What Is the opposite of Hoarding?

Debra Barnhart

The opposite of hoarding might be obsessive-compulsive spartanism. This term seems to have developed on the Internet to describe people who habitually throw possessions out or give them away. Evidence about obsessive decluttering is largely anecdotal. As the name implies, this decluttering behavior may be obsessive-compulsive, but as of 2011 the American Psychiatric Association has not declared it a psychiatric disorder. Hoarding, however, may soon be acknowledged as a psychiatric disorder and is categorized as an obsessive-compulsive disorder in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V.

Hoarding may soon be labeled a psychiatric disorder.
Hoarding may soon be labeled a psychiatric disorder.

Many people enjoy sifting through old items in the attic, garage or basement and having a yard sale to earn a little extra cash. Discarding old possessions can often create a sense of satisfaction. People who habitually throw things out bring a new definition to the term neat freak. Obsessive-compulsive spartanism describes a syndrome in which people feel compelled to rid themselves of belongings.

Obsessive-compulsive spartanism is characterized is a syndrome in which people feel the need to rid themselves of their belongings.
Obsessive-compulsive spartanism is characterized is a syndrome in which people feel the need to rid themselves of their belongings.

Reports on the Internet indicate that people will compulsively discard items like clothes, books and even expensive electronics and furniture in an effort to free themselves from what they consider to be clutter. It seems that people who compulsively throw objects out are overwhelmed by possessions. Fewer belongings makes them feel more in control of their life and surroundings.

Some patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Some patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Few studies have been conducted on obsessive-compulsive spartanism, and much of the evidence about this behavior seems to be anecdotal. One mother reported that her daughter constantly discarded clothes and shoes and kept asking for new ones. Another individual compulsively gave away the expensive gifts from his children. Some people will habitually purchase items in order to throw them out. Others live with little or no furniture, as one woman who threw out all the chairs in her house.

Compulsive declutterers enjoy throwing things away.
Compulsive declutterers enjoy throwing things away.

Occasionally, people who habitually discard possessions suffer from a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or dementia. As the name obsessive-compulsive spartanism implies, however, most people who habitually throw away possessions seem to have an obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, compulsion is any behavior like hand washing, saying words, or counting that a person feels compelled to perform over and over again. These actions are repetitively performed by people in an effort to control their obsessive, painful thoughts.

Some people who exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) clean the same area repeatedly.
Some people who exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) clean the same area repeatedly.

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Discussion Comments


My husband keeps throwing my things away and doesn't understand that he oversteps boundaries. Either he is not aware of what he really does by throwing my stuff out, or he is trying to hurt me intentionally to make me upset. The thought of that makes me really sad, because I love him and he doesn't seem to get that he is out of line. He used to be totally different when he was younger, but it seems with age it gets worse.


I often tell my friends that I'm the opposite of a hoarder. If I don't need something, such as an old light fixture or lamp, I'll give it to someone. I hate to have things around that I don't need. I'll toss unused painting supplies like plastic just because I don't want to look at it. Probably not the best financial decision since I'll eventually have to re-buy those items.


I wouldn't say I have full-on obsessive-compulsive spartanism, but I do give a lot of things away. I moved into an apartment in the past year from my parents' house and I gave a lot of stuff to the Salvation Army (even clothes I had not even worn once). I have noticed that I usually do this when I have bad bouts of depression; when I'm having better days, it's not as frequent. Some of the things I throw in the garbage actually are garbage (such as an empty cat litter bucket that my dad thought I could "use" when I moved. For what?)

The more organized and decluttered my apartment is, the more I feel relaxed and at ease. I have been this way since I was a child and I sometimes wonder what caused me to be this way.


Just another way of saying these people are minimalists. More and more people are choosing to live this way. I prefer this to hoarding.


My ex threw out stuff for years without asking me. I would get so upset. It's my stuff! I just thought he was so rude. I never thought of it as a compulsive problem.


What if you have a total disregard for things that they just mount up as you buy more and more stuff, but you don't care that you cannot find an item of clothing, for instance, because it is either buried under stuff, you've given it away, or someone has borrowed it and not returned it. Consequently, you are just swimming in a sea of stuff that you don't actually care about, whether it's there or not, whether it goes missing or not, because you can just buy another one.


I think my mum has obsessive spartanism. It hampered my education. I was not allowed to keep reference materials from previous years' work because they took up too much space in my room, so I had to waste time looking up the info all over again. I was not allowed to keep reference books in my room because they took up too much space, but I was also not allowed to stay out too late at the library using their reference books. I was also not allowed to buy things that would help me with school because it would be wasting money (we were not poor).

I have very few things or photos of sentimental value and she pressured me to throw everything out. She is always on my case about whether I've thrown out enough things from my room recently.

I have come to understand that my life is meaningless so recently I threw out trophies that I won when I was a child because they took up space. She also made me throw out my favorite jacket because it was getting old and forces me to wear a stupid ill-fitting one.


Yes I sympathise 100 percent with you. I browse shops obsessively, then feel proud of myself when I don't buy anything. If I don't have a "declutter" every few weeks, I start to feel panicky, even if I haven't purchased anything new. I start to think about places in my home I haven't had a clear-out in for a while, and become preoccupied with that space until I know it's clear.


I have obsessive-compulsive spartanism. I have a small car and everything I own could fit into the trunk. When I try to shop, I am convinced that I have to buy the perfect item. I pick things up and put them down a lot because although I want things, I cannot conceive owning them. I shop for hours and buy nothing, or possibly one item such as a cheap shirt or a bottle of shampoo. Then when I get home, I have to use the item to replace another item which I will throw away.

This behavior started as a form of control and a safety net as a teenager. I replaced or rid myself of everything my parents bought me so that they did not own or control me, and I made sure that everything I owned could be taken in my arms in case I wanted to leave quickly. I felt relieved knowing that I was free to leave at any time and that my parents could not take anything important to me because I had already gotten rid of it.

I also became obsessed with having in my possession all of my identity papers and such, and I am uncomfortable using a lock box or storage areas because I cannot personally watch over these items. It is both obsessive in that I cannot sleep at night knowing that I own a recipe book, and it is compulsive in that I go through everything I own a minimum of every couple weeks and cannot go to bed before everything is how I need it to be. I feel this needs to be recognized as being a disorder and am frustrated that it is not considered to be so thus far.

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