How to Clean Out a Junk Drawer

If you are looking for tips on how to clean out a junk drawer, today is your day. This article will help you remove the clutter and transform your junk drawer into a kitchen utility drawer that you can use to work more efficiently.

A bit part of your kitchen organization is to set things up in a way that helps you to cook, bake, and do other kitchen tasks efficiently.

How to clean out a junk drawer

We all have them. Small areas in our homes where random items end up.

Many of them are found in the kitchen, but they can be found in other rooms as well. Even the most organized among us have them in their home. The good news is that it’s not a dirty little secret you are hiding. It’s simply an area in our home with a name that tends to give it a bad rap. 

The junk drawer. 

That place where our things go to die. 

A junk drawer with a red spiral notebook, a few pairs of scissors, a calculator, a screwdriver, and a tape measure.

If you turn to the internet and search “junk drawer” most information you find will be on how to get rid of it. How it can ruin your chances for an organized home. How, if you have one, you are headed down a road of cluttered misery. 

My take on the junk drawer is a bit different.

Not only is it okay to have a drawer of random items, I completely feel it is necessary. 

Why do you need a junk drawer?

A junk drawer is an area where miscellaneous items get tossed. Things like pens, pencils, nuts, and bolts tend to end up here, and if you are trying to organize your home, a junk drawer can be a helpful tool.

First, most clutter-bugs think an organized home is one made up of a long list of rules and strict structure. 

Like the plastic-covered couches from my childhood. 

A couple (man and woman) sitting on a yellow couch wrapped in plastic, pouring 2 glasses of wine.

Clutter-free is frightening to some folks because they believe it feels like living in a white house, with white clothes, and white carpet and they are walking around blindfolded with a pitcher of red Koolaide. 

My goal is to help you to remove the mess and create a home you love to be in, junk drawers and all.

Is it bad to have a junk drawer?

The way I see it, a junk drawer is your friend. Instead of looking at your junk drawer as something that is holding you back from a clutter-free existence, I want you to see it as your ticket to freedom.

Your chance to be clutter-free without all those strict and silly rules to dictate how you need to live in your own home. 

Rather than remove the junk drawer altogether, let’s instead give this drawer a new name. 

There is power in a name. Big power. And for us, that is where we are going to begin. Instead of calling this container of randomness a junk drawer, let’s instead, call it a utility drawer.

An area in our home that holds a plethora of items that we might need in a pinch.

• Need duct tape? Check the utility drawer.

Looking for a pair of scissors? I bet you will find one in your utility drawer.

• Need a magic wand that you can use to whip up dinner tonight in a flash? Check the handy-dandy utility drawer.

A woman wearing a yellow button-up shirt, red cleaning gloves, and a red bandana hold a magic wand to a kitchen pan.

When you give things a new label you begin to see them not as a crutch, but instead, as a tool. One you can use to run your home more efficiently.

Now that we have removed the stigma of the dreaded junk drawer let’s get to work setting up a utility drawer in your kitchen that will help make the running of your home you run a bit easier. 

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junk drawer alternatives

Before we begin you will want to decide on the purpose of your drawer. This will be your clutter guide as you go through items. It will also better help you to decide what can stay and what needs to go somewhere else. 

More Clutter Resources to Check Out!

General maintenance drawer

This is the most common type of drawer in many homes. The word general can cover a variety of items, and because of that, they are found in numerous kitchens. More often than not, this drawer will hold things that are not typically found in a kitchen. Mainly office items so you can make notes on recipes, shopping lists, and phone messages.

Things found in a general maintenance drawer.

  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Pens, pencils, markers
  • Pads of paper

Kid’s Drawer

A great drawer to have for any parent is a kid’s drawer.

If you have never been in a mad search for a pacifier while your 1-year-old is having a meltdown then you may not understand how amazing a kid’s drawer can be.

Things found in a kid’s drawer:

  • Extra pacifier
  • Travel toys
  • Batteries
  • Bandaids
  • Crayons
Mother hand holding plastic baby soother pacifier

Kitchen drawer

This is another super helpful drawer to have in your kitchen, and it’s not just because of its name. A quick drop spot for misc and small items that do not have a specific home just yet.

Things found in a kitchen drawer:

  • Seasoning packets
  • Straws
  • Twist ties
  • Matches
  • Chop Sticks
  • Wine bottle toppers
  • Jar opener
  • Straw cleaner

Tool Maintenance Drawer

Most likely you already have one of these in your home. If not, you will definitely want to consider adding one, as it can be an incredible time saver.

Things found in a tool maintenance drawer:

When it comes to setting up a utility drawer knowing a theme will help you to be more intentional about the things you keep inside. This will help you to fit in the drawer rather than overflow it with random items and junk.

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Before you start decluttering, there are a few things to get ready.

#1. Trash Bags

I suggest something small, like a brown paper bag that you can set right up on your counter. Keep things at eye level, so you remain focused and on the job at hand. 

#2. A Clothes Basket

This is for anything you need to put away in another room. I love these baskets and have several of them in my home. They are the perfect container for holding random items of all different sizes that you can then put away quickly in one swoop. 

white clothes basket full of stuff with a label that says Put Away

#3. Markers and Sticky Notes

I like to call post-it notes the declutterer’s best friend. They are perfect for making notes and labeling items that need to be dealt with later. Consider them your reminder system so you don’t have to deal with things more than once. 

#4. A Dish Towel

Hmmm, didn’t see that coming did ya? But I am not your average declutterer! I am all about simplicity and using a towel will help to make this process much easier.

a towel of misc items sitting in front of 3 white trash cans for sorting

Here’s how it works.

As you are decluttering whatever items you find that will stay in this drawer go onto the dish towel. Use a towel that is in proportion to the drawer’s size. This will better help you visualize how much room you have.

A stuffed drawer is not going to work no matter how organized you have it. So keep in mind the exact space you have to deal with when deciding what can stay and what needs to go. 

#5. A Small Box

This is what you will put your donation items in. The key here is to keep the box proportional to the job you are working on. With a junk drawer, a shoebox will work perfectly. 

#6. Small Trash Cans

If you would rather have tools ready to go each time you clean out a drawer, then I suggest small trash cans.

You can pick these up at a discount store for less than $1 each and they are a great sized container to use for smaller sorting jobs such as this one.

What is the best way to declutter a drawer?

You can either dump out the entire drawer and start sorting or sort each item as you remove it. Which approach you choose will all depend on you.

If you would rather dump out all the contents of your junk drawer, so you see everything in one shot – go for it. If you would instead pull items out one at a time and deal with them that way, that works too. Choose the one that doesn’t stress you out so you are setting yourself up for success rather than failure and overwhelm.   

For me, dumping is just too overwhelming and actually freaks me out a bit.

I do better by removing and dealing with items one at a time, so the counter doesn’t end up a mess as I am trying to clean out my drawer.

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Where is the best place to declutter your junk drawer?

Now that you have all your supplies ready to go clear off enough space to do the job without hindrance. If you are working on a kitchen junk drawer then the counter will work or even the kitchen table.

If you are working on a junk drawer in your bedroom then the bed itself might be the better spot. The trick here is to use an area that is big enough for you to spread out so this job is simple and not overwhelming.

How to Declutter a Junk Drawer

Now that you have all the pre work done, you can get started transforming your messy junk drawer into a drawer that is efficient and organized.

Step #1. Set up a sorting area.

I find it is easier to sort near to where the drawer is. Look for a bit of counter space if you are in the kitchen or your bed if you are in a bedroom.

The closer you are to the containers in your sorting containers, the less work this job will be.

Step #3. Get rid of any trash.

This will help you make a dent in your junk drawer in a super simple and easy way. Usually, what we think is an overwhelming pile of clutter more often than not is buried under trash. Uncover what you need to deal with before you get started sorting through things.

Step #4. Gather up any items that belong somewhere else.

This is anything you can see quickly that belongs in another drawer or room altogether. Batteries in the office, clothes in the laundry room, toys in the playroom, or random nails and screws in the garage. 

FOR MORE TIPS READ: The 3 Steps to Take Before You Declutter 

Step #4. Start sorting the items that are left.

Pick up one item at a time and either put it in the trash, the put-away basket, or the donate box. If you decide that an item is going to stay you can place it in the keep basket or, if you are using a towel for this project, you can place it there.

a towel with random items on it with buckets with sorting labels in the background

If you are not sure what can stay in your utility drawer remember your drawer’s purpose that we talked about above. The theme of your drawer going forward will be your guide as to what can stay and what will need to be kept somewhere else.

Step #5. Wipe everything down.

Once you have gone through every single item, what you should have is a completely emptied-out drawer.

Take a few minutes now to clean it out. Wash the inside and out including the tracks to make sure you are starting with a clean and fresh slate. 

a rag in an empty drawer waiting to be cleaned

Step #6. Organize what is staying.

This is the fun part of decluttering an area. I like to call this my reward for hard work. If you do not find organizing fun, no worries. Eventually, you will! As you clean out more areas and get better at organizing them you will also look forward to this step like I do.

Small baskets, I find, work the best in a utility drawer. They are durable, work great to keep things corralled, and come in just about every shape and size you can imagine. Try not to overthink this step. Your goal here is to contain like items together so it is easier for you to find things when you need them. 

Remember to use the containers to corral your items, not contain them.

By that, I mean you are not using any stifling rules here. You are simply sorting things out so they are easier to find when you need them but also easy to put all the way away when you are done using them.

an organized junk drawer in a kitchen with containers fills with office items

If the kitchen scissors, for example, start out in one basket but end up in another, that is still organized.

I realized early into my decluttering journey that strict organizing rules would not help me but instead discourage me from cleaning out my home. Instead of rules, I prefer to look at these containers as guidelines.

As long as you get the items into a container in the drawer, rather than lying out in a pile on the counter, then you are good to go! 

This is not me:

A black and steel rod screwed into the wall with black and steel kitchen utensils hanging from it.

This, however, is me:

A cream colored box with the word 'Utensils' on it, holding black, steel, and wooden kitchen utensils.

I know simple is what keeps me clutter-free going forward, so every time I create a new system or implement a newly organized area I am sure to use something I will be able to stick with more easily. 

  • Tossing utensils in a box or crock…easy.
  • Hanging utensils up in the order of their size…hard. 
a ceramic crock fill with kitchen utensils

What if you are done with your drawer, but ITEMS STILL remain on the towel?

This happens quite often and is actually a good thing. If you have finished organizing your junk drawer but still have items left on your towel that means you are able to see the exact purpose of your new utility drawer. You are already able to visualize what belongs in this newly decluttered area and that is a big step, huge actually. So pat yourself on the back and get back to work. 

If you find a few things left on your towel, you will need to move those items to your sorting area.

  1. Donate – you no longer need it or want it.
  2. Toss – if it is broken or damaged.
  3. Put Away – if it belongs in another space.

Continue until your towel is completely empty then give it a shake and toss it in the “put away” basket. 

Step #7. Deal with what you put into your sorting containers.

One of the biggest issues when decluttering is stopping before you are done. That means we need to deal with what we sorted out. Those items that didn’t land on the towel. Let’s take care of those now.

1. Tie up any trash and take it to your trash can.

2. Close up the donation box and put it directly into your car. Do not skip this step! Even if the box is not filled up, close it and immediately walk it out to your car. Get that stuff out of your house and gone for good. 

A man loading a carboard box into the trunk of a blue car.

3. Finally, grab your basket of “put aways” and take a walk around your home. Stroll from room to room putting things away as you go.

Don’t forget to toss your organizing towel into the laundry. When you are finished, you can put your clothes basket away and consider this job completed. 

Remember, having a utility drawer in your home is not a hindrance but instead a super valuable organizational tool. One you can use to run your home more efficiently.

Now instead of running around looking for items to do a small home project, you have everything you need right where it’s supposed to be. The beauty of these drawers is they can be located in most rooms in your home. But be careful here. Use these drawers to corral room items and not as a place to hide random things until you get a chance to deal with them later. 

This drawer has a purpose, meaning only the items needed for that purpose can stay, and the rest need to go. I say embrace the junk drawer and use it as a weapon for good instead of a crutch for clutter.

Now that you have my step-by-step guide on how to clean out a junk drawer, put it to the test and see if it works. Once you do leave a comment below so I can celebrate your “win” in creating a home you love.

More Kitchen Clutter and Organizing Help:


  1. My husband and I each have our own “junk drawer” .
    I really love your suggestions.
    And they both look great and things are easy to find , instead of wasting time looking for something.
    He threw something into mine the other day, and I told him. “No no , you have your own “ lol
    Love all your tips, so glad I found declutter in minutes

  2. Good morning! Today was the first chance I have to catch up on email and blog reading in 2 months. I live with dementia x 2. My sister-in-law came to live with us 7 months ago and her dementia has progressed to the point of needing specialized care. needless to say, the clutter has accumulated quickly. Funny thing about clutter, it makes dementia worse! My dear husband is on the same path but not as far down it as she is. But I digress, I found in my attempts to keep order that the less clutter was the better both were with the other chaos that animals, chores and children provide! Now as I clean the house in her absence, I realize how important it is to declutter for my own sanity! Thanks for the tips!!!

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