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This happened to me in a rental apartment and I had to be creative to solve it.

The geniuses who designed the bathroom managed to fit a drawer about a centimeter behind the door, and eventually what had to go wrong went wrong: the drawer was full of stuff and once we closed the door, the drawer reopened a bit, blocking the door from opening more than about a centimeter, blocking us from entering the bathroom.

Position 1
The setup when the door is closed and the drawer is closed normally (view from above)

enter image description here

Position 2
This is what happened when the drawer blocked the door: enter image description here

This only left about a centimeter of leeway for opening the door from outside

Not enough to let daylight go through, but enough for me to be able to get the drawer to open even more by pushing the door back and forth. And because of the form factor of the drawer (the front panel being a couple of centimeters larger than the drawer itself, I felt the more the drawer would open, the more I could open the door, to the point that I could actually get a finger in.

Position 3
enter image description here

Using a metal hanger, I could manage to open the drawer even more, or close it a bit, but closing it would make the front panel of the drawer apply pressure to the door, eventually bringing me back to Position 2, where I couldn't fit anything in anymore to close the drawer further.

I spoke to the locksmith who said he could make a hole in the door in order to close the drawer. This would mean I'd have to replace the door afterwards, for a price of about 100$.

I decided to first test my puzzle solving skills and figure out a significantly cheaper way of closing it.

Other elements that may or may not be useful:
- the door handle was situated above the drawer, too high to touch it or anything
- the bottom of the door was about half a centimeter above the floor, letting daylight go through
- lifting the door up its hinge was not an option because unless fully opened, the frame would block it
- I lived in a city with all kinds of shops where I could buy all kinds of tools or accessories
- I lived on a third floor, and there were bars to the window of the bathroom, meaning no human would be able to get in, even with a high enough ladder, and the window was closed anyway

Could you find a way to open the door without breaking anything?

EDITS
- I only drew one side of the door frame, but it was the same step-shape on both sides as well as on top, preventing access to the hinge for example
- the drawers don't have handles. I only put them on the picture for illustration, so that people understand they are drawers :-)
- taking the drawer out of its rails is not an option, because it needs to lift it with both hands, also, falling on the floor would most likely break it, which I wanted to avoid

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closed as too broad by Ankoganit, Deusovi Oct 7 '17 at 8:11

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Those isometric drawings .... $\endgroup$ – Lawrence Oct 4 '17 at 9:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Lawrence I really tried my best :-) $\endgroup$ – sousben Oct 4 '17 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ Migrate to Lifehacks SE :-P $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 4 '17 at 9:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Wen1now yes! I don't think I ever felt so much satisfaction for solving a puzzle than after this one $\endgroup$ – sousben Oct 4 '17 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ Will you be posting your actual solution @sousben? $\endgroup$ – James Webster Oct 6 '17 at 7:07

22 Answers 22

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how to open the door

  1. Get a sturdy, thin metal bar (say 4mm x 15mm cross section) from the hardware shop.

  2. Have the bar bent into an 'L' shape, with one arm about the length from the floor to the drawer (black figure in the diagram). Loop a piece of string (pink figure) around the top of the 'L' to help guide the bar later.

  3. Work the door and drawer so that you can move the bar past the door through the 'L' gap as shown in the diagram, leaving part of the bar sticking out the bottom on your side of the door. Use this part as a handle to manipulate the bar.

  4. Close the door fully, hanging on to the string at the top and the bar's handle at the bottom. Work the handle while pulling on the string until the drawer is completely closed. The handle would tend to push the bar to the left and away from you, while the string would tend to pull the bar towards you (and to the left).

  5. Open the door.

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  • $\begingroup$ I see two issues here, although not depicted in my drawings. the door is about 60cm large, and directly to its right, is a bathtub that would prevent fitting a 1meter long rod laterally (this is about the height of the drawer). Also even in the event you manage to fit it in, i think you wouldn't have enough force to push it from the bottom as it would rotate but not laterally push the drawer. if this makes sense... $\endgroup$ – sousben Oct 4 '17 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ @sousben To the first, the rod is slid in the gap formed by the door when slightly-ajar (the L-shaped gap consisting of the under-door gap and the gap between the door and door post on the handle-side). To the second, a piece of string would help - I'll edit. $\endgroup$ – Lawrence Oct 4 '17 at 11:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This could definitely work, although not how I solved it. Criminally vulgar posted an answer which sounded much more similar to my resolution (also less costly) but he never followed up with illustrations, so can't be sure. Green mark to you! $\endgroup$ – sousben Oct 13 '17 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @sousben! By the way, the friction idea sounds interesting. $\endgroup$ – Lawrence Oct 13 '17 at 7:11
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Here's my solution:

This assumes that there is some lip on the bottom left hand corner of the drawer - if the side of the drawer goes down flush all the way to the bottom of the drawer, this will probably not work, but the diagram implies a lip.

Get a length of string and make a slipknot with a generous loop in the end.

Using a bent wire coat hanger, manoeuvre the loop over the bottom left hand corner of the drawer.

Pull the slipknot tight.

Using a stiff length of thin metal or wood, guide the string around the tap on the sink and let it drop.

Pull the string until it is taught and then close the door, continuing to pull on the string.
The advantage of this is that, even if the overfilled drawer still wants to open, it will be prevented from doing so before the door can be fully opened.
enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 nice idea, but OP mentioned, that the drawers actually don't have handles. But if you exchange the slipknot with a hook, it might work $\endgroup$ – Wayne_Yux Oct 4 '17 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Wayne_Yux Ah, I didn't notice that - a small grappling hook might work, I guess, as you suggest, but not if there is a door underneath the drawer, because the hook will be stopped when it touches the door. I'll have to rethink. $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Oct 4 '17 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ corrected to eliminate need for drawer handles $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Oct 4 '17 at 17:21
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Open the door

  1. Buy a bag of giant balloons. The bigger the better (you can get some that inflate to at least 75cm across). The tougher the material, the better.

  2. Stuff the uninflated balloons into a t-shirt. Keep hold of the balloon openings, but push the shirt through the gap into the bathroom. Position the shirt approximately in the position of the yellow area in the diagram above.

  3. Partially inflate the balloons. The openings should still be on your side of the door, while the body of the balloons should be on the other side. As the balloons inflate, they exert pressure on the drawer.

  4. Pull gently on the balloon-shirt assemblage until the drawer closes enough to open the bathroom door.

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  • $\begingroup$ Note - it's a drawer, not a cupboard; I'm not sure inflated balloons would apply pressure in the right direction... $\endgroup$ – psmears Oct 4 '17 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ @psmears Thanks. I've corrected the wording. If the balloons are big enough, the bulk of the balloon body should be pressing on the drawer in the correct direction. $\endgroup$ – Lawrence Oct 4 '17 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ What does the shirt add, in this case? $\endgroup$ – Weckar E. Oct 5 '17 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @WeckarE. The shirt helps keep the balloons together and offers a little more toughness to help prevent the balloons popping if they come up against rough or pointy surfaces (like the bottom or corner of the drawer). $\endgroup$ – Lawrence Oct 5 '17 at 23:38
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Purchase a yardstick and a pipe of < 0.5cm diameter.

Attach the stick to the pipe, so they are tangential to each other.

Slide the stick/pipe combo under the door.

Roll the pipe until the stick closes the drawer.

NB: The yardstick may have to be longer than a yard.

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A yardstick that should be longer than a yard is refreshingly surprising 8-)) ! $\endgroup$ – Mea Culpa Nay Oct 5 '17 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ How does one pull off step 3 if the drawer is higher up than the doorframe is wide? $\endgroup$ – Weckar E. Oct 5 '17 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ @MeaCulpaNay Might actually be a meter stick. ;) $\endgroup$ – jpmc26 Oct 6 '17 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ @WeckarE by sliding the stick/pipe combo through at an angle, I'm assuming the room isn't only as wide as the doorframe, so that should work fine $\endgroup$ – Callum Bradbury Oct 6 '17 at 7:14
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You could:

Unscrew the door handle, push the connecting column through to the other side and use the gap produced as your own hole:
step 1
step 2
step 3

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  • $\begingroup$ To be honest I think that could work! It happened to me a second time and I manage to close the drawer with a hanger through the key hole (although it was not that easy to apply enough force to close it), but I deliberately removed the key hole from the question to drive you towards another answer $\endgroup$ – sousben Oct 4 '17 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ Note that this only works if the screws are on the outside of the bathroom. I typically see them on the side that has the lock (inside). $\endgroup$ – defy Oct 4 '17 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @defy Sometimes the screws are on the outside, I remember when my dog locked himself in the bathroom, we took the knob off from the outside to try and open the door. (It didn't work though, we ended up calling a locksmith anyway) $\endgroup$ – MMAdams Oct 5 '17 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ @sousben "it happened to me a second time..." I suggest you tape or remove the drawer. $\endgroup$ – person27 Oct 6 '17 at 3:11
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In position 3, reach through the gap and tape a stick (wooden spoon, whatever you have) to the door handle. Get the door back into position 2, and turn the handle. The stick should rotate and push the drawer closed.

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You can make the door thicker at the height of the drawer to only allow the drawer to open when the door is also open. The extra thickness may be a wooden block attached to the side of the door for example.

Edit: Optionally you can make the block foldable so you can still open the drawer when the door is closed, but make sure it falls back in place when you are not holding it.

Here is the image.

enter image description here

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  • 15
    $\begingroup$ I think this answers a different question, but also a good idea! $\endgroup$ – maxathousand Oct 4 '17 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ In this case how to open the drawer when I am in the room with the door closed? $\endgroup$ – Alix Eisenhardt Oct 5 '17 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ How does one place the block when one is outside the room? $\endgroup$ – Weckar E. Oct 5 '17 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ The block is a permanent addition and is installed on the inside of the door while it's open. $\endgroup$ – person27 Oct 6 '17 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ They make products for doors similar to this: privacy latches: You have to actuate the latch to open the drawer while the door is closed, and (if you spring load it) closing the drawer automatically re-primes the latch, which will block the drawer from extending beyond the door. I don't think there are any ready made solutions for this exact issue, but it seems perfectly workable (to prevent future problems). $\endgroup$ – TemporalWolf Oct 6 '17 at 20:55
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I think a piece of paracord will do it:

Take a piece of string (not too thin - perhaps 3 mm paracord) and tie a small object to the end (just small enough to fit through the gap of the door; you could tie a Monkey's Fist knot if you are using paracord). Pass the object through the gap near the top of the door, then slide the string along the top of the door towards the hinge (past the point where you know the front of the drawer is). Lower the object on the string until it is below the drawer. You can mark the string before lowering it so you get sufficient length. Now push the door against the drawer so the string cannot pass between the drawer and the door (that's why I suggested paracord). Move the string from the top to the side, and start pulling gently. The knot should "catch" the bottom of the drawer. As you feel the knot begin to grab, move the string all the way to the side until it is just above the drawer. All the while maintain pressure on the door so the drawer doesn't move. Now, slowly release pressure on the door while pulling on the string. The drawer will be pulled closed and you can open your door.

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I have two solutions and I hope those can be useful: enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Glad that you could publish your solution in the end! :-) By the way, your second proposal is very similar to the idea that I had (I would have used a fishing pole, which fits the "significantly cheaper", or simply a thin stick and a rope, which is even cheaper) $\endgroup$ – Fabio Turati Oct 6 '17 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ @FabioTurati, Thank you very much, I am glad too :) I was really disappointed over that decision but at last I could manage to get some reputations. And about the similarity of our ideas, to be honest with you, after I saw the restriction I lost my appetite and eager to follow and read the answers. Although there are limited solutions for this question and it wouldn't be surprising if some of them are similar. Thank you again. $\endgroup$ – Seyed Oct 6 '17 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ Your Solution 2 seems to be the best one posted. However, because the top of the door has a stop strip just like the jambs, it be impossible to get your top ruler into position. The idea should work anyway, with the rope at an angle from the top of the door to the end of the lower ruler. The rope only needs to be an inch or so from the door at the drawer height. $\endgroup$ – A. I. Breveleri Nov 7 '17 at 18:31
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I deleted my previous answer because I got a better idea.

Move to position 3, insert a length of masking or duct tape, and stick its end to any part of the drawer that lies to the right of the door rim (from your outside point of view). Then yank the tape to your right, so it slides on the door rim. This will thrust the drawer to the left. If you give it enough momentum, it will reach near closed position, and you can push the door open to prevent the drawer from opening again.

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Just a few different approaches to the problem

Option 1:

Use rockets (or anything with a fuse that then applies sufficient force). If you decide to use a firework, try to avoid the ones that make big bangs after they launch.

Here's how it would work:

1. Attach the rocket to the drawer
2. Light the fuse
3. Close door
4. After rocket has finished, drawer should be closed and door will open
5. If drawer is still open, repeat 1-4 with more powerful rocket

Diagram (not to scale):

rocket diagram

Option 2:

Pull the drawer out, using strings to keep it from falling.

Here's how it would work:

1. Get 2 ropes of decent length (possible with one, but easier with 2)
2. Tie a loop on one side of each rope (large enough to fit around drawer)
3. Get both loops around the drawer, using a hangar if needed.
4. Pull one rope so the drawer opens as far as possible while holding the other rope towards the sink-end.
5. Pull both ropes to lift drawer out and open the door.

Diagram (not to scale):

Part 1
Part 2

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  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That isn't safe. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Oct 4 '17 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ How are you going to attach a rocket to the drawer if the door is closed? $\endgroup$ – Fabio Turati Oct 5 '17 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ Is this a joke? Quite apart from @FabioTurati's very valid point, I'm pretty sure this is going to violate OP's requirement that you "find a way to open the door without breaking anything" $\endgroup$ – user2390246 Oct 5 '17 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ I'm afraid you haven't understood the puzzle. It isn't about setting up a mechanism that closes the drawer after you've left the room (which is what your answer does); rather, it's about setting up this mechanism from outside, when the door is closed. The question clearly states "This only left about a centimeter of leeway for opening the door from outside. Not enough to let daylight go through". You are outside of the room, the door is closed. How will you attach the rocket to the drawer while staying outside and without being able to open the door more than one centimeter? $\endgroup$ – Fabio Turati Oct 6 '17 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ This is the best answer. It's the least practical, brings with it a risk of fire in a room that cannot be accessed, but for an interesting life, this is definitely the best answer. $\endgroup$ – Rich Oct 6 '17 at 23:57
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Drape a large towel or small blanket over the door. You may need to use a stick or piece of wire to help position it. Make sure the towel extends slightly past the latch side of the door. Use terrycloth or some rough fabric; satin or percale will not work.

Your major difficulty will be to insure that the towel falls between the door and the drawer. Bumping the door against the drawer will help tell you when all is in place.

carefully work towel into place

Now you are going to have to pull the fabric sideways to make this work, so stick your fingers around the door, grab the edge of the fabric, and pull a couple of inches through to your side of the doorway. Keep hold of this from now on.

Using the stick or wire, get as close as you can to position 2. Now press the door against the drawer while pulling the towel around the side of the door. The friction of the fabric against the side of the drawer will pull it past the edge of the door.

Start by pressing hard against the door, the gradually relax that force while maintaining tension of the fabric.

You might do something similar with a loop of rope or chain, but fabric is easier to position properly.

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What do you expect to happen here? The friction from pulling the towel will close the drawer? $\endgroup$ – AidanO Oct 6 '17 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ Yes I thought that was obvious. $\endgroup$ – A. I. Breveleri Oct 6 '17 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ It's not obvious, but it can be inferred. $\endgroup$ – Rich Oct 6 '17 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ It's not obvious mostly because it looks like the towel is hanging over the top of the door. Pulling from outside only moves the drawer up not closed. To move correctly the towel needs to wrap around the side of the door when you pull. Which means to pull you need to grip the part of the towel that is inside. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange Oct 7 '17 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ The towel is hanging over the top of the door. But my instructions say "...while pulling the towel around the side of the door." $\endgroup$ – A. I. Breveleri Oct 7 '17 at 1:58
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Similar to the other length of string idea, but doesn't require drawer handles:

With the door open as much as possible and the front panel of the drawer against the door, get some string (as thick as possible, really, those resistance bands for exercise would do nicely) and run it through the gap in the door above the drawer and collect through the gap at the bottom of the door, so it is held in place at the point of contact between the door and drawer. This might require some help from the coat hanger to go over the drawer rather than falling down the side.

Then if you hold some pressure against the door (so it doesn't move away from the drawer) and gently pull the top end of the string, it should push the drawer shut, and not slip through the gap between door and drawer.

Illustrations to follow.

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  • $\begingroup$ waiting for your illustrations $\endgroup$ – sousben Oct 6 '17 at 10:50
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When a drawer opens by itself it could suggest that the content is heavier in the front than in the back of the drawer. So if you have the door open as in position 3 you could drop heavy items (some metal or lead from the hardware store) into the drawer which would land in the back. Then by giving the drawer a push to close it might give enough momementum for the drawer to close completely by itself.

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Synthesising a couple of partial answers into something that should work:

Attach a cord to a stick. Push the stick under the door, with the end the cord is attached to against the bottom of the cabinet, below the offending drawer. Using a coathanger, loop the cord around the tap. Keeping the stick braced (possibly just its position under the door should do this) pull on the cord. The length of cord between the tap and the floor should tighten, pushing the drawer back in until it is at least flush with the edge of the counter, at which point the door should open.

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Using a length of string, and probably your coathanger, perhaps you could lasso the drawer handle, and then loop the string around the tap, so that when you pull on the string, it pulls the drawer shut.

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  • $\begingroup$ interesting, but I'm sorry the handles are here only for illustration, and in actuality there were none. I'll edit the question $\endgroup$ – sousben Oct 4 '17 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ You mean exactly what Lee Leon suggested? $\endgroup$ – AidanO Oct 6 '17 at 8:29
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, although if you check the post times, you can see I suggested it first. $\endgroup$ – TenMinJoe Oct 6 '17 at 13:19
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Well, based on the required priorities such as significantly cheaper solutions, I can think of a solution consisting of

(1) a working lock/key mechanism to be added to the drawer

and

(2) a sign board that says "Lock the drawer before you leave the place" -a kind of instructions to the person who entered/about to leave the room

which work in a fashion of

'prevention is better than cure' !

Here is my an alternate answer:

Cut the 'additional' length of the door which causes the obstruction (till the point - where the opened drawer can "protrude out to" )- with the help of a local carpenter and get that wedge of door "fixed" to the non-hinge side of the door and have a new/fresh set of lock-key mechanism fitted. Better, if I can place a diagram - but this is the most of it !

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    $\begingroup$ Oh come onnnn!! $\endgroup$ – sousben Oct 4 '17 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ I think you're answering a different question. $\endgroup$ – maxathousand Oct 4 '17 at 17:45
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  1. Take a thick piece of rope, about twice the hight of the door in length (and say 1 to 2 cm in diameter) and tie its ends together to form a large loop.
  2. Holding the door slightly opened, slip the rope around the door.
  3. Close the door as far as possile, and slide the entire rope past the drawer, towards the middle of the door.(if the rope is too thick to pass the drawer, you will have to try a thinner rope)
  4. Now open the door as far as possible, and slide the rope back towards the outside of the door. Due to the door being opened and pressing against the drawer, it should be possible to slowly edge the drawer shut.
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Carefully Pry the door stop off the frame, and you might be able to jerk the door towards you just enough to slip something in to work the drawer closed. Then when finished, carefully nail the stop back into the frame, spackle if needed.

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Materials: Rubber balloon, flexible plastic hose, nylon string and water.

Step 1: Insert balloon over the door, leaving the intake side out

Step 2: Force water through flexible plastic hose into the balloon while holding the intake side until balloon is "heavy enough".

Step 3: Secure the balloon intake with nylon end.

Step 4: Lower balloon to the floor inside the bathroom - pull at the other end of the nylon.

Step 5: Move nylon over to the left so that it fall through the left side of the door (keep holding it).

Step 6: Pull nylon so that the water-filled balloon is raised to drawer end.

Step 7: See if you can pull it to close the drawer.

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The caveat of this answer is that there will be some possible damage to the drawer, very minor damage to the door, and possibly damage to whatever objects you are storing inside of the drawer if they were to fall to the floor.

The first thing you will want to do is to pull the drawer out as far as you can. Possibly using one or more of the methods in previous answers. Then, take a washcloth, or some other kind of padding available, and wedge it into the gap between the drawer side, and door. Then push hard against the door using your body weight. This should allow you to open the door slightly, maybe just enough to reach your hand in. If you can, empty out the drawer so it will close all the way. Then you could try to close the drawer which would allow you to gain access.

If this does not work, you will need to force the door. Remember to keep the padding in between to minimize damage. Open the drawer as far as you can, then push on the door until the drawer itself gives. It is most likely constructed out of particle board, so it should basically give enough for you to gain entry. There may be damage, but that shouldn't matter as long as the drawer front is in tact.

After opening the door, completely remove the drawer. Remove the front of the drawer as well, and discard the rest. Also remove the drawer guides from inside of the cabinet for that drawer only. Remove the second drawer to gain better access, and then screw the drawer front on from the inside, as to hide your fasteners. Add a few drops of wood glue for good measure. This basically will turn this drawer front into a "dummy" drawer. Doing this will ensure that the door could never be blocked by it again. Add a wire basket, or a small shelf inside the cabinet to make up for the lost storage space.

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Assuming you can get a standard cheap metal broom into the space you have several options -- and you might be able to fit such a broom underneath the door or through the crack that the drawer is open. Before doing this, I would recommend threading twine or such through the hole at the top of most such brooms, giving hopefully some means to recover it if it falls out of control.

Pushing the soft side against the mirror you can hopefully wedge the end into the drawer: then pulling the broom towards the door with a coat-hanger while banging on it with a hammer could potentially dislodge the drawer, sending it crashing to the ground and opening the door.

If that does not work because the drawer is hard to push off of its tracks, the above mechanism "only" opens the drawer as completely as it can go: this is still good. Dislodging the broom and twisting it about, to face the other way (brush side down), you should be able to sweep the contents of the drawer out to the floor: you can then possibly maneuver the broom to a position where it is on the ground and leaning against the drawer, to provide a small force to close the drawer: letting go of everything except for the twine and closing the door, the broom will push the drawer closed and you can now open the door normally. If leaning does not work one can try to pull the twine taut so that the broom hangs freely to get a similar effect, but this may be more difficult as the twine needs to be threaded over the top corner of the door, and it can potentially fall from there.

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