed!

  5. Hey Mike, Don’t throw out those 4 lightweight picture hooks, my junk draw is calling for them…
    Great piece, i too eagerly await the after photo of a job well done!

  6. Hilarious!

    Hey, maybe there’s a market opportunity here for you. You could develop a “junk drawer” therapy approach for people with serious cases of OCD. Go in and clutter up their junk drawers – show them the path to better mental health!