Nov 30, 2022–This week I achieved what scientists said can’t be done: I cleaned out three junk drawers.

Junk drawers are the black holes of housekeeping. All objects within 50 yards of an empty drawer are inexorably sucked into it, never to emerge. The only requirement is that the object a) has mass, and b) has no function.

Stuff we’ve collected over 30 years:

4 old-fashioned brass letter openers
Never used. Never will use.
I still open envelopes with my fingers, like a caveman. I never saw the need for a medieval sword to slice open magazine subscriptions and extended warranty offers.

Quountless Q-tips
Unused, thankfully. I think.

Business cards
Enough to fill several shoeboxes (which I am also throwing out).
Business cards belong in black holes. Tell me–how many times, after being handed someone’s business card, have you ever referred to it again? Yeah, zero.
I hate to endanger the business model of online printing companies, but I’m throwing out every business card ever foisted upon me.
Even my own. No one looks at a piece of cardboard to find a remarkable marketing genius for their business or organization.

Charging cords
I have two for every model phone stretching back to the Palm Treo, and beyond to my first PDA, or Personal Digital Assistant, for those born in this century. It was a glorified calculator that we all had to have to hold our address book and schedule our meetings. Even then, business cards were obsolete.

More junk:

  • Pocket knives that no longer cut.
  • Costume jewelry that’s no longer fashionable.
  • Watches that no longer tell time.
  • Rechargeable batteries that no longer recharge.
  • Name badges for organizations that no longer exist.
  • Earrings with no posts. Posts with no earrings.
  • Halves of clothespins.
  • Screws with no threads, bolts with no nuts, and nails with no point.
  • Pens with no ink.
  • Pencils with no erasers.
  • An aquarium thermometer (we haven’t had a working aquarium for two decades).

The most annoying jetsam are the teeny bits of wire, metal, and string. Paper clips, brads, rubber bands, and staples. Why are there so many ways to hold sheets of paper together?

Birthday cards from 1997.
Pastel-colored pills with no identifying marks.
I actually found a roll of unexposed film. Better than an exposed roll never developed. That one could expose more than photos.

My strategy to junk drawer purging was to dump the contents into a laundry basket, then extract any item I couldn’t live without. It amounted to a handful of things like jump drives and tape measures, which went straight back into the newly designated junk drawer. The rest filled a trash bag.

My grands “helped,” mostly by fishing stuff out of the trash.
“What is this for?”
“Oh, that’s a Press Pass for an event held before you were born.”
“Can I have it?”
“No, I want to keep it for another 20 years so you can give it to your kids.”

I know the drawers will slowly, inevitably reproduce and grow another dense, impenetrable mass, like an uncovered petri dish in a high school chemistry lab. I believe this force will be discovered to be the final link in defining a unified field theory.

Yes, every object in the universe must take up space and find a place for itself.

I’m just hoping it won’t be in my drawer.