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Spring Clean Your Jewelry Collection!

So…here's a confession. I have a terrific jewelry collection (lots of my own designs, lots purchased or traded from other designers I’ve met along the way, and a bunch of cool pieces that my parents have given me from their travels abroad over the years), but until a couple of weeks ago, it was a total mess. And I hate to admit it, because embarrassingly, many of the pieces were in danger of becoming damaged and/or completely forgotten. But seriously – is there any good way to keep things both easily accessible and not stored in a tangled, messy pile? 

My previous solution was to use the plastic hardware caddies you can get at the hardware store – flip top boxes with lots of little compartments. I used these for the pieces I was currently wearing most often, and it was functional, I suppose, but so UGLY! (Seriously? Yuck!) And worse, everything that didn't fit in the boxes was in two shoe boxes in my closet where they hadn't seen the light of day for...years, maybe? (For shame, I should know better.)

 Ugly plastic boxes

But why not get a fancy jewelry box, you say? I get catalogs from jewelry store suppliers with all kinds of fancy pants jewelry boxes – so I have access to plenty of options. But here is what I don’t like about them: they are not space efficient (HOW many boxes would I have to get to fit my collection?); they are bulky & expensive; and their (most common) dark wood finish makes them look more like a humidor that belongs in an office on the set of Mad Men than something that fits in my bedroom. Well, you ask, how about those cute hanging solutions, like the darling & precious miniature tree that sits on your dresser, or the cute, tiny fake deer head that lets you hang your lovely necklaces on display on your wall? So adorable…in my friend’s house where they haven’t got cats. At my house, it sounds like a “hilarious” game for my cats Pixie and Mochi, that at best ends in wrecked jewelry, and at worst, a trip to the emergency vet. (Also, FYI - all of your silver will tarnish more quickly sitting out in the open air.) So, no thank you.

But I’ve recently found the perfect solution for my jewelry collection, and I’ll be happy to share it with you! On a recent trip to CA (we were staying in lovely Santa Monica), I visited the Muji store. (If you aren’t familiar, Muji is a Japanese brand that makes simple, reasonably priced & beautifully well-designed products for home and work – organizational things, notebooks & pens, kitchen stuff, etc.) I love their products and their store and try to visit one whenever I am in LA or NYC. This time, I found a clear acrylic 5 drawer case. It is clean & modern, and looked perfect for storing my jewelry. And its only $27.95 – much less expensive than a fancy pants jewelry box. I bought two!

Muji clear acrylic 5 drawer case

Muji also sells all kinds of inserts for separating and storing individual pieces of jewelry…but this is where they lost me. One little tray on its own wasn’t too expensive, but had I purchased all of the trays & accessories that I’d need, the whole project would have quickly added up to a total that was pretty close to the expensive jewelry box option. Furthermore, the trays and accessories are soft gray color and interrupt the view through the all-acrylic box, which was a feature that I really liked. So, I decided to design my own system to keep things separate. It’s a really simple system of box dividers that has notched length and width units that allow you to create any number of differently sized spaces within each drawer to accommodate your rings or bracelets, and keep all of your necklaces separate so that the chains don’t tangle. And I had them laser cut in clear acrylic so that the visual effect is minimal and its easy to see all of the jewelry. You can see them here on the left with sticky paper still on them which protects the acrylic during cutting (and makes them easier to photograph), and then on the right with the paper peeled off and inserted in the drawer.

 laser cut acrylic box dividersacrylic dividers in Muji acrylic drawer

As I mentioned in my previous post about my trade show display, I often design pieces for display and prototyping on my computer, and have them laser cut. I use a company called Ponoko, and they are terrific. Ponoko is set up so that anyone from hobbyist to professional can use their service and small orders are welcome. And they also have a marketplace where you can get peoples’ designs – either in the form of finished products or as design files you can then make yourself. In my case, I have put the design for the box inserts up here, and the design is free! If you’d like to have your own clear acrylic display with clear acrylic dividers, you can go to Muji and purchase the box, and to Ponoko to download the free file for the dividers. The Ponoko file has 10 length units and 20 width units – a few more than I used for either one of my 5-drawer boxes, so it should suffice for one Muji box. The cost to have the dividers cut is about $40 – making the total considerably less expensive than the fancy wood jewelry boxes that I’ve seen in the supply catalogs (which retail from $150 - $460), don’t hold as many pieces, and aren’t customizable! 

Muji drawer with dividers and jewelryMuji drawer with dividers and jewelry close-up picture

One caveat…if you’re thinking of ordering one of my big, new Origami rings, well funny thing…the ring is too big for the drawer! I have mine currently sitting on top of the box. But I’ve looked into it and there are some other smaller Muji cases with just two deeper drawers, so maybe I’ll have to order one and keep you posted.

And secretly (clearly, not so secretly)...I love that I made a ring that is too dang big for my jewelry box! 

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