My Life is a Junk Drawer

Ah, it is time for spring cleaning. This past week I have been on a mission to simplify and organize. Yeah, easier said than done. I began with the refrigerator, battled the Spinach Ooze of Doom and The Casserole that Time Forgot. I stumbled away wondering how the hell I managed to buy 12 jars of pickles. See, that is the thing about being disorganized. It is wasteful. I am the proud owner of 635 pairs of scissors. They hang out with the index cards and bags of rubberbands. Have you ever noticed that? You have to buy a BAG or rubberbands and after using less than FIVE, the bag disappears????

But I digress….

This reminds me of my nightstand drawer. Hey, I’m a Texan! If only I could find the bullets….

So this week I am scrubbing and sweeping and sorting, all the while putting off the dreaded kitchen drawers. See, I happen to be an overachiever. Most people have ONE junk drawer. I happen to have…okay all of my drawers are junk drawers. DON’T YOU JUDGE ME! Thus, the thing I seem to put off most is cleaning out my kitchen drawers. I secretly loathe those people who can open a kitchen drawer and actually KNOW what is inside–Show Offs :P.

One morning, a few months ago, I was doing my early morning walk through the neighborhood, pondering the universe, when I had a profound thought. My life is like my kitchen junk drawer, and maybe that’t why they were so hard to clean. Stop laughing. It’s true. Sometimes, when I put in a lot of extra effort, it is neat and clean and streamlined…and then the Law of Entropy somehow takes over. It is a never-ending battle against my own selfish will to goof off. And yet, I have to admit, my junk drawer is usually one of the most interesting locations in my house.

The junk drawer is always full of things we don’t want to face—an unpaid bill, a child’s bad report card, a letter from some crazy family member we can’t throw away but try to ignore. Something sticky that we just can’t bear cleaning. Do it later. Full of unfinished business. Write that “thank you” note later. Pay that bill later.

My life is also full of these things I don’t want to face—my laziness, my tendency to procrastinate, my harshness with myself and others. Stickiness that I just can’t face cleaning. Will get organized…later.

Junk drawers are also filled with things of questionable value; an extra screw that we just can’t figure out where it goes, a single AA battery that we are too cheap to throw away, but too lazy to put with the other batteries (wherever they are). Oh, and a tiny calendar from a real estate agent that we will never use, but don’t have the guts to toss. Markers that work when you lick the tip and pens with schmutz clogging the end…but if you scribble real hard they still work. Packets of ketchup when there is a full bottle in the fridge. Packets of salt and pepper and sporks from fast food joints.

My mind, too, holds on to things of questionable value. I have all kinds of experiences and bits of knowledge that puzzle even me. I am flypaper for useless trivia, like the end of a shoelace is called an aglet and the element helium was discovered in the late 1800s when scientists were studying the sun, and it is named after the Greek Sun god, Helios. I don’t know why I know these things, but I do. I don’t know why I can’t find my car keys, but I can remember that Washington Carver invented peanut butter and that the first thing I ever took to Show and Tell in Kindergarten was Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (yeah, I am a nerd from way back).

Ah, but then there are the hidden treasures of the junk drawer; the sweet card from a husband for no reason at all, a photo that missed the baby book, a $20 bill we forgot we had, a rebate check we forgot to cash, ticket stubs from a memorable concert, or even wheat pennies and Canadian pennies that we have sorted from the real pennies since we were children.

Which brings me to my point. Yes, I have one.

Our lives are all like junk drawers; full of the messy, the missing, the mystifying and the magical. Sometimes I think that is why I became a writer, to “sort out” the junk drawer of my soul. So often my stories feature characters so similarly flawed as me. And, as I help them learn and grow…strangely, so do I. With writing, I can find use for random childhood memories, like the smell of Breck shampoo or the taste of coconut sno-cones. Through stories, I can give them new life in new context so that they can live forever…or at least longer. Through fiction, I can tend unfinished business, like a broken heart that never mended or a dream I was too scared to pursue.

With fiction…it all oddly makes sense.

And I will continue filling the drawer with experiences and information and ideas and dreams and heartbreaks and disappointments and tragedies. Then I will sit down and sort and take what will work and then I will toss the remains back in and label them “Miscellaneous” until I find them a home.

Can you relate? Are you like me and a Junk Drawer Overachiever? What do you do with random memories and experiences? How do you use them? Keep track of them? What cool stuff is in your junk drawer? Leave a comment and share.

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end on March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

THIS WEEK’S WINNER OF 5-PAGE CRITIQUE IS GENE LEMPP!!!!

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

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  1. #1 by Cindy Knull on March 18, 2011 - 1:20 pm

    This post is so spot on! We are planning a move across country to California from Ohio and the task of getting our house ready to sell has brought so many revelations to me. We aren’t hoarders by any means, but then, maybe we are. Junk drawers, overloaded book shelves, toys toys toys! Clothes! Miscellaneous items such as ear plug headphones–several of them laying about on my desk right now…ink pens that don’t write..the endless array of ponytail holders. OMG the ponytail holders!! We have consumed and consumed and consumed and we have decided that this is our brain on consumption! I see it in how we eat, how lazy we are with our time, talents, and money. Thank God for this revelation. We see our selves so much more clearly and now we know what we need to change. They say when you don’t know the purpose of something you’ll abuse it. And we have abused our “wealth”. Thank you for posting this today. As you can see, it has hit a nerve. Or perhaps made a confirmation that we, my family, are on the right track!

  2. #2 by edenglenn on March 18, 2011 - 1:21 pm

    Ah Kristen. I have enjoyed your blog so much this past month since I found you in the blogosphere. I don’t usually comment. I read, enjoy and pass along. Today I had to say something, and not for the self serving reason of wanting to win a critique. lol. You struck a note that made me go Yeah! My life is Soooo like a junk drawer and I’m okay! Thank you. Now to go cross post on Face book and in my Eden Glenn blog.

  3. #3 by K.B. Owen on March 18, 2011 - 1:34 pm

    I have GOT to stop drinking my morning tea while reading your blog, Kristen. I almost choked over the “Spinach Ooze of Doom” and the dozen pickle jars, LOL. At least my keyboard was spared. Maybe you should put a cautionary note at the top:

    WARNING: do not ingest liquids or operate dangerous machinery while reading this post.

    Just a thought. Thanks so much for this reflection – now I don’t feel so bad about what’s lurking in my drawers…cabinets…refrigerator….

  4. #4 by Jean on March 18, 2011 - 1:46 pm

    We recently moved and are still in the process of unpacking. I have a “junk box” of stuff that came from my desk. Notes, pens, index cards, notebooks, and all sorts of miscellaneous bits and pieces I can’t seem to get rid of but don’t really have a place for. So, they stay in the box and I know where they are when I need ‘em.

  5. #5 by cegrundler on March 18, 2011 - 2:06 pm

    You can see into my fridge! And my junk drawer! (Nervous glances around) And my head!!!

    And this is why I enjoy your blog. You hit upon topics I and so many other writers can easily relate to, you make us laugh even as you put everything into perspective. It’s not that my head’s a cluttered mess of useless thoughts and memories… it’s a stockpile of writing material.

    And now you have me craving a coconut sno-cone! I wonder if the ice-cream stand by the river is open yet?

  6. #6 by Earl Staggs on March 18, 2011 - 2:24 pm

    This was a fun read, a great way to start the day. When you finish your drawers, will you come to Fort Worth and do mine?

  7. #7 by educlaytion on March 18, 2011 - 2:39 pm

    You should be like a professional speaker or something. I don’t want to over lather with praise but you constantly come up with such great material. I bet 5 or 6 well formed thoughts come out everytime you sneeze. Speaking of sneezing, your picture at the top is like Where’s Waldo. Can you find Donald Duck?

    Yes, I have junk drawers. I am a junk drawer. Although I’ve never had junk in my trunk. Then again I am kind of a junk trunk. See what happens when I try to think like you? Dr. Seuss fail.

  8. #8 by Tiffany White on March 18, 2011 - 3:17 pm

    I have a minor case of OCD but even I have a junk drawer in the house – menus, batteries, lighters, kitchen odds and ends. The list goes on. It actually makes me feel better to put something new in the drawer and walk away versus stressing over located a permanent home for the item. Trust me, I find permanent homes for things and can notice even the slightest movement. Junk drawers save lives.

  9. #9 by Gigi Salem on March 18, 2011 - 3:21 pm

    Seeing as how my entire office is starting to resemble a junk drawer, I am really feeling this post. **looks nervously around room**

  10. #10 by Maryann Miller on March 18, 2011 - 3:39 pm

    Fun post. I’m like you, my entire house is filled with junk drawers. My sister, on the other hand, had an organized junk drawer. Isn’t that an oxymoron? She has little compartments for rubber bands, twisties, pens and pencils, old screws — I think she lost a few herself – corks, bottle stoppers, batteries, and Popsicle sticks. My motto is, why have a junk drawer if you can’t open it now and then and sweep everything off the counter into it just before company arrives?

  11. #11 by Amanda Rudd on March 18, 2011 - 4:22 pm

    You just wrote my whole life right there. At the end of every paragraph all i can think is: Yes, that’s me. Yep. Yep. Still yep.

    That’s all I wanted to say. ^_^

  12. #12 by Alannah Murphy on March 18, 2011 - 4:36 pm

    Doesn’t everyone have a junk drawer…I think so, even me, who’s a neat freak. My junk drawer, is organised, but it’s still a junk drawer, and I loved your analogy of having a junk drawer in life, and using it for our writing, because that is exactly what I have done, and I suppose what all writers do, we take experiences from our past and use them or use them for inspiration.

  13. #13 by Piglet in Portugal on March 18, 2011 - 4:36 pm

    This made me laugh! When we moved to Portugal we disposed of our junk draw…all the odd elastic bands, drawing pins, bits of sting, old combes etc etc…hmmm and I forgot dead batteries…just in case:)
    Within a year of moving here we had another junk draw even more diverse than the one in the UK…our life is in the draw…and each little piece of junk is a memory :)
    cheers
    PiP

  14. #14 by Marilyn Baron on March 18, 2011 - 6:22 pm

    I just found out about you from a comment on the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog. I can totally relate to your post today. Why are kitchen junk drawers the worst? I don’t even want to open them to find out what’s in them. And my office? It’s not what’s in the drawers, its what’s on top of them. I used to know where everything was, but that’s not the case now. Anyway, I really enjoyed your post and will be back.

    Marilyn Baron

  15. #15 by Jenny Hansen on March 18, 2011 - 6:31 pm

    This sounds like my purse! (Ex: In the contest of who has the oldest receipts, I ALWAYS win.) Thank God I married a man who loves nothing more than to organize or the only thing I’d be able to find was my shoes. Good for you to even attempt this spring cleaning. Now go enjoy some of those pickles…

  16. #16 by Amanda Hoving on March 18, 2011 - 7:17 pm

    Oh, yes, I have mulitple junk drawers. And cubbies. And shelves. And I will never earn the nickname of “Miss Organized.” Ever. With writing, my scribblings go into the “Cabinet O’ Misfit Ideas.” Sometimes they come out again. Sometimes they just sit for awhile.

  17. #17 by Kimberly Montague on March 18, 2011 - 8:23 pm

    I can’t relate at all. I put everything I own in a safe place… I just kind of forget the drawer where that safe place is located =) And when I cannot find something, it’s because it’s been moved by my evil twin named Murphy (he has his own law) or grown legs and moved into that drawer to be with friends, not because I’ve tossed it in a drawer and forgotten about it.

    My brain, on the other hand, is one huge junk drawer. You never know when something will be useful, so I just keep everything. I get all sentimental over the smallest memory or thought or person and don’t not want to let them go.

  18. #18 by Tamara LeBlanc on March 18, 2011 - 10:04 pm

    Low and behold, after I came home from the gym today I too went on a spring cleaning rampage. Dust on moldings, dust under sofas, dust, dust, DUST. And we have wood floors!
    Anyhoo, I suppose I’m like most people…my kitchen junk drawer is full of rubber bands, old pens, a toothbrush (have no idea why that’s there) spent batteries, recipts…etc. There is also an old fortune cookie fortune that I’ve had in there for a while. It’s all wrinkled and stained, but every time I clean out that drawer I leave that tiny scrap of paper inside.
    It says, Very soon your hard work will pay off. I pulled that little sucker out of its cookie a month before i was published:)
    I guess I should laminate the thing, but I suppose sharing realestate with scissors, broken crayons, and out dated Bed Bath and Beyond coupons will have to do.
    Loved your junk drawer analogy!!!
    Good luck with the spring cleaning:) and have a great weekend!
    Tamara

  19. #19 by whiskeytom on March 19, 2011 - 1:22 am

    All stories start in my junk drawer. It takes a pile of 6X9 cards to get it to where I can make a Word document. It’s nice to know somebody understands.

  20. #20 by Jenyfer Matthews on March 19, 2011 - 2:32 am

    This is a fantastic analogy – great post!

  21. #21 by Jess Witkins on March 19, 2011 - 7:43 am

    Aw crap, now what I do, clean the junk drawers in my kitchen and bathroom or work on my fiction. Dilemmas! lol.

  22. #22 by Gene Lempp on March 19, 2011 - 12:40 pm

    Coconut sno-cones, yum! As I look around my office at all the things I “will one day” organize it is hard not to laugh (cry) right along with you. Another great post Kristen, keep sorting that junk drawer it seems to be full of treasure.

  23. #23 by l on March 19, 2011 - 12:44 pm

    For me, it all begins with a search for something…like tools or nuts or screws. I was working on my bicycle yesterday, and this frenzy began. That is when it hit me, take what I need and leave the rest; or toss it in the recycling bin. From, “OMG, where does THAT bolt belong?” to “Will I really care when I move?” – Great post!

  24. #24 by Kerry Meacham on March 19, 2011 - 2:56 pm

    Uhhhh…how did you get a picture of my nightstand drawer? I guess all Texans’ and Tennesseans’ drawers are filled with commando knives and large caliber pistols. Nothing like a sucking chest wound to slow down a would be intruder. T for Texas, T for Tennessee. But I digress.

    I think for guys it’s the glove box or console in the car that has anything and everything, i.e. our useless shi..opps, stuff doesn’t even make it in the house. We can also hide stuff in the garage and basement really well. B^P

    I think I hide my memories in my olfactory senses (yeah,that’s one of them big words like mayonnaise). I can get a whiff of something and I’m immediately back at a point in time and vividly remember the situation, feeling, circumstances, etc. It’s acutally scary sometimes how real it feels.

  25. #25 by angie k millgate on March 19, 2011 - 6:53 pm

    Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh… Miss Kristen! You have SO hit this on the head for me. My life DOES feel like one giant junk drawer right now. Laundry piles in two separate rooms – because, ya know, if you separate the piles there isn’t as much (and that way, they cannot mingle and procreate!) – and dirty sinks and piles of papers that I need to go through and just do sometime but cannot find the will, energy or time to do so. Later. It’s always about later. *sigh*

  26. #26 by munira's bubble on March 20, 2011 - 6:25 pm

    Useless coins…check. Singular working AA battery…check. Little packets of ketchup and paprika….check. Coins…check. Mysterious screw…got it.
    I collect crap! And it’s so hard to throw it away!
    But I like the way you linked the pack-rat phenomenon to how we store info in our brains :) Cool post!

  27. #27 by Toni Zuma on March 20, 2011 - 7:18 pm

    Many years ago, a friend and co-worker gave me a plaque that said “A cluttered desk is a sign of genius.” Cluttered junk drawers are along the same vein, so stand tall and feel proud of your genius!

    Seriously, though, I love my cluttered junk drawer, It’s like a treasure hunt everytime i go in there; it’s a chance to relive old memories. For example, right now my son’s hot wheel car from when he was 5 or 6 sits alongside my daughter’s one-inch-high plastic Pikachu figurine. Just junk, right? But when you consider that my son is in Afghanistan now and my daughter’s headed away to college in a couple of months, you can see why those items — those little pieces of my kids — would bring a smile to my face everytime I touch them. Junk drawers? Memories drawers, I say!

    Wonderful blog, Kristen. Great advice, great writing. TZ

  28. #28 by Joanna Aislinn on March 20, 2011 - 11:02 pm

    Hey Kristen,

    I look forward to all your blogs, but these last two Friday ones resonate. (I’m very big on the type of reflection both of these involve. Referred to identifying feelings and how freeing it is several times this week–with mention of your blog and your name of course).

    This one just gave a little more backstory to a character I’ve been struggling with. So…once again, I thank you.

    Have a great day,
    Joanna

  29. #29 by Marilag Lubag on March 20, 2011 - 11:02 pm

    I don’t have a cluttered drawer…I have a cluttered room. It’s just that there are more important things in life than fixing the mess that’s in our rooms. However, we do need to take inventory because of the things we might be surprised was there, like that first novel I wrote, or that written promise I made with a friend. :-)

  30. #30 by crazygoangirl on March 21, 2011 - 4:33 am

    I live in a junk-house!! Well at the moment I do, coz I’ve moved back to live and take care of my parents and Granny and with their generations – NOTHING got thrown away! Can’t you just see how a rusty, old tap or a bulb that’s blown might be useful 20 years down the line :P And do you really expect to throw out all the empty Scotch & perfume bottles, coz Hello! I paid good money for those…sigh. Me, I do what I can – but the genes are just too strong and so at the moment my desk drawers haven’t been touched in 6 months, and with every day that passes, they get messier and I grow more reluctant to start cleaning them up!

    This post resonated so much it’s scary! And you’re so right too – my life nearly always reflects the state of my home. At the moment…the junk is here to stay!

  31. #31 by Gary fultz on March 21, 2011 - 1:49 pm

    I am the”hunted” here. You just put a spotlight on my little corner where I huddle with my stuff. I’d shoot back but it was a true bullet. Thanks anyway…Speaking of hunting, shining is illegal in Minnesota…G

  32. #32 by M.E. Anders on March 21, 2011 - 2:12 pm

    I’m one of those super-organized gals, who knows where everything is at all times. Maybe that’s a bit wasteful of my “brain space” when I think about it. ;)

    Loved the analogy, too.

  33. #33 by kadja1 on March 21, 2011 - 6:49 pm

    Well I can relate to this one…I have the bullets but don’t know where the gun is! LOL I found some Duran Duran buttons in a drawer along with the John Taylor wrist bands and a Duran Duran bandana! I even found an autographed flat I had tucked away! I found baby pictures I thought were lost–but I had actually put them in a place so safe 20 years ago that I even forgot about it–until I found it…I found a ticket stub for a goo goo dolls concert…Hmmm I even found my sketch book and some of my note cards for stories I was working on…Well, I’ll follow the omens on this one! One man’s junk is another man’s treasure! Having just read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, I’ll take this as a sign!

  34. #34 by Michelle Massaro on March 21, 2011 - 10:05 pm

    Awesome post! And it seems I’m not the only commenter who can so closely relate. So happy I found your blog. =)

  35. #35 by Jo Tracey on March 22, 2011 - 12:27 am

    I get around it by putting a self imposed statute of limitations on unfinished projects (UFPs). Unfortunately I have a husband who identifies a little too closely with his Taurus roots & hangs on to everything…in which case, stealth is the name of the game. “Really? Didn’t you get rid of that ages ago???”

  36. #36 by Diana Murdock on March 22, 2011 - 4:45 pm

    The junk drawer in my mind is filled with thoughts, observations, and feelings I felt too inappropriate to express for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, sounding too “woo-woo,” or just too chicken to admit to myself. Expressed out my mouth they may just be that, but on paper, woven into poems or characters, it works. They are extensions of me.

  37. #37 by Caroline Clemmons on March 30, 2011 - 5:10 pm

    Kristen, I have those junk drawers, too. Have to say I have NEVER found a twenty in one, though. That would be incentive to clean them out. LOL

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