The Junk Drawer

Here’s the Deal

It’s that time again.  Can’t put it off any longer.  Barring the Boss going into labor – rather unlikely as we’re empty-nesters – or an emergency run to Food & Car Parts MegaMarket for a missing essential ingredient for pineapple topsy-turvy cake, it’s unavoidable.

That’s right.  It’s time to remediate the kitchen junk drawer.  Every home or apartment has a junk drawer, more likely two or more.  If not in the kitchen, maybe in the office desk, the bathroom, the utility room, the pantry, the garage, or in that staid and stately dining room breakfront.  Certainly, I’ve overlooked others. These places are all likely, but the most likely location is the kitchen.  The kitchen is commotion-central of every home. 

In the kitchen, this drawer, I don’t know why, is always found at one end of a cabinet row, never in the center.  At this point, I’m not going to hazard a guess as to whether this isolation affords a place of honor or shame.  Some of both, one time or another, I suppose. 

Junk-drawer-clean-out time is a source of amusement, wonder, and mystery.  Entirely dependent on your conscientiousness or your wife’s persistence, this is a once-a-year event.  Usually a solitary task, it should be performed in front of a full audience.  This drawer holds real educational potential for families with children hanging about.  Greater attendance brings additional resources to bear on identifying exceptionally odd items.  Some must be compelled against their will to attend, conflicts with soccer games, homework, the to-die-for episode of “Reality Gas Station,” and so on notwithstanding.   It might go like this:

First, the drawer is opened.  This is a challenge because trapped items work to keep the drawer from opening more than three inches, an indication this annual event is overdue.  Getting to step two usually means breaking the jamming item to free the drawer.  The only item of any real value and probably the only piece that will hit the waste basket is lost in the process.

Step two is emptying the drawer’s contents onto a flat surface.  A point-five cubic foot drawer contains enough material to cover the floor of a two-car garage.  However advisable it may be to lug the drawer to the garage, it is inconvenient, so the nearest countertop serves.  I should have mentioned earlier, but this is difficult work, so this task should be tackled on a Saturday morning before physical exhaustion from lawn work.

Next one must categorize contents into “necessary,” pure junk,” and “unknown,” and hopefully toss ninety percent of it – pure junk and the scarier “unknown” items – into the waste bin.  A second thirty-gallon trash bag should be on standby.

Just kidding.  Less than ten percent of the contents will fail to make the cut. Forget a stand-by garbage bag.  I wonder if I could come closer to a fifty percent reduction if I took some of the “mystery” items to the Museum of Natural History?  Is a donation tax deductible?

Actual contents may vary; consult local listings.  A lot depends on where your junk drawer lives.  Inventory of a kitchen drawer differs somewhat from a desk drawer and both of those differ from a utility room drawer.  A garage or shop drawers is forgiven some clutter as these drawers by location alone are bound to collect unique artifacts.  A large percentage of items found are unrecognizable to past, present and certainly future generations.  The daunting task begins: isolation; like-item grouping; and toss, re-drawer, or relocate decisions.  For example, working on a kitchen drawer, one must correctly handle:

Two dollars and thirty-seven cents: a quarter, several dimes, four nickels, something looking like a nickel, and the balance in pennies, some a lovely shade of green or covered in some chalky-white corrosion.  Six hundred twist ties of rainbow colors and sizes.  Thirty-six rubber bands and the decomposed residue of countless others. Twelve ballpoint pens – two of which actually work but one with a green ink and the other with a flaw in the ball causing it to write automatic dotted-lines.  Four pencils – who uses pencils anymore?  Several odd pieces of chalk, half a dozen or so crayons with no wrappers and two pools of odd-color waxy goop that might have at one time been crayons.  A protractor.  Who uses that?  Who remembers why or how to use that?  Who cares? 

Some good stuff: Seven cool jar or bottle tops. Two half-boxes of Mai Tai umbrellas, unmatched, naturally.  A ruler with a bent metal band on its edge that appears to have been used to help Barkie cut his puppy teeth.  My best pair of pliers missing for six months.  A multi-function screwdriver/hammer/forklift with multiple interchangeable screwdriver heads – the only one left a straight-slot that couldn’t torque the screw in a pair of eyeglasses, but of course the head is too large for that.  The cute little hammer you bought the Boss so she’d stop using your tape measure for a hammer to mount the picture she’s been after you to hang for three months.

Essentials: Two rolls of masking tape and two empty cellophane tape dispensers.  A hundred, give or take, paperclips. Two and one-half thirty-five cent stamps. Several fruit corer-thingies unidentifiable except to the inventor now.  Thirty-odd business cards.  Forty obviously grape ice-pop sticks, odd because no one in the house likes grape.  Uncountable grocery coupons, the most recent expired two years ago. 

Success!   A large portion of the bounty, readily identifiable, makes its way to the trash bin, some of that only because I have no audience to jeer and heckle my decisions.  Some treasure clearly not kitchen-oriented is destined for the shop junk drawer.  What remains is more-or-less neatly jammed back into the drawer.

The drawer, defying logic, suddenly seems to be more crowded than when I began.  Too bad, there’s a ball game I absolutely must see.  It starts in fifteen minutes.

© S P Wilcenski August 15, 2010

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