What your Junk Drawer Can Teach You about Success - Christine Kane

My house is spacious, orderly and almost Zen-like. (On most days.) Over the years, I’ve taught myself to live simply. I use the “If it’s not an Absolute Yes, it’s a No” rule when I’m debating a purchase or considering tossing something out. I’m sometimes mesmerized that I’ve become organized and clutter-free after years of living in total chaos.

However, I’m not stupid.

Changing behavior doesn’t mean you’ve changed your essence. I know myself too well to forget that my artist, wild, chaotic self is alive and well. I couldn’t write songs – or anything, for that matter – without her. She is my muse and my ferocity. So, she has to have a place in my life.

For instance, she gets to have her way with the kitchen when I prepare meals. She’s masterful at intuitive cooking and “whipping things up” – as long as she gets to bitch-slap the kitchen until there’s not a single unsoiled surface, mixing bowl or spatula in sight.

I also allow certain spaces for her unique style of chaos. I reserve one shelf in my office for her messes.

And, she is why I still keep a Junk Drawer.

Most professional organizers agree. If you’re not an orderly person by nature, you have to work with this part of you, even after you get organized and clutter-free. You have to allow for those times when you don’t (or can’t, or won’t) think clearly.

The Junk Drawer is for those times. And, if you schedule defined times to clean it out when you are clear and orderly, your Junk Drawer can actually contribute to your organizing success because it acknowledges that you don’t always have to get it right! Our Junk Drawers teach us that allowing imperfection – not repressing it – is one of the keys to sustained success.

I call this the Junk Drawer Philosophy. And I’ve expanded it way beyond the realm of organization. I use it with health, and travel and and also with Getting Things Done.

The next post will reveal my own proven method for Getting Things Done and being productive by working with – not against – this wild creative playful side of yourself. Stay tuned!

p.s. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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  • Cynthia Morris

    I LOVE my junk drawer. I loved the junk drawer when I was a kid and occasionally would pull it out and organize everything inside. Now my jd seems like a treasure chest of weird things – mini notebooks, empty vials that will someday hold magic, paper paddle fans from a friend’s wedding, as well as the mundane, batteries and cat hair remover.
    Thanks for sharing this and for making something so normal reflect our creativity!

  • PW

    I yearn to live simply, to throw 80% of what we own out, I even fantasize about it. Alas, my spouse is a packrat and hopelessly chaotic. I’ve no idea how to reason with him about it *have tried almost everything* and feel my personal growth suffers greatly from it.

  • verb2be

    Oh Christine, this is so true! I’m an “all-or-nothing” soul, so my house is either pristine or the pits. You’re so right about Junk Drawers!

  • mary

    Oh Christine,
    you mean there’s hope for me??…I’m a real ‘gonner’
    as far as organisation is concerned…the truth of the matter is that I’ve got too many junk drawers.
    Can’t wait to hear how you dealt with yourself in your next post.
    I really am exasperated with myself!
    P.S. ‘love the way you write!

  • Jen, writer MembershipMillionaire.com

    Can your junk drawer be organized as well? Honestly, my whole room is a mess. It’s like one big junk drawer with only one neat little corner. The exact opposite of your room, I imagine. At the moment, I think I should avoid all notions of having a junk drawer. I need to be more Zen-like. Simpler.

  • Kevin

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all of your readers!

    The rule “If it’s not an Absolute Yes, it’s a No” is so simple and elegant, it has really inspired me to start sorting through my clutter and make some changes to hopefully streamline my home’s organization.


  • Christine Kane

    katherine — it sounds like you’re doing wonderful things even just giving thought to this stuff in the interest of your son. (we were just always told to clean up our mess! and it dawns on me now that no one ever gave us a process or a guide to how that can work!)

    colin – i don’t think it’s about laziness. i really don’t! and happy v day back at ya.

    diane – start with the book i recommended in the last comments above. it’s wonderful. (there’s an audio version that was a great inspiration to me to just get started when i was in my most overwhelmed place!)

    danny – most artists live in disarray! you’ve got company!

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks Elaine! yes, the best way to do any big changes that move you forward is to allow space for the resistant parts of you, or the parts that still come up and out!

    mimi – the best rule of thumb that i’ve learned about order and organizing is that everything needs a “home.” when things have a place, it’s easy to take them and put them there. when they don’t have a place, they end up taking up any space that’s given to them. do you have an assigned “space” where all the stuff can go? (I also highly recommend Julie Morgenstern’s book “organizing from the inside out.” she has some great basic ideas in there.)

    Thanks Caren! And hurray to you for moving. that’s exciting. A clean slate is a wonderful place to begin. I find that I continue to make clean slates for myself even years after my last move – which was a HUGE change. I’m constantly letting go and shifting old paradigms etc. Thanks for reminding me how great that feels!

  • Danny

    Ahhh… So there’s hope for those of us who live in a perpetual state of creative disarray? *happy dance*

  • Diane

    Now Christine, there are laws about spying on people! Once again my goal for this year is to get organized! Even my 10 year old son often reminds me “If it isn’t an abosolute yes mom…its a no!” Thanks for giving me hope and tools to reach my goal. I have a vision this year and I KNOW my home will get back to the home I want. Looking so very forward to the next post!

  • Colin

    I’m considering writing a tome entitled
    “Eclectic Organizational Paradigms Within the Constructs of the Random Universe Theory”. Despite the fact that ‘construct’ and ‘random’ is an oxymoron…uh…anyway… I’m amazed how deeply I WANT to be so neat but am so LAZY in practice. Oh, the flaws, the flaws. Happy Valentine’s to you and all of your female readers (I’m soooo old fashioned).
    Fr. Colin

  • Katherine/ME

    My son, the creative one, was so happy when I cleaned his room and then discovered that he needed to mess it up a bit in order to create. I dislike going into his room as it is soooo messy. A few days ago, I discovered that he actually mirrors my creative side that needs mess. So, now my task is to find the balance between order and mess in my own life.
    To read this post today was pretty perfect! Thanks! I really like reading about how others have made there own mess/order discoveries and how to work with, not against them.

  • Caren

    I loved this post, Christine! I’m in the midst of moving, and I have gotten rid of SO much stuff – it feels great!

    A few months ago, I did an exercise from You Can Heal Your Life. (which is now a movie!) I keep the house fairly messy, and while I’ve accepted that about myself, I still really wanted a clean house! The exercise is, you write down “I should…(whatever you feel you should do).” I wrote, I should clean the house. You then change it to, “If I really wanted to, I could… “. I was so surprised when I wrote that part of it, to find that wild inner part of myself that *didn’t* want to, because she wanted people to be surprised and shocked when they came in the door. I am a peaceful, serene kinda person, and I think a lot of people picture my home as orderly and zen-like. Practicing shikantaza can do that for ya. lol SO – I made a deal. If I got a clean house, I would create some wild, shocking artwork to go on the wall. Then I changed it to, I’ll create some wild, shocking artwork whether or not the house was clean. (I don’t like conditionality)

    Moving is, literally, giving me a clean slate. I’m excited to think about where I can put little pockets of wildness and chaos here to feed that side of me. Funny – I had called that side my “inner teen”, thinking it had to do only with rebellion and pushing against authority. While that’s part of it, when I read your “artist, wild, chaotic self”, that just slipped inside and settled right in my bones. Oh! I’m an artist! It feels right, like coming home. Thanks for that.

  • Mindful Mimi

    We recently extended the house and took that opportunity to throw away many things. My line is: if I haven’t used or worn it in the last year it needs to go. We made a lot of people happy 🙂
    Now, we also have two kids. And even if I wouldn’t consider toys to be clutter, it seems literally impossible to keep the house ‘zen’ when matchbox cars, lego blocks and the likes are littered all over the place. What is your solution for that? 🙂

  • Elaine

    Great post Christine! I love the idea that I can still ‘allow’ myself a junk drawer! I especially love the quote ‘bitch-slap the kitchen’ – it made me giggle! I’m gonna look for an opportunity to use that phrase!!