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Dumping our junk

In our kitchen, the silverware drawer is flanked by a knife/pot holder drawer on the right and a junk drawer on the left. Actually, there are two junk drawers to its left. They weren’t intended to junk drawers. Since the kids do their homework at the kitchen table, I stocked those two drawers with pens, pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, glue and other items the kids might need to do their school work.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, we hosted a pot luck get-together on Sunday afternoon. As people were coming in and setting their dishes on the counter, someone asked me where they could find some serving spoons. Imagine my horror (and theirs, no doubt) when they opened the wrong drawer and discovered this:

The worst part is that this is not the first time this has happened. This is what the other junk drawer looks like:

Clearly, these drawers have become a favorite dumping spots for the kids.

Tuesday evening, with a recent episode of Hoarders still fresh in my memory, I decided it was time to clean out these drawers. Lest you think they really didn’t have that much junk in them, here’s what the contents of those two drawers looked like when I dumped them out on the kitchen table:

That’s just two drawers, people! Oy, vey.

Several years ago, my very organized friend told me about a book called Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life. To call a book about organizing revolutionary may seem like a stretch, but this book truly is. The problem with most books about organization are that they are written by people who are organized. Julie Morgenstern is a former pack-rat herself, so she understands what it feels like to be overwhelmed by clutter and how the stress associated with disorganization can affect other areas of your life. I don’t know what happened to that book. I think I lent it out to a friend. It’s probably at the bottom of someone’s junk drawer unread. But I do remember the acronym she discussed in the book that I apply every time I tackle a messy space, regardless of whether it be a drawer, a closet or an entire room:

  • Sort (everything into like categories)
  • Purge (throw away or put into a giveaway box things that are not needed)
  • Assign a home (to those things you are planning to keep)
  • Containerize (put like things together in containers)
  • Equalize (periodically go back and repeat this process on a smaller scale so it doesn’t get out of hand again)

So that’s what we did, my daughter and me. We sorted the pens from the pencils, the Sharpies from the markers. We put aside all the things that didn’t belong in those drawers and later put them back where they belonged.

And then we purged. We purged a lot of stuff. Dried up markers and nubs of pencils. Tiny little trinkets that once seemed like such treasures but just looked like so much junk in the harsh light of the kitchen.

I think there’s an important life lesson to be learned through this process. Things may appear calm and put together when all anyone sees is what shows from the outside:

But we can only stuff things away in the dark for so long before pretty soon the inward mess starts overflowing to the outside.

I think it’s best to approach life from the inside out, don’t you?