Throughout this year, I’ve been forcing myself to live with less — less mani-pedis, less happy hours, and most of all less clothing! Back in the early spring, I donated about a third of my wardrobe to my best friend’s mother, who was sending a few barrels of clothes, food, and other goods to her native Jamaica. I was proud of myself for giving away items that I’d held on to for years hoping they’d make a comeback. And I’m always looking through my closet for more clothes that I don’t wear or need, but some pieces hold too much sentimental value for me to give up … even though I don’t even like them. Keeping clothes I don’t like simply because some momentous event happened while I was wearing them doesn’t make sense to me, so I’m going to try to figure this out, and hopefully get to the point where I can donate these unnecessary closet fillers.

The piece that is giving me the most trouble is the dress I wore for my grad school graduation. It’s a black retro-style sheath dress with a skinny black belt at the waist. I loved it! But after wearing it for a whole day, I realized that it was a little snug at the shoulders and waist, so I never wore it again. Why can’t I get rid of this thing? Well, because I plan to graduate from grad school only once, so I need a memento. What’s even sadder is that I’ve yet to pick up my diploma four years later … but I’m holding on to a damn dress!

Another dress gives me donation stress too. It’s the dress I had on when my ex and I first had sex (sorry to be so clinical, I can’t romanticize this relationship any more). He was DJing a party and invited me to come along. We had only been dating for a few months and I made an effort to look sexy that night in a purple mini-dress. So after everything went down, I was blissed out. That dress brings back those memories to this day. But the memories of today do more damage than good. They cause me to question what I did wrong or if I did enough, and they above all bring me back to a happier time between the two of us. I’m not pining for him now. In fact, I actually hate him, but I’m working on feeling indifferent. This dress is preventing my healing. Maybe I’m turning into a masochist? I hope not.

Clearly I have my priorities mixed up. One dress is more important than my grad school diploma and another has a greater significance than healing from a really toxic relationship.

My emotional attachment to these two dresses and other items might be a sign that a “pants girl” is longing for her dress days. But I really think my emotional attachment to clothes began when I was a child. I was slightly scarred when, during a family trip to my father’s native Barbuda, he gave away many of my clothes without my knowledge. I didn’t grow up with a ton of money, but my parents always made sure I had nice things, even though I wasn’t spoiled with new clothes often. My mom usually outfitted me with clothes on a seasonal basis and replenished my wardrobe periodically when I outgrew basics. So getting a whole new wardrobe for a three week stay in the Caribbean was a treat for me … until I learned many of my favorite new clothes didn’t make the trip back.

I began holding on to clothes regardless of their condition. I remember a navy cable-knit sweater my mom bought for me to wear with my school uniform. I was in the sixth grade, but up until I was a senior in high school, I routinely asked my mother to repair holes in the sweater. Same thing goes for a pair of gym sweats I got in third grade that still miraculously fit. They’re stretched out in the legs, the drawstring no longer works, the lettering is faded and so is the color. Oh, and they’re also covered in peach paint — the color I painted my bedroom more than a decade ago.

I’m sounding really pitiful right now, so I’ve decided 2013 will be the year I no longer feel attachment to clothing. First, I’ll sell my graduation dress and pick up my diploma. And my second step will be donating the ex-boyfriend-sex dress. Hey, some other girl has to get lucky too!

Do you have an emotional attachment to clothes or other mementos? Share your story in the comments.


This post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

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  • nina blair

    wow…i have been thinking about getting rid of ‘memory clothes’ as well. these clothes either don’t fit/i dont like them but year after year…i continue to hold onto them…thanks for writing this, i know that i am not alone. :)

  • Nakia

    I think this is an emotional attachment to things, in general. We, especially women, tend to tie experiences in with objects and like to have keep sakes, hoping not to lose those memories (and feelings). I still have a pair of turquoise jeans from the 90s that not only will never come back, but I’ll never fit again! Lack of closet space has forced me to get rid of a bunch of things recently but I too had those items with which i just could not part.

  • Rochelle

    I get what you are saying, but what you are doing is dangerous. YOU SHOULD NEVER AS A HUMAN BEING BE ATTACHED TO THINGS. They are just things. Most likely they can and will go out of your life. I know. I lost my house and most of my clothing in a fire, but I learned you should never attach feelings to things. It is just an item. Nothing more or less. Plus, it makes you look very shallow and insecure. Think about all the people that lost their homes and belonging in Hurricane Sandy, you think they would like this BS article.

  • Jenny

    I have a top I wore to the Essence Music Festival that is basically a scarf with a brass ring. I will never wear this top again. It is way too revealing for my age. But every time I do a seasonal wardrobe purge, I decide to keep it. It reminds of me of a good time in my life.
    Yes Rochelle – we all know that things can be taken from us. But some clothes are like photographs. If they were taken, I would miss them because they chronicle my life in the same way. People who lost their belongings in Hurricane Sandy understand even more than most because they have had to rebuild with new memories. It hurts to lose things that have been a part of your life. It does mean you are shallow. It means you are human.