4 Questions to Help You Let Go of Expensive or Sentimental Clothing

4 Questions to Help You Let Go of Expensive or Sentimental Clothing


Some people find it easy to get rid of stuff but they are often the exception to the rule. The vast majority of us have a sentimental or emotional attachment to the time, money or the energy cost of an item.  

Why You Should Become a More Conscious Shopper

When you shop and you purchase clothing that isn’t quite right, once you bring those into the home, it is much harder to give them up even if we’re not wearing them.

People tend to assign more value to things once they own them – this called the Endowment Effect. As part of a research program, a university gave a half a class an ugly t-shirt but it was free. The remaining half the class got nothing. The next day they said to the half of the class who got the t-shirt if they’d like to their t-shirt to one of the people in the class who didn’t get a t-shirt. Even though the t-shirt was a bit ugly and not of great value, most people did not want to give that t-shirt away even though they didn’t like it and may never wear it.  They had already endowed this tee with greater value (even though it was free to them).  This is why it’s so important to shop wisely and become a more conscious shopper to ensure you are not bringing in items to your wardrobe that are only so-so but you don’t love them, don’t want to wear them, but find it hard to part with them so they end up creating more clutter in your wardrobe.

Sunk cost also plays a part in sticking with item, even when it no longer serves you. Part of your brain keeps telling you that since an item was expensive (even if it’s not that expensive), you ought to keep it around just in case. The years go by and the item sits on your wardrobe, taking up space but never used again.

What precisely are you sentimental about?

Chances are it’s not the sentimental clothing itself but its association with a person, place, or time. You can retain that memory without a physical object to remind you. However, if you truly love the object itself, then it’s not clutter and likely worth keeping.

I’ve bought clothes overseas that I am sentimentally attached to because it reminds me of a trip, a enjoyable period of my life. I’ve also bought something, knowing the style isn’t right but I struggle to pass it on as I’ve sunk hard-earned money into it.

If you are constantly seeing sentimental items that you don’t wear, you are reinforcing your attachment to them. Try putting the item away in a box or a bag, seal the box, put it out of sight somewhere and mark it with a date in the future, maybe 6 or 12 months from now.  Once the allocated time has passed and you haven’t taken it out, don’t even open the box or bag. Feel free to donate it – guilt-free – to its next owner who will likely appreciate it much more than you have!

I have retrieved a few items of sentimental clothing from my “maybe box” on occasion. However, each and every item I’ve brought back from the “maybe box” was always donated shortly after.

How much space have you got in your house?

You might have an enormous house with plenty of space and you could keep expanding your wardrobes but for most of us our houses are already fairly full up.   We often don’t realize the cost of our storage space.

If your house was a hotel, how much would you be paying for that extra room would you pay for an extra hotel room every day just to store all the sentimental clothing that you’re having trouble letting go of. Remember that your wardrobe should be treated like a kitchen.  You don’t keep food that is past its used by date or is damaged in some way.  Why do we keep clothing that is in poor condition or dated?  Think of it like old milk and let it go already!

Thinking this way, you begin to realise that storing items is significantly more expensive than the cost of whatever item you are keeping purely for sentimental reasons.   

Can it be repurposed, displayed or digitally archived?

Just because you let go of a first date dress, your grandfather’s dressing gown or other item that you are never going to wear doesn’t mean that you are getting rid of the emotions or the memories that are attached to it. You may like the memory of an item so keep an image of the item or you wearing the item.

One of my clients, with children in their 30s, had a maternity dress and with great sentimental value. She repurposed the fabric as a little pillowcase to go on a little pillow that sat on her bed.

If you’re storing a wedding gown or a piece that holds special meaning (and will never be worn again in the conventional way) consider having a remnant made into a delicate keepsake like a brooch or a pendant necklace.  Stuffed toys, patchwork quilts, lamp shades, aprons and fabric bags are other ways you can repurpose fabric from sentimental items.

High-end designer items can sometimes be donated to a museum or an art gallery as great examples of particular designer pieces from different eras.  Kate Middleton’s wedding dress bought in over $15 million in ticket sales during just two months on display at Buckingham Palace.

If it holds a fantastic memory for you, then take a photo of it and keep that with any photos of that occasion. That occasion has been and gone. The item has done a great job for you when needed, and now it’s probably time to let it go.

Can someone else use it?

Some of the sunk cost for expensive items can be recouped on eBay or using a local or online consignment stores such as ThreadUp and The RealReal.

You could also donate it to someone who will actually get the wear out of it – a friend, colleague or local charity such as Dressed for Success, who redresses women to get back into the workforce. These options are better than just donating to the charity shop where your item may not be appreciated and could go home with anyone.

Donate to a Thift Shop so others can get wear and enjoyment from the pieces that don't work for you

This scarf was donated to a thrift shop and I was lucky enough to find it and it has gotten lots of wear in my wardrobe.

No Room for Guilt

People often keep items not out of love or nostalgia but rather guilt. And guilt is an entirely unhelpful emotion when it comes to curating your wardrobe and personal style.

Whatever the reason, it’s in your closet but you aren’t wearing it. It’s time to let it go. Remind yourself that the money is already spent. Keeping it in your closet will not get the money back. In fact, keeping it will only prolong your negative feelings, making you feel guilty every time you see it.

Accept the mistake. Keeping something that does not add value to your life keeps you stuck holding on to the mistake. Acknowledge it was a mistake so you can move on.

It takes time to learning to let the things go. Your time and space is expensive and incredibly valuable so you don’t want to clutter it up with stuff you are not wearing.

Further Reading

5 Things to Consider When You’re Doing a Wardrobe Clear-out

3 Reasons Your Wardrobe is a Kitchen

What Are You Holding Onto in Your Wardrobe and Why?


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