Archive | August, 2012

Junk Drawer Therapy

9 Aug

Ahh, the Junk Drawer. A feature in every home as commonplace as a front door or a toilet. It doesn’t actually contain junk; if it were junk, we certainly would have thrown it away. No, indeed, the junk drawer is jammed full of items that were (at least at one time) deemed important enough that we couldn’t live without them…but perhaps not important enough for us to put them wherever they belonged. 

It’s a hodgepodge of little items that actually belong somewhere else, but they never finished the trip. It’s a crayon you found tucked into the sofa. A dollar, a hall pass and a paper clip that you rummaged out of your daughter’s back pocket on the way to the laundry room. The measuring tape that should be in the sewing basket, but the sewing basket is tucked under your bed, and would therefore require an extra two minutes to dig out, so you just…throw it in the drawer. A hair clip, a mismatched sock, batteries (are they still good? Why else would I have kept them?), an article clipped from National Geographic (why did I save THIS?), an old menu from that Chinese place, pictures that somehow got separated from an old photo album. Lots of pens, but most of them don’t work, and every pencil has a broken tip. (You dig through the mess searching for a pencil sharpener, but you won’t find one there.) An old report card, a charger for a device you no longer own, a fortune cookie, your good screwdriver, sugar and ketchup packets, replacement bulbs for your Christmas lights, a roll of Scotch tape that is stuck to itself, a phone number scribbled on a ripped piece of paper with no identifiable owner, a collection of other peoples’ business cards, a razor, thumb tacks, a package of wooden skewers…well, I think you get the picture. 

Tonight, as I performed the Bi-Annual Cleaning of the Junk Drawer, a few thoughts came to mind. First, that each of these objects had a unique story to tell about how it came to reside in the junk drawer. (Don’t worry – the thought process stopped there. I’ve no desire to titillate you with The Life and Times of a Paper Clip.) Second, that the one thing they had in common, besides a shared space, was the REASON they were all in Purgatory – I was always BUSY. Too busy to take an extra moment to walk the screwdriver back to its home in the toolbox, or to put the measuring tape away. Too hurried to make sure all the Christmas things were in their proper boxes before I put them back in the basement. Too busy, even, to walk ten steps to the bathroom and return the hair clip to its usual place. That’s a lot of busy.

As I sat there trying to unpeel the tape from itself, spitting out a piece of stale fortune cookie, I realized that I always seem to be in such a rush to get to SOMETHING ELSE that I cut corners, and end up shoving all the loose ends of things into a metaphorical drawer someplace. I’m surrounded by evidence of this everywhere I look in my house – a kitchen that I spackled two years ago but never repainted…laundry that’s folded but not put away for weeks…Piles of paperwork stacked very neatly in a basket, but never actually addressed…an overgrown garden…a box of clothes that needed mending (five years ago, but now the kids have outgrown them), half-written stories that I can never finish because I don’t remember what inspired them in the first place! Oh, I have the best of intentions to return, and finish these things, but I almost never do. I’ve unwittingly created a chaos in my life that bears a remarkable resemblance to…a junk drawer. 

But there is good news to be had (I hope). I can take a lesson from this drawer of neglected things. I can resolve to finish the things that I start. I can promise myself that I will never again take on a task, or a project, or a favor unless I know that I will have the time and energy to see it all the way through. I should never again make myself feel guilty, or ashamed for my lack of  ‘sticktuitiveness’. As I looked upon my newly decluttered drawer, with pens and sharpened pencils in the pencil tray, and the post-it notes stacked neatly beside them, batteries tested for their worth, all other items returned to their proper homes – I felt productive. Worthy. Slightly victorious. And in a moment of pure clarity, I felt, deep in my soul, that if I stay on this path of organizational righteousness, I will rise above the chaos that challenges me every day. The chaos of my own making! But I have the power – the POWER! – to create a new way of doing things, and to unclutter my life in the pursuit of domestic – and perhaps, spiritual – Nirvana. A powerful insight, shown to me during the simple cleaning of a drawer!

Then, just as I was about to close the drawer, I spotted a tiny slip of paper. It had fallen from the old fortune cookie I had found in this mess. So I picked it up, and read: “An organized house brings peace of mind.” Incredible! Amazing! Kismet!! Clearly this fortune was meant for ME, and I must save it for posterity! Stick it on the fridge, maybe? Put it in my wallet, as a daily reminder? Tape it to the wall near my bed? 

Well, all of those choices were clearly good ideas, but I just didn’t have time right at that very moment…so I chucked my fortune into the junk drawer.