All my pre-married life, I lived in a house that had a junk drawer. It was always in the kitchen—why is it that we never have enough cupboard space, but we have drawers in such abundance that we fill them with random junk just so they can have a purpose? I don’t know, but that’s how it was in my family. The one time we moved, we packed up the kitchen cupboard by cupboard, drawer by drawer, and, while the cups and plates and silverware had to share one box between them, the junk drawer stuff got its own box, ready to dump into the appointed drawer in the kitchen of the new house.
Years later, when my parents decided to completely renovate the kitchen at the second house, we once again packed up all the contents of the existing cupboards and drawers, and, once again, the junk drawer stuff got its own box. When the two-month remodel was finally complete and we were at last able to use the kitchen sink instead of the bathtub for washing dishes…you’d better believe the junk drawer junk came back with a fervor. Over its time in exile in the living room, the junk drawer box had accumulated even more junk than it had ever known before—living room junk, bedroom junk, it was all there. When the remodel was finished, the junk drawer had to spill over into not one, but two other drawers—THREE JUNK DRAWERS! Luckily, my parents had planned for such overflow, and the new kitchen layout was perfect for such an arrangement. We were so rich, with our three junk drawers.
To this day, if my mom says, “Can you grab me the so-and-so? It’s in the junk drawer,” it takes three times longer to find than ever before. I firmly believe that junk drawers are a status symbol of the middle class.
What was in the junk drawer/s that made it/them so special? Junk. Naturally. But not just any junk—good junk. Anything that any family member came across which didn’t have any designated place, but was nevertheless too useful to be thrown away. Stuff like rubber bands, paper clips, random batteries of every size, pencils without erasers, half-petrified sticks of gum, pennies encrusted with a layer of bread crumbs, rolls of Scotch™ tape that had long ago lost their spools, cough drops enveloped in tattered wrappers, and maybe—just maybe, if we were lucky—a watermelon Jolly Rancher™.
There was so much hope in a junk drawer.
It got so that the junk drawer was no longer the place for place-less stuff, but the actual place where stuff belonged in the first place. (Huh?) That is to say…at first, we just stuck the scissors in the junk drawer because we didn’t have a home office, and it was the only place we could think to put them. Eventually, though, the junk drawer was the designated holding place of the scissors—all hell would break loose whenever they were misplaced. “HAS ANYBODY SEEN THE *@#!!! SCISSORS?” “I put them in the mug of pens next to the computer.” “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT WHEN YOU KNOW THEY BELONG IN THE JUNK DRAWER?” So obvious—duh.
Now that I’ve moved out and live in a house of my own, I’m sad to say that I don’t have the luxury of a junk drawer in my kitchen. As it happens, we actually need every drawer we have. Trust me, though: If we ever find ourselves with excess money and a hankering to overhaul our kitchen, adding in a junk drawer will be my first act—even before stainless steel appliances or subway tiles. It makes me sad to know that next time I need a double-A battery, I’ll be able to walk straight to the office where we keep them—no searching necessary. Gone are the days of fumbling through the kitchen junk drawer, asking the person on the phone to hold on just a sec, this pen is out of ink, wait, here’s a pencil—no, the lead is broken, dammit—can you just call back later, please?! I liked the treasure hunt that accompanied the junk drawer at my parent’s house—I could whittle away hours of my day looking for one single needle or a pocket knife or paintballs. I really miss that.
Good thing I have an entire room devoted to junk in my basement…it may not be the kitchen junk drawer of my youth, but it’s the next best thing:
I spent an hour down there yesterday looking for the wrapping paper I knew was in there.
That sort of under-productivity is just the sort of boost I needed to gear up for another week of university.