Inside: Learn what compulsive decluttering is, the signs that it’s become a problem, and how to overcome it in your life.

Do you feel like you constantly need to declutter?

Are you always on the lookout for stuff to purge from your home?

No matter how much you’ve gotten rid of, does it feel like you can always find more stuff to donate or discard?

If so, you might be suffering from compulsive decluttering

Compulsive decluttering is the uncontrollable need to purge everything non-essential from your space. It’s above and beyond regular decluttering – and for some, it’s a very real problem.

But how do you know if you suffer from compulsive decluttering? And what can you do to control those urges to declutter?

Keep reading to learn more about what obsessive decluttering is – and what to do if you’re suffering from it. 

compulsive decluttering

What is Compulsive Decluttering?

Hoarding is a clear sign that someone has developed an unhealthy attachment to their things. However, compulsive decluttering can be a little more challenging to identify.

You’ve heard the saying – too much of a good thing.

It can apply to anything in life, from food to exercise to the hobbies we pursue and the habits we adopt. 

It can even apply to decluttering. 

You might have heard about the benefits that come from a clutter-free life. Decluttering can improve your physical health, boost your ability to focus, increase your creativity and problem-solving abilities, and help you relax when you’re at home. 

But while clearing the clutter out of your space and maintaining a clean and orderly home is beneficial in many ways, you can take it too far. When decluttering gets obsessive it becomes harmful to your mental health.

Those who suffer from compulsive decluttering can’t resist the urge to declutter. Decluttering becomes something that is constantly on your mind. You’re always looking for something to get rid of, searching through closets and drawers for things to discard, and seeking out the validation that comes with accomplishing the task. 

Compulsive decluttering is sometimes referred to as spartanism. Those who suffer from extreme cases have little beyond the essentials left in their home.

This should not be confused with an adventurous minimalist who has chosen to adopt a nomadic lifestyle. Rather, this would be someone who has an unhealthy obsession with getting rid of things.

compulsive decluttering

Normal Decluttering or Compulsive Decluttering: 4 Signs You Might Have a Problem

While there are some clear signs of compulsive decluttering, others might be a little more ambiguous and hard to pin down.

If you aren’t quite sure whether you’re suffering from compulsive decluttering or you just really like to declutter, ask yourself a few questions:

1. How much stuff have I gotten rid of? How much is left to purge?

Those who suffer from compulsive decluttering can get to the point where there’s truly nothing left to get rid of. They’ve emptied their home of anything and everything that isn’t absolutely essential.

It’s important to recognize that not everything is clutter, and that you can – and should – surround yourself with items that bring you joy, make life easier, and serve a functional purpose. 

2. How do I feel about receiving gifts?

This is a big one. Are you grateful and excited to receive presents from friends or family – or do you immediately experience feelings of stress and anxiety?

People who obsessively declutter struggle to bring any new items into their space, even ones given by loved ones with the best of intentions. 

It’s one thing to not enjoy the item that was selected for you, but it is another to feel a disproportional burden due to bringing anything into your home.

obsessive decluttering

3. Do you ever declutter things you actually need?

When you experience compulsive decluttering, you feel like you have to get rid of stuff – including things you legitimately need to keep around.

If you constantly find yourself rebuying items you’ve purged from your home – and struggle with the thought of actually keeping those items around – you may have a problem with decluttering.

The goal with decluttering is to reduce your things to those that you love and use. After decluttering, you’d move to maintenance mode to stop the cycle of clutter from returning to your home.

Continuously buying unneeded items to declutter them a short time later is not only an expensive habit, but can be a symptom of obsessive decluttering.

4. Do you feel like you can’t relax at home because you constantly need to declutter?

For those who struggle with obsessive decluttering, the thought of sitting still and simply relaxing at home, enjoying your physical surroundings, can seem like an impossible feat.

There’s always something that can be done to declutter, purge, and clean – at least, that’s how it can feel. Gratification and satisfaction only come from eliminating unneeded stuff from your home.

It’s one thing to want to do a thorough declutter of your home, but it is another when you’ve already done that and continually obsess over finding more things you can eliminate from your space.

recovering from compulsive decluttering

How to Stop Compulsive Decluttering and Take Back Control

When you suffer from compulsive decluttering, it can feel like you truly can’t fight the urge to purge, clean, and organize.

But there are steps you can take to get the situation under control, stop getting rid of everything you own, and reclaim your peace of mind. 

Here are some steps you can take to make it happen:

Recognize the signs.

The first step you can take to stop obsessive decluttering is to recognize the signs that you have a problem. That usually isn’t always the easiest news to stomach.

It’s common to try and justify obsessive decluttering habits or minimize the impact they’re having on your life.

Take a good, hard look at how your obsession with getting rid of clutter is impacting your overall well-being. If you’re honest with yourself, is it negatively impacting your thoughts and daily life? Once you can identify the problem you can begin to take action to address it.

There are more signs listed in this writer’s story of overcoming obsessive-compulsive spartanism. It was also interesting to read how she knew she’d gotten over it.

gratitude journal

Practice mindfulness and gratitude.

Everyone can benefit from mindfulness and incorporating gratitude practices into their routine. But this is especially helpful for those who compulsively declutter.

Meditation and other grounding mindfulness practices can help calm your nerves and control your emotions when you feel you can’t resist the thought of decluttering your space.

It can make you more conscious of your thoughts and actions, the things that trigger your compulsion, as well as give you more control over the situation as a whole.

Additionally, practicing gratitude can help you recognize that not all physical items are clutter. By appreciating the items in your home and thinking about the value they bring, you may be less inclined to compulsively get rid of them.

Refocus your energy on another activity. 

For some, obsessive decluttering is caused by needing a place to channel pent-up energy. With no other healthy outlet to turn to, the gratification that comes with decluttering can easily become problematic. 

Consider spending time on a hobby – an old one that you’ve fallen out of practice with, or a new one.

Whether you choose to play an instrument, write or draw, start to run, learn a new language, or something else, giving yourself a safe and productive place to channel that energy can minimize the urge to constantly declutter. 

therapy session

Consider speaking to a professional. 

Compulsive decluttering can be a manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder – which can have far-reaching implications on your physical and mental health.

Connect with a therapist to explore your feelings, understand the root cause of your compulsive decluttering, and get equipped with tools to address it.

If you’re struggling with any form of OCD there are treatments available. There is no shame in seeking help to get healthy.

What do you think the biggest signs of compulsive decluttering are – and how can you stop it? Leave a comment and let me know!

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  1. Some that come to mind…..feeling overwhelmed about something one is unable to control! Feeling confused when having to make choices…elimination of things reduces this anxiety. One feels safe and in control again. When one’s personal circumstances are felt as burdensome with no relief possible….purging something allows mental freedom!

  2. I am unable to truly relax in my house. I’m always scanning the room looking to declutter something…always in that critical mode. I also get incredibly stressed about my pantry. I never want to waste food while the rest of my family doesn’t seem to care. My husband often overbuys or buys stuff he doesn’t realize that we already had and then I feel compelled to reconfigure my whole pantry.

    1. Same here, I would always prefer to throw things and keep writing about how many things I have and can I remove some more. Due to which I am not able to concentrate on my work. But one thing I started doing is to reduce things I have to use on daily bases.

      Example: As a girl we need lot of things so I bought a big pouch in which I kept all my stuff. This ahd helped me in lot of way.

  3. My problem is that my family members are all hoarders. I get stress and anxiety and I cannot relax on my free days because I look at all the junk that stands around and I can’t clean it because it’s not mine. My husband isn’t bothered by it and I have had multiple depression spell about it and have had serious break downs because I can’t go into certain rooms of our house.
    I have always compulsive thrown things away, in school I would throw away important papers I needed for my. Chemistry exams because our teacher gave it to us in January and the exams were in November. I’ve also thrown away all my winter clothes because it was summer and I had no use for them. Over the years I’ve learned to organise my things and tell myself I need them so I can’t throw it away
    But my family is just happy leaving things lying around and gathering more things that take up space. I am at my wits end.

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