From the long forgotten to the frequently ignored, the “junk drawer” has become a universally acknowledged place where the miscellaneous goes to die. It’s here where we haphazardly store all the things we never use but can’t seem to part with. “Most homes I see do have a drawer (or even a room) for everything that doesn’t seem to have a place,” says Lisa Tselebidis, a certified KonMari consultant who left her career in fashion after discovering Marie Kondo’s famous decluttering book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
“It really resonated with me. I said to my husband, ‘This is what I’m always telling you!’” laughs Tselebidis. “But I never ended up doing anything about tidying until 2017 when I rediscovered Marie Kondo while I was listening to a podcast.” Now, Tselebidis spends her time working with those in need of a home overhaul, one room (or junk drawer) at a time. In other words, she’s officially certified to organize any home—Marie Kondo style.
Of course, it’s not always a drawer, as Tselebidis notes. In some homes, it’s a dusty box or nook in the attic. No matter what your “junk drawer” looks like, the truth is that most of us have one and almost none of us know how to deal with it.
In an effort to conquer random paper piles, childhood mementos, and never-before-touched stationery once and for all, we asked Tselebidis for her top tidying tips for corralling random clutter. Here are five takeaways to apply to your own junk drawer—whatever that may look like.
Discard before organizing
There are six core principles in the KonMari method, and this is the third key takeaway: Purge before you put it back.
“Don’t think about how you’re going to organize items if you’re still in the decision-making phase,” suggests Tselebidis. “This is important because you can only assess available storage space once you’re done decluttering and have a set number of items left.”
Tidy by category, not by location
Categorization is a crucial part of the KonMari method. No matter which of the five primary categories you’re working on (clothes, books, paper, Komono/miscellaneous, mementos), it’s important to gather and assess all like items at the same time. Meaning, if you have two junk drawers (or, say, a drawer and a closet), tackle the objects in these spaces in one fell swoop.
“You can only grasp what you have and how much of it you have when you gather all the items of one category in one spot,” explains Tselebidis. “Only then are you able to make an informed decision about whether to keep or discard an item.”
Tip: You’ll have an easier time making decisions about what to keep and what to discard if you’ve completed the three preceding categories (clothing, books, and papers) beforehand.
Tackle the miscellaneous one group at a time
Komono can be broken down into as many subcategories as are fitting for your home and the objects you own. While there are plenty of Komono items you won’t find in a junk drawer (DVDs, laundry items, emergency equipment), she suggests it can be easier to start with larger items first.
“When you’re in Komono, approach it according to categories. Sort like items with like. Get all your safety pins, for example, in one spot and all your post-its and paper things in one spot. Then, ask yourself, ‘How many safety pins do I really need? What’s a number that sparks joy for me?’” explains Tselebidis.
Bath and bed, which includes everything from haircare items to linens, is its own organization feat that requires plenty of thought and care. Finally, there’s office goods: postcards, pens, scissors, electronic cords, memo pads—you name it. If you’re the type of person who likes to tick tasks off as you go, Tselebidis offers a complete checklist of items in each Komono category on her site for free.
Treat the drawer like a dresser
The same logic that applies to Kondo’s famous folding method can be used in a junk drawer: everything should be uniform and seen.
“Ideally you want to put them in small boxes and dividers,” says Tselebidis. Shoebox lids or even empty perfume boxes will work for smaller storage space like a drawer. “Then, make everything visible by storing things vertically. It’s the same principal with clothing—store things vertically as best as possible so you can really see what you have,” she adds.
Split your random paper pile in three
Loose paper is a huge clutter pain point—we’re talking mail, bills, receipts, and piles of magazines. While Tselebidis is an advocate for going paperless, she also follows a simple three-folder filing system when you simply can’t throw anything away. Here’s a general idea of what your paper piles should look like:
- Pending papers. In this bunch, keep anything that requires action—like a bill you have to pay or a letter you need to reply to.
- Forever papers. Think birth certificates and mortgage documents. “This is a folder you don’t touch a lot,” adds Tselebidis.
- Temporary papers. As its name suggests, this folder should be for papers you know you’ll be able to let go of in the future, like warranties, lease agreements, or study materials.
If we had to list one last rule to follow, you already know what it would be: only keep items that spark joy. The idea seems farfetched at first, but Tselebidis has seen the line of thinking transfer over into other areas of her clients’ lives.
“I think that if you really stick to the method as close as possible and do it honestly and tackle every single category item, your whole life changes. It sounds silly if you think, ‘Oh, it’s just my stuff,’ but it’s really so much more. The first step can be your home. Then, you’ll start to evaluate other things in your life and whether or not they bring you joy,” says Tselebidis.
Do it for the junk drawer—stay for the joy it brings you.
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