Every house needs a junk drawer. Don Mendenhall
An innocent conversation over coffee is where it started. About a seemingly insignificant part of the house. Life suddenly revealed itself and I discovered the true contents of a small drawer in Simplicity’s kitchen.
When we moved into the house, my husband asked for a designated junk drawer. While I do open this drawer, it feels like Don’s domain. He is the sole proprietor and manager of its contents.
“My dad had a junk drawer,” Don randomly shares one morning. “And my grandfather. I remember as a child how I loved to look in them. Felt like a treasure hunt, never knowing what I would find. Both were messy and chaotic. That’s what made them a great junk drawer. Junk drawers are messy.”
“Really?” I inquired, as I thought of my childhood experience with a junk drawer. “My dad’s junk drawer wasn’t messy. Seemed pretty organized. Dad labelled everything. He had little jars and metal containers named paper clips, rubber bands, brads, tacks. There were boxes and plastic bins that organized all the other containers. I loved looking in the drawer. Fun pens, small screwdrivers, and measuring tapes with different advertising on them. I felt important, thinking of all the ways those things could be used.”
I paused, now giving further thought to this little drawer in Simplicity’s kitchen. “What is a junk drawer for?” I asked the resident expert sitting across from me.
“I think the junk drawer is about efficiency, easy access to something you need at a moment’s notice,” Don’s thinking mind offered. He paused and then added, “It keeps things safe. Yes, this is the place of safe keeping for procrastinations.”
“Safe keeping for procrastinations?” I giggled and he did, too. Did this clever phrase just spill out of his mouth or had he been thinking about this whole junk drawer issue for quite some time? “Explain that to me,” I encouraged him, still in amazement we were taking about a silly junk drawer. Talk about squeezing blood out of a turnip. We were squeezing and having fun. Now I wanted to know what he meant by ‘safe keeping for procrastinations’.
“Well, this is where I put things like the bolt that fell out of the dining room table. I don’t want to lose it because it is important. This drawer keeps it safe.”
I looked over at him, all pleased with himself, and loved him even more. It also crossed my mind that the bolt had been in safe keeping for a very long time. Admittedly, I wondered if the mere mention of this might move the bolt from safety into its rightful place in the table.
My mind was becoming intrigued with, of all things, this psyche around a junk drawer. I sipped my coffee and snuggled deeper into the comfy chair. Suddenly I felt uncomfortable. I thought more. Yes, that was the truth. The junk drawer made me feel anxious. Not the junk drawer alone, but Don and the junk drawer. There is a considerable amount of rummaging when Don opens the drawer. The desperation in the hunt is noisy and chaotic as the drawer’s contents get stirred, churned, mixed, and blended. His rustling panic makes me anxious.
More coffee sipping, more thinking. A slippery thought is quickly grabbed before it can run away. There is a progression of this anxiety. 1) Will he find whatever he is looking for? Swirling and mixing are heard. 2) If not, he will head downstairs to look in the workbench. More stirring. More rustling. 3) If not there, the jangle of car keys will be heard and he is off to the hardware store to purchase a new whatever it is. Each of these sequential steps involves panic and noise and a trail of disturbed drawers, bins, containers, and counter tops. That is the source of my anxiety. The pandemonium of Don in the junk drawer.
“Do you think everyone has a junk drawer?” I ask, thinking it a reasonable question to keep the dialog going while also circumventing the recently identified anxiety that I was not quite ready to admit to myself, let alone Don.
“Of course,” he quickly responds. “Every house needs one.”
“Are there standard items in a junk drawer?” I push along this curious conversation.
“Probably,” he adds.
We both began recalling the contents of Simplicity’s junk drawer. Small tools like a screwdriver, hammer, and pliers. Glue. Batteries. Halogen bulbs for the light over the sink. Stoppers of various kinds. Swiss army knives. Not junk at all, but necessary, efficient and accessible items for times when duty calls. This drawer was the first responder in a household crisis.
That same day I was having lunch with a friend and reached the restaurant early. With time on my hands, I pulled out a small notebook and pen that travel with me for those moments when I want to jot something down, catching an idea before it goes.
“Working on your book?” asked my friend, whose arrival found me deep in thought and scribbling away.
“This week’s blog on junk drawers. Do you have one?” I asked.
Indeed, she did. We exchanged the what’s and why’s of each item purposefully selected for this honor to be included in such an esteemed location. Then she leaned in, as if preparing to share something very personal, private.
“You know, when my husband opens the junk drawer and I hear him rummaging around, I get anxious.”
“You do?” my surprise and selfish delight showed. My secret anxiety had just been affirmed and confirmed.
She continued. “There is always a chance he won’t find what he is looking for and then he will call me to help. Why I can easily find whatever it is in such a small space and he cannot, is a mystery to me.”
A knowing smile came across my face. Women of the world unite. Are we still talking about junk drawers?