Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Dejunking the junk drawer

We’re continuing to dig out old newspaper columns while I’m traveling and with limited Internet connectivity.

This one was written in August 2004. Go to your junk drawer and tell us in the comments the strangest thing you find.

Dejunking the junk drawer

My assignment is to clean out the junk drawer, decide what we should keep and what we might throw out.

Every home has a junk drawer or its equivalent. Why it is we feel a need to have a special, designated, reserved location for junk is an issue for deeper study later.

Let’s see what we have here. Filet knife and fancy cut-everything scissors – no doubt, they stay. In fact, they deserve better than the junk drawer, but that’s not my job right now. An old 12-inch wooden ruler with a metal guide plate – perfect item for the junk drawer.

An empty prescription bottle dated more than four years ago. Here’s the kicker: it was tranquilizers for our satanic cat, Precious, to sedate her for a trip to the vet. It didn’t work. It’s also today’s first trash can qualifier.

Next candidate is an ancient roll of labels to use on Tupperware containers so you can tell when to throw out leftovers. Halfway to the trash, I come across a note from Leah. She wants to keep the labels. Mine is not to question why.

Here is a roll of medical tape that should be with the bandages and aspirin, not in the junk drawer. What is this unopened pack of AA batteries doing in here? This is not where I keep batteries. There are also a few loose batteries I assume to be dead but someone was too kind-hearted, until now, to toss.

Check this out, an “easy-to-install” replacement plug that I bought to repair a lamp. Apparently, it installs in 15 easy steps, 14 of which they failed to mention. Get thee to a landfill.

Following are some perfect junk drawer items – chip clip, three books of matches, a couple of clothes pins, rubber bands, nutcracker, glass scraper, box cutter, 12-foot measuring tape, screwdrivers, pliers, bottle opener and needle-nose pliers.

What’s this? Another empty prescription bottle for the cat, this one from a different vet in a different town. It didn’t work either.

Next is a well-aged, torn-open box that once contained scarlet fabric dye. Covering its insides are instructions, which may have been why someone kept it, but I figure any new box of dye should have its own directions.

Bringing a bit of color to the drawer is an unopened package of red poppy seeds and another of baby’s breath. Can’t throw those out, not as long as there’s dirt around. Something I can throw out is a packaged pair of plastic nuts and bolts designed to fasten down a toilet seat. You never know when that might come in handy, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.

Here is the perfect example of why junk drawers exist and why we must clean them occasionally. Three or four years ago, I bought a couple of bicycle tubes, only to discover later that one box contained the wrong size tube. I needed only one, as it turned out, and this one ended up in the junk drawer, silently waiting some form of usefulness.

On the fast-track to the trash can are a wax pencil with which one may write on Easter eggs, clear tape so old that it has turned brown, a bent piece of metal with no apparent function, a lid to an aerosol can without the can, a 4-inch piece of frayed string and a peppermint that has been here no telling how long.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, no less than seven bottle corks. Why? Maybe sentimental reasons. One is from an interesting winery tour we took in Florida. The others … well, I don’t know. My sense of self-preservation tells me they may have been tossed into the drawer for some reason other than to build a life raft, so I had better consult with the boss.

She asked me to clean out the drawer, but I know better than to assume carte blanche authority over something that might be a junk drawer keepsake.

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