10 Things to Toss From Your Junk Drawer Now: How Many Are Hiding in Yours?

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We all have one—a drawer that either by accident or design becomes the “junk drawer.” The one into which we throw random things that soon meld into a sea of mangled paper clips, empty tape rolls, and chip clips. Even the most obsessive-compulsive organized among us have this compartment of chaos somewhere.

There are few things in life, however, that feel better than tackling the junk drawer. The easiest way to start is to just dump the whole thing out and put back only the items you need. But what should you keep and what should you toss?

Here are 10 things to ditch from your junk drawer to transform it into an organized, efficient storage space—or at least one that will open and close easily, without getting jammed because of all the worthless crap in there.

1. Nonworking pens

The cap is gone and the ink has long since dried up, yet for some reason someone keeps putting them back in the drawer. Get a notepad, test them all, and get rid of every single pen that doesn’t work. Do it now. The relief you’ll feel the next time you go to grab a pen that actually works will feel downright sublime.

2. Expired coupons

You had the best intentions of using the coupons and saving money; however, they never made it into your wallet. Now they’re just sitting there, crumpled and expired. Sad. Toss them into the recycling bin (save the ones from Bed Bath & Beyond, or other stores that honor expired coupons), and consider collecting digital coupons instead going forward. Another option is to send the old coupons to Support Our Troops, which allows U.S. military families to use manufacturers’ coupons even if they’re expired.

3. Batteries

The big question is: Do they work? It turns out, you don’t need a battery tester to find out. Just try this simple trick: Drop each battery—negative end down—on a hard surface. If it bounces, it’s a dud. If it makes a thud, it should still have some juice. Seriously!

If you don’t believe us, check out the video below for a demonstration and a search for the explanation that’s worthy of “MythBusters.”

4. Duplicates

When I recently cleaned out my junk drawer, I found four rulers. Why? Probably because every time someone needed one they couldn’t find one in all the clutter, so we bought another one, then stuffed it in the junk drawer. Rinse and repeat a few times, and we’ve got 48 inches taking up space in the drawer. Take inventory and discover which duplicates you can ditch.

5. Cords, chargers, and cables

Long after phones, cameras, games, and other electronic devices are abandoned for shiny, new models, their chargers and other accessories linger on. You keep them around because you’re worried you might need them at some point in the future. If you can’t remember what something goes to and/or the last time you used it, get rid of it.

6. Spare change

Pennies and nickels scattered throughout, maybe even a handful of quarters. Scoop it all up, and take the pile to a coin machine—and finally let your junk hoarding ways pay off. Or just dump it into some lucky barista’s tip jar.

7.  Random keys

How people wind up with random keys is anyone’s guess, but for whatever reason, it’s a pretty safe guess that there are at least a couple of them in your junk drawer. If you can’t figure out what they open, it’s probably safe to toss them. If you do successfully ID them, go ahead and label ’em to keep them from going back into key purgatory.

8. Rubber bands, paper clips, and chip clips

All of these have legitimate uses, but you’ll never actually use them if they’re buried in all of the clutter. Separate them into groups and place them in containers or drawer dividers so they can be easily found.

9.  Corks

Once upon a time I thought about making a corkboard with all the corks I amassed, but I gave up on that dream many bottles of pinot ago. If you are the crafty type, you probably would have recycled these into a Pinterest-worthy project a long time ago. Since you haven’t, make it a rule to get rid of corks when the bottle is dry. Recork provides a search tool for wine cork recycling drop-off locations.

10.  Buttons

From the extra ones that come with clothing to random ones that pop off, there are often colorful little buttons swimming about in the senseless sea that is your junk drawer. Scoop them up, and put them in a sewing kit for those times when you might need them. Or if the thought of sewing a stitch has you in stitches, you can also collect them for crafts projects or donate them to local schools or day care centers that might use them for art projects.

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