(A brief guide to Obsessive Compulsive Spartanism)

Today I’m gunna talk about a rarely discussed symptom of my OCD. I don’t really discuss this with my friends or family, so it’s kind of an exclusive scoop, but whatever. I mentioned some minor hoarding compulsions I briefly experienced as a child in a previous post, but today I’ll be discussing the opposite (sort of); spartanism.

Sounds pretty exciting, right? If you aren’t familiar with the term Obsessive Compulsive Spartanism, then I’m about to f**k you up with some knowledge. Whereas hoarding is the collecting of items and belongings, spartanism refers to the need to rid yourself of said items and belongings. It’s like ‘the anti-hoarding’, if you will. If you don’t suffer with this symptom, then I’ll bet I know what you’re thinking. “Surely it’s good to declutter, right? A spring clean doesn’t hurt anyone, right?” WRONG, MY DEAR MISGUIDED FRIENDS, for I am not referring to a simple spritz of a room, or a quick declutter of a wardrobe. I’m talking about an obsessive need to throw out my belongings, to rid myself of photos, and to immediately read and delete my emails.

An example; my room takes minimalism to an entirely new level. I know minimalism has taken off in the world of interior design of late, but to give you an idea of my room, the word most used by others to describe it is ‘clinical’ (mmm cosy). My walls are white, my bedsheets are white, my desk is white and a lot of my belongings are white. It’s a bitch to keep clean and dust-free (go figure…) but damn it gives me a satisfaction that I can’t seem to achieve with anything else. I don’t have art on my walls, despite the fact I paint, and I don’t have framed photographs in my room, despite the fact I take large quantities of them. My room looks like it belongs to either a tragic sociopath with no friends and no hobbies, or Ikea.

As well as my visible space being sparse, I need my cupboards, drawers and wardrobe to be sparse as well. Every so often, when my OCD is especially bad, I decide to give a truck-load of my belongings to charity. I mean multiple bin-bags of belongings. During the OCD takeover I have experienced in the last two weeks, there was one morning where I woke up and decided to rid myself of a gargantuan number of shoes, handbags, and clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not especially mad about it. It makes me genuinely happy, however I have come to realise that the rate I throw my belongings away is abnormal.

Rearranging my surroundings is another activity which I find myself giving into. I often feel that, as well as having too many things, they’re also in the wrong place. This feeling can strike at any time; when I’m in the pub, when I’m shopping etc etc. I then return home and swap a number of plant pots around until I feel that they are ‘right’. This is a very private compulsion of mine that I don’t think anybody has ever seen in action – at least not to its full extent. To put it bluntly, it feels like a very private ritual that I’m embarrassed by. As a species, we humans have an innate need to be accepted by other humans, whether we consciously acknowledge it or not… sort of like rats. We’re basically just very big, very bald rats. The desire to be ‘normal’ is felt by so many people, and many ‘abnormal’ behaviours and thoughts are therefore instinctively kept private.

I’m one of those people that loves to document everything in life. My relationships are photographed, pretty sunsets are photographed, any dog I ever see is photographed. I sometimes even take photographs of nothing in particular, but I just want to capture a particular moment, like a thought or a feeling. I’m scared I’ll forget all of the small, beautiful bits in life. BUT HERE’S THE PROBLEM. There is a constant war in my mind because I adore the moments that I capture, but I can’t stand the clutter the photographs cause on my phone, my laptop and my hard drive. I delete texts, voicemails and contacts that I don’t speak to anymore, just so that my phone feels empty.

There is one particular time during my life that spartanism has hurt me deeply. In the summer of 2016, I suffered a particularly destructive exacerbation of OCD and depression. The OCD was not yet diagnosed, and so I was blindly giving into compulsions left right and centre in the hope that I would feel okay again. I deleted half of the photos that I had ever taken. I deleted 3000 photographs from my facebook page and I deleted a large number of facebook statuses and wall posts. I deleted my voicemails and my call log. At the time, it made me feel incredibly free and clear-minded. Hindsight’s a motherkisser though. In the September of that year, my big sister Jess passed away. Although I had always been aware she would die before me, I hadn’t expected it to be so soon. The night she died, I took myself to bed and I switched on my phone so that I could look at photos, facebook conversations and anything else that helped me remember her. I realised with a sickening thud that I had deleted so many precious memories of my sister just a few months previously, and it broke my heart in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I hadn’t ever seen the point in regret until that moment, and I’ll forever regret the mass deletion of so many memories that I can’t bring back. I’m endlessly thankful that during this particular cull of my things, I hadn’t deleted my text messages. Saved text conversations between my sister and me have been such a huge comfort to me when I feel sad about all those photographs.

So why do people engage in spartanism? I’ve read up on Obsessive Compulsive Spartanism and from what I can gather, some people engage in this compulsion due to a feeling of guilt attached to keeping their belongings. In this one instance however, guilt is not my motive. In fact, the guilt of getting rid of my things causes a huge conflict in my mind when I do impulsively get rid of them. I get rid of things because I need to in order for my brain to function fully. If I am sat in a busy, cluttered ‘lived in’ room, my mind becomes busy and crowded. I can’t concentrate and I find myself feeling extremely anxious and restless. I can’t relax and recharge my batteries unless my surroundings are a certain way. Ridding myself of my belongings literally feels as though I’m cleansing my soul. It’s like wafting sage around my apartment to rid myself of negative energy and spirits, EXCEPT BETTER. It’s like plucking that really annoying hair on your eyebrow that’s been too short to grab with the tweezers, UNTIL NOW. You get the picture…

In terms of managing spartanism, I’m personally seeing it as a bit of a compromise. Unlike most of my compulsions, it genuinely makes me feel happy and free, and so stopping seems especially daunting. I have managed to dampen the need to delete so many photographs, which is positive, however the mental image of all of them sat on my hard drive nags me on a daily basis. I’m working on that. I doubt I’ll ever be the kind of person that can collect books and stick happy photographs on my wall, but to be honest, I don’t want to be that person. Life is all about compromise and finding a happy balance, and as long as I’m on my way to my own version of a happy balance, then I’m on the right track.

2 thoughts on “THIS… IS… SPARTAAA!

  1. Oh I totally get this, especially living with someone that is absolutely not sparse. But even when I lived alone. I attribute it to my OCD thinking that most things can only cause bad. They go bad, they become reminders of bad, hard to describe. I went through a major life change from having a lot of *stuff* to not having much at all. And from that (after getting on my feet) I became obsessed (surprise) with not having a lot of stuff. What is the minimum I can have and get by? I could go on, but you’ve really encapsulated things well.


    1. Thanks very much! It’s an element of OCD that I haven’t really heard about in casual conversation. I find the different reasonings behind it very interesting. I’ve also lived with someone who wasn’t sparse and it was a challenge haha.


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