The perfect junk drawer system needs to be, above all else, fluid. The whole reason junk drawers exist is to catch the things that don't really have a home. It's not like your other drawers, where you always tuck away the same 8 forks, 8 knives and 8 spoons. The junk drawer needs to be flexible enough for batteries, birthday cards, bandaids and the occasional set of keys.
For that reason, the best solution is usually something you make or repurpose yourself. The junk drawer is not the place to drop some cash on a custom-fit permanent solution. You need something easy to grab, quick to implement, and cheap enough to DIY over and over again. Here are some ideas...
A Flatware Tray
I know... I just said the junk drawer isn't like your flatware drawer. But a silverware sorter actually makes for a pretty good solution to make sense of the sorts of things that end up in a catch-all kitchen drawer. Above, Martha Stewart makes use of a wire mesh flatware tray (like this one) in this junk drawer to hold pens, pencils and staples, along with some other small items tucked in between.
Rubber Bands and Velcro Strips
You can use rubber bands to corral wayward paper clips by sliding them on – extra points if they're all facing the same way and grouped by color, like in this shot from Good Housekeeping. And a velcro strip (the kind you use to wrap cords) is the perfect way to keep binder clips from taking over the drawer.
Found Boxes and Containers
The Kitchn's Cambria Bold scoured her apartment for any sort of container she could use to wrangle the junk drawer. Among her bounty was old patterned Birchbox subscription boxes, metal lids from kitchen containers, ceramic bowls and a shoe box lid.
Cereal and Cake Mix Boxes
Over on eHow, Jonathan Fong shows us how to create a seriously tidy drawer organizer by cutting the bottoms off of cardboard food boxes, then wrapping them in patterned paper.
Ice Cube Trays, Teacups and Plastic Baggies
It doesn't get much simpler than this repurposing diagram from Brightnest. For the big, flat stuff (like birthday cards and mail) tuck them into big freezer bags. For the medium-sized junk, keep it sorted into ceramic bowls and teacups. For the really tiny things, use an ice cube tray to keep everything under control.
A Muffin Tin
An Egg Carton and Silicone Cupcake Liners
Better Homes and Gardens discovered that an open cardboard egg carton is actually a great drawer organizer – put small, loose items where the eggs go, and longer pieces in the upturned lid. You can fill in the extra space with flexible cupcake liners like they did, too.
Cups and Plates
Do your cups runneth over? Take what doesn't fit in your cabinets and use them to contain the loose pieces in your junk drawer. Martha Stewart keeps her first-aid supplies sorted in perfectly coordinated cups and saucers, but –c'mon – it's a junk drawer, so feel free to mix and match.
Quarter-Sheet Baking Pans
If your junk drawer is wide and shallow, here's the perfect solution (especially if you don't bake often): Use cookie trays or baking pans to divide the big drawer into smaller sections, as seen here on Better Homes and Gardens.
Candy and Mint Tins
Here's a clever idea from The 3 R's Blog: Take Altoids tins and use them to sort all your loose pieces and smaller items. You can give them a makeover like this with washi tape.
Vinyl or Painted-On Labels
If you have a cutting machine (like a Cricut) at home, you can create these cute stick-on vinyl labels we spotted on Good Housekeeping for your junk drawer containers to make sure everything has a home. If not, just paint them on with a paint pen and your best fauxlligraphy.
Scrapbook Paper Liners
This last one isn't so much an organizing tip as it is a beautifying one: If you have clear drawer organizers (whether they're store-bought acrylic bins or just re-purposed glass or plastic), you can make your junk drawer sing by lining the bottom of the drawer with colorful patterned scrapbook paper, as seen here from I Heart Organizing.