It’s not easy to let things go but you can gain so much more when you do.
I donated my wedding dress earlier in the year. I’d been thinking about donating it for some time, but when it came to taking action it was harder than I expected.
My wedding dress was beautiful and held lovely memories but I felt it was wasted and unloved under our bed. I was never going to wear it again and it was bulky. It took up valuable space in our home.
I had decided it was time to let it go months before, but something held me back.
Lots of people feel this way about things they want to move on, so I know I’m not alone. If you experience this, I hope my story and tips will help you.
I last wore my wedding dress in 2008 on our wedding day. That was the first and last time, and it sat in a box under our bed ever since.
It was a beautiful wedding dress. I tried on about 40 before I found this one, and I fell in love with it. I remember buying it in London. And thanks to alterations made by the lovely seamstress, it was the first outfit that truly fitted me. It made me feel fabulous!
For years, I kept my dress because it was special and… that’s what you do isn’t it.
The week after our wedding I arranged for my dress to be dry cleaned and carefully packed up in a beautiful box tied with a bow. Now I could keep it forever!
It cost a lot of money, and it would be a waste to just discard it!
Would it be bad luck to get rid of it? What did it say about my marriage if I wanted to declutter the dress?
And surely, it’s an heirloom. What if I want it in future or my daughter wants to wear it for her wedding? Though, honestly, she’s a child! Who knows whether she’ll want to marry, let alone wear my old thing)?
What can come up when we think about donating precious things?
You may have experienced this. You know it makes sense to let things go. Perhaps you need the space; don’t want things to waste away in your home; or you want less to maintain; store and distract you. But you can’t bring yourself to do it!
It’s upsetting to think that you will no longer have it (although you’ve not used it or looked at it for so long). What if you do want it in future? What if someone else wants it? Sometimes you fear parting with it but can’t put your finger on why.
I had all these feelings!
I had decided it made sense to let my dress go but I was delaying taking action. So what was going on for me?
As a Professional Organiser, I’m familiar with the process, the struggles we experience when considering letting things go and understand the reasons for these. So…
What helped me take action and donate my wedding dress?
When I recognised that I was procrastinating, I knew it what I had to do:
1. List my objectives
I reflected on all the reasons why I wanted to release my dress.
- It was in good condition and deserved another bride! We don’t go to formal events so I couldn’t dye and wear it again. In any case it’s not really my style anymore
- I wanted it to be enjoyed. I’d only looked at it once in the last 15 years, it was wasted under the bed!
- I wanted less to maintain – it was gathering dust and in the way under the bed
- I wanted our home to feel clearer and lighter
- I wanted to have the opportunity to store items we do use so that our living space can feel calmer
2. Reframe – focus on the gains
I recognised that I was probably experiencing loss aversion; a cognitive bias where we feel the pain of losing more than the pleasure of what we gain.
I was fearful that letting it go would be painful.
So I focused on the gains – for me, the charity, the purchaser (and the dress!).
I would gain:
- a lighter bedroom
- more space to keep other things that matter (I still have my tiara, photos and lots more items gained more recently that I want to keep)
- I no longer have to feel guilty about not wearing or looking at the dress
- I don’t have to keep the dress to enjoy the memory.
After doing some research, I discovered a charity that has a specialist bridal store. So there was a good chance that my dress would be enjoyed by an excited new bride-to-be (rather than be cut up to make into other garments). My dress would also help raise much needed funds to help care for hospice patients.
The dress would have another fabulous outing, be loved again and fulfil it’s purpose for a 2nd time.
3. Explore the emotions
When I thought through my feelings, I realised that I was worried that I might miss my dress. I feared I might want to look at it again in future and I wouldn’t be able to do that.
Also, I worried about how much husband and daughter might feel. So I talked about my plan and they were both fine with my choice. They also loved the idea of supporting the charity.
On reflection, the dress also meant represented a childhood memory. I remember my Dad collecting up his pocket change and paying it into a savings account for me. When I left home he gave me the bank book, and I had put that money towards my dress; so it represented his love and care too.
After looking through photos (which made me feel happy and nostalgic) I decided to keep my tiara as a little memento the day. It’s much easier to store!
Finally, I gave myself some time to consider my decision. I took a moment to unpack the dress, hold it, and said goodbye. By this point, a lot of the sad emotions had drifted away, and I knew that donating it was the right thing to do.
Taking action was easier than I expected
Once I’d taken my wedding dress into the shop and walked away, I can honestly say I’ve had no regrets. A few days later I drove past the shop and saw it displayed in the shop window. It was great to see it having another day in the sun! I was glad I was able to release it so that it could be worn by another bride. And I appreciate having more space and less stuff that we never use in our home.
If you are thinking about letting go of a precious item but finding it difficult, here are my Top Tips.
My Top Tips for letting your things go:
Here are some tactics you can use when you are finding it hard to let go.
- Consider your objective – what do you want to achieve? List the reasons you want to let go, including what you will gain by doing so
- Reframe the decision in terms of what you gain – look for a cause that’s important to you and focus on what you are giving them
- Emotions – write down or discuss your feelings, work out what is really concerning you and explore this. Name your feelings and reduce their power. If you need it, allow yourself time to come to terms with your plan (a deadline is helpful)
- Consider how to keep the memory alive without keeping bulky items – take photos, make a scrap book, journal, or keep a small piece/item
If you struggle to let things go, it can help to talk it through. A friend or family member may be a good support or talk to a professional organiser for sensitive and impartial support.
And remember, I’m here for you…
I’m Laura, a sensitive and practical Professional Organiser based in Nottingham and supporting clients all over the Midlands. Find out more here