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An ode to the Junk Drawer

Posted on:March 8, 2024 at 01:43 PM

At a large company working one day, almost without thought or effort, I created a new slack channel called “#junk-drawer”. Similar to “#general” or “#random” but those are too broad and public and have a certain sense of unimportance like a public bulletin board, or twitter.

My physical junk drawer has always been in the kitchen. Picking which drawer should have the silverware and which should be the junk drawer I’ve always thought of as the most important decisions in a kitchen. If someone walks into your kitchen for the first time looking for a fork, they should find it first try. On a macro scale one may think the garage or basement storage is the junk drawer of the house, and there are many similarities, but the differences cast stark contrast. Namely, junk drawer holds hope. It’s central, not stashed away where nobody sees it. Storage is more about keeping valuable items for a day you may need it, or want to sell it to recoup some value. A junk drawer has no promise of value, no question of future needs or wants. It’s a place we go when we don’t quite have time or effort of intentionality to place an item in a more appropriate place. It’s an orphanage for items that don’t quite feel right in any other home yet.

So in the junk drawer slack channel I found a distinct lack of interest or usefulness. It’s not something anyone would want to subscribe to or seek value from. It’s a place where I can place things that need to be placed, but simply don’t feel right to place anywhere else. This unique sense of detachment, lack of seeking, and carefree almost silliness, was in stark juxtaposition to the otherwise highly professional and efficiency optimized communications of a professional engineering organization.

And yet this one channel was one of the most valuable to me, and eventually to several folks on my team. Striving for efficiency and optimization in all things in life is a sure way to dodge happiness. We save money to spend it. We exercise to do and live more. We have small places that live in our heart as a reserve of inefficiency, lack of perfection, and a found sense of belonging in an otherwise adverse world. This place of solace and hope, is the beloved junk drawer.