When you think of decluttering, people don’t often come to mind. And it sounds a bit cruel in simplified terms.
But lets revisit that quote in the last post from Shirley at Choosing Voluntary Simplicity:
To me, simplifying means eliminating anything that is a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace.
Now use that definition to the people in your life. Do you have family, friends, coworkers or acquaintances that are “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”
Sure you do. We all do. And though its a heavy topic, sometimes we need to take a break or break away altogether from those people in our lives. And sure, sometimes this sounds easier that it is. You can’t always avoid a draining co-worker or walk away from a family member. But you can set up boundaries, you can refuse to allow yourself to get caught up in the drama and you can learn to let go of the one-sided relationships in your life. We’re talking decluttering on a very personal level here.
What relationships in your life do you need to reevaluate? Here are some of the types of relationships that can be cluttering your life and I’m sure you can think of a couple people that fit into each category:
These are the folks that are always in some state of drama. Something’s always going wrong, they are always miserable and they want to suck you into their black hole. These folks often call on you when they need to vent but never to share good news or want to share in any of your news. Its as though they avoid happiness at all turns and choose to remain in a vicious cycle. And I don’t mean to assume that relationships aren’t give and take. Sure, there are times when you need to lean on someone and then in turn other times they need to lean on you. That is the symbiotic sway of strong relationships. But I’m talking about the ones that drain you, all the time. Are they “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”
All about me’s
You know them. The world often revolves around them. You are just a member of their choir and they are at the pulpit. I know a bunch of these folks on Facebook alone – they post often, don’t engage with you when you try to reach out, they’re amassing followers like a cult leader. And they don’t care what you have to say. If you chat on the phone, they often will gab for the first hour and give you 2 minutes to share what’s going on in your life. These people can also be the one-sided folks that you want to be friends with but they dictate the friendship on their terms – contacting you when its convenient for them or need something from you, but not answering you when you reach out. They just don’t have time because it’s all about them. Are they “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”
Are we even friends?
These are more acquaintances – people you know and are friendly with, but not someone you would really call a friend. These folks are the “spam email” of the relationship world. They want to connect with you on Facebook or other social media site just to connect but add no real value to your life. They’ll reach out when they need someone to come to their tupperware party or need help moving or need help with a job, but otherwise, you wouldn’t really connect. I’m not suggesting you get rid of acquaintances altogether, but perhaps you should ask yourself, are they just clutter in my life? Are they “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”
High demand people
These folks are the high-pressured people in your life and have exceedingly high expectations of you. On the other spectrum of the folks that don’t have the time of day for you, these people expect you to be at every event they invite you to, give you grief if you don’t call all the time or make you feel uncomfortable in their space because they are perfectionists and expect you to be too. They expect you to be the perfect friend or family member and if you don’t meet that expectation, then you might as well pack your bags and get ready for the guilt trip. They don’t understand the ebb and flow of life, the distractions people have and the saying “gee, we picked up right where we left off, like we’ve never been separated,” would never leave their lips because their pissed that you haven’t been there for every single occasion in their life. Once again, are they “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”
I started reevaluating my relationships about a year or so ago and came to the realization that I needed to weed certain people out of my life. I found myself taking things personal, allowing myself to be weighed down by others drama and not standing up for myself and my needs. I was either being a people pleaser or avoiding people altogether so I wouldn’t need to start drinking after interacting with them.
But then I started repeating a mantra over and over: “I don’t have space in my life for negative energy”
This has been a tricky road for me, a people pleaser, to traverse. But I’ve learned that I need to take care of my own needs. Getting approval from everyone isn’t the end goal. I’m not going to hang on for dear life to a person or situation that is just draining me or becoming a detriment to my own life. Life is too short to be dragged down by people in your life.
And so I let go. I started cutting people out of my life. And not I’m talking about an angry slash and burn of contacts. I just quietly removed myself from these people or situations.
“I don’t have space in my life…”
And this doesn’t mean that I’ve put up a permanent wall but more of a, “I just can’t continue to be drained/wounded/ignored/sucked-into-your-black-hole, but perhaps we can come back full circle and be a part of each others life again in the future.” In other situations, I’ve taken a giant step back so that I’m not so closely involved in the drama. Although I mourned my expectations of that relationship, I had to let go of some friends and family at certain points in my life. Some have vanished altogether, some are at a distant arms length, some have come back into my life with a renewed sense of mutual appreciation, respect and love. I am also learning to let go of past hurts and just accept it as part of life. It is a process.
Recently I deleted half of my “friends” on Facebook – over 100 people. Talk about decluttering! Sure, some see it as a networking opportunity, but for me, I really only want to be connected to people who I’m in regular contact with or whom I have a fondness for and want to keep in touch or those that reach back out. I can’t even tell you how many people “friended me” only to never say a peep or answer back messages sent their way. I even accepted friend requests from people I didn’t even remember but saw that they were friends of friends and surmised that we must have none each other at some point. How ridiculous is that? Once again, the people pleaser was emerging; I didn’t want to appear rude afterall.
But it was beginning to feel like these people were friending me just to size me up and check out my photos or to link in case they ever needed a job referral. If we never talked in high school and I’ve never seen you since, why do we need to be connected? And if I’ve sent you messages and you can’t give me the courtesy of answering back, ever…then what’s the point? And if we worked in totally different departments of the same company years ago and we haven’t chatted since, where’s the friendship in that?
My girlfriend Peg is a very engaging, gregarious and popular lady. People are instantly drawn to her and she in known in many circles. But I love her no-nonsense take on FB. Her approach is that if a person isn’t someone she would want to share vacation photos with, then she isn’t friends with them. Even if it means turning down countless friend requests and regularly deleting contacts.
This approach may sound negative, but it really isn’t. It’s about quality relationships, not the quantity of them. And on Facebook, it seems like everyone is in a contest to see how many “friends” they can amass. Like a giant popularity contest for adults. C’mon, let’s be real folks.
So to those who got lopped from my personal profile, no hard feelings, but it was an empty connection. And the empty connection left me feeling bad and once again “I don’t have the space in my life for negative energy.”
Recently this issue was ignited for me. I had a friend that I’ve been trying to find for years, one that I was chasing…always emailing, never hearing back. I cared deeply for this person and wanted to share in their life. Clearly I was more invested and I was like a puppy dog waiting for a bone to be thrown my way. I finally got an email back and was thrilled to see their name in my in-box, but then the body of the message was nothing short of a resume of their life over the past 10 years. And that was it. No greeting, no closing. I fell back into old patterns and excitedly wrote back looking for details, only to get a very curt, cold reply. I was hurt. It’s always painful when it becomes very clear that you are the one invested and the other person is not.
I really tried not to take it personal, but I processed it for a couple days. I was disappointed and hurt that this person didn’t share my enthusiasm of reconnecting. Finally, I made the decision to make peace with it and let go. I will not chase this person. I will also not wish ill-will. I instead wish them well in my heart and have let go.
Like I’ve said before, relationships are about give and take. Sometimes you give more, other times you take more. But if it’s all one-sided or if it’s an empty connection, wouldn’t you rather free up that space in your life and focus on those connections that allow you to give and receive enjoyment, contentment and peace?