Let's celebrate the value of junk drawers

Do you have a junk drawer?

We do. It’s in the kitchen. We assume that’s where the junk drawer is supposed to be. Why would we keep it if it’s just junk? Because we may need it.

The junk drawer has no doubt been around as long as there have been drawers to put junk in. The first record of an actual junk drawer dates back to 1877 when Thomas Edison said to his assistant on the first phonograph recording: “Your pliers are in the junk drawer.”

It’s actually interesting which items ultimately fall into this category —and ultimately the drawer. We men are basically incapable of discarding hardware like screws, nuts and bolts, miscellaneous electrical components, and most anything that looks like a “tool” or which we don’t immediately recognize.

Women, on the other hand, can’t bear to part with scissors, matches, birthday candles, batteries, ribbon, pens, pencils, crayons, tape, keys, sewing kits and owners manuals. And all bets are off in a unisex household; the definition of “junk” now expands, and more than one drawer may be necessary.

The men have a rather poor excuse for the hoarding. As they intended to “get to that project later,” a given item might actually be useful — even required. But after the customary period of time, and the project forgotten, the item has become junk.

Women, on the other hand, just assume that all items are useful. This could probably be traced to that period in our evolution when our ancestors, the birds, lined their nests with anything they could find.

My wife and I are alternately proud of and disgusted with our junk drawer. It is periodically “cleaned out,” meaning simply that the contents are rearranged. We can then “find things” easier. And though we don’t actually use the items that collect there, it somehow becomes a jumbled and tangled mess shortly after the reorganization. This is due in part to the dual role the junk drawer plays. It is also the lost and found. “Has anyone seen the stapler?” “Look in the junk drawer.”

One should periodically check for “non-junk” items that may have inadvertently been tossed into the junk drawer. Ah, but there’s the dilemma. The male and female minds are not on the same page here. Thus the rhetorical question: “What the hell is this doing in the junk drawer?!”

It’s all relative of course. One person’s junk is another’s discovery. I would like to be rich — so that my junk drawer would contain only the finest and most expensive junk. I would then say things like, “There’s that old Rolex.” And, “Honey, have you seen my stack of hundred dollar bills — the big one?”

Yep. I would have a better reason to “Look in the junk drawer.”

Federal Way resident Dave McKenzie is an award-winning writer who can be reached at

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