Lessons from the Junk Drawer: Guest Post by Jennifer Van Winkle

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I tell myself “I’m an organized person” as I pull out the kitchen junk drawer and dump its contents into a moving box. Items clatter into the box in one haphazard heap, and I’m disappointed because I have run out of time to make this box look as tidy as the other ones.

I’ve become addicted to the zen-like repetition of wrapping glass stemware in newsprint, slotting them in a satisfying grid. In contrast, this rattly box, with metal bits poking out in disarray, is like fingers on a chalkboard to my inner neat-freak. Sarcastic and brutal, I reprimand myself for falling short.

And you call yourself organized.

An organized person probably doesn’t even have a junk drawer.

My self-esteem in tatters and the idea of a perfectly executed move flying out the window, I resort to disheveled packing in a last-minute frenzy. The big U-Haul truck is here to move everything to our new house, and my kitchen still has a bunch of stuff in the drawers and food in the fridge.

Up till now, I purged unnecessary items before I packed them to prevent storing things we didn’t need in our new house. I gave myself time to choose the things I lovingly nestled in paper padding, leaving behind anything that didn’t make the cut. Every item that made it into those first boxes I knew was and would continue to be useful in the next season. As I watched moving boxes fill and stack neatly in the basement, brimming with utility, none of it junk, satisfaction grew in my heart. When the boxes towered, I patted myself on the back for being so good and organized.

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Yes, I am an organized person, those boxes proved it.

Now here I am packing the junk drawer with no organization, or intentionality, or scrutiny. It is full of stuff I don’t know what to do with--an appalling pockmark on my smooth packing operation. It is the bane of my existence, and I just want to shove it into the darkest corner I can find, shut the door, and pretend it never existed. It is my dirty laundry on parade shouting that I am a fraud.

How can I profess to be an organized person and be packing up a box of junk like this?

As the items skitter past me into one aggregated pile, I wonder where in the world I got the crazy idea that moving could be perfect? I’ve struggled with perfection for a long time. Mostly, it is an inner battle about the way I look and act being good enough, but this was a whole new level of perfectionism: perfect moving boxes. In a moment of clarity, I realized the junk in my kitchen drawer was not the only junk I was carrying around.

The confining ideas I held onto in my heart kept me from just living my life, and in this case packing my boxes imperfectly without a heap of shame on top, to just get the job done.

All I really long for in my soul is peace, not perfection.

No matter how hard I strive after perfection, in whatever different circumstance, I never end up achieving peace. Instead, I allow the recesses of my heart to be filled with ideas that stifle rather than enliven my spirit. Self-doubt accumulates when I fear having confidence will require more emotional strength than I have to give.

It is the same with the junk in my kitchen drawer. I say I am too busy to deal with it, but really I am afraid of making a hard decision about whether something should stay or go. So there it all sits, useful items smashed up against useless ones, the drawer barely closing.

All I really long for in my soul is peace, not perfection.

I need a place to relax my overdriven mind and retire my anxious heart. I am afraid that my junk drawer will swell up and slowly overtake my house. The idea of only being able to reside in a portion of my home because of all my stuff takes up the majority of the space, fills me with worry and dread. I envision my house with plenty of open space, free of superfluous things because peace comes with room around it.

Like a tree, peace needs space to spread out its branches and sink deep its roots. If there is no room for peace to unfurl its canopy; if it must first traverse a pile of junk before forming a foundation, then whatever growth it may have will be stunted. Peace that is scarcely sown is no peace at all.

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An essential part of creating space is letting go of what isn’t useful, both physically and emotionally. I am learning that releasing the unnecessary emotional clutter first is central to having the ability to let go of extraneous material possessions. For me, that meant taking a moment to see the problem for what it was, instead of listening to the exaggerated accusations in my mind about the junk I had accumulated.

I took my rattly junk drawer box out of the closet, set it squarely in the middle of the utility room and promised myself that I couldn’t move the box until I had dealt with the contents. It took some time. I had to step around it to do the laundry forcing myself to look at it as I separated darks and lights. Little by little I was able to make decisions about my junk. Some of it was trash, some of it really belonged in other rooms, and the rest was useful. I quit calling it junk because it genuinely wasn’t anymore.

If there is no room for peace to unfurl its canopy; if it must first traverse a pile of junk before forming a foundation, then whatever growth it may have will be stunted. Peace that is scarcely sown is no peace at all.

As I released things I didn’t need, peace grew in me.

Perhaps you’re like me and feel emotionally buried by the physical and mental junk you carry around with you? Maybe you long for peace in your physical space but don’t know how to achieve it? I encourage you to make space for peace to grow. Take some time to sit with your junk and make some decisions so you can clear the internal clutter that weighs you down and stifles your creativity. Knowing what to do with things comes when we give ourselves space. Toss your junk in a box, shake it around a bit, then take a big deep breath in all that new space you created.

Now, go see how much of it you can throw in the trash.

Photo Credit: Unsplash


  Jennifer Van Winkle is a fun-loving, intentional-but-casual minimalist. She is an editor of and regular contributor to the  Kindred Mom  Blog and Podcast. Currently, she writes from home with kids underfoot on her personal blog  Pepper Sprout Home . She is passionate about squeezing the most fun out of life in the Pacific Northwest, to the soundtrack of laughter. She is always in search of truth and what it looks like to live authentically. Find Jenni on  Instagram .

Jennifer Van Winkle is a fun-loving, intentional-but-casual minimalist. She is an editor of and regular contributor to the Kindred Mom Blog and Podcast. Currently, she writes from home with kids underfoot on her personal blog Pepper Sprout Home. She is passionate about squeezing the most fun out of life in the Pacific Northwest, to the soundtrack of laughter. She is always in search of truth and what it looks like to live authentically. Find Jenni on Instagram.