How I Struggled Through and Finally Parted with My Post-Wedding Clutter

published Aug 17, 2023
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photo of woman with donation box, eucalyptus branches, small antique vases with white flowers, wedding table scene
Credit: Getty Images, Shutterstock

During wedding planning, the decor was one of my favorite things to think about. I wanted a moody, romantic vibe for our October date — dark florals, eucalyptus strands, elegant glassware, and gold details made up my vision. But I knew this could snowball quickly in terms of cost — my future husband and I had some generous help from family, but we would foot much of the day’s bill ourselves and be in no position to go overboard. I trusted my eye enough to at least pull off our decorations on a budget. Thus began my thrifting journey.

I have never been much of a thrifter, but I made a point to give myself enough time to sift through secondhand stores and collect the perfect items little by little. We hit up just about every thrift store in Columbus, Ohio, took advantage of craft store sales for faux florals, and borrowed odds and ends from kind friends and family. In the end, we managed to avoid buying most (if any) decorations at full price, and I was so pleased with how everything turned out on our wedding day.

But in a twist I didn’t expect, the hard part came after the wedding. I returned what decor I had borrowed to my loved ones and stashed the rest in my office/guest room combo, culminating in a massive pile of cardboard boxes stacked on top of my guest bed and crowding the floor below. I was so proud of how thrifty I’d been that I convinced myself that the streak would continue — I planned to sift through all of it, repurpose what I could around our home, and resell what was left to make back my money. 

Some things worked in our apartment — picture frames, for example, were easy to find spots for on our shelves and walls. But other items were harder. The vintage bottles and strands of greenery that looked awesome in the dim light of a chic event venue looked awkward and out of place as tabletop decor in the light of day. Eventually, I shifted my focus more determinedly to reselling.

I spent hours tediously taking photos of vases, bottles, and tiny tchotchkes to list on Facebook Marketplace. I posted on Instagram and Facebook asking if any soon-to-be brides or grooms wanted to take any of it off my hands. I told my friends and family to tell their friends and family. I successfully got rid of a small box or two this way, but otherwise was met with radio silence. Whatever the reason people didn’t want to snap things up, it weighed on me.

Throughout this failure, I felt so guilty. We’d spent about $300 total on these items — a drop in the bucket compared to what many people spend on wedding decor, and a small portion of our budget. But it was certainly the most money we’d ever spent on anything, and that was scary. Perhaps to mitigate that fear, I’d still clung in the back of my mind to the precious few opportunities to feel like I was doing the “responsible” thing by making some of my money back. 

Once that proved less realistic than I expected, the boxes of unsold items became a permanent damper on my mood, the endless clutter they created around my work-from-home space creating claustrophobia that judged me throughout every workday. My productivity tanked, I was embarrassed to have guests over, and given our small apartment, there was simply nowhere else for it to go.

Eventually, after months of watching me beat myself up over these boxes that couldn’t be sold, my husband came to me with a nugget of wisdom. What if it was OK that we’d spent that money to decorate for a single wonderful day? And what if my comfort in my own home was worth the $300 I had thought I’d make back? When he phrased it this way, something clicked in my brain. What if I stopped thinking of these unsold items as a moral failure, and instead just realized that getting rid of them — even if I didn’t make any money doing so — was doing a kindness to myself? 

A couple of weeks later, the boxes had been donated to a thrift store that supports scholarships at the college where my husband works. My floors were clear, and I could see the quilt on my guest bed. I could work at my desk feeling peaceful and cozy in a clean, organized room — without a tower of cardboard looming behind me on every Zoom call. I was able to make peace with the fact that I won’t always be able to recoup my cost for every expensive purchase when it’s time to part ways with it, and that’s OK. Some things are worth every penny for the temporary joy they bring you, and sometimes the peace you find letting them go is priceless.