Organize Your Junk Drawer With an Upcycle Project

junk-drawer-before-and-after
Image via Marlena Antonucci

I recently moved into a new apartment. We sacrificed square feet for location; I’m talking a 2,000 square foot sacrifice. But the move and downsize have been totally worth it! We live in a safer, more centrally located neighborhood, closer to my partner’s work, and close to some great parks.

Letting go of all of that stuff brought clarity! Paring down has filled me with a radical feeling that I could completely uproot with a knapsack of necessities.

I have been extraordinarily pleased by living with less. I realized that I held on to a lot of junk in fear that I’ll need it again–hence my collection of broken bathroom hardware and decade-old electronics manuals. I was also guilty of saving the last few tablespoons of a lotion or a perfume with the hope that I’ll plan the perfect appointment for cashmere shea body lotion. It never happens.

Letting go of all of that stuff brought clarity! Paring down has filled me with a radical feeling that I could completely uproot with a knapsack of necessities.

I don’t actually see an epic Thoreau journey in the near future, but I can totally sympathize with the embrace of simple needs that the naturalist philosopher so brilliantly depicted in Walden. Just ridding my life of so many objects has left me feeling lighter and happier in our cute new space. There has been one thing, though–one thing that still plagues me.

The junk drawer.

Why is this necessary? I really don’t remember the last time I searched its depths. Is this the old packrat in me claiming just a small bit of real estate in my refreshed, minimalistic lifestyle?

I rant, but we must admit, that beacon of rogue nails, crinkled big-ticket receipts, matches, candle sticks, and dead batteries has a role in all of our lives. The junk drawer is a place that all misfit trimmings can call home. I say that I don’t need it, but I’m not about to leach mercury into our landfills by throwing out the old batteries.

If there must be a designated space for oddities, I’m going to make it an organized one. This simple craft project can renew your junk drawer through upcycling some cereal boxes. Maybe if everything is unified and visible, it won’t seem like junk.

Here’s what you need:


Image via Marlena Antonucci
Image via Marlena Antonucci
  • Empty cardboard food containers 
  • Contact paper (You can find this at your local hardware store. It comes in a pretty large roll, but it's versatile. I've used it in so many projects!)
  • X-Acto knife or scissors
  • Ruler 

Rather than recycle your empty food boxes, clean them out, and hide them away until you have enough to organize your clutter! It's the perfect upcycle project!

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Image via Marlena Antonucci
Image via Marlena Antonucci
  1. Begin by measuring a preferred height around the perimeter of your container. I made a half carton of milk four inches deep to fit the depth of the drawer.  
  2. Using your X-Acto knife, slice along this line. Make your cuts slight and repetitive, almost as if you are digging through the box. 
  3. Eventually, you will cut through the material, and your cut will be smoother by taking your time. 
  4. Multiply the height of your container by 2, and measure its width. My milk carton was 3 3/4″ wide. Using these measurements, cut out four rectangles to adhere to the inside and outside perimeter of your box. In my case, I cut out four 8 x 3 3/4″ rectangles. Cut out one square or rectangle equal to width of the bottom of your box. Mine was 3 3/4 x 3 3/4″. 
  5. Peel the back off of your contact paper to reveal the tacky side.
  6. Lay the contact paper on the table tacky side up, and line your box up at the very edge of it.
  7. Simply turn your box on its side, allowing the contact paper to evenly adhere to it. The wonderful thing about this material is that it's super forgiving. You can peel it off and try again if you're unhappy with the results, or you can use a gift card to spread out any imperfections and bubbles.
  8. Fold the contact paper into the box again, smoothing out imperfections as you go.
  9. Once you repeat this step on all four sides, insert your last piece at the bottom of the container.
Image via Marlena Antonucci
Image via Marlena Antonucci

Contact paper comes in a variety of colors and designs. I particularly love the metallic options but decided to keep it classy for this project with a snake skin textured black paper. 

Since finishing this project, I've become addicted to turning our old food packaging into decorative boxes. 

Do you have any tips for organizing your space? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

What do you think?

Organize Your Junk Drawer With an Upcycle Project

Marlena Antonucci is a recent graduate from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and a minor in Environmental Science. She is not quite sure how to define herself just yet, but is ready to exhaust every single opportunity to figure it out. At this point she can proudly say that she’s a late night reader, inventive chef, fanatical crafter, daydreamer, lover of Parisian culture, loyal friend, and devoted partner. She steers her life by her step dad’s famous w ... More

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7 comments

  1. Timothy says:

    great ideas… my wife and I are already pretty anal,, so this will help us along

  2. Jenny says:

    I’ve seen cutting down boxes to organize drawers but I like the idea of making them sturdier with the contact paper. I’ve just got shallow cheap plastic baskets from the dollar store or Walmart too and used those.

  3. Ashes says:

    this is awesome!! i love all the fun diy stuff!

  4. Lynette says:

    This is such a great idea. I never thought of it that way

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