Ask Helen: Queries from the Curious

By Helen Kornblum
Queries from the Curious

The contents of our kitchen junk drawer are slowly creeping into another drawer, and I can’t afford the space for all the stuff that’s piling up. I don’t know what to do with the junk when I clean it out, so I end up just tossing everything back in. Any advice?

Everyone has a disorganized kitchen drawer, but you may be going for a record by having two! Let me guess as to the flotsam and jetsam floating around in there: batteries, rubber bands, string, twist ties, photos, menus from local call-in restaurants, 89 cents in change, an empty DVD case, matches, old screws, three plastic forks, the wrench that came with the garbage disposal, two unmarked keys, push pins, extra key rings, a roll of tape, pencils that need to be sharpened and some wrapped straws.

Many of these items are useful in the kitchen, but let’s apply some categorizing muscle to figure out how to store them.

It helps to stop using the word “junk.” You can toss the trash, such as the dead batteries, and set aside things that you don’t need but might be useful to someone else, such as those extra key rings. Think of the rest as inventory for your personal variety store. Now you can focus on the best storage for them.

Start with the loose coins. Those pennies, dimes and quarters need a home — a jar, a little bank, or a small decorative bowl that sits at the front of a cabinet or on an accessible shelf.

Where in your house do batteries want to live? If you have a lot of them, set up a clear plastic shoebox or an appropriately sized container to keep them together, perhaps on a pantry shelf.

Are you planning to use the photos for a project or send them to someone? If so, put the photos wherever you will start the project or process mail.

Slip the wrench for the garbage disposal into a snack-size baggie, with a note telling you what this wrench is for. Move the baggie into a drawer near the sink.

Sharpen the pencils and put them into the coffee mug that holds your kitchen pens or store them with office supplies.

Put the restaurant menus into a magazine file, along with other fliers or loose recipes that you use often.

Now it’s tool time. Buy a kitchen drawer organizer that has two shallow levels to hold the items that you want to keep in the kitchen. Their indented spaces will hold the matches, rubber bands, pushpins and whatever other categories fit the spaces.

A ball of string might need to sit beside the organizer if the drawer is wide enough, or it may need to live in the pantry with another category, such as tapes (duct, masking, or painter’s). Label the contents of all the “homes” you create for your possessions.

You’re not a helpless victim in the face of junk drawer syndrome. Once you decide what and where you want to keep the various items carelessly tossed into the drawer, you’re in control of the space. Get your family on board with the guidelines for your newly created variety store.

Buy a shallow kitchen drawer organizer to hold the items that you want to keep in the kitchen. Try this one from Better Homes and Gardens! Bamboo Expandable Cutlery Tray, $9.92,