Decluttering is generally considered a 'good' thing these days. There are books, DVDs, television programs and articles on why you should declutter your home, car and office. Amazing claims are made about how it will improve your life and I have certainly found myself to be calmer in a room that isn't crammed full of unnecessary 'stuff'. However, is it possible to become obsessed with decluttering to the point where this becomes a problem?
Hoarding is recognised as a disorder and was officially classified as such in 2013. The problems associated with being a hoarder have been brought to the attention of the general public through various television programs. There is the occasional news item showing the home of a family living surrounded by the results of extreme hoarding. People are aware of the existence of hoarders but may not know some people take decluttering to the extreme.
Obsessive compulsive spartanism, clutter phobia and compulsive decluttering are terms that have been used in connection with taking decluttering to the limit. None of these are 'official' terms and it is not recognised as a disorder, at this time.
People with obsessive compulsive spartanism may feel they are being 'suffocated' by their possessions in spite of living with very few belongings. They may have frequent extreme decluttering sessions and even get rid of items they recognise they need. Parting with things may make them feel better for a short time but then the discomfort returns.
They may exhibit some of the following symptoms:
a constant need to 'purge' items
counting things or questioning if they have the right number of a certain object
constantly organising items into categories
feeling they can't have a specific item if it doesn't fit into a category
putting things in order and then doing it again and again
never feeling relaxed even when their possessions are tidy
a need to have a specific number of things
a need for each item to have a very specific position in their house
a need to constantly delete text messages, emails, browsing history and get rid of any photos, both digital and hard copy
Some people will get rid of just about everything they own and then buy much of it again, before getting rid of it once more. This can be expensive.
These behaviours may have begun in childhood or developed at a later stage in life. For some people, extreme decluttering makes them feel they have more control. Sometimes the person can identify a traumatic event which triggered the behaviour.
Because 'decluttering' is such a buzz word and seen as a positive thing to do, people who feel they have a problem with obsessive decluttering may hesitate to seek help.
Firstly, they may be unsure they do have a problem. There is little research on the topic which may mean there are few experts on the topic. It may be brushed aside as simply extreme minimalism and not viewed as a problem by others. Whereas the home of a hoarder is likely to be a health hazard, the home of the Obsessive Compulsive Spartan will be tidy and clean, so what's the problem?
With time it is likely more studies will be done on the topic and with more knowledge will come greater recognition that it is possible to declutter too much. Treatment will become available to alleviate the discomfort those who suffer from this condition suffer.