Aimee Burke feels naked without a necklace. Generally a crisp-white-shirt type, Aimee seeks out unusual vintage and costume pieces to add a bit of offbeat style to her look. But once she gets her discoveries home, the real hunt begins. Crammed into overflowing boxes, trays, and pouches on her dresser, her collection is a morass. She’s constantly losing track of her favorite pieces of jewelry.
“I can never find what I want when I’m in a rush―and I’m always in a rush,” says Aimee, 36, a publicist for a bridal-dress company in Winchester, Massachusetts. “I just end up wearing whatever is tossed on the nearest pile until I’m completely burned out on it.”
In theory, her dresser presents the ideal setup for a one-stop jewelry boutique. Trouble is, that boutique is harder to crack than it should be, partly by design.
“I have two little girls―girlie girls―who love to play dress-up,” Aimee explains. “Typically, when I’m getting ready to go out, the babysitter is downstairs, my husband is sitting in the car, one kid is trying on my shoes, and the other is rummaging through my makeup. I keep all my jewelry pushed to the back of the dresser and dump out as little as I dare.” The dresser-top array (“I never intended to have seven different containers,” Aimee admits) is a distracting element in an otherwise lovely room, tucked in a Victorian house that Aimee shares with her husband, Dan, 38, and daughters, Jane, 4; Sally, 3; and Edie, 8 months.
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The Breaking Point
“One day I realized that I’d basically been wearing this big gold flat-bead necklace every day for a year,” says Aimee. Her jumble of jewels had so overwhelmed her that she had allowed herself to fall into a style rut rather than deal with the situation. She knew there was a better way to store her jewelry than in miscellaneous containers jammed together on the dresser. “But I didn’t know what the solution would be,” she says, “and I didn’t have time to research it.”
What She Likes
The dresser, a family heirloom.
The well-lit mirror.
Her eclectic collection of containers and trays.
What She Dislikes
Having to go into excavation mode to find stray earrings and chains.
The messy jewelry makes her room look cluttered, no matter how tidy it actually is.
Her more delicate pieces are taking a beating in the turmoil.
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1. Divide and conquer. The dresser top was a breeding ground for clutter beyond jewelry, including hair accessories, scarves, and stray receipts. The first step was to separate the jewelry and categorize it by style: ethnic, pearl, big and chunky, fine and precious, and colored stones (grouped by shade).
2. Expand up, not out. Aside from the mirror, Aimee wasn’t making much use of the wall behind the dresser, so in came two inexpensive pin boards, upholstered in linen, to transform the dead space. Now home to her necklaces and earrings, the boards allow jewelry, much of it hanging neatly from sewing pins, to stay visible and tangle-free. (Bonus: Hung high, Aimee’s things are beyond the children’s easy reach.)
3. Stow occasional pieces. Besides offering instant order, the airy arrangement on the wall freed up space on the dresser for a good-size jewelry box. Lined with padded compartments, it protects Aimee’s more delicate pieces.
4. Provide access to everyday items. A small silver box is earmarked for the jewelry Aimee wears daily: her watch and wedding rings. Inches away, a resin jewelry tree catches heavier necklaces in its branches.
5. Stash hair ornaments and scarves. A few dividers in the dresser’s top drawer make an orderly hideaway and eliminate a lot of the confusion up top.
6. Reclaim. “The best part of decluttering was discovering lost treasures,” says Aimee. Found under a drift of necklaces: an heirloom plate painted with the image of a beloved family pet. Liberated from obscurity, it now hangs on the wall.
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At first, the pin-board display of Aimee’s bracelets, necklaces, and earrings struck her as too revealing. “I felt a little exposed,” she says. But the arrangement soon won her over. “It’s easy to get dressed because everything’s laid out,” she says. Even better: “Finding all these cool things I hadn’t seen in ages was fun. And it’s still fun because I’m actually wearing them.”