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What do you do with an old prom dress?

by Katie on October 10, 2016

A few weeks ago I was at my parent’s house helping them prep for an upcoming garage sale. I was going through stuff in my old bedroom, looking for items that could be given away.

Since I’ve moved around a lot post high school, and since Jeff and I currently don’t have a ton of storage space in our current home, I’ve managed to keep a lot of things stored in my parent’s house over the years. Thankfully they’ve obliged letting their house be used as a mini storage unit for my stuff.

While going through my closet I came upon my old prom dress from my senior year in high school. I hadn’t thought about that dress in years. I didn’t even remember that I still had it.

Yet all of sudden I couldn’t part with it.

I started to put the dress in the donate/garage sale pile (I mean, what am I going to do with a prom dress from the late 90s?). But then hesitated. I just couldn’t do it. I suddenly became attached to this thing that prior to that moment I hadn’t thought about or even knew still existed.

In recent years I’ve gotten better at reducing clutter, giving or throwing away things I no longer need, and living with less stuff. I am in no way a minimalist, but I’m working on it. I’d like to think in my ideal world I could be one of those people who sell all of their belongings and move into a tiny house the size of a large bathroom.

But I have a looong way to go.

Last year I read Marie Kondo’s bestselling call to arms The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The book really inspired me to go through my things and give away anything that didn’t bring me joy. As Kondo advises in her book, instead of holding onto an item I no longer use, I “thank the item for its service” and wish it well as it goes on to a better and more appreciated life.

But I still haven’t finished the book yet because I literally stopped reading it once I got to the chapter on sentimental items. Once there was talk about throwing away old photographs, I had to put the book down.

The majority of my things stored at my parent’s house are sentimental items. Boxes and boxes of old photos, even more boxes of letters and cards I’ve received over the years. Old cassette tapes, yearbooks, trinkets. My old key chain collection…

I once had a near panic attack while going through a plastic bin of old t-shirts. I went into the task thinking it would be no big deal to throw away my stash of random old camp t-shirts. But when I started actually going through the box I just couldn’t do it. My Mom, noticing my anxiety level rising, took pity on me and told me to stop and put the bin back where it came from—in my old bedroom closet, where it still sits today.

I wish I had the magic solution. I fully believe and can attest from experience that a clutter free open space can be life changing and reduces stress and anxiety. But I also value nostalgia and history.

Both of my Grandmothers passed away before I was born, and I cherish old photos of them, letters, handwriting, anything that gives me a glimpse into their lives, loves, and spirit. So maybe my attachment to sentimental items has something to do with holding onto the past, or keeping memories alive for the future.

Perhaps it’s a process. Holding onto the sentimental things that really matter and that truly bring joy, while letting the other things go (like those old camp t-shirts…).

Either way, feeling guilty about having a lot of stuff isn’t productive or helpful.

My goal is progress. It doesn’t need to be perfection.

So back to the prom dress. Maybe one day I’ll figure out what to do with it.

For now, it’s safe and sound hanging in my old bedroom closet.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie Simon October 11, 2016 at 6:33 am

Katie i love your writing! In April we accept donated prom dresses for our hospital prom- where kids get to have a prom experience when they miss their own due to sickness or constraints. If you would like to donate to us, we would be happy to take your dress. And let someone else who really needs it feel beautiful in it for a day.


Katie October 11, 2016 at 9:08 am

Thanks Katie! That’s a great idea! I had thought about donating the dress, and this is such a wonderful and important cause!


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