Junk Drawer’s Utility Endures


Almost every household has one. Few people are proud of it. Experts try to cure us of the habit. It’s never going away. Yes, it’s our junk drawer. 

A poll of households across Sylvania confirms that most all of us have at least one spot (often in the kitchen) filled with mysterious, miscellaneous, marginally useful knick-knacks—even though some of us may give it a different name. Work drawer. Gizmo drawer. Mystery drawer. Whitney Rofkar in the Walnut Springs neighborhood calls hers “the Bermuda Triangle” because household items that disappear under mysterious circumstances ultimately show up there.

Nationwide, 88 percent of Americans report having at least one junk drawer, and the average household actually has three. The majority of families in our Sylvania survey admit that theirs are not highly organized, or are just plain “messy.” Items sighted in local drawers included old keys, lip balm, birthday candles, chopsticks, a fly swatter, and souvenir refrigerator magnets from different states. 

Brookfield resident Jack Smith has kept a metal chit in his drawer since the Vietnam era. It was given to him the day of his draft physical to be used to secure lunch but, in typical military fashion, the lunch never materialized. Jack was declared 1A and fit for service, but then pulled 208 in the “draft lottery” of the time and was never called to serve. He still has the chit to remind him of his experience.

Steve and Jackie Mierzejewski on Todd Drive have two drawers—one for junk, the other for tools. The same is true in Jan Skunda and Chuck Kreuger’s Waterside home: one is confined to neatly organized cooking utensils and the other is a hodge-podge. “As a generally well-organized person, I view my laissez-faire treatment of the junk drawers as perhaps my singular example of living on the edge,” Jan said.

Today, shifting trends are producing smaller homes for empty nesters and more amenities like built-in desk areas for families. Thus, it’s easy to assume that junk drawers are being phased out of new construction. Not so, said builder Dave Schmitt, whose Edgebrook Development Company has given us the Centennial Crossing and Woodland Hills subdivisions. “Everyone ends up with a junk drawer anyway, so we still design one into each model and call it a utility drawer.”

Perhaps Sylvania’s ultimate junk drawer champions are Mark and Sophia Lloyd of St. James Wood. “At our house, we have junk drawers everywhere: three in the kitchen, one in the garage,” Mark said. “The master bath has at least two, and even our dog has her own drawer filled with treats, old collars and discarded toys. I think the problem is that we have too much storage space, and maybe too much stuff.”

Of course, people who make money telling us how to improve our lives have all sorts of suggestions about how to take control of the junk drawer. Organization guru Marie Kondo says it is alright to have a junk drawer, but the order is the key. The host of the Netflix series “Tidying Up” offers a few tips: attack all your junk drawers at one time; totally empty the drawers and purge useless stuff before putting the rest back; reorganize items by category and consolidate each group in separate open-faced boxes inside the drawer.

Bob Vila, host of the PBS fix-up show, “This Old House,” says that while junk drawers get a bad rap, they are the perfect spot to store a few items that are essential to keeping a household functioning smoothly. His must-haves: a flashlight, measuring tape, small screwdriver, screen wipes, super glue, tape, and a lint roller. (He named that last one; don’t ask me.)

Then we have Natalie Walkup of Lincoln Woods—the homeowner we all wish to be. She claims to be in charge of neatness and organization at her house. In fact, she recalls that while she was away in California, her young kids phoned her to ask where their shoes were kept, and yes, her husband was home with them the entire time. 

While Natalie couldn’t quite admit to having a junk drawer, she did concede to a space that sounds suspiciously similar. Even then, she noted, it is organized with drawer spacers, and items are grouped according to category: buttons, pins, notepads. Her drawer’s one outlier is an air pump.

In a comment that may explain the entire junk drawer enigma, she said, “Now that I think of it, the pump should probably go outside with all the balls and bats in the garage, but the drawer is where it has lived for some time now, and I wouldn’t want to rock the boat at this point.”

Longtime Sylvania resident Mark Luetke has served on city council, the board of education, and numerous foundation and community boards.

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