There have been times when I wanted to get rid of everything, when I thought of grabbing a set of garbage bags, throwing everything I owned into the car, and driving it far from home. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, or gambling, but when I’m stressed and overwhelmed by life, I turn to organizing and decluttering.
Have you ever felt the undeniable desire to purge your possessions? What makes someone want to get rid of all of their stuff?
On multiple occasions, I’ve felt the indisputable, deep-seated urge to get rid of almost everything I own. Here are the reasons:
1. To Feel Unburdened
When I was in college, I could pack the entire contents of my life into a 1989 Toyota Camry station wagon. In the fall, I emptied the contents of my childhood bedroom into my car and drove them to college. When spring rolled around, I repacked the contents of my dorm room and returned home.
Moving every few months taught me to clear out the excess. If I didn’t wear my clothes, I got rid of them. If an object didn’t serve a purpose, there was no reason to keep it around.
Living in a constant state of packing and unpacking forced me to assess my possessions. My old station wagon could only fit so much, and I didn’t want to drag stuff around that I didn’t use.
I’ve never felt so free in my life. Like it or not, our clutter feels heavy and weighs us down. If you wish to get rid of everything you own, you might feel the burden of owning too much.
2. To Start Over
Sometimes I want to get rid of everything so that I can start over. After high school, I wanted a new wardrobe, a new place to live, and a new identity. A similar transition occurred after college.
I could establish a new sense of self when I got rid of my former possessions. I craved a blank slate and shed the clothes in my closet to begin again.
Our possessions often represent the version of ourselves we present to the world. As a junior in college, I wore short skirts and thigh-high boots. As a software engineer, I wore t-shirts and jeans. After two years of wearing yoga pants during COVID, I switched to lacey shirts and twirly skirts in 2022.
When I feel the urge to start over, I almost always begin with a closet purge.
3. To Search for Change
The desire to purge often begins after an unfortunate life event like a breakup, job loss, or death in the family when we feel the deep need for a fresh start.
Have you ever known someone who got rid of all their belongings and moved to a different state or country?
Sometimes, the need to get rid of everything coincides with the desire for change. We imagine a brighter future when we get rid of our past.
4. To Be In Control
Sometimes helplessness makes me want to purge, like last year, when my dad was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer.
I drove my dad to doctor’s appointments and felt his palpable anxiety. What would the experts say? What would his latest scans show? How would we share the news with my mom and brother?
Every day was a reminder that life is fragile. I couldn’t cure my father, but I could help him clear out his home. I knew he had too much stuff and not enough space to welcome visitors, nurses, and aides.
My mom wasn’t ready for change, but I felt the urge to help my parents. We needed to remove the unnecessary stuff to make room for what mattered.
I felt the pressing need to clean out the clutter before my dad died. Purging helped me keep my hands busy. I couldn’t save him, but I could make space for those he loved.
5. To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
Sometimes I want to get rid of everything because I feel overwhelmed by it. Our stuff takes time, energy, and money, and we spend inordinate amounts of time obtaining, fixing, moving, cleaning, and maintaining our possessions.
When my children were little, they had shelves full of toys, and I spent way too many hours a day picking up their trinkets, not to mention sorting and organizing them.
Sometimes I felt utterly overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in our house and wanted to get rid of everything, so I could enjoy the time with my kids without the extra work involved in managing it.
6. To Seek Tranquility
At times I want to get rid of everything to feel less stressed. I need the peace of an empty space where I can clear my mind. A place where I will not feel distracted by the objects that require my time and attention.
When you feel the urge to purge, ask yourself if you need a tranquil place to rest or focus.
7. To Seek New Adventures
Sometimes we have to get rid of our stuff because we can’t take it with us. If you feel the need for excitement and adventure, then you might choose to purge your possessions.
There is no need to keep your stuff if you aren’t home to enjoy them. Getting rid of your property may be a call to seek new experiences.
8. To Renew Your Relationships
Inviting people over is tough when you own a lot of stuff. You can’t lay out food because your counters are full of clutter. You can’t bring people into your living room because it’s crowded with stuffed animals and legos.
Do you desire deeper relationships with friends and family members? Would you like to host parties but don’t want to spend hours cleaning before an event?
Sometimes clearing out our stuff signifies a desire to renew our relationships. We want to ditch the objects that don’t matter in favor of the relationships that do.
9. Because You Don’t Need Stuff to Feel Happy
Sometimes we want to get rid of stuff because we realize it doesn’t matter. We can be rich with very little. We spend a lot of time working to buy things, but in the end, those possessions have very little impact on our world or happiness.
When I was young, I wanted to own everything I could. Then one day, I realized quality mattered much more than quantity. I couldn’t find happiness at the store. Instead, if I wanted to see it, I had to search inside myself.
If you want to get rid of everything, you probably realize that more stuff does not equal more happiness.
Clutter Distracts Us
Getting rid of clutter frees us to spend time and energy on pursuits that matter. If you want to get rid of everything, ask yourself what’s missing from your life or what’s gone wrong. Are you feeling helpless, overwhelmed or stressed? Or have you reached a state of happiness where you don’t need much to feel joy?