The beauty of the junk drawer is more than the utility of the clutter inside it.
The story of Junk Drawer begins….well….probably generations ago. My father’s parents had in their kitchen the mother of all junk drawers: six deep, long, built-in drawers of a glossy blond wood filled with generations of household debris. They were crammed so full of stuff they could barely be yanked open; in fact, some of the drawers were so heavy they could not be opened at all. If you did succeed in opening a drawer, you’d find tools, tape, chemicals, utensils, brackets, dog biscuits, old telephone books, keys, matches, pencils, batteries, you name it.
Although my grandparents’ junk drawers made the biggest impression on me, almost everyone I have ever known has had a junk drawer. It got me thinking about what is so universally wonderful about junk drawers. I’m pretty sure that the junk drawer is a global concept, even if it’s not an actual drawer.
(I’m so impressed by junk drawers, in fact, that I bought an art print of a junk drawer, which I framed and gave as a gift to my dad.)
My junk drawer is in the kitchen, under the microwave, and it is truly magical. I swear to God, only rubber bands and twist ties go in, yet anything else I might need comes out: matches, glue, night light bulbs, velcro ties, screws, the missing bracket for the fire extinguisher. I don’t know how that works, but it does. Regardless of what I put in the junk drawer, whenever I need something—anything—it’s in there.
My junk drawer serves two very important purposes. First, it reduces my mental overhead. The junk drawer is the place where anything and everything goes when it doesn’t have a place. If it’s small, it goes in the junk drawer. It’s a sort of locational shorthand. I don’t have to use precious short-term memory tracking the location of tiny random items; I just have to remember the location of the junk drawer. This saves me precious bandwidth cycles.
Second, the junk drawer reduces clutter in the house. Perhaps this seems counterintuitive, since junk drawers are full of clutter, but, the clutter is IN A DRAWER. It’s not on the counter or hanging out on a flat surface (valuable real estate in my small house). It’s not in a bowl, box or pile. It’s PUT AWAY. My junk drawer never seems to get too full. In ten years, I’ve partially cleared it out maybe once.
The Junk Drawer card reminds me not to sweat the small stuff. It will take care of itself. All I had to do was choose a drawer and set that little habit in motion when I moved into my place for the first time. Now I reap the benefits of trusting a certain unconscious order in the universe. The Junk Drawer rewards good habits: I put junk in, and I get good things out.
The Junk Drawer card reminds me not to get too far down in the weeds, when I don’t have to; it reminds me that I might be getting stuck on details, when things will surely sort themselves out, if I just let them.