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When I was growing up, the main junk drawer in our house was in the kitchen. Opening that drawer was sometimes like opening one of those joke nut cans that have the spring-loaded snakes that jump out. The drawer was often stuffed with an array of things my mother would shove in there to hide them away until she was ready to reorganize the drawer in order to start anew. That organization job seemed to be a chore that was always put on delay until necessity deemed it to be done.
This is where the ingenuity of being a kid came into play along with my mother's sly trick of making delegated housework pay off for me while giving me something to keep me occupied. When I was old enough to start caring about such things, I became aware that the kitchen junk drawer held things of value like loose change. That money was a bonanza for a kid like me who was getting a twenty-five cent a week allowance. Periodically when that drawer got so stuffed that there it was difficult to open or close, I would make a deal with my mother. I'd clean and organize the drawer if I could keep all the change. This deal always worked for me unless my sister happened to beat me to it. She rarely did.
Organizing the junk drawer was actually a multiplicitous activity of which the main part was separating the trading stamps and putting them in their appropriate books. Anyone who lived prior to the 1970's undoubtedly remembers the ubiquitous trading stamps that businesses gave away when customers made purchases from them. There were the S & H Green, Top Value, Blue Chip, and other trading stamps. It was a sort of early version of the loyalty programs that many businesses have today or the points given by credit cards. The customer could accumulate the stamps into books and then redeem the filled books for merchandise offered at the trading stamp outlet stores.
The stamps were like money and well worth keeping. It meant a lot of work licking and sticking these things in the books. That became my job since I was more than willing to do it. And since I was playing such a vital role in the savings stamp enterprise, my mother always let me peruse the catalogs to help decide what products to acquire when redeeming the stamps. Good kid that I was I usually suggested items that would be useful for the household, but a few times my mother encouraged me to pick out something for myself. I never had an argument with that.
The stamps were the major items that created the explosive overflow of the drawers. Once those were dealt with the rest of the drawer was a matter of putting things in their place. Unneeded receipts, coupons, and other papers would be thrown in the trash. I was very careful about what I threw away, and I became quite discerning about what was not needed. Once all the paper items were discarded, neatly stacked, or given to my mother for her to put in a more suitable place, the volume of substance in the drawer had been greatly reduced.
The drawer also contained an assortment of odds and ends such as small tools (screwdrivers and pliers), hardware (nails, tacks, screws, and such), the occasional small toy, and almost always there were a few birthday candles. All of these things would either be put in more appropriate places or merely placed more neatly in the drawer. What was left? The loose change of course! I would gather up my found bounty and count my take for the day. Usually it was over a dollar. Not bad for a kid back in the 60's.
I was able to do this job once every couple of months or so. The money supplemented my other income rather nicely and I felt a sense of satisfaction in helping my mother to make our house a little neater. There were other junk drawers that I would sometimes tackle even though those rarely contained loose change. Organizing was something I enjoyed doing so I didn't mind the job. And I would sometimes find very interesting things that would preoccupy my mind for a few minutes at least.
Then there were the other personal junk drawers each family member had in their bedrooms. My parents had theirs in nightstands beside their bed. Those were supposed to be off limits to me and my sister, but now and then curiosity would lure us to sneak a peek. My sister had her own drawer in her dresser. And I had my junk drawer--or should I say treasure drawer--in my dresser.
These days my wife and I have our own junk drawers throughout the house. Accumulating small things has become easier in our times. Those plastic storage drawers and bins are in many places in our home. The options for storage available to consumers in our age make it easier to create a semblance--or should I say illusion--of order and organization. But they are still junk drawers. Now we just have more of them and I guess that usually means more junk or whatever you want to call it.
Do you have catchall temporary storage drawers in your home? Where do you normally stash stuff when you're in too big of a hurry to officially organize it? Did your family collect and cash in trading stamps? Who was the official junk drawer organizer in your parents' house when you were growing up?