Cleaning the junk drawer

Rain has fallen on half of the days in June and the clouds are threatening the first days of July. I couldn’t work in the garden or mow the lawn. I was procrastinating about balancing my checkbooks and doing bookkeeping. There were a couple of projects half finished in the garage and I should have been writing this column.

I had for months walked around the box of stuff that once lived in my kitchen “junk drawer.” I emptied the junk drawer when we refinished our cabinets and cleaned and reorganized the cupboards. I avoided dealing with the contents of that box for as long as I could stand it. Maybe I was looking for a reason to avoid the other things on my “to do” list, but this one box called for my attention.

Everyone has one of those drawers, don’t they? The drawer is the one at the end of the counter, too far away from the stove for spatulas and stirring spoons, too far from the dishwasher for silverware that gets used every day. While on the perimeter of the kitchen workspace, this drawer still gets opened frequently. At least it often gets things added to it. I’m not sure many items ever come out of it again.

In this box were the assorted tools I try to keep from wandering out to the shop: screwdrivers, pliers, Allen wrenches, a small hammer, a punch, a tiny, probably useless multi-tool. There was also a tool for scoring glass, a couple of needles for blowing up balls with a hand pump (no hand pump), an odd shaped wrench that I think is for installing some part of a long discarded kitchen faucet and a crescent wrench. There was duct tape, scotch tape-both invisible and double sided, electrical tape, florist tape, and plumbers tape, super glue, super glue remover, epoxy glue (dried up, of course), Elmer’s glue and rubber cement. Tangled up with assorted bits of wire were shoe laces (only one of each pair), ear plugs on strings, and a half dozen phone cords and cell phone chargers. Escaped from their original boxes and roaming around the bottom of the drawer were all sizes of nails, screws, bolts, washers, and nuts, assorted picture hangers and cup hooks. There was a screen door spring and clips to hold on a screen.

There was a combination padlock. Someone had wisely taped the combination to the back. A second padlock which requires a key, seems to have been thrown in because the key might turn up some day. It is possible the key may even be one of the 20 or so I also unearthed in the bottom of the box. I recognized the key to the old Ford truck we sent with the scrap metal dealer a couple of years ago. I’m sure several of the keys on one ring were for our back door, but we’ve changed the knob at least twice over the last 20 years and I don’t know which ones belong to the current lock. There’s one key that’s labelled as belonging to my sister’s house, but I’m not sure which house. Some of the keys don’t look at all familiar.

I found a whetstone for sharpening knives, a clipper for trimming the cats’ claws, a tweezer, a paint stick for repairing chips in the stove, extra feet for some appliance, and two boxes of thumb tacks.

I sat on the floor and started sorting through the odds and ends left over from our daily life. I remember buying cup hooks for some project, but had gotten the wrong size. I couldn’t throw the wrong size away because I might need them for something else. Tiny nails are always useful when hanging pictures. Extra screws and bolts, if I can remember where they are, have saved me a trip to town when something needs fixing. No one should get rid of duct tape or electrical tape and you’d be surprised how useful floral tape can be.

I did throw out some stuff. Even I can’t understand why used foam earplugs or empty glue containers ended up in the drawer. I sorted the nails, screws, picture hangers and tacks into more secure containers. I discarded a couple of worn out tools, scraps of wire and balls of string. I put paper clips in the desk drawer and safety pins in my sewing room.

I put most of the keys back. I’d hate someday to find a door locked and realize that the unidentified key I had just thrown out was the one I needed to unlock it.

My drawer is not empty, but it is neat and organized and the box is gone from the corner.

I’m sure that one day soon I will need something I threw out. I just know it.

Copyright © 2014 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains

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