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A junk drawer full of treasures

These random knickknacks tell our family's history.

John Kehe and Scott Wallace-staff

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My family can't conquer all of its clutter all of the time, so we hide it – in a junk drawer. We didn't establish the drawer intentionally. It just materialized over time, out of necessity, and in the kitchen.

Our habit of squirreling away odds and ends is not new. Apparently our cave-dwelling ancestors stowed their handy-dandy rocks and bones in hollowed-out nooks. The colonists continued the practice, storing small tools and sewing supplies inside worktable "catch-all" drawers. Much later, the drawer acquired "junk" as its moniker, a belittling title, given its domestic role.

I mean, think about it: Could your home function without a junk drawer? It's where our search begins for rubber bands, safety pins, bread ties, lip balm, paper clips, a bit of wire or string, and – as any kid knows – loose change. If you opened the drawer near the back door in my kitchen, you'd find broken crayons, piñata prizes, restaurant menus, mismatched Barbie shoes, a single chopstick, used batteries, a lone earring waiting for its mate to show up, and assorted mystery objects, such as the black-capped screw I found the other day between the sofa cushions. I wondered, did it belong on my daughter's music stand or the dog's crate? I wasn't sure and I didn't feel like checking, so I chucked the screw precisely where it belonged: the junk drawer.

This way, when I need it (someday), I'll know where to go.


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