When Tidying Up with Marie Kondo premiered on Netflix, with the help of a killer PR team and strategic promotion on the homepage, the show became an instant phenomenon and an inspiration for would-be minimalists around the world.
The show’s premise is just as simple as the process in which it is based: Find joy and say goodbye to that which doesn’t serve us anymore.
The act of decluttering is not reserved for anxiety-filled environments, as depicted in tv shows following hoarders. Instead, the stressful, emotional ride that cleaning is typically attributed is altered into to one of peace, joy, and thankfulness.
The rhetoric around self-improvement usually asks a person to “fix” themselves and forcefully confront issues, no matter how beneficial walking away may be.
However, I’ve learned much from Marie Kondo, specifically from her empathetic and gentle approach to a person’s past. Rather than judge and berate her clients for their choices and lifestyles, she places so much respect in their once loved possessions and objects that very clearly represent a part of their lives. And that is where the practice of thankfulness is seen best; she encourages everyone to acknowledge the object’s purpose, say thank you, and kindly let go.
That is exactly how I plan to release myself from toxic relationships this Spring.
And here’s how you (and I) can do that together in this season of starting over.
1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
Whether romantic, familial, or platonic, making the choice to reevaluate relationships feels like a betrayal. We are trained to believe that community and friendship deserves a special kind of loyalty, sometimes one that demands a sort of blind love, an ideology which is just no longer healthy to sustain.
When the time comes to transition into a better version of ourselves, we must produce a strength that we previously haven’t owned. No more accepting excuses or false promises of doing better from those who have proven they do not prioritize you and your sense of security and belonging.
No more leaving space for others to fill haphazardly when they like.
Commit to cultivating communities of people who bring you not just happiness, but encouragement. The process of releasing ourselves from relationships requires a self-discipline and strength that will truly better us in the future.
2. Imagine your ideal life, and seek it.
When I imagine my ideal life, I typically look toward situations I have complete control over, ignoring the fact that my relationships do fall under that category. I struggle with seeing people as influences in my daily life that can hurt more than benefit.
I’ve come to learn how easily we pinpoint the spaces we hope to fill in the world, both professionally and mentally. But the trouble comes from our inability to create a standard for others who enter into our lives. So often, we accept any form of friendship or companionship, because hard environments or situations can be alleviated by the presence of someone else.
But when does comfort turn to complacency?
Pinterest thrives off of a business model that offers a space to imagine a dream house, tips for bettering a career, a wish list of clothing, and it is essentially a mood board for an entire life. Millions of users take advantage of the platform daily. And that says something about how invested those people are in wishfully planning something for the better. But, there really isn’t a place to put in an ideal family, spouse, or social group. We have to do that on our own.
3. Finish letting go first.
Say goodbye. Write the letter. Give back the stuff. Take down the pictures. Become independent.
Whatever it is you may need to do, go through the process of letting go. Like a complicated and painful breakup, many of us hold on to collateral to come back to later in the hopes of reconnecting.
When I look around my house, I see the imprints of people who have come and gone from my life like looming shadows. And so many times I stand in the shower and play out scenes from years ago with new comebacks I wish I would have said. In all of these moments, I realize how little I have let go of the past.
Before releasing people from our lives, I think one of the best ways to do so is to get definitive and refreshing closure—positively or not.
4. Tidy by category, not location.
Rather than jump from person to person or spend an entire day purging your phone contact list, start with smaller, less intimate circles and make your way up confronting more deep-rooted relationships.
My plan is to approach my groups as follows:
–Social Media: To cleanse my accounts from controversial posts, negative comments, and accounts I follow strictly out of envy.
–Work: To walk away from the people who love to share other’s failure and take credit for my contributions.
–Friends: Distinguish between a friendship kept out of convenience and a friendship actively fostered for the better. Seek friendships that grow and adapt without competition or pain.
–Romantic: Consider what my definition of love is, and acknowledge love is variant, multilayered, and complex. I can feel love for many people, but I do not owe them the very intimate parts of me in order to keep them.
–Family: To evaluate myself as an individual and new adult and reflect on the lessons I have learned from my family and divide up what was impactful and beautiful, and what was impactful and traumatic. At the end of the list, I will acknowledge who played the most crucial parts to
5. Follow the right order.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by this form of transition. I encourage everyone who plans to release themselves from relationships to take steps, work in areas that bring the least discomfort, and not sporadically move about.
Sometimes the impulse is to confront people during heated moments. And as therapeutic as the outburst may seem at the time, the anger and resentment that builds from these instances results in more bitterness and a lack of closure.
Hold off from cutting ties too early on, especially with those you rely on financially, emotionally, or spiritually. Weaning ourselves off from long held relationships is natural and not a sign of weakness.
6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.
And that is it. Overall, ask yourself: Does this person spark joy for me? And if not, remember their once significance to you, thank those memories, and let go.