Decluttering Jewelry

The Truth About Your Jewelry


The client and I had just spent 2 hours decluttering her jewelry when she remarked, "I go through my clothes each season, but it never occurred to me to go through my jewelry."  When was the last time you went through your jewelry - carefully considering each piece and making a new decision about it?  Have you ever done it?

Whenever I think I need to buy an additional container to hold my earrings, I schedule some time to examine each pair and I always end up letting some of them go.  Consequently, I have plenty of room in my earring box.  Because I make most of my jewelry, I have the added benefit of being able to disassemble the earrings I no longer wear and use the pieces to make new jewelry!  

My clutter coaching work with clients has taught me that jewelry represents strong emotions.  People form emotional ties to their jewelry based on who gave it to them and for what event or under what circumstances they purchased it for themselves.  When you look at your jewelry, the memories of the occasions of wearing or receiving the pieces come bubbling up to the surface.  Maybe that's why you're reluctant to plow through those assorted boxes and containers in your drawer!  Hanging onto old jewelry is not exclusive to women.  Men, how many watches, cufflinks, lapel pins, ancient tie tacks and rings do you have stashed away?

As with all decluttering, facing these inanimate objects and listening to their messages can ultimately free you to live your best life, so let's get started.

Schedule a block of time, at least an hour.  Resolve to stop telling the story about each piece and begin to tell yourself the truth instead.  What do I mean by that?  You've practiced telling yourself a story about each item - the circumstances of acquiring it, feelings of happiness, sadness, guilt, remorse, and rationalization wrapped up in a sense of obligation to keep it.  There's an old saying, "the truth can set you free" and in this case the truth can help you break free from the emotional bonds connecting you to jewelry you neither enjoy nor wear. 

If you start to tell the truth about your jewelry, here's what that might sound like.

A dear friend gave this to me, but it's just not my style.
A relative gave it to me, but I think it's hideous.
I co-worker gave it to me, but I wouldn't be caught dead wearing it!
I bought it because it was in style, but I never wore it.
Styles have changed.  I don't wear this anymore.
I bought it to match an outfit I never wore.  (The outfit was for my fantasy body, not my real body.)
I love it, but it just doesn't look right on me.
It shifts around when I wear it causing the clasp to hang in front, so I don't like wearing it.
I used to wear it to work, but my daily wardrobe and schedule has changed.
It's not a color that looks good on me.
I lost the matching piece to this set.
I like it but it's showing signs of wear and I have nicer pieces I could be wearing.
It reminds me of a sad time in my life.
It tarnishes easily and I haven't chosen to take the time to polish it.
A person who is no longer in my life gave it to me and I want to release myself from the bonds of that relationship.
I wore it a lot 20 years ago!
It needs repair and I don't love it enough to invest the time to research who could repair it and how much that would cost.
It reminds me of a time when I couldn't afford to buy anything better.
A friend talked me into buying it and I've never liked it.
I'm sick of wearing this!  I need a change.
It's pretty, but it's just not "me."
I don't really love it.
I attended a jewelry party and felt I had to buy something.
I thought I would wear it, but I haven't.
It's from a previous chapter in my life.
Wow!  I forgot I had this!  I can't wait to start wearing it!

It doesn't matter who gave it to you or what it cost, if you don't love it, it's not worth keeping.  As you go through your jewelry, notice the items you purchased but have never or rarely worn.  Don't beat yourself up about them; learn from them.  Analyze the circumstances that led to them showing up in your life.  Forgive yourself and vow to make better choices in the future, then let the pieces go.  Someone else will love them!  You don't need to know who will acquire them.  Just donate them and be done with it.  Resist the temptation to pass along your cast-offs to family members and friends.  They already have too much jewelry, too!

Storing Jewelry

Now that you've identified the jewelry you're keeping, let's discuss storing it.  I'm not a fan of turning your jewelry into a wall hanging or dresser-top decoration.  There are many devices for displaying jewelry that are decorative, but impractical.  Anything out in the open is exposed to dust and moisture which makes jewelry harder to maintain.  

I suggest storing earrings, rings, cufflinks, pins, and bracelets in plastic containers with attached covers and divided sections.  They come in a variety of sizes, they're sturdy, inexpensive, and readily available at craft stores such as JoAnn's and Michael's.  These containers can easily be stacked in a drawer or on a shelf.  For larger items, choose containers with customizable sections.  Buy the least expensive container to meet your needs. 

If you have a jewelry box, decide if it's functional for your current jewelry.  I have an old bulky wooden one that lives on the shelf in my closet.  It's not on display anymore, but it's useful for storing the pieces I wear less frequently.  I have a few small decorative boxes (with covers!) that I love, that I display on the dresser which hold the bracelets and rings I wear regularly.  My earrings are in a sectioned plastic box in the closet and my necklaces live in a shallow drawer in my office cabinet.  

Paring Down and Organizing

Pare down to a realistic amount.  Ask yourself, "how many pairs of earrings do I have?"  If you wore a different pair each day, how many days could you go without repeating a pair of earrings?  Is that just the right amount or way too many?  Can you pare down some more?  Choose the spaces and containers for your items, then stick to keeping only what will fit into them.  By giving yourself physical boundaries you'll be more likely to maintain a manageable amount.  

Arrange your jewelry by color, style, metal, or any other way that makes sense to you.  My client had kept her necklaces and matching earring sets together in a separate location until she realized she would wear the earrings more if they lived with her other earrings!  You can also arrange your jewelry by season.  If there are pieces you only wear in warm weather, pack them away with your summer clothes.

If you have jewelry that tarnishes, keep it away from moisture.  Check out the 3M Anti-tarnish Tabs available from or  They are one inch square pieces of treated paper.  Put a few pieces of polished jewelry in a zip-top bag with an anti-tarnish tab to keep it shiny.  I put one tab in each compartment in my earring box and they seem to be working just fine.

Keep what you need for the current chapter of your life - for your real life, not your fantasy life! 

The person is not the thing and the thing is not the person.  Getting rid of items given to you by someone else doesn't negate your relationship with them. 

This is your life to live - choose accordingly.  Keep what you love and let the rest go.