Saying goodbye to toxic friendships

photo by Gwennypics, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

This seems a bit of a taboo topic for some reason, but have you ever “broken up” with a friend?

It’s hard, isn’t it?  There are no social guidelines on how to do this.  There are no catch phrases you can use with a friend like the ever-popular “It’s not you, it’s me,” “I want to start seeing other people,” “I think we want different things in life,” or “I need to focus on my career/education/personal development” that you might use for saying goodbye to a boyfriend or girlfriend.  But what do you say to a friend whose friendship has become a bit toxic in your life?  What do you say when what you really mean is “I don’t think I want you in my life any longer.”

Yea.  Ouch.

We are taught that to be a good friend, a loyal friend, a lifelong friend is one of the most admirable qualities one could have.  And the longer the friendship has existed, the more valuable it seems.  And yes, it is very comforting to have ties to people who have knew you “way back when.”  It gives our ultra mobile and modern lives a bit of consistency to have the thread of a good friend that has known us through high school perms, journeys off to college, and life-changing moments like marriage or the birth of children.  It’s nice to have someone to say “Remember when….?” to.

All long-term friendships are bound to go through ups and downs, I believe.  People that drift from your life can drift right back into your life after a few months or even years of distraction (I’m told this often happens when one friend starts having children and gets caught up in the baby/toddler world, or when a friend moves a long distance away but returns a few years later).  And sometimes circumstances allow those friendships to be re-kindled after re-connecting and spending time with one another again.

But what happens when they don’t?  What happens when it becomes more and more difficult to find topics to talk about?  Or topics you agree about?  Or when you find yourself biting your tongue rather than being yourself?  When you find yourself feeling obligated to keep in touch and call and/or visit, rather than excited to catch up with your friend?  What happens when you realize that you are giving in the friendship, but not getting much?

These are what some might refer to as “toxic friendships,” and getting rid of them can be hard.  Oprah Magazine had a great article on this subject a while back, and it can be found here. A great quote was submitted to Oprah Magazine by a reader following that article that relayed her own experience with this kind of situation very eloquently:  “Saying goodbye to a toxic person frees us to nurture so many other beautiful and healthy relationships.  Several years ago I agonized over ending a decades-long friendship because I was sentimental about our history — and yes, I’d hoped it was a passing phase.  But when I ultimately let the friendship go (as graciously as possible), I was surprised to discover I wasn’t brokenhearted but profoundly relieved,” (anonymous, San Francisco).

So tell me – have you ever “broken up” with a friend?  What tactic did you use, and what was the outcome?



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Some plain good sense when it comes to cleaning your shower

Once again, I want to emphasize that I have absolutely no sponsors (heck – I’m just happy that I have a small handful of READERS!) so absolutely no one pays me to write about anything.  What guides me is this – Plain Good Sense ideas, things, products, and people that make life easier, more interesting, and/or more engaging.  When I come across something I would highly recommend to my friends, I make note of it here on my blog!

Cleaning the shower doesn't need to be a huge undertaking.

Which is why I’m writing about something extremely useful (albeit not terribly exciting) today – keeping your shower clean!  I’ve written before about my own personal cleaning routine, which includes one day each week that I dedicate to bathrooms.  After cleaning off the vanity, sink, mirrors and toilets, I generally peer inside the shower curtain to see how bad it is.  I admit – if it looks pretty good, I call it good and check in on it again the following week.  Cleaning the shower is such a pain in the a** that I used to put it off until it got pretty gross in there and then I would buck up and tackle it with some all-purpose cleaner and a scrub brush (all the while trying not to inhale too many of the fumes from that nasty cleaner).

But I’ve found a simpler way, readers!  The answer is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

This product is GREAT for cleaning soap scum build-up from your tub and shower.

I’ve had a few of these under my sink for quite some time now, and admittedly never really found a great use for it.  Most of my cleaning needs are covered by whatever all-purpose cleaner is on sale at the time I need to stock up.  But I have found that this product does an absolutely fabulous job of cutting through grimy soap scum and build-up from shampoo, shaving cream and exfoliates.  All you need to do is wet the sponge, squeeze out the excess water, and get to work scrubbing away!  And it’s powerful enough that you don’t even really need to scrub – a few swipes cuts through most of the build-up that’s on our shower (and if you adopt the once-a-week cleaning schedule I blogged about – it will on yours too!).

Ways to keep that soap scum build-up to a minimum include three simple steps:

1.  Keep bottles/soaps/loofahs and other items in the shower to a minimum. Keep only the things you use daily or weekly in the shower and nothing else.  Under every bottle is a perfect breeding ground for mold, mildew and scum build-up.  One tip?  Instead of using shave gel, use conditioner instead.  It’s one less bottle in the shower, and works just as well (for us ladies, anyway – I can’t really speak about shaving your face, men).

2.  Spray some kind of “clean shower” solution on the walls and floor of your shower daily. Keep a bottle of Arm & Hammer Clean Shower Spray (or any similar product, really) in or near your bathtub/shower and apply after each use.  It literally takes 3 seconds to do this after you dry yourself off, and prevents a build-up of soap scum from forming.

3.  Use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser once per week to wipe away any build-up scum. This takes about 2-3 minutes when done weekly.

Simple!  Easy!  Plain Good Sense!

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May I call your attention to…. for some really fabulous bedding – at a fairly reasonably price, as well.

Decorative pillows available at

I recently stumbled upon after seeing their products in a Garnet Hill catalog (and, by the way, have you checked out Garnet Hill?  Aaaah!  Their catalog is one that brings a smile to my face each time it arrives in the mail.  Even if I generally have to refrain from spending the money on their items, I always seem to rip out a page or two for my inspiration journal.  Gorgeous stuff!).

Anyway, that is how I stumbled upon the site, and was totally impressed and inspired by what I found there!  Pillows and comforters and coverlets, oh my!  Granted, we are not currently in the market for any new bedding, and if I bring home any more decorative pillows my husband may just smother me with them, but it is fun to look nonetheless.  And if any of YOU out there are in the market for such items – I wanted you to be aware!  (And no – Springmaid is not paying me to feature them – I just like to share when I find lovely things.)

Don’t these pillows just take your breath away?  There is something so fun (and easy!) about decorating your home with beautiful pillows.

Here are a few comforter sets that make me swoon – my husband jokes that as long as an item has leaves, twigs or birds on it, I love it.  That’s pretty much true.  I love the colors in these as well.  Or, if coverlets are more your style, they have several beautiful options in this category also.

Comforter set available from

There are also gorgeous sheet sets available, as well as decorative shams and bedskirts.  Perhaps the most sophisticated look comes from mixing and matching your own linens, which would definitely be possible through Springmaid’s website, which shows you other pieces that would co-ordinate nicely with your selections.

Comforter set available at

Happy Shopping!  And now – please share your own gems of the retail world – what catalogs/websites/boutiques have you stumbled upon which are to die for?  Do tell!

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Quick weekend in Chicago – some Plain Good Sense tips

My husband and I recently took a short weekend trip to Chicago.  It was our first time really visiting there as  tourists, so we took time to do all the classic touristy stuff.  I wanted to share with you our travel successes, as well as our pitfalls and things we will do differently next time — I hope this is useful to some folks out there, and I ask other experienced Chicago travelers/residents to please add your experiences, tips and advice in the comments section!


We began our trip with a ride on the train, from O’Hare Airport to our hotel.  It was an easy enough way to get to our hotel, and certainly the most economical (our tickets were $2.25 each).  The CTA has a  good website so you can check out maps of the system before your trip, allowing you to make a note to yourself what train to use, where to transfer, and what stop is closest to your destination.  Because I like to err on the side of over-prepared, I even printed out a map from their website so I could have it with me when we arrived.  However, I’m sure there are maps in the subway stations if you don’t want to do this.

When buying a CTA pass, keep in mind that they can be used on trains as well as buses.  If you plan to use buses while in Chicago, you may consider putting $10-$20 on your CTA pass at the beginning of your trip so you don’t need to refill it again during your vacation.  We ended up having a few extra dollars left on our card, and just passed it along to a friend that would be visiting the city soon.

The ride from O’Hare to our hotel on Michigan Avenue and Harrison Street took about 40 minutes.  If you’re not used to train/subway travel (as we are not), you may be surprised at how loud the train is.  It seems to me that the “L” is louder than subway systems in other cities – but it has admittedly been a few years since I’ve ridden any other subway, so perhaps I’m not the most reliable source.  Nevertheless, it is too loud at times to visit with the person next to you, so I suggest bringing some reading material or an iPod to keep you occupied on the ride.

Once we were in the city, we utilized the bus system rather than the subway.  I guess we liked being able to really take our time and look around as the bus was traveling.  Figuring out the subway system is much easier than figuring out the bus system, but a tool that helped us extraordinarily is the functionality on Google Maps to get directions via public transit.  It was so awesome!  Of course, we didn’t realize this existed until our last day in Chicago, but even then it helped us so much.  We have Droid phones, and so we tend to use the Google Maps app quite a bit when traveling, and by simply clicking on the “public transit” option when getting directions, you can see what subway line you should take, or what bus number you should take, and what stop you should get off on.  To find this functionality, simply log on to and click on “get directions,” enter location “A” and location “B,” then select the “public transit” button – next to the “car” button, which is the default.


Because we are always trying to cut expenses while on vacation, we generally try to get the least expensive hotel room in the most desirable location.  In this instance, that meant staying at the Travelodge hotel near at 65 East Harrison Street, just off Michigan Avenue by Grant Park.  The location was great – very convenient.  However, that is where the positive attributes end.   We regretted our decision to stay here – our experience was so bad that it was not worth the money we saved.  The “free breakfast” they advertise is really a few pre-packaged pastries and dried-up bagels, and our first day there, they RAN OUT OF FOOD by the time we got there.  So, you need to go down before 8 a.m. if you’re going to get the complimentary breakfast.  Of course, if they run out they conveniently have breakfast food you can purchase.  Definately smelled like a scam to me. However, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts across the street, and that proved to be a good spot to start the morning.

The rooms were dirty and the maid service was horrible. They didn’t refill our toilet paper ONCE during our stay and by the time we left it was all gone and we were using kleenex. We also had to call down for additional towels each day because the maid would leave enough for only one person.  The carpets were very, very dingy and it was pretty gross walking on them with bare feet. I forgot my hair dryer and got one from the front desk and the heating element didn’t work.  It was all par for the course at this exceedingly below average hotel.  We booked through Travelocity, and our rate was approximately $120/night.  For $50/night more, we could have had a very comfortable room in the same area with the normal amount of cleanliness and comfort we are accustomed to.  For us, it would have been worth it – but everyone’s travel budget and standards are different!

Activities that are free!

My husband and I are not hard core athletes, but we do both run a few times per week in attempt to stay in shape.  We started off both mornings with a run along Lake Michigan.  Both of us agree that this was probably our favorite part of the trip!  In the mornings, the air was cool, and we were able to explore the lake shore on foot.  Because our hotel was located near Michigan Avenue and Harrison Street, we were able to run through Grant Park, which was less than one block from our hotel.  We ran through Grant Park and over to the Museum Campus of Chicago, where the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field all reside.  It was a gorgeous run, and the view of the skyline as we ran back towards Michigan Avenue and our hotel was amazing.  Even if you’re not a runner, I highly recommend at least taking a morning walk along this route.  The view cannot be beat – and it’s free!  Parts of the path are a bit isolated, so I would not recommend this path for nighttime.

Our first full day in Chicago we took in most of the Magnificent Mile – all on foot.  This was a great way to familiarize ourselves with the tourist hot spots of Chicago, get some good exercise, people watch, and take in the sights.  We were able to window shop at many of the shops that line the Avenue (I was really good and only went into a few stores, and only bought one shirt the entire time we were there!  Regardless of whether you are browsing to buy or just browsing to browse, the shops on Michigan Avenue provide lots of fun – and possibly free – entertainment).  We even stumbled upon a few gems – like the courtyard of Fourth Presbyterian Church, located right on Michigan Avenue, like an oasis of calm amidst all the chaos.  It was a great place to stop and rest our weary feet, and get away from the crowds for a bit.  The inside of the church is a gorgeous place to sit and reflect for a few moments.

Along our walk we passed through Grant Park, Millennium Park, and Lincoln Park – all gorgeous tourist spots and all free!!  We grabbed a Chicago-style hot dog at Millennium Park for lunch, and ate underneath a tree with a gorgeous view of Cloud Gate, the big silver bean sculpture.  We also took in the zoo while at Lincoln Park, which is also free.  Between Millennium Park and Lincoln Park, we took in lots of sun along the beaches of Lake Michigan, right off Lake Shore Drive.  This was great for people watching and ice cream eating, but both of us wished we had thought to bring our swimsuits.  It never occurred to us that we would have the opportunity to relax on a beach during our stay in Chicago!

One thing I do not recommend is walking this entire distance in one day, especially in the heat of the summer.  This is what we did, and it was way too much.  We totally wore ourselves out, and by the time we reached Lincoln Park, we were exhausted, hot, and crabby.  We figured out the bus route from there and rode the bus back to our hotel room to take a much needed nap before venturing out for dinner that night.

That night, we realized that we would not have the energy to do both the Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, so we made a decision.  After having dinner at a restaurant near the Art Institute, we simply strolled inside the museum to take in the beauty of the lobby, and to peruse the gift shop. We had a good time looking at all the merchandise displaying the works of art that are found inside the museum, and felt satisfied with that.  Granted,  this likely sounds absolutely horrible to some of you art-lovers out there, but understand that I had been to the museum twice before, and my husband, who had never been there, is really not a fan of art in the first place.  So, for us, this was sufficient due to the fact that we really only had time to properly explore one museum, and for us – the choice was the Field Museum.

Activities that are not so free

We spent the majority of one entire day wandering around the Field Museum. We bought the all-access ticket to all the special exhibits and the 3-D movie, and we thought it was very interesting and fun.  If you have kids, I think this would definitely be a great place to visit, but my husband and I had fun looking at all the exhibits – those designed for adults as well as children.  The only negative experience we had at the museum was buying lunch at the Corner Bakery that is located inside the museum.  Other locations of this chain may be great, but this one was less than impressive.  The food was not tasty enough to warrant the high prices, and the organization of the cafeteria-style order and pay line was horrible.  Just managing to get our food and find a table proved to be a very stressful experience.  I can only imagine doing it with a few kids.  My recommendation would be to bring something to snack on in your purse/travel bag, and go outside the museum at lunch time and have a picnic on its front lawn, which overlooks Lake Michigan.  The view is beautiful, and the entire experience will be much more serene.  Keep your original ticket, and they’ll let you back inside after your picnic.

One of the most enjoyable things we did while in Chicago was go out for a nice dinner along Michigan Avenue.  By using, we were able to search for a nice dinner spot based on location, type of food served, and even price range.  This is how we came across Bandera Restaurant. A quick Google search led us to reviews of the restaurant, which convinced us that it would be a good choice for us.  The food was great, and since it was a Saturday night, they had a live jazz band playing – what’s more Chicago than that?  It was a great experience.  A little research in our hotel room before we left proved to be a great idea.  One reason I highly suggest taking along a laptop when you go on vacation if you have access to one!

Other activities I would recommend

There are, of course, tons of great things to do in Chicago, and a weekend is simply not enough time to do them all.  I wanted to highlight a few things that we didn’t have time to do on this trip, but will definitely be on our to-do list for our next trip to the Windy City.

We had read fantastic things about the Museum of Science and Industry, and my husband was really excited to see the place.  However, we quickly realized that a short weekend trip was not enough time to see more than one museum – especially if you had some things you wanted to do while in the Windy City other than stand inside a concrete building all day!  However, now that we’ve seen the Field Museum, I don’t think we’ll feel the need to visit it for several more years.  So on our next trip to Chicago, we will definitely make this one destination of choice.

We also found out about a cool touristy activity while in Chicago that we did not take part in – Segway Tours of Michigan Avenue from Navy Pier.  This would have been a fun – and less tiring – way to see many of the sights we saw on foot our first day.  If we had known about this beforehand, we likely would have splurged and taken part in the tour.  Neither my husband or I have ever ridden a Segway, but it seems like the kind of thing we would like.  It’s always fun when you can inject a little adventure into your regular, run-of-the-mill sightseeing day.

The one thing we regret about our trip to Chicago is that it was so short, and that all our time was taken up by checking out everything there is to see and do along Michigan Avenue and the lake front.  We weren’t able to get out into the rest of the city and check out any of the very cool neighborhoods that Chicago has to offer.  Next time,  I definitely would like to take advantage of one of the many walking tours offered as a way of exploring other areas.  The link I’ve posted is just one company that offers such tours – but do a little digging online and find a tour that specializes in something you love – architecture, history, food, etc.

Your turn!

So – for everyone out that that has visited Chicago before, or who has ever lived in the Windy City, please share your expertise and let us know one or two must-see’s while visiting the city!

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Memory preservation for the rest of us: the quickie scrapbook

photo by bl0ndeeo2, Flickr Creative Commons

I am not a scrapbooking type of person.  Sure, I enjoy crafty things, but generally don’t have the patience and/or time to dedicate to any kind of craft that’s really involved.  I also feel that the whole scrapbooking INDUSTRY (can you believe it’s an actual industry?  That seems a little weird to me) is a bit much – overpriced paper and funky scissors and stickers that are a little too reminiscent of the grade-school art projects we brought home from school and forced our parents to hang on their refrigerators.

Anyway – I’m not big on the whole scrapbooking thing.  But I do recognize the importance of preserving memories for yourself and your loved ones down the road.  Some of the most precious things I have from my deceased grandmothers and mother are journals, appointment books, calendars and letters they have left behind.  Seeing their thoughts expressed through their actual handwriting brings me closer to them again, and helps me to remember.  I’ve realized, particularly with my mother, that it’s the everyday things that I remember most fondly – the kind of perfume she used to wear, the kind of jeans she always bought, the way she wrote her name, the funny phrases she used to use.  It’s these things that make my memory of her more complete, something past the posed Christmas card or graduation photos.

So recently, I took the advice of Ali Edwards and made a “Week in the Life” scrapbook.  Basically, Ali encourages us to document the everyday, the normal, the small details that make up our life.  And to keep it from becoming overwhelming – just doing it for one week each year.  Cool, huh?  Even I could handle that.  Check out more information, as well as awesome links to others’ “Week in the Life” scrapbooks (most of which are way cooler than mine) at this site.

I decided to document the first week in May, because it was when I celebrated two milestones – my first wedding anniversary with my husband, and my first half marathon.  I kept scraps of paper, lists, mementos from that week, and carried my camera around to capture the everyday moments around our house (pictures of my husband playing endless games of some-game-or-another on the computer, our dog lounging on the couch after dinner, the book I’m currently reading, etc.).  I wrote notes on what I did each day, including the boring stuff (like work meetings, getting a speeding ticket) and some of the more exciting things (finishing the half marathon, celebrating our anniversary with my husband).  I also wrote a note of the things that were stressing me that week, in an attempt to show my future self how most of the stuff that stresses me out really doesn’t matter one year (or likely even one month) after the fact.  I even printed out a screen shot of my Facebook page!  It’s my thought that in 10 or 15 years my not-yet-existent children will look at it as an archaic example of the technology of our day.  At the end of the week, I made a trip to Wal-Mart to pick up a small’ish scrapbook with clear plastic sleeves protecting all the pages, along with enough extra pages so this scrapbook would allow me to continue documenting just one week a year for the next few years.

Putting it together took about 30 minutes – DONE!  The perfect little craft project for me, and a record for future generations of the small details that make up a life in the year 2010.

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A Great Music Playlist for Sunny Spring Days

Photo courtesy of Ennil, Flickr creative commons

Everything seems brighter, more fun these days, doesn’t it?  The gloom and cold of winter is behind us, and ahead of us is just sun, sun, sun.  I try hard each year to not let myself take those sunny days (even the ones that are a bit HOT and HUMID) for granted, especially after the winter that most of us had this year in middle America.  All of this causes me to roll down the windows and crank some tunes.  Or go for a run and crank some tunes.  Or clean the house and crank some tunes.  Pretty much anything encourages a little upbeat music this time of year.  Here are a few suggestions for great music to add to your playlist these days.  They’re not necessarily all new ones, but they’re all good ones:

This Side by Nickel Creek

All This Beauty by The Weepies

Dream by Priscilla Ahn

Redwing by Hem

Brand New Day by Joshua Radin

Pony (It’s Okay) by Erin McCarley

These are the Days by Sugarland

Okay, now it’s your turn – what’s on YOUR springtime playlist??  Shoot me a comment and share your fave songs for this time of year.

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Filed under Inspiring Ideas, Projects, Blogs and People!, Spring

Organizing your jewelry

This has always been a challenge for me.  I really believe that jewelry (for me, it’s especially necklaces) can take your wardrobe the extra mile, and it’s also been one area that I’ve allowed myself to continually add to my “collection” because accessories rarely go out of style, and if they do — it’s not going to be for 5-10 years.  So I think it’s perfectly fine to keep necklaces, earrings, bracelets and even scarves for several years, (as long as you can trust yourself to spot the difference between a “classic” look, a “vintage” look, and a just plain “OUTDATED” look).

My inspiration started when I was watching a video on Tasra Mar’s blog where she uncluttered her house using Erin Doland’s book Unclutter Your Life in One Week as a guide.  If you’re interested in watching her videos, you can check out the whole series here. She tackles one area of her house in each episode.  I’ll be honest – I wasn’t blown away by her insights or even her progress.  We all have our own way of organizing our space to make it beautiful for ourselves, and mine didn’t mesh with hers.  BUT, I was still inspired to make some areas of my home more organized because of some of her ideas.  One of those areas was my jewelry collection!!

I’ve tried many different ways of organizing my jewelry in the past, and the ways that are available to you change with your space.  When I lived in an apartment before I got married, I had space on the inside of my closet door to hang lots of little plastic 3M hooks on which to hang my necklaces:

A good way to keep my necklaces and scarves easily accessible and tangle-free, but it did make a lot of noise each time I opened and closed the closet door.

When I moved into my husband’s house, we had to make due with a small closet space, and one that didn’t allow me to hang my necklaces the way I used to.  The solution I came up with was to use one of those hangers made for hanging multiple pairs of pants all at once.  I thought it was pretty clever.

This type of hanger also allows you to hang bracelets, as well as necklaces.

BUT.  If you don’t have a space to hang the hanger so that everything is visible (like on a wall), then it ends up being hung in your closet by the rest of your clothes, and you can only see what’s on the very edge.  Not so effective.

From this angle, I can only see 2 or 3 of my necklaces. Not so effective. Yet I lived with this system for about two years.

But this video by Tasra Mar gave me the inspiration to strive for something better.  I went to Home Depot and got a multi-prong rack like she had, and my wonderful husband said that he would help me re-purpose one of the shelves in our closet so that I would have a space to hang it!  Here’s what our closet shelves looked like before:

In order to have a space to hang the new jewelry rack, we had to eliminate one of the shelves, which meant finding a new home for some of our STUFF.

The top shelf was my jeans and casual khakis, and a few heavy sweaters.  The second shelf was my husband’s jeans and khakis.  We had to eliminate the second shelf, so I hung up my heavy sweaters, moved my husband’s jeans up to the top shelf, and hung up my husband’s khakis.  Then we were able to take out that shelf, and suddenly there was a nice open space to hang the jewelry organizer!

Wonderful! This view made my heart sing. I could see all my necklaces and have easy (and quick!) access to them each time I got dressed.

I’ve never been a big bracelet or ring person, but the few that I do own reside in the small plastic drawers, along with my earrings.  My scarves are folded next to the drawers.  I loved this solution, because (unlike Tasra Mar) I wanted my jewelry to be contained in the closet, because I didn’t want to look at it each day — just when I was getting dressed.  This allows us to close the closet door and keep everything out of sight.  I should mention that this is only my solution for the inexpensive “costume” jewelry I own.  For the more delicate, expensive pieces I own, I’ve always kept them stored in a leather jewelry box we keep on our dresser.  It was the perfect solution for us, because my husband keeps his picket knives, watches and other items in the top, and I keep my precious jewelry stored safely in the pull-out drawer.  I use the top tray to store the jewelry I wear every day (large diamond or pearl studs, circle pendant necklace my husband gave me, wedding ring, and the all-important chapstick) in plain sight.

This leather jewelry box is supremely functional for our purposes, but looks nice when it's closed as well.

This leaves us with an attractive, uncluttered dresser top, with no jewelry in sight.  Still, all my jewelry is now easily accessible.  It’s the perfect combination of form and function!


So – how do you store your jewelry?  What tricks have you found that work for your space?  All our spaces are different, as are our organizational needs….so please share!

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