Some of you wanted to see if I’d catch that typo, right? Some of you were hoping that I had created some miraculous organizing wizardry that involved a nice glass of wine or massive amounts of booze and party supplies. Alas, no.
Sometime in the not-to-distant past, I invoiced a client and typed “drunk drawer” instead of “junk drawer.” I had to laugh; was it a Freudian slip? Was I itching for a cold cocktail? It was about 90 degrees in my apartment on that hot September day in San Francisco.
The typo gave me pause, though: is the proverbial junk drawer what a drawer would look like if professional organizers put it together during the end of a drawn-out cocktail hour? Why do so many of us have junk drawers, to begin with? And where did the term originate?
According to WordSense, the term was referenced as far back as 1912 in William D. Tracy’s “Notes on Practice.” As far as I can tell, he was writing about tools in a dental practice.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot more information online that I could easily find. Except that, did you know that eBay sells vintage junk drawer lots? There is truly something for everyone. Before some of you get excited, though, remember that you would have to keep that precious space occupied for 50 years before it POTENTIALLY became worth anything. Even then, it probably wouldn’t be as valuable as the cost of that square footage being used for thumbtacks, broken figurines, and rusty staples. I found the webpage quite fascinating, although definitely curated (no broken toothpicks to be found).
Junk drawers seem to creep up over time. They might have started as tidy utility drawers: a stapler here, a few twist-ties there. Perhaps a few rolls of tape and an old screwdriver, unworthy of the toolbox.
In time, it becomes the catch-all for items that have no home. The Island of Misfit Toys, if you will. Sometimes they get so packed that they no longer close (or fully open). Sometimes we’re afraid to stick our hand in, for fear we’ll stab ourselves with an errant staple. (Organizing rule #1: never ever stick your hand into a dark drawer packed with unknown contents. You could come out with a nasty injury if a razor blade or open boxcutter is buried amidst the ancient band-aids and crunchy rubber bands.)
So we eventually decide it’s time to tackle the junk drawer. But it’s overwhelming. There’s just so much tiny STUFF! What if we fail? What if we get it WRONG? What if we accidentally throw out some unknown part and then find its mate weeks later and exclaim, “I KNEW I shouldn’t have thrown that out!”
“What if? What if? What if?!” We’ve all been there: not sure how to proceed for fear of making a mistake. It’s normal. It’s also pernicious. It also perfectionism: it can eat away at our confidence, stifle our creativity and inhibit our ability to move forward. It can be a massive stumbling block when we want to organize our homes to live more comfortably. I am ever vigilant of it lurking in the corner and watch out for it to rear its ugly head. When I catch it, I call it out to the mat, and my client and I figure out how to acknowledge those what-ifs and still make progress.
So the next time you become afraid to start an organizing project such as the junk drawer, do this: remind yourself that you WILL make mistakes, and that is ok. It’s part of the process. As the saying goes, sometimes we win, sometimes we learn. We cannot make progress without making mistakes. It’s just not possible. It’s tricky to remember and sometimes even harder to emotionally reconcile. It’s definitely possible, though. I’ve seen many perfectionists bloom as we work together. They become comfortable with errors because they know that the overall goal is so much more important than the mistakes they might make.
So that’s it for my impressions on the drunk/junk drawer. Take a stab at it; you’ll be finished in no time and it will no longer be the graveyard of delayed decisions. You'll be left with something much more useful than detritus. Just don’t blame me if you can no longer properly say the words junk and drawer together!
Perhaps you have thought about hiring Twilight Organizing to help you dig out from underneath the clutter. Perhaps you hesitated and wondered why you would hire a trained professional organizer who charges more than a house cleaner, gardener, or new organizer you found on Craigslist.
Most of my clients struggled with decades of clutter. Some kept their homes relatively organized but could not keep a home office useable amidst paper piles. Some grappled with disorganization for the vast majority of their lives. Still, others have hoarding disorder and were ready to roll up their sleeves and create a new life for themselves as they cleared the clutter. Each client situation has been unique, yet they all have at least a few things in common:
Some called organized friends and concerned loved ones to pitch in, and they might have had initial success. Perhaps there was no progress because of competing ideas, and everyone went home licking their wounds. On occasion, individuals felt whiplashed (some even describe it as traumatized) after a whirlwind clear-out. It took years to build up the courage to reach out again for assistance.
Individuals find their way to me after self-help efforts and guidance of well-meaning friends, family, and lovely yet untrained organizers haven’t worked. Clients realize that they need to step up their game, and so they decide to invest in themselves to improve the quality of their lives. They might have valued my training, enjoyed one of my presentations, or related to clients who gave testimonials or referrals.
They’ve told me that help from “naturally organized” loved ones were no longer cutting it. They want a trained professional by their side, guiding them through the entire process so that they are no longer overwhelmed and quit before they begin. They want to clear out the clutter and figure out how to keep it at bay. For those who commit to the process, it can be life-altering. I’ve lost count of how many individuals have let go and moved on to the next chapter of their lives, whether it be:
· moving to a new part of the country
· enjoying retirement or hard-earned weekends
· having have friends, children, grandkids, and relatives over again
· discovering new passions and hobbies
Even with all these benefits, some are still hesitant. I want to dispel two myths that might help.
“I SHOULD be able to do this by myself!”
I frequently hear this frustration from clients. So many feel that they “should” be able to get organized without outside help. As a result, they carry an uncomfortable burden of shame. I explain to them that organizing is a soft skill. There are no organizing courses taught in school (at least that I know of). Sometimes it is not taught at home either: parents might never have learned how to organize when they were young. Perhaps they struggled with undiagnosed hoarding disorder, depression, ADHD, or other challenges that made order challenging to master and teach to their children. If organizing were easy for everyone, the professional organizing industry would not exist.
“Professional organizers charge too much!”
I know the feeling of wanting something helpful and then becoming frustrated when I saw the price tag. I initially felt like I couldn’t afford the service. When I looked more deeply into the situation, though, I realized that there was no way I could afford NOT to invest in the help of experts. Sometimes we’re stuck on a merry-go-round of effort, and we need a hand getting off and getting on a more constructive path.
In comes the trained professional. With continual education, she consistently improves upon solutions for those who face complex or long-term challenges.
A trained professional organizer (who invested in coursework through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, attended annual conferences and meetings related to hoarding disorder and chronic disorganization, and read many books) will charge a fair price for their value. They won’t, though, be the cheapest option on the market. When I started organizing in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2015, rates for this type of organizer typically started near $100/hour and went well above that. There are many ways to work with a trained professional organizer, some less expensive than others. Clients can significantly decrease costs when they learn the process and do independent work between sessions.
(A special note to those who struggle with hoarding disorder: as you look for a professional organizer, be sure to ask what education and training they have. Sometimes well-intentioned but untrained professionals can do more harm than good.)
So if any of the following sounds like your situation, it might be time to give me a ring:
If any of these situations resonate, it might be time to schedule a free consultation call with me. Let it be your first brave step to conquering your clutter once and for all!
Author: Judith Dold
Musings from yours truly about all things organizing.