wellness

'The 4 types of friendships I threw out when I Marie Kondo-ed my social circle.'

Sometimes we end up with people in our lives in much the same way we end up with tupperware containers. You’re not sure how you picked them up, they smell a bit funny, and they certainly don’t “spark joy” for you in the way they must spark joy for someone else who would appreciate them more.

My latest Netflix binge was on Marie Kondo’s new Netflix series “Tidying up with Marie Kondo. Created by the author of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, Marie Kondo helps families across America with tidying up their homes and getting unstuck in the process. She suggests that we spend time with each of our possessions, and if they don’t “spark joy” for us, we take a moment to thank that item for being a part of our lives and say goodbye.

I feel like this method helps to shortcut a lot of the complicated feelings we have about clearing items away, so we can make our lives more joyful. Instead of guilt about throwing things by the wayside, we have genuine gratitude for the path that has led us to this moment, while opening ourselves to what the future may bring when we’re not treating our mementos like lodestones.

It got me thinking about some of the other areas of our lives that would benefit from applying the KonMari method.

The one I couldn’t ignore, was people.

The people we surround ourselves with should be examined every so often. Much in the same way we check on the overall health of our romantic relationships or talk to our bosses about how we feel about our working environment, we ought to check in with ourselves to ask some questions to appreciate our friends and identify tiny issues before they grow bigger.

Friendship questions to ask yourself

1. How often are we in touch?

2. Do I normally initiate, do they, or is it even?

3. Am I happy with that?

4. When we speak, is the other person interested in what I have to say and how I feel?

5. Am I interested in what they have to say and how they feel?

6. What do I value in a friendship?

7. Do this person’s values align with my values?

8. When we talk about our hopes and plans, are we encouraging each other to do the best we can, or are we pointing out all the ways the other person is failing?

9. How do I talk about this person to other people?

10. Is the relationship equal?

11. How even is the share of money in our friendship?

12. Do they do way more in the way of favours than I do?

This isn’t about making a report card or itemised invoice. This is about taking a moment to check in and see if anything has changed lately or see if there’s room for improvement. If something in this list has changed over the last few months and you’re not sure why, it’s worth checking in with the other person to see if everything is okay.

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I’m not telling you to ditch a mate the second they stop entertaining you, especially if something is going on for them that makes them a little more stressed than usual. It’s about checking in to see if your relationship with that person makes you happy.

1. The one who was my best friend right up until he wasn’t.

Something people often say in these situations is, “But I don’t want to dump them after everything they’ve done for me”.

It’s okay for someone’s past kindness to give them a little bit of leeway when it comes to troubling behaviours, but if someone once gave you $10,000 if doesn’t mean that down the track they can trash your house and get away with it.

It feels bad when someone has done a lot of nice things in the past but now they’re acting poorly. It feels like you’re being ungrateful for the good times when you feel unhappy about the bad times.

Like those shoes you wore on your first date that now give you blisters, Marie Kondo’s method makes saying goodbye easier. We don’t discount their importance in our lives. In fact, we deliberately identify and feel that gratitude before saying goodbye. We can do this with friends, too.

Saying a heartfelt thank you can be very insightful and good for closure, even if you don’t say it to the person involved.

Here’s an example:

Joe,

I am very grateful for the good times we had together. I appreciate all of the time you spent with me, and how much fun we had. I appreciate the opportunity I had to learn that I am a worthy and good friend in return.

I feel gratitude because you taught me that not everyone I love is willing to help when something bad happens, and that I am capable of looking after myself, and you helped me discover that I value myself enough to not allow you to do that to me again.

Thank you, Joe.

Note: if someone says “but what about all the things I’ve done for you” when you tell them that they have hurt you, that’s a manipulative behaviour that suggests that the other person thinks that it’s acceptable to hurt someone as long as they’re also nice sometimes.

Best friends translated:

Video by MMC

2. The one who didn’t really do anything wrong.

We often see the end of a relationship as a relationship “failing”. When two people who are dating break up, we often ask who the bad guy was.

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Often, people need to feel like the hero or the good guy so much that they cast the other person as the “bad guy”, when the truth is that you just grew apart.

Ending a relationship when it’s not bringing joy anymore instead of waiting until a catastrophic breakdown can be a great thing for everyone involved. It can save a lot of heartache, and also means that there is potential for a relationship to be picked back up at a later date if you’re both in a good place for it, and the idea does “spark joy” for both of you.

Here’s an example of how we might talk to someone in this situation:

Jess,

I value and appreciate the friendship we’ve had over the last few years. I really enjoy it when we talk, but when we get together, we end up gossiping about people, and I really don’t like myself much when I do that.

It’s not anyone’s fault, but it is a habit that I need to break, so I want to thank you for all of the loyalty and empathy that you have brought into our friendship and say goodbye until we can interact in a really healthy and nourishing way for both of us.

Thank you, and goodbye for now.

3. The one who did something horrible to someone who wasn’t me.

I want to be straight up and tell you that it’s fine to call time on a friendship if someone does something that goes against your values, even if they didn’t do it to you.

While I do think that rehabilitation from past behaviour is possible, it doesn’t mean that you have to stick around to watch, and if the person is doing something without remorse and without intention to own that behaviour and address it, you can absolutely walk.

Applying Marie Kondo’s methods in a slightly different way, we could frame it like this:

Ian,

You absolutely do spark joy for me. You’re smart, funny, and fun to be around.

I recently found out that you send really disturbing, vulgar messages to women on the internet. While you have never sent a message like that to me, we had a chat about it and I told you that I think it’s wrong, and you didn’t agree.

When I think about the kind of person that I want to be, it does not include supporting a person who does this to other people, so I want to take a moment and have gratitude for everything that you have given me over the years, and thank you for teaching me about the kind of person I want to be and the values that I hold dear.

snooping boyfriends phone
"It’s fine to call time on a friendship if someone does something that goes against your values." Image: Getty.
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4. The one that dumped me first.

You may not have had a choice when a friend decided they didn’t want to be friends anymore, but you do get to decide what to do in the aftermath of that. If you don’t take charge of that healing process, you can continue to emotionally invest in that relationship long after the other person has gone, without meaning to, especially when we’re using that energy to rehash old hurts or stalk them on Facebook.

We can ask ourselves “Does the part that this person still has in my life spark joy?” And if the answer is no, we can deliberately let them go, and practise self-compassion if they work their way back into our minds. I might say something like this to them:

Dear June,

Since you told me you didn’t want to be my friend anymore, I have thought of you often. While it came as a surprise at the time and left me with a lot of sadness and hurt, I want to express my gratitude.

Thank you for the many years of friendship that we shared together. The hurt of the last few months does not erase the good of the past. You were always there when I needed you, and I will always value that gift.

I also want to thank you for teaching me that I can stand on my own, thank you for teaching me about how I would like to be treated, and for teaching me about how I want to treat my other friends.

I hope that the friendships that you still have in your life bring you as much joy as you brought me.

I hope this gives you some insight into how you’d like to maintain your social circle in the future. I feel like one of the best things that Marie Kondo can bring to us is making decisions deliberately and most in tune with who we are and what we need.

If anyone has advice on the perfect way to fold a friend into thirds so I can keep them in my closet, please let me know.

Alicia Thompson is the Director of Communications at Reflex Social Services, a Charity that aims to provide emergency trauma counselling, support, and educational resources to people who need them. She writes for Reflex about self care, mental health, and current social issues. You can find out more information through their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

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