The Classic Junk Drawer — The First Survival Kit?

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The only thing better than having one junk drawer is having a double.


No matter how tidy, or casual a home, every house has one. It’s where things are stored or used daily. It also serves as a place for trinkets we’re not sure where else to keep. But we wouldn’t dare throw them away — they could come in handy later. A survival kit of sorts, men root through them for the perfect piece of hardware. When found, he’ll gleefully show his wife why storing it for 13 years wasn’t a waste.

The Junk Drawer

Of course, I’m talking about the innocuous looking “junk” drawer. Closed, it holds the secrets to life’s past. Open, one finds everything from measuring tapes, florist wire, a few bottles containing nuts, screw, picture hangers and assorted hardware leftover from assembling new gadgets. For the handyman, the “junk” drawer has more function than the biggest Swiss Army Knife.

This drawer is a combination mini hardware store, beauty supply center, time capsule and file cabinet. The human species is classified as hunter/gatherers. For the most part, and I know there are exceptions, men are the hunters and women the gatherers. Men, how many times have you looked in the cupboard or refrigerator looking for something, and you swear it’s not there?

“Honey, where’s the disseldorfer? I swear it was right here!” Along comes your wife, her superpower finding senses tingling, making the object you seek magically appear, as she hands it to you, walking away in silence. How’d they do that? Happens all the time, right?
Men hate finding things, because we suck at it. Unless, of course, it’s in the junk drawer. Here, we’ll pull up a chair. We don’t mind looking here. Happily, we sort through each item, piece by piece, having all the patience in the world. Attacking the twisted jungle of misfit toys, we separate and mentally log-in each item.

Certain items spark long ago memories. For instance, my drawer has the pocketknife my pap gave me when I was seven. The blade is ground down from sharpening it on his bench grinder in the tractor shed. Boy, did those sparks fly.

There are also a few old car keys, some rubber stoppers, various nail clippers and files, scissors and glue. Lots of glue! Two-part epoxies, rubber cement, Elmer’s glue, wood glue, glue sticks and JB Weld, the heavy-duty fix anything stuff. There’s almost as many types of tape. Black electrical tape, scotch tape, packing tape and duct tape.

Time Capsule

I first became aware of “junk” drawers at both grandparents’ farm homes. I told you everyone has them. For me, I had endless hours of the sifting through the coolest stuff imaginable. Old, rusty Barlow pocketknives with broken blades, a tarnished tin of fishhooks, smaller tools for household type repairs, various flashlights, and if I was lucky, a stash of candy. They were indeed treasure chests.

For a city kid visiting the farm, these items, combined with imagination, farmland, barns, creeks, and a fishing pond, were the catalyst for adventure. I remember grabbing a few fishhooks, borrowing some dental floss, then breaking off a branch, effectively making a Huck Finn rig. Fishing the creek for trout using worms or other insects I found was great fun. Life was grand before smartphones.

My grandparents’ “junk” drawer also got me in trouble on occasion. Finding some black electrical tape, I went on a mission. My Pap was getting a new TV aerial installed. The many long spokes looked to be perfect spear shafts. They even broke off easily enough, if you worked them back and forth awhile. Every good Indian needs at least five spears. I then broke one of my grandma’s old clay flowerpots. The pointy pieces made good spear tips.

The electrical tape was as good as wet sinew for attaching the points to the aerial spokes. I was a high tech injun, without realizing it. When my grandparents noticed my handiwork, they were less enthused. I learned Pap kept his wooden folding ruler in the “junk” drawer too, when it wasn’t in his chest pocket of his bib overalls, as he introduced my seven-year-old hiney to it.

Don’t Worry

Be proud of your “Junk” drawer. Don’t worry about keeping it a secret, because we all have them. These drawers are a combination shrine, urban survival kit. They also see duty as storage for objects we know we want/need to keep, but just aren’t sure where to keep them. “Check the junk drawer” is the battle cry for those in need or trying to find long lost treasures in every home.

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