Dwell On This: Organize Your Junk Drawer

Dwell On This: Organize Your Junk Drawer

Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t apply here anymore.
Text by

At a Glance


  • This super accessible task just takes a bit of patience.


  • You might shell out some cash for trays or drawer organizers.
  • On the other hand, you might unearth some forgotten bills while you're at it.


  • Tackle this in 30 minutes or so.
The Dwell+ library of how-to guides has been unlocked for free for a limited time courtesy of Level, whose smart locks pair high design with an intuitive approach to home entry.
Learn More

A friend once asked me what I thought was the best way to keep drawers from perpetually accumulating junk. I replied, "Nail it shut."

I kid, of course. While detritus makes up a fair portion of a junk drawer’s contents, the truth is that these receptacles aren’t just trash bins. They play a purposeful role, holding a mix of things we regularly use, occasionally use, and on the other end of the spectrum, intend to use or have simply forgotten. In many ways, these catch-alls operate like our own brains, which cling on to odds and ends—and just like with our memories, there are going to be some weird, random things stored away. 

To organize a drawer, look to the kitchens of professionally trained chefs, where cooking utensils and ingredients are purposefully arranged and placed within reach. Mise en place, or "everything in its place," affords a degree of sanity and order in an often chaotic environment. You can approach the humble junk drawer with a similar intent.

Begin by throwing out useless or duplicate items. You don’t need three toenail clippers, nor those coupons that expired three years ago. Now, like a middle school lineup during Phys Ed, sort the remaining items according to size. Introduce small trays or drawer dividers to group the objects together. Keep a trash receptacle near drawers that have a tendency to cling onto scraps like receipts, notes, and coupons so you can toss them easily and regularly. What you’ll be left with is a drawer that might still retain a mishmash, but a tidy mishmash at that.