Spring. As the weather warms, we fling open the windows to enjoy the long anticipated birdsong and fresh breeze. We are eager to pull out our sandals and brightly colored tee shirts and put away our bulky sweaters and boots. We are smitten with the warm, clear air and turn our attention to our gardens, driving with the car windows open, pulling out the kayak and getting to the beach. We want to be outside.

But spring is such a tease. One day later and the weather turns rainy and cold. Again we are shut ins. “OK.” we say brightly, “Spring Cleaning!!” In my case, spring cleaning included taking down those heavy insulated drapes and hanging sheers in their place, which lead to realizing the windows needed to be washed, which lead to realizing the sills could use a little paint, which leads to OMG- I need to paint the living room and perhaps the dining room, too. Exhausted from my runaway brain running off the fix-me-up-track, I want to collapse and watch a movie.

But, I stop myself before the popcorn is even in the microwave; I won’t let myself off that easily.  I can fulfill the commitment I made AND get to watch that movie. I will simply tackle the junk drawer in the kitchen. Sometimes all my drawers seem to be turning into junk drawers, but this is the designated junk drawer. In the 17 years that I have lived here, I do not believe I have even once organized that drawer.

I can only open it a sliver. I know why; it is jammed with all the junk I have stuffed in it. Wrangling it open takes longer than I care to admit but I eventually I loosen whatever is wedged. Then, like cracking some secret code to a treasure chest-I am in!!!

My first impression is awe as I ogle the amazing inventory of batteries I  stashed in that drawer-some still packaged while some have rolled away and retreated to corners. During the October Storm (eleven days no power!) I combed the stores for batteries; my quest for the Ever Ready Holy Grail.  And here they were all the time! But now, what do I do with them all? I know people who refrigerate them. If I did that I would have more batteries than food in there, so I decide against that. I will search for a perfect box to house the little cylinders of power. But first, I must break for a soda. And while I am sipping it, I check my e-mail and then throw in a load of laundry.

I find my way back to the task at hand-the hunt for a battery box and am disappointed that I cannot find exactly the right one. Now, I return to the junk drawer with considerably less enthusiasm. I decide I will put the batteries back in the drawer in a “group”. I imagine they will stay together like small children on a field trip.

I find match book covers from restaurants. I find nine screwdrivers (Oh, that is where they were!). I find old business cards of plumbers, electricians, hairdressers, lawyers, etc. – all of whose services I never sought out. I fan through them as if they represent different stages of my life, then I toss them without hesitation. This is a cinch, I think.

 Next, I find screws and nails and sandpaper and swizzle sticks (Really?) and a Sucrets box filled Christmas ornament hangers. There is a Mr. Clean sponge eraser, a green ribbon from a gift long forgotten and a crumbled photo of my dog as a puppy. I find an old photo slide-maybe from the 70’s? Don’t know- can’t see that small anymore anyway. I do not own a projector or have other slides, but it seems a shame to toss out this relic of unknown origin and subject.

There are bits of paper with grocery lists and phone numbers. There is a can of pepper spray given to me by some over-enthusiastic-crime-fighting man from my past. There are coupons that expired in the last century. There are tubes of half used crazy glue, bobby pins and a dried up roll of scotch tape. There is something red and once gooey now rock solid and adhered to the bottom of the drawer. There are pennies, dried up markers, sticks of ancient gum and keys to unfathomable locks.

It takes me two hours to sort this out. Then I go to bed. True- there was no movie, but I feel great! What an accomplishment!

The following morning, the drawer is empty. I had left it open to admire its clean unfettered new appearance. Everything I took out is now on piles on the counter designated for other spots.

But the sun is already bright and it is a perfect day to paint my wicker furniture. I glance furtively at the empty drawer and the junk on the counter and slowly slide everything back into it.

It does not occur to me until much later that my junk drawer is an apt metaphor for life. We long to “get our house in order”- physically, emotionally and spiritually. There are books, magazines, lectures and wise experts all extolling the value of “keeping it simple.” So, we struggle through the confusion, attempting to manifest order and purpose. We would like to have everything “just so”. The truth is that life is messy and the junk drawer manifests those odds and ends that we can’t quite sort out and are definitely not comfortable throwing out. The junk drawer does have value-it reminds us that our life although at times messy, is also very interesting. Perhaps the best we can do is visit our “junk” occasionally, slog through the messiness and maybe, just maybe, find we can let some of it go.



  1. CJ on the 20. May, 2012 remarked #

    Donna, you have left me laughing so hard that it is difficult to respond to your blog.
    But that last paragraph – whew – that brought me up short. And gave me so much to think about.
    Right now i look at my dining room which i filled with wall-to-wall “stuff”. Stuff for the new vacation house in Vermont, stuff for Joe’s upcoming long distance bike ride, stuff to be given as gifts for upcoming celebrations. I won’t even try to open the junk drawer. It’s difficult enough to wade through the dining room to change the flowers on the table (there is a table under there i think).
    And instead of allowing myself to become upset about the mess I shall use this all as that metaphor for my very fortunate and interesting life.
    Thank you.

  2. Bev on the 20. May, 2012 remarked #

    It’s definitely worth your time to clean out the junk drawer. Hiding in there was a message about life!

  3. Ann on the 20. May, 2012 remarked #

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. Especially knowing that we’re not alone. We all have messy junk drawers and messy “junk” we have to sort through at times. I like that way of looking at it!

  4. Sandy on the 21. May, 2012 remarked #

    I’ve enjoyed all of your blogs, but this one is particularly poignant. As with cleaning out the ‘junk’, we find that what we thought was worth ‘saving’ so long ago, no longer holds relevance and we are finally able to set it free. How freeing that is! Thanks, Donna, for your wonderfully insightful words!

  5. Sugel on the 26. May, 2012 remarked #

    Our lives are all like junk drawers; full of the messy, the missing, the mystifying and the magical. Sometimes I think that is why I became a writer, to “sort out” the junk drawer of my soul. So often my stories feature characters so similarly flawed as me. And, as I help them learn and grow…strangely, so do I. With writing, I can find use for random childhood memories, like the smell of Breck shampoo or the taste of coconut sno-cones. Through stories, I can give them new life in new context so that they can live forever…or at least longer. Through fiction, I can tend unfinished business, like a broken heart that never mended or a dream I was too scared to pursue.

  6. Elifaza on the 29. May, 2012 remarked #

    helpful! i love reading your articles, thanks for all.

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