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Decluttering for Dummies: Our 5-Step Guide To Making Your Junk Drawer Functional

Have a junk drawer that’s starting to overflow into other places? We know the feeling. Fortunately, your home life doesn't need to be controlled by junk anymore.

This installment of "Decluttering for Dummies" is all about getting your junk drawer in check, and transforming it from a burial ground for crap into a storage space that's actually functional.

So whether you have one problem drawer or several, we’re here to help you tackle your junk with help from the organization pros. Here’s everything you need to know about decluttering your junk drawer once and for all.

1. Divide the junk

In order to organize your junk drawer, you’ll first want to take inventory. Is it filled with things that belong there (miscellaneous items that have no other logical home), or is it mostly things better stored elsewhere? Is anything broken, expired, or otherwise unusable? These are all factors you’ll want to take into consideration.

“If all the rubber bands in the house have ended up here, then it likely makes sense to keep them here," says professional organizer Amy Trager. "But if there's one coupon, and the rest are someplace else, it shouldn't stay put.”

Divide your junk into four piles: things to go back in the drawer, things to go elsewhere, donations, and trash. This will help you in the next steps of decluttering.

2. Donate or toss (responsibly)

Now that you have a basic inventory of the things inside your junk drawer, it’s time to focus on getting rid of the things in your donation and trash piles.

“Depending on where you live, you may be able to donate usable things from the drawer that you no longer need,” says Debra Baida of Liberated Spaces. “For example, excess pens, office supplies, and art-making trinkets can be given to your local creative reuse center or a school. Extra tools can go to a tool-lending library, and even your local Facebook 'Buy Nothing' group is an excellent way to disperse items to those who really want them.”

When it comes to trash items, just be sure you’re tossing responsibly. Not all things can simply be thrown out—some (notably medications and batteries) need to be disposed of in a certain way.

3. Create more junk drawers/spaces

It sounds crazy, we know, but hear us out: A great way to organize all the stuff you plan on keeping is to give everyone in your home a dedicated space to keep their miscellaneous stuff. This might come in the form of bins or personal junk drawers.

“This is great if there's room for each person to have their own space,” says Trager. “It makes each individual responsible for their items, the organization of those items, and the upkeep of them. Color coding for each person is also helpful, whether it's folders, hooks on the wall, or even baskets.”

4. Put frequently used items near the front

This might include office accessories, tools, or something else entirely.

“Storing the most frequently used items in the front of the drawer provides ease of access and makes putting away simple,” says Baida. “Storing like things together makes it much easier to find and return things to their home."

5. Edit realistically

Come up with a game plan of what you’d like your junk drawer to look like, then set it up based on that plan.

“There's nothing wrong with having a junk drawer, as long as whatever is kept in there makes sense, and is stored in an organized fashion,” says Trager. “However, there's no need to keep 600 paper clips if only two get used each year.”

By keeping only the things you really need handy (and putting the rest away), you’ll find that instead of having a drawer that serves as a dumping ground for random stuff, you’ll have one that’s actually functional.

The experts agree: The goal isn’t to eliminate your junk drawer entirely, but rather to turn it into a space you can actually use.

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