Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Fix your life: Get a junk drawer

Stray nails, bolts and other odds and ends not only save you money, but also can spare you aggravation.

By Donna_Freedman Feb 28, 2012 11:18AM
Recently I needed to repair a slipper. Although I'm not much of a seamstress, I refuse to toss a moccasin just because the felt sole was separating from the upper. But pushing the needle through the thick material was impossible without a thimble.

Since I don't own a thimble, I did what any frugalist would do: I headed to the junk drawer. There I found a tiny plastic container that once held a gumball-machine prize. Fitted on my thumb, it made needle-pushing possible.

Yes, I once picked up a gumball container off the supermarket floor. Like all the other things I pick up, I figured it would come in handy sometime -- and it did.

Don't have a junk drawer? Start one. When something comes loose, you'll be ready to tighten or reinforce it. If something needs to be hung up, you'll have a bracket or a long nail that will work perfectly.

Having a junk drawer saves trips to the hardware store, where you might be tempted to buy something else. (Ninety percent off animatronic Santas from last Christmas? How can I lose!) It saves gasoline if you're not close enough to walk. (Post continues after video.)

It can also save aggravation -- e.g., "I can't believe I'm going to Home Depot for a pound of nails when all I need is one."

Things that you need
My junk drawer holds key rings, safety pins, lots of rubber bands (I still get newspaper delivery), bits of ribbon, shoelaces (still in good shape after the shoes are worn out), electrical tape, stray USB cords and lots of nails/screws/hardware stored in an old cream-cheese tub

This cluttered drawer helps organize other parts of my life. For example, I used a shoelace to tie gloves and mittens together. Now I'll always have two pairs instead of one and an orphan. (Gloves are as stealthy as socks in the laundry. One will almost always go missing if you're not careful.)

My kitchen is tiny, so I was glad to find a hanging produce basket at the dollar store. A quick rummage in the junk drawer turned up a bracket and screws. Now I can keep garlic, onions and other items off the countertops.

I installed a C-hook under a cupboard. A hand of bananas dangles there, ripening slowly and, more to the point, freeing up counter space. (Forget those cute little banana stands -- a hook is much cheaper.) Another C-hook on my bedroom wall keeps my clothes-drying rack up out of the way.Key rings, USB cords and the like just naturally accrue in most people's lives. Hardware will, too, even if you're not a major DIYer. Keep screws or brackets left over from ready-to-assemble bookcases. Watch for those baby-food jars full of miscellaneous nails and screws at yard sales. And if you see a nail or screw in the parking lot, do someone's tires a favor and pick it up.

Do yourself a favor, too: Put that screw in the junk drawer. It just might save you a trip to Home Depot some day.

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Mar 8, 2012 11:07AM
We have two junk drawers because there is too much for just one, but I also keep a small basket inside one the the junk drawers.  In this basket I put objects  I occasionally find around the house that I just can't figure out what they belong to.  Then when I realize something is missing like a screw or a little plastic piece from something around the house, the first place I look is my basket of lost objects.  Quite often I find the missing piece and save myself a lot of hassle.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.