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Why Do Exes Leave Their Stuff Behind? What to Do with Them

Why do exes leave their stuff behind after a breakup? It's a multifaceted question. Exes leave stuff behind for various reasons, and you may ask yourself, "should I give my ex his things back?" 

Breakups are emotional and complex, but holding on to your ex's stuff for a long time can make it harder to move on from the relationship. Recent studies show "the sooner you get rid of the things that remind you of the other person, the sooner you will be able to move on."

Please keep reading to discover why your ex may have left all his stuff behind and what to do about getting rid of his stuff and moving on. 

10 Reasons Why Your Ex Left His Stuff Behind

1. Your ex is looking for an excuse to see you again

So… why do exes leave their stuff behind? It could be for multiple reasons. One valid explanation is that he wants to see you again. 

Leaving essential items at your house, like his wallet or other valuable things, is a perfect technique to be able to speak to you again. 

He also may want to get back together with you and thinks he will get his chance by leaving his stuff behind. After you both had space after a break-up, he may make his move. 

Perhaps you don't want to talk to him, but because he left expensive stuff at your place, you may feel obligated to reach out to him. One way to avoid seeing him is to send his stuff back with a mutual friend. That way, you don't have to worry about awkward conversations.

2. Your ex forgot about the stuff they left behind

Sometimes after a difficult breakup, we assume the worst about why our exes left their stuff behind. However, they may not have an ulterior motive.

Perhaps they forgot about it and didn’t care if they got the stuff back. Forgetting is one of the reasonable explanations your ex left stuff at your house. Your ex would not forget about their wallet or other important documents, but they may forget about shampoo, toothpaste, or clothing items. 

3. Your ex doesn’t want to see you 

Why do exes leave their stuff behind? There are tons of reasons why people break up! And sometimes exes are too emotional after a break-up

Your ex may not want to see you because it will bring up all of his fond memories with you.

For example, seeing your beautiful smile will make him miss you and think about the first time you two kissed.

He may avoid seeing you because it's just too painful for him. If this is the case, he may wait for you to reach out first because it's too much for him.

4. Your ex is protecting their mental health

Your ex may be suffering from some mental health conditions post-break-up. And it may be too difficult for your ex to speak to you directly, and to protect their mental health, your ex stays away.

He may have left stuff because he is uncomfortable communicating with you face-to-face at this time. You can respect his space and have a friend bring his stuff over or mail his things to avoid causing further strife. 

5. It’s too emotionally distressing

Why do exes leave their stuff behind? A valid and plausible reason your ex left his stuff behind is that he is processing the break-up. He is possibly still dealing with the grief of your relationship ending. 

There are five stages of grief to be aware of: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Your ex may still be in the throes of grief and isn’t thinking about collecting their things right now. 

“There’s a reason there are seven stages of grief. It takes time for the mind to process tragedy. Grief, true grief, needs the cushion of denial and anger and blame to cope.” - Kaitlin Bevis

6. Your ex is in denial 

It’s hard for some people to accept that their relationship is over. It’s a strong possibility that your ex left their stuff behind because they don’t want to admit to themselves that your relationship has ended. 

To your ex-lover, breaking up is not final. It is temporary, and they think you will get back together in the foreseeable future. 

They left their stuff behind because they were in denial. If this is the case, you need to be clear with your ex that you are not getting back together and that they need to take their things back. 

7. Your ex doesn’t care about those things

Another plausible reason your ex left their stuff at your place is that it is unimportant to them. Look through the items that they left behind. 

Is it a bunch of old CDs, clothes, or old magazines? They probably don't want it anymore and don't care. It's also possible that they don't need the stuff anymore. And in this scenario, you're likely safe to throw the stuff away.

However, to be safe, give your ex a call or text to ensure they don't want it. You can always mail it to them if you're going to avoid speaking to them. If they don't like it, they will throw it away. 

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8. They want you to keep the stuff they left behind

Why do exes leave their stuff behind? Perhaps your ex wants you to keep their stuff to remind you of them. It's hard for many people to accept that a relationship is over. Your ex leaving his stuff behind may be his way of trying to keep his memory alive in your mind. 

If you keep seeing his old shoes or his favorite mug when you open the cabinet in the morning, it will be harder to let go and move on. Your ex knows that even if you move on with your life, you will think of him every time you see that mug. 

If this is the case, go ahead and dispose of the items. Your ex most likely doesn't need the stuff, and it's attempting to torture you by not allowing you to let go entirely. 

9. He wants you to suffer/ malicious

Why do exes leave their stuff behind? Your ex may have left their stuff at your place because they are "marking you as their territory." Although you broke up, he may feel you are his property and belong to him. He wants you to feel like he still plays a significant role in your life. 

If you try to coordinate a time for your ex to pick up their stuff, he may continue to be a no-show. Or if you try to drop it off for him, he won't allow it. 

You may keep holding on to his stuff, waiting for him to come and get it, but it keeps stressing you out because you don't know if or when he will come to pick up his stuff. 

If this continues, you will need to write your ex a polite text message letting him know that he has a limited time to come pick it up. Otherwise, you will need to get rid of the stuff. 

5 Things You Should Give Back to Your Ex

5 things you should give back to your ex

1. Borrowed items and money

Your ex-boyfriend may have let you borrow his favorite hoodie when you were together, but now that you two have broken up, you should return it to him.

Also, if you borrowed a significant amount of money from your ex, you should absolutely give it back to him. You don’t want to be the ex-girlfriend who didn’t return the borrowed money. He may think you stole the money from him and make it a big deal.

Ideally, try to end things on a positive note. Break-ups are complex, but there is no reason to hold on to money or borrowed items; it’s the right thing to give them back. 

2. Anything of sentimental value

Why do exes leave their stuff behind when it's sentimental value? If you and your partner were together for a long time, it's likely that all kinds of things made their way to your house. 

Maybe he forgot his grandmother's necklace at your place after he showed it to you. Or perhaps he had a collection of old Christmas ornaments that belonged to his grandfather. 

Either way, these sentimental items should be returned to your ex. It doesn't matter if you see the value in them or not. To your ex, it is crucial. And it would be best if you gave them back with no questions asked. 

3. Important documents

If you and your ex-boyfriend lived together, you might have accumulated some of his important documents like his passport or social security card. 

Both of these items need to be returned to him promptly. Even if you and your ex are not on good terms, it’s better to return them in the long run. It will save you and your ex loads of stress by letting him know that you have his documents. 

4. Anything that isn’t yours

You and your partner broke up for a reason, and keeping anything that doesn't belong to you will only have you holding on to the past

You don't need a reminder of your ex every day. Even if you loved him and didn't have negative feelings towards him, you should give back anything that isn't yours. 

Giving his things back may make you sad and lonely. You may realize that your relationship is truly over. It's okay to be sad, but there is no reason to keep stuff that makes letting go harder. The sooner you let his things go, the sooner you will let him go. 

If you don't want to see your ex because it will bring up too many emotions, you can rely on a mutual friend to bring over their left items.

5. Engagement ring

You should give back a ring if you and your ex break off an engagement. Your ex gave you an engagement ring with a promise of future marriage. However, the wedding is off, and the ring does not hold the same significance. 

Keeping the ring will only remind you of your broken engagement. Your ex-fiance deserves to give it to someone else, especially if your ex gave you a family heirloom. Also, it doesn't matter who ended the engagement; give the ring back. It is universally understood to return the ring after a broken engagement.

3 Things You Can Do with the Stuff Your Ex Doesn’t Want Back

You may feel nervous about throwing away anything that your ex doesn't want, but don’t feel guilty. There are a few things you can do if your ex has made it crystal clear that he doesn't want his stuff back. 

Remember that getting rid of stuff your ex left behind is vital to your healing and letting go. According to Dr. Cheryl Fraser, "if you've got it hanging around, you're still psychologically clinging onto the past. By getting rid of it, you create space for now, either for the relationship you're currently in or to get into another relationship without holding onto what used to be."

1. Donate or sell them

If your ex has made it clear that he doesn't want to see you again and doesn't want his stuff back, you have the green light to donate or sell the left-behind items.

Take them to your local Goodwill store or sell them at your next garage sale. He didn't want them, so why not make a little money? 

2. Keep them if they are useful 

If you and your ex lived together for some time you may have accumulated a nice mop, vacuum cleaner, or other household appliances that he left behind. Why not just keep it? That way, you get a clean house and save some money by not needing to buy a new one. 

3. Burn anything without monetary or sentimental value

I don't know about you, but I love to burn things that no longer serve me—for example, old photographs of ex-boyfriends or written journal memories I want to release.

Why not burn the old items that your ex left behind? You can make an entire ceremony out of the process!

There are many rituals for letting go. Burning things is one great way to facilitate the letting process. Before you begin, make sure you have a safe place for burning. A charcoal grill or a safe fireplace is a great start. Also, ensure that the items you are burning are safe. For example, you can always burn paper or photographs. 

Here are a few steps to set up a burning ceremony:

  • Create a safe burning ceremony space
  • Set a clear intention, like, "I find peace when I let go"
  • Get grounded and breathe
  • Burn whatever you want to let go of (photograph, letters, etc.)

Why not make a beautiful letting-go ceremony when your ex leaves stuff behind? It's an effective way to let go. Let your emotions play during the ceremony (cry, scream, and breathe). 

Here is a mantra you can say during the ceremony: “Easily, gracefully, I release the past so that I am free in this moment for all that is possible now.”

Do whatever works for you in such a case!

burn anything without monetary or sentimental value


What should I do with the stuff my ex left behind?

The first thing to do is to decide which things need to go back to your ex and which things you can discard on your own. Money, engagement rings, and other sentimental items you should give back to your ex. Other items that your ex doesn’t want, you can sell or throw away. It’s your choice. 

Is my ex being malicious when he leaves his stuff behind?

Your ex probably isn't being malicious when they leave their stuff behind, but pay attention to how he responds to you when you offer to give him his stuff back. Does he say he will pick it up at a certain time and then is a no-show? In this case, he may be trying to "mark his territory." Let him know that if he doesn't pick up his stuff, you will throw it away. 

I don’t want to see my ex, should I give back the stuff they left behind?

Yes, it's best to give back anything that isn't yours. If you don't want to see him, maybe a mutual friend could pick up the stuff and take it to him. It's normal to want space after a breakup, but giving back the stuff will make it easier for you to move on.


Exes leave their stuff behind for all kinds of reasons. If you are wondering why exes leave their stuff behind, refer back to this article anytime. 

It's important to give back any items your ex left behind, but if your ex claims he does not want them, you can always sell or donate them. However, be sure to get rid of anything that reminds you of your ex so you can let go and move on. 

In the comments, let us know what random items your ex left behind. Also, if you enjoyed this article, please refer it to a friend.

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Whether you're married or just started dating someone, infidelity rates have risen by over 40% in the past 20 years, so your concerns are justified.

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This tool can help by uncovering hidden social media and dating profiles, photos, criminal records, and much more, potentially putting your doubts to rest.


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