Minimalist Monday: Simplifying Jewelry

Since starting my simplifying journey, I’ve lived by this quote from William Morris:

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

This is what simplifying and living more minimally is about for me. It’s been more useful than any minimalism book I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot). Don’t get me wrong: books are inspiring, but nothing gets me in gear like that saying.

Anyway, after dropping off our most recent donation bag I felt for the first time that I’m getting there – I’m down to the things I use and love (except some stuff in my childhood home waiting to be dealt with). Marie Kondo called this “the point where something clicks” or the point where you suddenly know how much is right for you and now I know what she meant. What a good feeling!

However, some areas are harder to simplify than others. My jewelry collection, for example. I’ve always liked accessorizing. I got my ears pierced when I was 13 and have been a fan of earrings ever since. Necklaces, rings, and bracelets too, but I have a soft spot for earrings. So when I started decluttering my jewelry for the last time in a long time (hopefully), I suddenly remembered there’s a box of cheap earrings from my teenage years in my parents’ house. Oh my god.

It’s ridiculous – I’m almost 26 now and have not worn that jewelry for at least 6-7 years! But I’m very sentimental and have kept every pair of earrings that have some memory or good emotion attached to it, which is pretty much all of them. I’ve decided to bring the box back with me next time I visit and do some serious KonMari magic… or just keep a few important ones in my sentimental items box, if I can’t give them all away yet.

Jewelry used to be a big part of my fantasy self. My fantasy self had a large variety of jewelry pieces to go with every outfit and wore different jewelry every day. I don’t even know why or how I developed this fantasy, but I suspect it might have had something to do with teenage TV shows such as the 90210 reboot or Pretty Little Liars, where girls always looked so perfectly put together.

To look just as put together, I used to buy cheap earrings, bracelets, and necklaces from fast fashion chains and built a decent jewelry collection. The problem is I wore about half of my collection and those items tarnished quickly. I tried to clean them up but usually, the top gold layer came off and those pieces lost its appeal. Basically, my favorite pieces changed every year because I had to replace tarnished items with new ones every so often.

Decluttering the excess

As I’ve become older and somewhat wiser, I’ve established two principles when it comes to jewelry: less is more and quality over quantity.

I prefer to only have items that are good quality and/or are meaningful (for example, gifted by someone special). That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve thrown out cheap costume jewelry I already have. I kept the ones I love and wear, but once they break or tarnish, I won’t be replacing them with something new. Well, with one exception. I’d like to invest in a real gold bracelet sometime in the future, but that’s about it, really.

That brings me to the less is more principle: less as in the amount I wear at once and the amount I own as well. I adore people who can pull off wearing lots of bling at once (tell me your secret!?) because when I do it, I just end up looking like a sad Christmas tree in January. I wish I was kidding. Better stick to my guns, right? My favorite part about owning less jewelry is the realization that a few favorite quality pieces add more value to my life than a jewelry box full of mediocre stuff. There’s a difference between loving a piece or just liking it. It also eliminates decision fatigue – ain’t nobody got time for that.

But wait a minute! What if you don’t dig dainty minimalist looking jewelry, but still need to simplify? If you love a variety of jewelry and accessorize like a professional, more power to you. You don’t have to give that up to be live a more minimalist lifestyle.

A few favorite quality pieces add more value to my life than a jewelry box full of mediocre stuff. There’s a difference between loving a piece or just liking it.

Most worn pieces

Keeping my most used pieces (coincidentally – or is it? – they’ve all been gifted to me by people I love) in easy reach. The black and rose gold bracelet is a sisterhood bracelet from Jacob Colinn.

When I start decluttering jewelry I first set aside the keepers. You know, the pieces I wear to bits. There’s a certain style of jewelry that I have most of – warm tones, gold, dainty bracelets and necklaces, bohemian earrings and bracelets. This is what I call my jewelry profile – it’s so my style. It’s the kind of stuff I always gravitate towards in stores, the stuff I know looks good on me.

From then on I can easily tell which pieces don’t fit in the picture – the odd ones out. Usually, I haven’t worn them in a long time, they look weird on me, I’ve outgrown them or they came in a set with other pieces but I don’t like them. The hard part sometimes is letting them go. You know, there’s the “maybe I’ll wear it in the future” argument or the “but I spent money on it” argument. I’m not going to lie, it took me several declutter rounds to finally muster up the courage to get rid of certain pieces, but I certainly don’t regret any of it. My advice is that if you’re not ready to get rid of something, don’t force yourself. It’s highly likely you won’t have to think long about it the next time. As for feeling guilty about spending the money, it’s understandable, but the money is already spent. You’re not getting your money’s worth by letting it sit in your jewelry box. Better give it away and let someone else enjoy it.

Another method that worked for me is only keeping what you wear in x amount of time. Put your jewelry in a box somewhere out of the way and only pull out things as you wear them. I put my box on the top shelf of my closet. Now set a time for yourself, by the end of which you’ll discard everything you didn’t wear. I did this for 4 or 5 months, which is enough to determine what you really like and wear. The idea is that when you really like a piece, you’ll go through the inconvenience of digging it out of the box. Once the 5 months was over, about a third of my then jewelry was still in the box. I gave it all away and have not missed it since.

My point is that when you’re simplifying your jewelry, pick a theme that is you and stick to it. If you master your style, you won’t have to declutter unused items again. 

Ivory jewelry box

Dealing with heirlooms and sentimental jewelry

Non-sentimental people and extreme minimalists (these overlap to some extent IMO) probably tell you to get rid of it, but I don’t agree. It’s not that black and white. Don’t throw it out if you’re not ready! Simplifying and minimalism aren’t about having a certain number of items. Keep it and cherish it.

That said, if you have an heirloom piece and you do not like it, do not feel obligated to keep it. Keeping things out of obligation defeats the purpose of simplifying and the intentions of the original owner. If it’s not useful, not bringing you joy and not making you happy, then it has no purpose in your life. Take a picture of it and then sell it if it’s very valuable, donate it or give it to a sibling who’ll appreciate it more than you do.

If it’s not useful, not bringing you joy and not making you happy, then it has no purpose in your life.

If you’re lucky and your heirloom jewelry matches your style and jewelry profile, don’t let it gather dust – wear it loud and proud. Wearing it is the greatest honor you can give. That’s what I do with the silver earrings from my grandmother. Wearing her earrings makes me happy and reminds me of my her (she’s alive and well, but lives on the other side of the country). If you’re avoiding wearing your piece because you’re afraid to lose it (I’ve been there), consider this: whoever gave you the piece didn’t give it to you with the intention of letting it gather dust in a drawer. You’re not doing the piece or the gifter any justice.

Most worn pieces

If your heirloom pieces are not something you’d like to wear but they bring you joy, why not display them? That way you’ll get to admire their beauty and specialness! Another option is to keep them in a sentimental items box or get them altered or remade. My graduation ring is bulky and makes my hand look bulky as well, so I don’t wear it. But it symbolizes the end of an era for me and having it around brings me joy (I go through my mementos box quite often), so I have no problem keeping it in my mementos box next to my teenage diaries.

What about storage?

I agree with Marie Kondo in regards to displaying your favorite pieces. If you’ve got it, flaunt it! Unless you have small children or pets, maybe then it’s not a good idea. I keep my favorite pieces on a small plate on my nightstand, that way I can put them there before bed and put them back on again in the morning.

My boyfriend got me this gorgeous tiny ivory jewelry box from Iran couple of years ago. He’s got an eye for practical souvenirs, luckily, because it fits all my small jewelry pieces. I keep an Iranian rial coin in there for good luck as well.

My big earrings are stored in an old tin box which used to belong to my mum. Before simplifying, it was full to the brim with pieces I had stopped wearing, but it’s looking sparse nowadays (and that’s a good thing).

Earrings

I have a ceramic tin (from Flying Tiger) for bracelets. Most of these are costume jewelry I’ve had for a long time. It’s funny that I love those handwoven hippie bracelets. They’re so different from my everyday style, but I wear them every summer and when I’m traveling.

Bracelets

I keep the two tins in a top drawer of my dresser for easy reach. The ivory box from Iran lives on my nightstand shelf next to the plate of favorites. It’s too beautiful to hide away in a drawer! And that’s it.

What’s your jewelry collection like? If you have experience with heirloom or sentimental jewelry, what’d you do? I’d love to read your comments!

Mari