You find a few pens and an errant hair tie on the kitchen counter. Where do they go? Chances are, they’re swept straight into the junk drawer without a second thought. Most of us have one (or more), and while we may shudder at the clutter, we don’t know what we’d do without it. If you’re one of the many who want to turn that disheveled mess into an organized oasis, read on for our favorite junk drawer organization tips.

Why does everyone have a junk drawer?

Looking for a little reassurance before you get started? You’ve come to the right place. Try as we might to live a decluttered life, it’s tough to be a true minimalist. Maybe you’ve tried organizing drawers in the past but didn’t keep up the purging cycle. Maybe you’ve got a full house, and your roomies don’t realize that they’re destined for an appearance on Hoarders.

Once jobs, kids, pets, and other responsibilities are in the picture, it’s tough not to have at least one junk drawer or area for collecting life’s miscellaneous items. So what we aim to do is not get rid of the junk drawer but to focus, instead, on junk drawer organization methods.

How do you organize a messy drawer?

Breaking tasks down into steps is one of the best ways to see them through to the finish line. Plus, it allows for some instant gratification along the way. Okay, eyes on the prize? Let’s get started.

A woman organizing her kitchen junk drawer

Step 1: Declutter

Professional organizers will tell you that if you don’t have it, you don’t have to organize it. Meaning: Instead of putting those 50 ballpoint pens in a clear pencil box, ask yourself if you really need 50 ballpoint pens. I mean, do they even all work? You didn’t even check, did you?

Before you start grouping things into categories and finding drawer dividers, clean out what you don’t need so you can focus on what you do. Yes, that means taking everything out of the drawer. Leave no ketchup packet untouched.

Want to kick things up a notch? If you’re feeling inspired by your progress, that junk drawer may mean there are junk cabinets, junk closets, and even junk rooms (oh my!) elsewhere in your home. Go the decluttering distance by using a PODS portable storage container as a sorting station right in your driveway, then start tackling areas in need of a little TLC. This prevents the clutter from being moved from one part of your house to another, keeping your home free and clear as you purge, and it makes it easy to see your progress.

When you’re all done, toss or donate whatever you don’t need. If there are things you can’t part with (that you also don’t want to keep in your house), load them in the container and we’ll bring it to our secure storage center until you need it again.

Office supplies neatly organized by like items

Step 2: Categorize

Now that you’ve gotten rid of a few things, start grouping similar items together. This can be office supplies, electronics, takeout menus, photos, receipts, etc. You don’t have to do anything with them yet; just find a system that works for you and your stuff.

Pro Tip: Junk drawers are typically for items that get a lot of use. You open it when you need to sign a report card, if you’re about to walk the dog and need some earbuds, if it’s sunny out and you want your glasses, etc. If you find things that you want to keep but don’t often use, see if you can relocate them to another (organized) drawer or cabinet. For example, instead of having a stack of receipts take up valuable space, digitize the documents or file them away.

Someone organizing their office supplies in a drawer

Step 3: Organize

Once your groups are established, it’s time to put them back in the drawer. But don’t toss them in and call it a day. You’ve spent some time on this project — finish it in style. Here are some junk drawer organizer ideas:

  • Use an ice cube tray for small items like rubber bands or paper clips.
  • Try drawer dividers to section the area into spaces. You can use a long, rectangular space for pens and pencils or a small square for earbuds and chargers.
  • If you’re not sure how to arrange drawer dividers, try a silverware tray. It arranges your compartments for you.
  • Have a loose change problem? Use a mint tin to keep things contained.
  • Gift cards are great, but they’re easy to forget about once they’re stashed in a drawer. Keep them together in a plastic credit card case and never worry about expiration dates again.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of the junk, this is now a functional drawer ready to be put to use. Enjoy having easy access to your stuff, and keep up the good work by repeating the decluttering process regularly throughout your home.

For more storage and organization tips and tricks, check out the PODS blog. From making the most out of small spaces to decluttering like a pro, we’ve covered it all!


LB Gabriel is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, daughter, and Golden Retriever in Memphis, TN. A frequent PODS blog contributor, she’s a sucker for any tip she can find on downsizing, cutting clutter, or minimalist living. When she’s not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.

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