#SYW2018: The Big Damn Jewelry Box Cleanout

A Facebook friend of mine recently launched Shop Your Wardrobe 2018 (#SYW2018), a collaborative project (which you can join!) to help us all get our Stuff under control. One of my top goals for this year was to sort my jewelry and scarves.

I have a lot of jewelry and scarves. I don’t wear most of them.

Here’s how I cleaned out my big damn jewelry box (with photos!)

Step One: Ye Box

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This is my jewelry box. It’s a sewing chest my stepdad built for my mom sometime in the mid 1990s. It has cedar-lined drawers and is absolutely gorgeous. And all three drawers were absolutely packed.

First, I emptied all three drawers and laid out their contents on the bed in our guest room.

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…Well, almost everything. Drawer 3 had a bunch of broken jewelry in it, including a multi-strand seed bead necklace that threatened to strew beads all over my room if I moved it. So I left it there. Everything else, though, is on the bed.

During this phase, I found five pairs of earrings I thought I’d lost, one bracelet I thought someone else had lost, and three necklaces and five bracelets I had flat-out forgotten I owned.

Step 2: Easy Sorts First

I started by removing the truly irreplaceable stuff, like my great-grandmother’s Red Cross pin, my grandmother’s hatpins, my great-aunt’s sorority pin, and my mother’s engagement/wedding band set. I put these in a smaller jewelry box where I keep Truly Irreplaceable Stuff.

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The truly irreplaceable stuff was…not a lot of stuff.

Next, I grabbed everything I knew I’d worn in the past year and put it back in the drawers. I put small earrings in an antique compact and slightly larger earrings in the black jewelry pouch.

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I started a second drawer for bracelets and dangly earrings, so the earrings wouldn’t get snarled up in the necklaces (a big problem I encountered in emptying the drawers).

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This left…still quite a lot of stuff on the bed.

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But a pattern had begun to emerge. The stuff I’d worn in the past year was generally delicate. It incorporated a lot of silver, black, and pearls. It was also, unsurprisingly, the same basic color scheme as my wardrobe.

With this pattern in mind, I added the pieces I’d been genuinely delighted to rediscover. I also moved all the hair clips I’d found hiding in my jewelry box into their own box, where I can actually get to them when I need them.

This cleared out the bed a bit more, but there was still quite a bit left:

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I sorted what remained into three piles.

Step 3: Tough Decisions

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The pile on the left (nearest the amazing ballerina pillowcase) I dubbed I Can Definitely Get Rid of This Why Do I Even Have It.

The bottom right pile I dubbed Things People Have Given Me and That I Like In Theory But Don’t Wear in Practice.

The top right pile I dubbed The Aspirational Pile. It’s full of jewelry that I bought for the person I thought I was supposed to be, or that was given to me and I kept for the person I thought I was supposed to be.

Some of the Aspirational Pile is 15 years old or more. I bought it believing that if I had it, I’d wear it, and if I wore it, I’d become more of whatever it was I was trying to be at the time: more elegant, more mysterious, more badass. Whatever.

Most of it has never been worn.

What surprised me most was that the Aspirational Pile was pretty easy to get rid of. Once I saw that it was all aspirational – and how dramatically it differed from what I’d actually worn in the past year – it wasn’t too difficult to admit that I want to keep being the person reflected in what I put back, not in what I knew I didn’t wear.

Step Four: Clean Up

The left-hand pile was easy to ditch: I already knew I didn’t feel comfortable in or want to wear those pieces. After serious consideration of the right-hand piles, I kept four pieces – one Aspirational and three Gifts:

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The earrings were a gift from my mother-in-law. I’d forgotten I had them, but they have the same “vibe” as a pair of earrings I’d kept after being delighted to rediscover it, so I kept these as well.

The jade necklace is also a handmade piece from my mother-in-law, which I kept because I love it and I never gave wearing it a fair shake when I got it.

The coral necklace was a gift from my great-aunt (she of the sorority pin). I don’t love long necklaces as a rule, but I love this one and I want to try wearing it again.

The multicolored necklace was the only Aspirational piece I ever bought that I actually wore. I lost interest in it a few years ago, but it’s wonderfully versatile.

I hung all three necklaces above my dresser to remind me to do something with them.

I also grabbed a few things from the Broken pile before tossing the rest:

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The silver bit is from my husband’s favorite watch, which I know he’d wear again if I got it repaired (and which is an easy fix – there’s even a watch repair shop within walking distance of my house!).

The clear thing is a pendant with a dandelion seed inside it. I adore it, but had to stop wearing it when the wire that formed the loop broke. I plan to ask my mother in law if she can fix it.

I love both watches, but neither currently works, so to the watch repair shop they go. Though, to be honest, I’ve been wearing the Spiro Agnew watch for years even though it doesn’t work, and I’ll probably keep doing so even if it can’t be fixed.

Here’s what went back into my jewelry box:

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Yes, that third drawer is now completely empty. 

I plan to leave it that way, since the bottom drawer always sticks a bit in summer. It’s nice not to need to get into it anymore.

Verdict: 10/10 would use this method again.

Starting with what I knew I loved and wore helped me see the common elements of my taste in jewelry, which made it easier to let go of things that I don’t wear and to keep things I will wear now that I know I have them. It also made it easier to know what to shop for in the future.

And the stuff I don’t wear is all going to a friend who will wear it or share it with others. Win-win.

The next project: My scarf drawer, a much larger and messier beast.

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