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Let’s talk about that place you put the miscellaneous stuff (like spare change, coupons, save the date postcards, random napkins) you bring into your home everyday. Be honest, we’ve all got at least one. It could be your purse, the glove compartment, the little table next to the front door, that basket on the bookshelf, or gasp: the junk drawer!

I am one of those shoppers that gravitates towards the decorative home organization displays at Target any chance I get. You’ll hear me talking to myself, debating the pros and cons of galvanized metal versus kraft paper facades. In my head I imagine how splendid my life will be getting home each day to put down my keys and sort the mail in my new galvanized-tray-of-goodness; but here’s the thing: I’ve tried those adorable shabby-chic front door organizers, I’ve tried the clear acrylic ones too, but none of them actually make my life run any smoother. More often than not, they actually end up being time wasters versus savers. Why? Because these systems become magnets to more than just my keys and today’s mail. I start keeping junk mail in there, credit cards I need to shred, receipts and all sorts of stuff that doesn’t belong.

You’ve heard the saying, “A place for everything, everything in its place.” Clutter traps are the antithesis of this. They’re an excuse to find a “home” for things that don’t really have one, and although when you move in your junk drawer is organized, with a system to the random junk, it will get out of hand sooner than later.

As simple and catchy as the phrase “A place for everything, everything in its place” is, it’s darn hard to actually “home” everything, but boy will you be happy once you have. While spending time to sort through your clutter traps and find everything a permanent home will take some time, you’ll save yourself a boatload later when you decide you want to return that lamp from IKEA and don’t have to sort through that pile of miscellaneous paper for the crumpled up receipt.

So once you’ve upended the junk drawer and other clutter traps in your home, how do you keep it up?

  • Consider disposing of those traps, or create strict rules for what is and is not allowed to fill such containers.
  • Put stuff away everyday. Before going to bed at night, I like to take a quick sweep through the house. I’ll trash the plastic wrap that once wrapped my Self Magazine next to the front door, carry my old water glass into the kitchen, and slide my receipts in an envelop next to my desk. It makes mornings so much faster, and coming home at night so much more pleasant when I’m not coming home to a wreck from the night before.
  • Place trash and recycling bins where you use them. This may seem obvious, but not many people actually keep a paper recycling by where they open their mail, making an extra trip to the office or kitchen necessary to rid of paper waste.
  • If you have your shredder, make sure it’s plugged in and easily accessible. If you’re going to bother having a shredder, you might as well use it! Don’t let papers with personal information you don’t want float around your house. Get rid of it as soon as you don’t need it, and save yourself the hassle later.
  • Before purchasing that oh-so-tempting storage device on display, consider if you really need it, if it will actually come in handy, or if you are simply drawn to it’s fun polkadot pattern.

It’s time to fess up: the junk drawer isn’t working, and it’s time to tackle it.

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