My Great-American Junk Drawer (aka: Getting Organized)

miscellaneous-stuff I was searching for a screwdriver today.

Yes, my toolbox is full of screwdrivers, but I was searching for the one I like best – a Phillips screwdriver with a grippy handle that feels just right in my hands. You see, I just got my bedroom back for the first time in six months. Six months! (Insert cartwheel here). My sister and her family moved here from far away and needed a transition home. So, like a good little sister, I loaned them my spacious bedroom to use as their hotel-away-from-home until they could get settled and move into their own house. Which happened yesterday.

So today, I had work to do.

It takes a lot of scrubbing and furniture-moving and reorganizing to get one’s bedroom back in shape after it’s been lived in by other people. It also takes a good Phillips screwdriver to repair your lopsided curtain rod, which has been yanked out of place by two rambunctious, preschool-aged kids. Which is why I was searching for one this afternoon.

After ransacking my toolbox and coming up empty, I began to rummage through various drawers and organizers. At last, I came to the large wooden IKEA desk that I keep in my bedroom. Our family has had this desk for nearly ten years, along with all the stuff that fills the drawers. Although I am mostly organized in other areas, desk drawers in my home have the bad habit of collecting all manner of odds and ends, until every single one comes to resemble that one drawer that everyone has in their home.

You know the one.

The junk drawer.

Junk drawer

The main drawer of our IKEA desk was a sight to behold. As NPR once put it, “The Great American Junk Drawer can be an accidental time capsule, a haphazard scrap heap, a curious box of memories and meaninglessness.” This one was no exception. Paper clips, old business cards from the home business I ran fifteen years ago, my youngest son’s missing library card, an unused $25 Game Stop gift card. I collected a few dollars’ worth of coins to add to our family Dream Jar, which will hopefully offset a future trip to Disneyland and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But there was no screwdriver. I cut my finger on one of a zillion push pins or rusty staples lining the drawer, then happened to discover a single toy Magnetix rod, which turned out to be a perfect picker-upper for push pins and staples. But still, no screwdriver.

I then came across a stack of old photos – a treasure trove of snapshots of my children when they were small and rosy-cheeked, and a few pics of old friends that instantly threw me into a nostalgic mood. I spent the next half hour flipping through more old photos, traveling back in time, the bedroom project forgotten.

At last I shook off the distraction. As much as I would have loved to clean out the junk and make it a neat, organized office drawer, I had a screwdriver to find. Which turned out to be in the toolbox, where I swear it wasn’t the first two times.

I have my room back.

The curtain rod is straight again, and my room is once again a cozy, clutter-free retreat of comfortable furnishings, soft lighting, and flickering candles. Everything is in its place – visitors snug in their own home, junk in the junk drawer, and yes, my favorite screwdriver safely returned to my toolbox.

I think.


Decluttering (aka: Three Simple Questions)

Full house bursting at the seams  It’s astonishing how quickly our lives can become filled with clutter. Cluttered homes. Cluttered calendars. Cluttered desks at the office. We live in such a culture of excess, that it has become almost the norm to surround ourselves with far more than we need. We love to accumulate, but we hate to throw things away. I may need this someday, we convince ourselves. I may return to that hobby I abandoned. I may get around to reading that pile of books again. I may actually throw a party and use that never-touched fondue pot.

Or not.

A few nights ago, I had the most random dream (as most dreams are), in which I was helping to declutter a friend’s house. I kept repeating these three questions – questions which I’m sure I heard once in some reality TV show, but apparently made a huge impact on my subconscious.

Do you need it?

Do you love it?

Does it help you to earn money?

It’s that simple. If you can’t answer with a firm “yes” to one of the above questions, then it doesn’t belong in your life. Get rid of it! Toss it out! Give it away! (NOTE: This does not apply to pets, kids, friends, etc.)

Home Organization and Decluttering

It’s been around a year and a half since I began a new life as a single mom. My three kids and I spent a few months intensely decluttering before moving to our new home. It was a shock to realize how much stuff we had accumulated during those sixteen years of marriage – clothes which had gone out of style before the year 2000, VHS movies, tents without poles, dusty stacks of books, tools that had gone missing and long-since been replaced, and boxes and boxes of mostly-useless junk. Did I need those things? No. Did I love them? Not exactly, though the books had been well-loved at some point. Did they help me to earn money? Absolutely not. So we hauled piles of items to the thrift store. We held a garage sale. We donated hundreds of books to the local library. And I learned to do something that used to be very difficult – I threw many things in the garbage. Yes, the garbage. Crazy, I know.

But here’s the cool thing. When my kids and I moved into our new home, everything fit neatly in its own place. Our books were not spilling out of bookshelves and onto the floor. The kitchen cabinets were not so overloaded that I couldn’t find pots or appliances. The only clothes hanging in our closets were the clothes we always wore. It was freeing. It was clean. Becoming organized made life much simpler.

Decluttering Before-and-After

It is funny that those three questions came to me in a dream so recently. The end of the year is approaching, and although I am not a fan of New Year Resolutions, there is something about the approaching New Year that makes me want to reevaluate the clutter which I have allowed to accumulate during the year. Time to sweep out the old junk and make room for the new. Funny how in just one year, a family can build up so much clutter – outgrown toys, worn-out clothing, shoes without mates (How in the world does that happen so often in our house? Where do the mates go?). But as we ring in the New Year, I will surely begin the purging process, sorting through the stacks and piles and asking the same three simple questions.

Do I need it?

Do I love it?

Does it help me to make money?