The One Drawer Challenge

Hey guys! Back from the beach and playing catch up (why do you always need a vacation after a vacation?), but wanted to pop in and give you a quick challenge today. And that’s simply to:

Open up one drawer today and declutter the crap out of it!

It could be an office drawer, desk drawer, kitchen drawer, clothes drawer, or better even – a drawer you haven’t looked inside of for years :)

One of the ways I was able to get good traction with our Challenge Everything savings (update coming soon!) was to take stuff slow and focus on one area at a time. This not only made it much easier to handle, but it also built up the momentum like crazy by piling on the small wins. And there are a TON of drawers in our lives, believe me. It shouldn’t be hard to do.

And if it is, try your safe if you have one instead!

In all my scavenging around our house looking for stuff to hawk this year, I totally missed the clutter crowding up our safe too. Old paperwork, keys, expired credit cards, IDs (am I the only one who keeps those?), and a slew of other randomness I had no idea were in there too.

Like these:

found dollar bills

$51.00 sitting there doing absolutely nothing. It seems I need to clean these out every 7 years or so as the last time I was digging around I found $750 worth of old savings bonds! What is it with safes that just sucks things up like that?

I remember having solid “reasons” to keep these around though ;)

  • Item #1 – found in my change one day*, thought it was so cool!
  • Item #2 – also found in my change and kept out of cool factor.
  • Item #3 – signed $20 bill from none other than Ramit Sethi, best selling author of the book (and blog), I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I first met him during his book tour circa 2009, and have since shared many a beers since :) One of my favorite bloggers and book!
  • Item #4 & #5 – folded up tenners I once found on the ground and decided I couldn’t spend because they were “good luck.” (hah)

So all these years they’ve been sitting there waiting for me to uncover them again like that miser and his gold. Only this time I’m going to do something with them! (Sorry Ramit) As much as they once gave me a thrill, they’ll now be joining their buddies over at Vanguard in the procreation process. Which you may recall as #6 on my list of “things you need to know about money” ;)

Anyways, point is it only takes one drawer to get going and feel organized. Set aside 15 minutes today and start sorting/trashing/selling all the junk in one of your drawers/safes! You’ll feel great! And if you’re lucky, you’ll find some long lost money too (or perhaps the opposite – past due bills, yikes!).

Once you accomplish this, come back and let me know so I can jot your name down on this spur-of-the-moment list here and make you internet-famous. There’s really no way to lose :)

People who took the One Drawer Challenge and won:

  1. J. Money (safe)
  2. Emma (suitcases)
  3. Insider Accountant (file cabinet!)
  4. Claudia (kitchen “junk” drawer)
  5. Jeff (kitchen “junk” drawer)
  6. Ms. Money Maker (desk)
  7. Christine (kitchen)
  8. Joe (fridge & cabinets)
  9. Free to Pursue (change drawer/purse/pockets!)
  10. The Single Dollar (3 desk drawers!)
  11. Chris Muller (cleaned house and had a yard sale!!)

(Scurries off to finish cleaning out his safe…)

*Don’t worry Richard, I’ll scan them in for you first for

PS: I recently found these other autographed bills too, which I am decidedly keeping :) Signed $1.00 bill by Kevin Smith and Jason “Phat Buds” Mewes (ie Silent Bob & Jay of Clerks/Mallrats fame), and  autographed $5.00 bill by the hilarious Ben Stiller. Who I met ironically while filming one of his not-so-hilarious movies, “Duplex!”

autographed bills

[Photo up top is from The Floodwall Project – a rather fascinating (and sad) art installation. Check it out if you have time – it’s pretty incredible]

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  1. Kirsten July 20, 2015 at 5:40 AM

    Way ahead of you! The big move is on – we are sorting, shredding, and tossing waaaaaay more than 15 minutes a day. Although, that totally outs me – we had too much crap.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:24 AM

      Haha…. well you don’t have the crap anymore!

  2. Mark@BareBudgetGuy July 20, 2015 at 7:00 AM

    There is that ONE drawer in the house that always seems to fill up with junk, no matter how much I clean it out. Time to start whipping some people in to shape around here.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:26 AM

      Ahhh, the good ole “it’s someone else’s fault” excuse eh? You can’t trick me…. I’m watching you over here ;)

  3. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank July 20, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    This one is what I would do this weekend. I will check out every drawer I have at home. Let’s see what I am gonna find out, hoping I could find some money.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:27 AM

      I guarantee you won’t do it if you wait ’till the weekend. Just do one today! Whichever is closest by!

  4. Kalie July 20, 2015 at 7:24 AM

    I love your approaches of bite-size steps, like the 15-minute trick also. These definitely work well on me, and lots of others I’m sure. My problem is I’ll gladly go through a drawer and throw stuff out or give it away, but I have a growing stack of items to list on ebay that I never get around to. I guess that needs to be my challenge: just list one item at a time! I do love decluttering, though, because it makes the stuff I need easier to find, and makes cleaning up easier as well. Which in the long run saves time, so it’s well worth the initial 15 minutes to tackle one drawer.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:30 AM

      Yes, exactly why I rock the “List 1 item every Friday on CL” rule! A lot easier, especially when you make a calendar item pop up to remind you because you’ll inevitably forget ;)

  5. Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness July 20, 2015 at 7:24 AM

    I don’t have drawers – because I have been living out of a suitcase for the past 14 months. But I have taken your concept and applied it the best way I could. I have found 2 shopping bags of clothes that can be donated (thus lightening the load to be carried through multiple airports when we go home in 3 weeks) and made a pile of stuff that I’ll carry back with me and sell immediately. That counts, right? Also nice signed note collection.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      YES! That is bad ass – of course that helps! Way to go!!

      And where the heck have you been traveling all these 14 months?? Haha… I’m loving the sound of that – esp with kids! (Which has scared me to take on anything outside of longish road trips :()

      1. Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness July 20, 2015 at 4:51 PM

        Umm we started in the US, then Mexico, Ireland, UK, France then we did a Mediterranean cruise and moved to Spain for 6 months to learn Spanish. Now we are in Ireland again for the (rainy) summer. Travelling with kids is awesome, they are super adaptable and love the adventure. Do you know what is not fun with kids? Flying long distance. That sucks, I have no way to paint a pretty picture about that! We have two 12 hour plus flights to look forward to on the way back to New Zealand – I’m already having nightmares about them.

        1. J. Money July 21, 2015 at 8:15 AM

          Wow – what an adventure!! I’m so impressed with y’all! I guess by focusing on all that fun helps make the nightmare plane rides worth it, haha… Maybe I’m too stuck on that :) Ireland is on my top list to travel to!

  6. MyMoneyDesign July 20, 2015 at 7:27 AM

    By default I have to take this challenge … throughout the whole house! We’re moving in a month and its time to get rid of anything we don’t want to take with us. Simplify!

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:34 AM

      Very nice! Where are you moving to, good sir?

  7. InsiderAccountant July 20, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    I am cleaning out a filing cabinet (and not just a drawer) by going paperless and putting everything in cloud storage. And if everything comes in via email then the paper can’t accumulate again in future. Bye bye paperwork!

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:35 AM

      YES! LOVE! Way to rock it!

  8. Jon @ Money Smart Guides July 20, 2015 at 7:42 AM

    Good timing because I just tackled our junk drawer this weekend. It was a complete mess. It’s amazing what 15 minutes can do. I found old take out menus (some from restaurants that have since gone under), pens that didn’t work, old ID tags for our cats (???) and a slew of batteries. I didn’t come across anything to resell and make money on but it feels so good now to open that drawer and see it organized. Plus, it doesn’t take work now to close it either!

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      old ID tags for your cats?? Haha… that is awesome.

      I should have told people to snap pics and send in all the random stuff they’ve found in it :)

  9. Savvy Shopper July 20, 2015 at 8:08 AM

    I’ve been cleaning out cupboards (and some drawers). It all started when I bought a new set of dishes. They wouldn’t fit in the “dish” cupboard so I had to do some rearranging which led to some more rearranging which led to “Why do I have this?” Now I have the beginnings of a great yard sale – which I’ve been pricing & organizing as I go. Organizing & minimalizing – that’s the name of the game!

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:44 AM

      Yeah girl – work that!

  10. Claudia @ Two Cup House July 20, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    I just cleaned out the “junk” drawer in our kitchen and found the following: a Visa gift card with $2.03, a hardware store gift card with $21.18, a gift card for $25.00 and a long-lost Burt’s Bees chapstick! Today is full of wins! Thanks for the awesome post.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:47 AM

      Nice!! The Burt’s Bees is the one I’d be most excited about, haha…

      You should now go to one of those gift card flipper sites and sell them all now :)

      1. Claudia @ Two Cup House July 21, 2015 at 9:06 PM

        Such a good idea…thank you! I, too, am most excited about the Burt’s Bees!

  11. Mrs. Budgets July 20, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    Challenge expected, which will be the lucky drawer? My husband and I keep our old id’s as well, I can never bring myself to throw them away.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:49 AM

      Let me know when it’s complete and I’ll add you up on the list! I like the old ID’s that show our pictures when we were younger… and for me, my crazy hair over the years haha…

  12. jestjack July 20, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    Good article….But question….in the spirit of de-cluttering I’ve had awful luck lately on Craigslist….Not even a nibble….Have you experienced this same “drought”?

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:51 AM

      I have, yeah. I can never tell if it’s my items though or the “economy” online. I’m going to guess it’s the items though since some just fly out the door and others take a few weeks/months to leave.

      I think I’m going to implement a new rule though that says once the ad expires I’m just going to donate the thing and be done with it. Rather than keep re-listing over time until it’s sold. I’m starting to hate seeing the same stuff in my house/mind even if they’re valuable! (And with the donating you can still get a tax write up which = $$ in the end which is nice :))

      Maybe try that if certain items aren’t moving?

  13. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life July 20, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    I’ve been decluttering like crazy since moving. Going from having my own room to now sharing an NYC apartment with my boyfriend means space is an increasingly precious commodity. I’m doing my part by forcing myself to consider the value of everything I own and purging accordingly.

  14. slackerjo July 20, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    Small space means limited space so no junk drawer.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:52 AM


  15. Tonya@Budget and the Beach July 20, 2015 at 9:45 AM

    I did that two weekends ago. I found more pens, pencils, and sharpies than I can count! I love getting organized!

  16. Jeff @ Money Talks Coaching July 20, 2015 at 9:58 AM

    I’ve been trying to do the “one thing every day” approach with some home improvement stuff I’ve been putting off… cut my list in half so far.

    Cleaned out the junk drawer in our kitchen (where we shove everything when company is coming over) and found a flash drive I forgot about and a set of earbuds I’ve been looking for… score!

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:54 AM

      HAH – there you go! Adding you to the list now :)

  17. Ms. Money Maker July 20, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    Cleaned out the drawer in my desk. Ditched a bunch of papers and found about 30 pressed pennies from our Disney trip I need to make into a charm bracelet for my daughter

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      Oooh neat! As a coin collector myself, I have a deep appreciation for those things :) Great idea for a bracelet too!

  18. July 20, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    It’s strange that you found money everywhere …
    Maybe your house is worth way more than 300K !

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:57 AM

      Hah! I rent that one out so no luck there, but I’m possibly forgetting other stuffed cash around the house we rent right now :) I’m running out of places to look though!

  19. John @ Frugal Rules July 20, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    My wife and I just started slowly doing this a few weeks ago. It’s amazing the different things you forgot you have and then realize that if you’ve not used it in x years that it’s high time to get rid of said item. We plan on moving next year and I sure as heck don’t want to move stuff we’re not even using here, so might as well get rid of it now and make a little money off it.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      Are you going to move far away from Warren Buffett?? I hope not! I have to come visit you both still ;) (And Mark Cuban for that matter, I still can’t believe how lucky you were, you bastard.)

  20. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar July 20, 2015 at 10:59 AM

    We need to do that for our safe. it’s bursting at the seems. I’d like to think we improved it over the move last year but probably just jammed as much as we could in there. Yipes.

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 11:00 AM

      Knock it out and then come back and let me know you did it! I promise you won’t be upset about it :)

  21. Tawcan July 20, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    Hey that’s a great idea/challenge J. Money. Having just moved about half year ago our place is pretty de-cluttered but we could maybe do more. Will start with drawers in our office.

  22. Jason @ Phroogal July 20, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    Ben Stiller!!! Hopefully Zoolander 2 is a huge hit. Then that $5 bill will be worth miiiiilllliiioooonnnnns! But seriously, that’s awesome.

    I love discovering new things as I clean. My favorite thing is finding forgotten money in winter coats! Something magical about it. :)

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 12:30 PM

      YES! My wife leaves money in there *on purpose* for that reason, haha…

  23. Kayla @ The Jenny Pincher July 20, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    Once I work from home, I imagine it will be easier to do some of these types of challenges, along with getting my housework done more timely. Right now I’m not home except for when I’m sleeping (most days). Sigh!

  24. Heather @ Simply Save July 20, 2015 at 12:04 PM

    I’ve been cleaning drawers and closets, and nooks and crannies like crazy! Even if I don’t find money, it still feels so good to get rid of crap! I did sell some books last week from my last clean out and made $14….so there’s that!

  25. Hannah July 20, 2015 at 12:16 PM

    This weekend I cleaned out one of my kitchen drawers. I had 7 spatulas and 3 pizza cutters (they’ve made it through five moves!). I got rid of all but my three favorite spatulas and one favorite pizza cutter. I also finally managed to toss a cheese grater. Why did I have that? I buy grated cheese!

    1. J. Money July 20, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      Haha… I have a cheese grater that I haven’t used in approximately two years myself. My wife just started cooking and getting creative though, so hopefully it sees more action soon! Maybe for taco night?

  26. Christine @ The Pursuit of Green July 20, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    Woohoo! Been cleaning out my closets for weeks now. A little bit at a time:P Realized how much unused space was in the closet (cause of messiness oops) and then how much crap was stuffed into containers we didn’t need. Still going through it all but next up will go through the kitchen stuff! Fun fun. Lotsa goodwill donations coming up!

    1. J. Money July 21, 2015 at 8:16 AM

      Keep going strong!

  27. Mrs. Frugalwoods July 20, 2015 at 12:58 PM

    Yes!! I’m on a roll with this lately (I think it’s pre-baby reverse-nesting ;) ). I’ve been systematically cleaning out our entire basement… one box/bag/drawer/pile at a time. Yesterday I tackled our clothes in a big way and came up with 4 boxes worth to get rid of! Yeehaw!

    1. J. Money July 21, 2015 at 8:17 AM

      Bad ass! Still can’t believe you’re pregnant – that’s so cool. Such a life changer :)

  28. Dividend Mantra July 20, 2015 at 5:03 PM


    The key is to own so little in the first place that clutter isn’t possible. :)

    Besides a small wardrobe, a few electronics (including the computer I’m typing on), some furniture, and a couple books, I own pretty much nothing…

    Well, other than equity in some great companies!

    Best regards.

    1. J. Money July 21, 2015 at 8:18 AM

      Haha… I like the way you think.

  29. Chris Muller July 20, 2015 at 7:02 PM

    Your timing is so funny. We spent the entire weekend cleaning the inside and outside of the house. The summer has been crazy busy with weddings and work and this just happened to be the one free weekend we both had. So we got to it. My wife ended up finding $4 in her jeans that were smashed into the back of a closet we never use. It’s only $4, but hey, better than $0!

    To your point… just 15 minutes a day is helpful. I think oftentimes we look at what a mess the entire house is and just give up. If you break it into smaller tasks, though, you’re more likely to succeed in not only cleaning, but also finding cool stuff.

    One last bit of motivation I’d give is to have a yard sale/garage sale. Plan it, put the ad in the newspaper, and fully commit. If that doesn’t get you off your ass to clean and get rid of stuff, I’m not sure what will!

    1. J. Money July 21, 2015 at 8:20 AM

      Yessir! I haven’t hosted one in forever, but I sure like to go perusing them for treasure :) Though these days more for finding stuff to flip than keep or else I’ll get right back to owning too much stuff again!

  30. Richard Anthony July 20, 2015 at 7:30 PM

    A big Thank You, J$, for thinking of me and for your “doodled-on” dollars! I will be on the lookout for your jpegs. But l’ll go you one better. Before you go rushing Items #1, #2 & #3 off to Vanguard, allow me to put in a first and final bid of $33. for the 3 bills. This will yield you an immediate gain of almost 7%, which you can also plow into Vanguard. Who knows? Someone may outbid me and you’ll be even further ahead. Naturally, I will also pay the USPS postage for Return Receipt Requested. My reasoning? You mentioned “|internet famous,” and, by George, those bills will surely be internet famous! IMHO, they’ve gotta be worth more than face value!;)

    1. J. Money July 21, 2015 at 8:22 AM

      Haha… you have yourself a deal, good sir :) Always happy to support your project!

      1. Richard Anthony July 21, 2015 at 11:37 AM

        Thanks, J$:) But in fairness to you, the seller, and to other possible collectors, maybe you should put out a “going once” call for other bidders? You might get a higher price. If you don’t have the time or interest to play auctioneer, I’ll start working on the USPS Return Receipt forms to send to you along with my M.O. Do keep those bills in a special place!

  31. Stephen July 20, 2015 at 10:58 PM

    Do you just run into these people and all you have on you to sign are bills? Or are you that ballin’ now that they’re just like scraps of paper?

    Getting autographs on bills are a lot cheaper than going to conventions and paying for those insanely priced photos to get signed, so I guess you’re probably ahead of a lot of people in that sense!

    1. J. Money July 21, 2015 at 8:28 AM

      Hah – truth!

      But nah – I just randomly ran into most of these celebs and then scrambled for something to be signed on. Which is actually kinda funny cuz now a days I don’t even think to ask for autographs. I don’t know if that’s because I’m older and don’t want to bother them, or if I just don’t care for signatures anymore, but I haven’t gotten one in quite some time. The last celeb I ran into was Darryl Strawberry where I had the urge to just tell him how awesome he was and shake his hand before moving along. He seemed to like that! :)

  32. Joe July 21, 2015 at 8:43 AM

    My drawer game is pretty tight. I’m constantly reorganizing drawers in my house(minor ocd?), but your article got me thinking about what I could reorganize. After we went grocery shopping yesterday, I went crazy reorganizing and de cluttering the fridge and cupboards. It feels pretty sexy. Haha. I think the closet is next.

    1. J. Money July 21, 2015 at 9:02 AM

      Damn good idea w/ the fridge! Both on the inside, and on the outside actually. It gets so cluttered w/ all the magnets and random stuff clipped onto it! I’m making a note to do the same – thanks for the idea :)

  33. Free to Pursue July 21, 2015 at 1:36 PM

    Well, I’ve emptied my change drawer, and even got the oomph to look in my purses and pockets to boot. Thanks to your suggestion, I’ve rolled $45.16’s worth of coin (easier to get a big number in Canadian loonies and toonies). Depending on your preferred conversion, that’s $34.74 US or 3-months’ worth of coffee outings with friends. Sweeeet!

    In case you’re interested, I’ve published the pics on the F2P Facebook page.

    1. J. Money July 27, 2015 at 11:17 AM

      Holy crap! Way to go!! That’s incredible…. Love it that you added up pics too, haha… I’m anointing you the VIP of this challenge :)

      1. Free to Pursue July 27, 2015 at 1:40 PM

        VIP = Very Important…Pennies?

        Should have known, coming from a coin collector ;).

        1. J. Money July 29, 2015 at 3:38 PM

          Hah! I like it :)

  34. Thomas @ i need money ASAP! July 22, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    Yes! Great idea! We do this every once in a while. Sometimes it’s a closet. Sometimes a whole room. Last round we made about $1000 by selling some old junk on Craigslist. One mans trash is another mans treasure.

    1. Free to Pursue July 22, 2015 at 9:03 AM

      $1,000. Wow! That’s amazing. Good for you guys.

  35. C@thesingledollar July 23, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    You have inspired me! I just did three desk drawers at the office, threw away a bunch of junk and reorganized the rest. Next step: post old external hard drive to Ebay and figure out how to get data off some 3.5″ floppies from 2001 I’ve been carrying around since then.

    1. J. Money July 27, 2015 at 11:18 AM

      I have those old things too! Haha… was thinking of doing something artsy with them, but you’re right you still need to clear the data off first :) Way to organize and get rid of so much junk – you did great!

  36. Adam @ July 24, 2015 at 11:02 AM

    I’ve been saying that less about our drawers and more about our closet. It’s become a black hole of junk. I’ve been trying to actively take junk out each time I notice it and giving away those old clothes.

  37. Sonya August 12, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    Please don’t laugh…I sorted out my socks drawer and counted 47 pairs of socks!!!!! I seem to have collected them over the years. I have now cut this down to 12. I hope this is the shape of things to come .