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Every household has a drawer, box or case full of little assorted items — buttons, plastic bendy things, screws, small metal pipes, etc. — that are usually very inexpensive and generally considered to be junk. What would you call these things? Trifle is the closest word that I can think of but even that isn’t “junk” enough.

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I would use clutter. "a confused disordered jumble of things" per en.wiktionary.org/wiki/clutter. –  Chris Schiffhauer Oct 23 '12 at 2:15
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Do you want to stress the worthlessness/ uselessness of the stuff? It's this drawer that always comes to the rescue when you are desperately looking for that crucial missing element in your project. –  Kris Oct 23 '12 at 4:56
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"the closest word I can think of". There is your problem. You're neglecting to use a thesaurus. Other people have already thinked and thinked of other words that mean the same thing, until there wazn't nothin' they ain't thunk. –  Kaz Oct 23 '12 at 5:22
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It is, of course, a mathom drawer: “Anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms, and many of the presents that passed from hand to hand were of that sort.” It’s from Old English, and is in the OED. –  tchrist Oct 23 '12 at 11:19
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Welcome to ELU, CHR JEN. The wide variety of answers you've gotten demonstrate the problem with your question: you haven't given us enough information to narrow down the possibilities. On all questions, but especially on single-word-requests, you need to show your work. Look up "trifle" in a thesaurus, tell us what you found there, and why you still need help narrowing it down. If you need this word for a specific purpose, tell us what that is. Don't make us quote the thesaurus at you, one word at a time. –  Marthaª Oct 23 '12 at 15:45

18 Answers 18

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I like detritus

Accumulated material; debris: "Poems, engravings, press releases - he eagerly scrutinizes the detritus of fame" (Carlin Romano).

and

miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends sifting through the detritus of his childhood — Michael Tomasky

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O very good! I will try to convince my wife. –  StoneyB Oct 23 '12 at 0:25
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Like most other suggestions, these too have negative connotations. –  Kris Oct 23 '12 at 7:49
    
It's probably a result of the field I work in, but this is not the definition I think of with the word detritus. Dorland's Medical Dictionary says: "detritus - particulate matter produced by or remaining after the wearing away or disintegration of a substance or tissue; designated as organic or nonorganic, depending on the nature of the original material. biodetritus - detritus derived from the disintegration and decomposition of once-living organisms." Just be aware it has other meanings. –  JLG Oct 23 '12 at 11:32
    
@JLG Absolutely. In fact, that is why I like it. Have you ever seen some of the flotsam and jetsam lurking in the back of those drawers? Have you heard the query of the puzzled spouse picking out a strange shard, asking "What was this?" –  bib Oct 23 '12 at 11:40

I like "bric-a-brac." From NOAD:

bric-a-brac: miscellaneous objects and ornaments of little value.

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Malvolio: when you need more chars, an excellent alternative is to include a dictionary definition. –  J.R. Oct 23 '12 at 9:37

Bits and pieces, as well as bits and bobs can be used.

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+1 for bits and bobs –  AidanO Oct 23 '12 at 8:24

odds and ends Noun:
Miscellaneous articles or remnants.
Synonyms:
oddments

odds and ends (wiktionary) Noun
odds and ends (plural only)
(idiomatic) Miscellaneous things.
The garage was filled with a random assortment of odds and ends.

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also oddments . –  JamesRyan Oct 23 '12 at 15:21
    
@JamesRyan I thought oddments is indeed there under 'Synonyms:' above. Think we should highlight that as well, as another suggestion? –  Kris Oct 25 '12 at 3:49

I'm a big fan of the word "knick-knacks" to describe odds and ends. I honestly couldn't tell you if it's widely accepted as a real word (or even in the dictionary?), but it is pretty commonly used.

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In my experience, "knick-knacks" has a connotation of little decorative junk that sits on a shelf (water-snow globes, Precious Moments® statues, refrigerator magnets...) as opposed to little items kept in a drawer just in case they might be needed. –  TecBrat Oct 23 '12 at 10:16
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Agreed, I was going to recommend tschotskes but that has the same connotation. –  Mike Brown Oct 23 '12 at 13:42
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@sacohe, you know, there's an easy way to tell if the word you're suggesting is in the dictionary or not. –  Marthaª Oct 23 '12 at 15:46
    
I did in fact try to look it up, but it seems that online dictionaries tend to include more slang terms, possibly because they are kept more up-to-date. I didn't have a physical dictionary available to double-check. –  sacohe Oct 23 '12 at 16:36

trinkets :

(Merriam-Webster)

3 : a thing of little value

(Dictionary.com)

1. a small ornament, piece of jewelry, etc., usually of little value.

2. anything of trivial value.

(Cambridge Dictionaries)

a small decorative object, or a piece of jewellery that is cheap or of low quality

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I was going to suggest this too. I think the wiktionary definition is probably a bit off. –  naught101 Oct 23 '12 at 6:10
    
@naught101 No, I think those two definitions are fine. They should probably have a third definition (or something to clarify) that explains that trinkets don't necessarily have value. :) –  Souta Oct 23 '12 at 12:31

I would call this sort of thing a "tchotchke" (pronounced /ˈtʃɒtʃkə/ chuch-ka, plural: tchotchkes). It is originally a Yiddish word, so it might not be well known in areas without substantial Ashkenazi Jewish populations.

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IME, tchotches are usually decorative. The contents of the kitchen junk drawer are many and varied, but generally are not decorative. –  Marthaª Oct 23 '12 at 15:51

I think if you called it the junk drawer, just about everyone would know what you mean -- it is not knick-knacks as those are things like porcelean figurines and shot glasses, nor trinkets as those are more valuable. It's miscelaneous tools and junk that you don't throw away on the off chance that it will be useful someday.

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If you've seen the definition of trinket, you'd find out that you're a bit wrong in your assumption about the value of those items. As for knick-knacks, those aren't limited to porcelain items. I think, if you are going to answer and make claims, you should have a reference to support what you say. (I'm sorry if I come across as being cross; I'm just pretty much trying to say that I believe that you have your understanding of these words, wrong. And you should probably look your claims up to be sure.) –  Souta Oct 23 '12 at 5:30
    
I did not limit knick-knacks to porcelain items, I simply used that (along with shot glasses) as an example, other examples would be snow globes and toy nut crackers. Trinkets are cheap items, frequently jewlery, but a cheap ring is more valuable than a burned out light bulb or a bent nail. –  jmoreno Oct 23 '12 at 14:55
    
Either way, point being, is that you should have references to support what you claim. Especially since knick-knacks can also be, depending on the person, such items that another person would consider throwing away. As for your cheap ring/burned bulb analogy, the keyword is 'cheap'. (A shot at a bad joke: How'd you know what trinkets I have? :D) –  Souta Oct 23 '12 at 17:52

I like kipple. It is not an English word, I know, but it was "invented" by the author Philip K. Dick to refer exactly to that kind of stuff that builds up almost without us knowing.

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It's an English word if you use it as one (ok, if you manage to persuade enough other people to use it as one) –  Useless Oct 23 '12 at 15:14

Figuratively, one could call it flotsam and jetsam.

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+1 This is what I call 'outside the box'. Great suggestion! –  Souta Oct 23 '12 at 5:33
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Unfortunately for those of us who grew up in coastal areas, "flotsam and jetsam" mean the nasty stuff that washes up on the beaches: trash, plastic rings from soft drinks, sea weed, drift wood. –  Roddy of the Frozen Peas Oct 23 '12 at 14:58
    
I thought flotsam was the stuff still floating, and jetsam was the stuff that had actually washed up. –  PSU Oct 23 '12 at 20:19
    
@PSU the literal maritime definitions can even have legal meaning, which is why I suggested a figurative usage. –  Fuhrmanator Oct 23 '12 at 20:37

If you're talking about the contents of the drawer as a whole, the word miscellany has a definition of:

a mixed assortment of items; a miscellaneous collection or group of various or somewhat unrelated items

I also came across this interesting word, which is a synonym for miscellany: salmagundi

any mixture or miscellany

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Often called shite around these parts.

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You can call it clutter, and you can someone who collects a lot of this kind of junk (intentionally or not) a clutterbug.

I have quite a few clutterbugs in my family...

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In my household it's the "stuff" drawer in the kitchen and the "stuff" bowl or jar or basket in any other room. About as nondescript as you can get.

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We, in fact, call it "the junk" drawer. –  Jim Oct 23 '12 at 0:16
    
We used to always call it "the third drawer". Even when we moved into a bigger place, and it moved up to the second drawer... –  naught101 Oct 23 '12 at 6:12

I call them dust collectors. I would prefer to get rid of them but can not.

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I think the word you are looking for is jumble. Here's what the OED has to say:

jumble |ˈjəmbəl| noun an untidy collection or pile of things: the books were in a chaotic jumble. Brit.articles collected for a jumble sale.

verb [ with obj. ] mix up in a confused or untidy way: a drawer full of letters jumbled together.

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If they happen to be items with logos and advertising on them, you could call it spam and many would know what you mean.

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Paraphernalia hasn't been mentioned yet. Perhaps it has the same "unwanted" feeling as "junk", but in a clumsy old-fashioned sense, too.

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Paraphernalia carries no connotation of being unwanted. It's stuff that is associated with a particular activity; if that activity is, say, DNA testing, then some of the paraphernalia can be quite expensive. That said, I suppose you could apply the word to the kitchen junk drawer as a type of humorous hyperbole, but it would have a different emphasis than what I think the OP is after. –  Marthaª Oct 23 '12 at 16:30
    
"Trappings associated with an activity regarded as superfluous" - an Oxford dictionary so some people are picking up this suggestion, perhaps only in Britain...? –  cormullion Oct 23 '12 at 17:05

protected by RegDwigнt Oct 23 '12 at 8:45

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