Letting Go of Items (When You Really Don’t Want To)

Sometimes you just need to let things go. Even if they've meant a lot to you.

This is an article about making your life miserable. Just kidding. Letting go of items is something I genuinely enjoy doing now. Strangely, it was extremely difficult to do at first. Now, however, purging has become a fun process for me because I know I’ll be happier in the end.

The Minimalist Wardrobe is about finding happiness in having less. Instead of worrying and fretting and asking yourself, “how can I let this go?” Ask yourself this instead: “How will I be happier by getting rid of this?”

Going Through an Entire House Worth of Stuff

When my grandma died, we helped my grandpa go through the entire house. After being married for so many years, the house was a bit lonely and held memories of someone who was no longer there.

In addition, there was a lot of stuff that had accumulated over the years. I’m talking my grandpa’s Japanese plates he brought back for grandma from his days in the navy.

Filed tax information from 30+ years ago. Photos with people my grandpa couldn’t remember anymore.

Lots and lots of stuff.

Materials are not inherently bad. For example, a hairbrush is a necessary item. That’s fine. But when you have years and years worth of things that no longer have value to you, what’s the point in having it? I think we can apply this same logic to clothing.

Why Do We Hold Onto Things?

We keep clothing because it has sentimental value, cost us a lot of money, used to be your favorite shirt, your when-I-lose-a-few-more-pounds jeans, etc., or all the above.

Whatever the reason is, it’s easy to justify an item in your closet, despite never wearing it. I’m sure you already have a couple items in mind now.

In my experience, holding onto items when you simply never wear it anymore is not worth it. I still have my wedding dress, for instance, but it’s because I simply haven’t decided what to do with it yet. (For reference, I got married over three years ago, so I should really get on that …)

In addition, I have a dress I wore in France that I simply can’t part with it. I even told my mom, “I think I may love this dress more than my wedding dress.

The Example of My Paris Dress

I apologize for the grainy photo. This was my Paris dress I wore to one of the Eiffel Tower restaurants. I took this photo at our little Airbnb after we returned.

This dress holds many things for me: memories, accomplishments, beauty, creativity, class. When an item in our closet holds so much for us, should we keep it?

Personally, I’m a bit of neat freak — just ask my husband — so minimizing feels natural to me.

My wedding dress and Paris dress are the only truly sentimental items that I can’t get rid of in my closet (so I’m not perfect!).

For the most part, I’m fine getting rid of items. After all, they’re just clothes, right?

We attach feelings to an inanimate object. We attach memories to an inanimate object. We attach hopes to an inanimate object. When you think about it, holding onto an item usually has deeper reasons behind it.

Holding onto an item you love so intensely isn’t awful. If you love an item, you love an item!

Here are some ways to deal with items you love, but simply don’t work in your life anymore.

1. Tailor It

If you love an item, but it doesn’t quite fit you, I would consider tailoring it. Rewearing an item rather than selling or giving it away will allow you to continue wearing the item.

For example, I used to be a size 6 when I was in the best shape of my life. I was playing soccer 5 times a week, sprinting and lifting weights for two hours a day. I will never have that amount of time to dedicate being in shape (unless I choose a new career path ASAP). I’ve accepted I won’t be a size 6 again, which is fine.

I have given things away, even when I loved an item. Now, I don’t even remember those items I was so attached to, plus it gives me a chance to buy something new that’s ethically made or previously loved by another.

I think tailoring is a great way to keep an item you know you’ll continue wearing over and over. I always say it’s a good idea to find a great tailor and get creative with them! My tailor has saved me multiple times. 🙂

2. Repurpose It

Let’s take my Paris dress, for instance. I’ve debated whether I should keep it as a dress or repurpose it into pillows for our bed. The design is absolutely gorgeous, which is why I never want to part with it.

Instead, I’d like to keep it, but in another form. I think this is an excellent idea if you’re seriously, unabashedly attached to something.

Maybe you found out you were pregnant wearing a certain shirt after trying for several years. Maybe it’s just an old t-shirt that you don’t care to keep. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing!

I don’t have kids, but I think it would be amazing to have a baby quilt made with this shirt incorporated. If you truly can’t part with something, consider making it into something else.

3. Sell or Donate Items

(See 5 Ways to Clean Out Your Closet Responsibly)

There are some items you simply don’t need to keep. That’s totally okay. Just because you’re getting rid of an item doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of memories.

In Amsterdam, I wore a black jacket almost every day I was there since it was chilly. I loved the jacket, but it simply doesn’t fit me anymore. I got rid of it as a result.

Did I throw away my treasured memories from that trip? Of course not. (I’m a huge advocate of photos as they only take space up on your computer, not your room.)

If you don’t have an awful memory like me, maybe you don’t need a shirt or dress or a pair of jeans or even photos to recall something in your life. Maybe the memory is enough.


I think the most important takeaway is to ask yourself this: Why do I want to keep this?

Find the root of why this item is important to you, then proceed with one of the three steps.

I don’t think loving an item is inherently bad; it means you truly love having an item in your closet. This is a good thing, especially if you are striving for a minimalist closet.

When an item isn’t being worn or simply doesn’t fit you or your style anymore, ask yourself why it’s still in your closet. Is it worthy of taking up precious space in your closet? Does looking at the item in your closet just make you feel guilty? What can you do next?

Hopefully this inspires you to remove items in your closet that hold meaning for you. At the end of the day, your grandchild probably won’t find it as meaningful as you did. Sometimes it takes looking at it from another perspective to consider if it’s worth holding onto.

Do you have any tips for getting rid of items you really love? I’m all ears!

Subscribe to our Weekly Digest

It's a collection of everything interesting that happened that week, so that you can get back to it when you have the time.

Discover Ethical Fashion

  • ABLE Perez 70mm Booties
    SIZES: 6-10
    SHIPS TO: Worldwide
  • Pact Leggings
    + MORE
  • Everlane Japanese Oxford Shirt
    SIZES: 00-14
    SHIPS TO: International
  • Everlane Easy Chino
    SIZES: 00-16
    SHIPS TO: International
  • Kotn Mock Neck Tank
    SHIPS FROM: Canada
    SHIPS TO: Worldwide

See our complete curated collection of minimalist wardrobe essentials here.

More to Read


Finding More in Less

Starting over and starting fresh is giving me the opportunity to really look at all the things around me.


One Dress, Many Parties

How to style a Little Black Dress, or indeed any dress, for all occasions.