Strange item woman hoarded after break-up

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Is it ever OK to hold on to your ex’s things after a break-up? Is it weird to horde strange items they’ve left behind or hide photos of them in boxes?

It turns out Aussies are extreme hoarders when it comes to relationship breakdowns.

Melbourne woman, Emily Lawrence, 30, who broke up with her partner just after the last Covid lockdowns has held onto his Chromecast, back roller, and up until very recently, 20 cereal bars.

“I’ve been holding on to the cereal bars for three years, just in case he might stop by, or if someone fancied one! I thought that it’d be a waste to throw them out,” she says.

Research conducted by toilet paper brand Who Gives A Crap has uncovered the heartbreak habits of Australians, revealing that more than 70 per cent of Aussies refuse to throw out their ex’s things post-break-up.

Clinical psychologist and author of Difficult People, Dr Rebecca Ray says there are a few reasons why someone might hold onto their ex-partner’s possessions, ranging from it simply being too difficult to give them back due to a non-amicable split, to the hope of reconciliation, or due to feelings of anger.

“If you’re hoping for reconciliation, the items represent a reason for you or your ex to restore contact and if you’re angry and/or hurt by the breakdown of the relationship you may feel driven to hold onto the possessions out of spite,” she says.

Another reason could be sentimentality, says dating and relationship coach, Susie Kim.

“People hold onto their ex’s possessions for various reasons. It’s often because of the sentimental value attached to the items. The items can act as reminders of past happy memories or nostalgic feelings.

“The research commissioned by Who Gives A Crap showed that one-third of Australians treasure past photos the most, opting to keep them over gifts. People can often feel a sense of comfort or security in holding onto mementos, especially if the relationship was significant,” she says.

While research reveals that three-quarters of Aussies agree it’s important to offload any physical reminders of their ex, more than 20 per cent have kept items post-break-up for over two years, and like Lawrence, they don’t view this habit as an issue.

“For me, it came more from a waste point of view. These are perfectly great items that I will still use, why throw them out just because they were once owned by an ex? Plus, my friends love the Chromecast, purely for the Vanderpump Rules nights I host every Wednesday – I couldn’t host them without it! And my back loves the back roller!” says Lawrence.

“If it’s a romantic love letter or photo, I could imagine this impacting future relationships as it can be very emotional. I think other items don’t pose a threat.”

Dr Ray agrees, saying that different items represent different types and levels of attachment.

“It’s not a problem as long as it’s not affecting your ability to live in the present moment or the quality of any new relationships you have. It becomes a problem if the items cause your mindset to be fixed in the past, hoping for a different – but long gone – outcome,” she says.

However, for those people who are being impacted by holding onto their ex-partner’s items, getting rid of them is essential to moving on romantically, believes Kim.

“Holding on to things from your ex can often be a sign that you’re not fully ready to move on and heal. Taking time to appreciate the memories before flushing them out of your system is a cathartic healing process that enables you to grieve and grow,” she says.

This is also supported by the research, which shows that giving the flick to an ex-sweetheart’s belongings was considered among the top five ways to get through a break-up, with no contact, exercise and hobbies, seeking support from family and friends and self-care rounding out the remaining top spots.

It also showed that the majority of Aussies (66 per cent) acknowledge that holding on to an ex’s things can impact future relationships.

For Lawrence though, given that her ex has not asked for the items back and because of their non-sentimentality, she intends to keep them for as long as she can (except the cereal bars, which reached their expiry date).

“Look, the bars were recently binned! So, unless the Chromecast breaks, I doubt I’d get rid of it! I think it would be a little odd if someone felt threatened by a Chromecast and back roller,” she says.

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