Should the one-in, one-out rule apply to friends?

Lifehacker recently linked to an interesting article that ran on the BBC about friendship. “What’s the ideal number of friends” reported that most people have five very close friends, 10 more in a pretty close network, 35 more in a looser network, and then 100 on the outside that fall into the wee-bit-more-than-acquaintance category. This would mean each of us has about 150 friends in our social scene.

I found this interesting and plausible. My numbers are a little higher in the outer circles (I’m a social butterfly), but almost spot-on for the very close and pretty close network numbers.

However, mid-way through the article is a shocking but brief story about someone who regulates his friendships like inventory:

A newspaper columnist once told of her shock when, having struck up a rapport with a man over dinner, she was told at the end of the meal he had no vacancies for friends. He was operating a “one-in, one-out” policy. Six months later she received a card stating he was now available for friendship.

That’s an extreme example but many people view their friendships scientifically and regulate them accordingly.

When I first read these paragraphs, I was flabbergasted. What gall this man had! Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was just saying what many people do subconsciously. When one friendship fizzles out, we fill it with a new friendship with someone else. We might not send cards announcing “you can now be my friend,” but we shift our priorities and move people around between the circles.

I think we all agree that a bad friend can cause clutter in our lives, but what about too many good friends? Can you have so many close friends that maintaining the friendships can interfere with other areas of your life?

What do you think of the one-in, one-out rule applied to friendship? Can your life be cluttered with too many close friends? I’m still mulling this around in my brain and I would love to read what you have to say.

52 Comments for “Should the one-in, one-out rule apply to friends?”

  1. posted by Jennie on

    I can relate. I have a little larger group of very close friends, but we’ve grown apart a bit since a number of them have moved away. They are all very good at calling me on the phone (Me? Not so good!), but I have a bit of a problem with this. I have to agree that too many friends can clutter ones life. I don’t have time to talk on the phone for an hour and a half every night; I have a family I want to spend time with. A few of my friends are more then likely not coming back home for a long while, and I am ashamed to say that I feel the effort at a long distance relationship just isn’t worth it.

  2. posted by John of Indiana on

    “Six months later she received a card stating he was now available for friendship.”

    She sent back a card stating “Don’t. Flatter. Yourself”, right?

    I live in one of those parts of the country where even after 10 years the “We didn’t go to kindergarten together, so you’re a stranger” rule applies, so I can’t grok the idea of “too many friends”.

  3. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    I have always had a smaller circle of really close friends, and a very large circle of “friends”. I think we do subconsciously filter our friends based on our available time, but to outright announce it is just plain rude.

  4. posted by Rebecca on

    I think it’s more of a “rotation” over a one in, one out. Sometimes you drift away from a close friend and they become a person on your outer fringe (though work, a move, etc), but because you’ve now got that void to fill, you turn to someone else from one of the outer circles and start spending more time with them until they become part of the inner most circle.

    At least for me, I think my circle of friends changed drastically mostly based around moves – either theirs or someone elses. I’ve been in the UK for the past 5 months, and I’ve noticed some of my “close” friends aren’t quite as close to me as they once were, but it makes sense since I no longer have the time to talk with them daily or see them. It’s not a deliberate “pushing out”, but I can see where some might think that. Either that, or it’s been no fault of my own and the friend just doesn’t want to continue a cross-atlantic friendship, which is fine too. Alternately, I’ve been meeting people here and have added people to my circle of friends – not to replace old friends, but more to enhance them.

    But I’m totally with you on the friends who are bad for you thing. It’s so hard to shake a nasty friend.

  5. posted by Camilla on

    I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many friends, but maybe too many obligations and too many social contexts. When there are many people I call friends from different contexts (e.g. my work, my choir, my religious community, people I go to concerts with, … ), but I can’t bring them together, I feel forced to reassess my priorites before I get the feeling that I must keep too many contacts.
    To me, this is not about numbers, but all about time, obligations and contexts. The real friends in my network are those who can stand not seeing or speaking me for some time and still greet me with a hearty hug and a big grin when we meet again.

  6. posted by Kaye on

    That reminds me so much of that great Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn dialog from “Charade”:

    Regina Lampert: I already know an awful lot of people and until one of them dies I couldn’t possibly meet anyone else.
    Peter Joshua: Well, if anyone goes on the critical list, let me know.

  7. posted by Jeannine on

    I have to agree with Jennie. I find myself in the same boat, with friends who expect to keep in regular contact with me over the phone — and I just don’t have the time for it! Or rather, I don’t wish to spend that much time on the phone each night, because I have a life filled with local friends, and my own family. Keeping in touch over long distances is important, but sometimes it might be appropriate to keep in touch only a few times per year. That’s why I’m such a big fan of Holiday cards — cheesy, I know, but it’s the one time of year I can be sure to hear from each of my long-distance friends and hear what is happening in their lives!

  8. posted by timgray on

    Yes your life CAN be too cluttered with friends. when I had a huge gaggle of friends I never got anything done at home. I was always visiting or having friends over. Nothing ever was done. I had to cut it back to regain my life. It’s not like “Dave, you cant be my friend anymore, I need to get lawn work done.” It is more like taking a stand and carving out time for you. Learn to say “no” and say it often. Friends can still be friends, you just need to say no to them more often when you need your time for your things to do.

    I also use it with things I belong to. I have friends that have so many organizations they belong to they say on the rare occasions we get together, “I envy you and your ability to go camping! or being able to work on your projects” and I say back, you are choosing to not do that. you dont need to belong to 4 different things that consume 6 out of 7 days a week. I cut my ties with several organizations. I was getting no benefit for donating 80% of my free time to them, my home was becoming a clutter magnet, I never saw my wife, my pets forgot who I was…

    If you volunteer or belong to so much that you never have time, you have life clutter.

  9. posted by mollyh on

    I tend to agree with both Jennie and Jeannine that it’s not the sheer number of friends that can be cluttering, it’s the amount of social commitment you have to maintain. I have 2 very close friends who live on the other side of the country, and we probably spend an hour on the phone once a month or so. That doesn’t feel like a burden to the rest of my life, and still allows me to keep them in my ‘very close’ circle. On the other hand, locally I have a whole slew of friends who just happen to all be friends with each other – so the number is quite high, but most of the time I get to spend time with them all together, which cuts down on the ‘social cluttering time crunch’.

  10. posted by Johnny on

    A strict “one in, one out” approach to friends is a bit extreme. It may work that way in practice with the close friends we interact with everyday. There are simply not enough hours in a day to keep up with all of your friends. Also, I have “close” friends who live far away from me. Just because they’ve moved to the outer rings of my social circle doesn’t mean that I’ve kicked them off of my list of dear friends and replaced them with people I interact with more regularly.

  11. posted by Rue on

    It’s not the NUMBER of friends you have that can be cluttering; it’s the amount of TIME you spend with them. If you’re so busy flitting from friend to friend to friend that you neglect your job, your family, or other priorities, then you have a clutter problem. Not friend clutter, just time clutter. But if you just make time to see friends every now and again (even if it’s 75 of them at once), it’s not a big deal.

    I can see how someone might be so busy with friends that they don’t have the time to maintain a new friendship. But the guy in that story? Wow. There are just no words. I hope she sent back a nasty note saying he had his chance and she wouldn’t want his friendship if it was the last one on earth!

  12. posted by Dream Mom DBAwww.dreamorganizers.com on

    The one in, one out rule is just odd.

    I have a few close friends and honestly, I don’t have a lot of time for more. I’d prefer to have a few really close friends than more volume. I mean, I don’t have the time or energy to do all of that on top of work, operating a business and being a full time caregiver for my severely disabled son. It takes a lot of time to stay in contact and for social committments. I love going out but love alone time too.

  13. posted by M.R. on

    I don’t regulate my number of friends, but I do keep only one high-drama friend in my local circle at a time.

    Also, I broke up with a toxic “friend” a couple of years ago. What a relief! Much less emotional clutter.

  14. posted by Suki on

    I think it’s the term “friend” that is hanging up some of us. I have a small group of close friends that I’d trust my life to. A larger group of casual acquaintances, but not that I’d trust my child, my cash or my car to.

    Sites like Facebook and Myspace foster the junior high idea that we have to have lots of friends to justify our existance.

    As far as keeping in touch, I do have an acquaintance that I speak to maybe twice a year, and she always starts the conversation with, “Oh, you NEVER call me!” I finally asked her who pried the buttons off HER phone. LOL!

  15. posted by heather on

    I’ve gone through stages where I’ve had “too many” friends, and what it happens is that your circle of friends just naturally starts to prune itself. When your social calendar starts filling up, you start to naturally rely on the people who are easiest to stay in touch with (those you see on a daily basis through work or school, those who call you regularly rather than relying on you to call them). If you still have time for more friends beyond that, you’re going to lean towards the ones that provide the “highest friendship value” (those who are the most supportive or that you have the most fun with). Unfortunately, this means that someone who you’ve been friends with for a long time, sometimes even very valuable friends, can get pushed out just by basis of you having little time to prioritize your friendships. Feelings can get really hurt if one member of the friendship has significantly more friends than the other, because the person with fewer friends often takes the lack of contact personally when it isn’t.

  16. posted by FEISTYEMM on

    I love the term “high drama friend.” I just recently had to end a friendship like that and was accused of being “the most cruel person I’ve ever known.” I assure you I very clear that I had to make that decision, but as kind as humanly possible. It wouldn’t have mattered how I said it — that is why the friendship had to end. The friendship was constantly having to deal with “the problems of our friendship.” Friendship shouldn’t be like that. I guess 20 years of that was enough. Aaaarrrrrgggh.

    To me a good friend is someone that enhances my life, wants it to be the best it can be, values my opinion even if s/he don’t agree with it, and doesn’t make unnecessary demands. And they get the same from me. My circle of close friends make me feel good. The ones that didn’t are gone. (Just like my ex-husband – lol!)

  17. posted by Kim on

    Yikes – it’s one thing to allow friendships to organically come and go through distance or interests diverging or jail time or something, but it’s quite another to feel that it is stated at the outset that there may be an expiration date on your friendship with this person! What are the chances that that guy will have the same friend roster for the rest of his life? Are the first three spaces filled up with brothers from another mother and the last two have to rotate to keep things spicy?

    Yeah… I think quantifying the friendship is a bit inappropriate. On the other hand, you can’t help but quantify the time commitment – which is a whole other ball of wax.

  18. posted by Mletta on

    I think we need to define what a “friend” is, because I think frankly that these numbers are just off.

    In this age of social networking on and offline, clearly too many folks take casual acquaintances and interactions as friendships…that really aren’t.

    My close friends are really important to me and frankly, I can’t imagine how anyone can have more than a handful and actively keep up. (Close friends are NOT folks you catch up with every now and then. They are an active participant in your life and vice versa.)

    You write:
    “When one friendship fizzles out, we fill it with a new friendship with someone else. We might not send cards announcing “you can now be my friend,” but we shift our priorities and move people around between the circles.”

    I’m sorry, but people are NOT replaceable. You don’t just move people around like game pieces, although that’s how many people treat others. People are not “appointments” and you don’t have “openings.”

    Somebody doesn’t have “room”/space in their life for me to be their friend? Well, hello. Then you don’t really want to be my friend. Capital FRIEND.

    Who in the world would ever tell anyone they have just come to know that there is no room for them in their life? Pu-LEAZE. Who in their right mind would want to invest any real effort into a relationship with that person? Answer: No sane person who truly values friendship.

    Someone once wrote that there are “Friends of the road and friends of the heart.” I agree and I think too many people are really talking about “friends” as people that their circumstances (work, family, etc.) bring them into contact with. Not deep relationships of intimacy and connection.

    Real friendships are few and far between. It’s very nature does not lend itself to mass numbers. There’s not that much time and emotion that people can invest in more than a handful of people, if that, beyond their own family circles.

    To pretend otherwise is ludicrous. That said, we can socialize with people and network and all that, with wide circles. Just don’t confuse it with deep friendship of the kind that involves much more than socializing or even shared interests.

    I agree with Suki, who writes:
    “Sites like Facebook and Myspace foster the junior high idea that we have to have lots of friends to justify our existence. ”

    It is laughable that anyone thinks all these people online are your FRIENDS! Talk about delusional. They don’t even KNOW you. They don’t care about you. They are NOT involved in your life.

    It’s a truly sad commentary that people spend hours online with social “networking” and yet won’t invest that time in the flesh and blood folks who pass through their real life.

    Oh, and if you think I”m anti meeting people online, know that I have a close friend who I actually did meet online and then in real life.

    The whole notion of treating human beings we care about as “clutter” and applying the “one in, one out” rule is just plain sickening.

    And it explains why there are so many people with real inabilities to be intimate and relate to people.

    People are NOT THINGS. And they are not just here to fill our needs. That’s NOT friendship.

    Life is short. If you are lucky enough to have a handful of friends over a lifetime, count yourself blessed. Friendship, like anything of value, takes time, attention and commitment.

    Please. Don’t mislabel acquaintances as friends.

    And stop pretending all this online social networking is the equivalent of real-life friendships.

    Just wait till your life takes a turn and you need help. You’ll see very quickly how many “real” friends you have.

    By the way, good, thought-provoking post!

  19. posted by Kayla on

    To me, the definition of a close friend is someone I am able and willing to devote a significant amount of time to, and vice versa. So, I have always had a limited number of close friends, although I don’t have a set number in mind! If I meet someone that I really “click” with, I pursue the relationship. If I don’t feel that connection with someone, I’m not rude to them, but I don’t try to pursue spending time together. I’d rather have one very close friend who I can talk to about anything, who shares my interests, and who I can devote a lot of time to than spend valuable time and energy on a bunch of relationships that aren’t that meaninful. Of course, I’m also perfectly happy being by myself, so that lowers the number of friends I “need.” It is important to me to be a great friend; in order to do that, I have to limit the number of friends I have.

  20. posted by gypsy packer on

    Thanks, Miletta! Friends are people who value you, and whom you value.

    The person who wastes three hours of your time each evening with the same problem and won’t take advice is not your friend–(s)he doesn’t value advice and is using you for a procrastination tool.

    Social networking actually is a form of “interviewing” for friends–unless you have a toxic ex-abuser with spyware who is finding your social networks and suborning them–and this is more common than you think. I speak from experience here, and verifying the integrity of your social contacts occasionally is not a bad idea at all.

    In a world full of conformists, replaceable people want replaceable people. Individualism scares them half to death. Conformity is the ideal system to identity thieves who can move from target to target, and have a great excuse–the thief has “replaced a friend”.

    Sometimes we don’t even know our friends. I’ve had people come out of the woodwork who have read things written under my real name, and offer help for no other reason than that my dead-tree “post” had help hanging on it for them. Unfortunately, someone else’s plagiarism (fence-posts?)eliminated that activity.

  21. posted by TuringTestFail on

    This story is bound to wind up as a script for Sheldon’s friendship management in the TV show “Big Bang Theory”!

  22. posted by Breakfast for Dinner on

    I once got to a point where spending enough time with each of my friends got to be detrimental to my relationship with my husband. It’s like when a girlfriend wanted to hang out, he was playing second fiddle. But there is definitely something to be said for having too few friends. I frequently find myself becoming extremely close and bonded with one person and don’t let other people in and it’s not fair. I’ve learned to give “new” people a chance and have been pleasantly surprised to have some great people in my life.

  23. posted by Taco John on

    Did they mention the Dunbar Number by name, or did they just happen upon 150 again?

  24. posted by Sue on

    Mletta,

    Obviously you have strong feelings about this, but I disagree with your statement:

    “(Close friends are NOT folks you catch up with every now and then. They are an active participant in your life and vice versa.)”

    That’s not always true. My closest friend is someone I speak to infrequently – sometimes it’s every week and sometimes months go by with no contact. So yes, she’s someone that I “catch up with every now and then.” We’ve known each other since we were 5 years old. Geographically, we’re not close enough to visit every day or every week but we’re close enough to visit without it seeming like a major undertaking. And we’re both busy enough that we don’t talk on the phone every day.

    Just because we don’t chat every day and reveal every detail of every moment doesn’t mean we aren’t close friends. I know I can tell her anything. I know she’ll always be there for me. And I know she’ll be my friend for life, no matter what happens to her or me and no matter where we live.

    I have friends that I interact with far more often but that doesn’t mean those friendships are anywhere near as intimate and special as my not-quite-long-distance friend.

    Don’t confuse daily involvement in your life with true friendship.

  25. posted by Java Monster on

    And then there are the folks who have a hard time developing any friendships at all because of missing the social signals, or have been burned horribly several times and have run out of trust, or are genuinely introverted and have limited energy and even more limited time to begin with for mounds of friends.

    This is a sore subject for me: my extroverted mother never stopped nagging me about my lack of “friends” when I was a dyed in the wool introvert.

  26. posted by Audi Byrne on

    Besides being rude and extreme, I think there’s a more serious flaw to the ‘one in, one out’ policy — it’s impracticable, as friends are not 0s and 1s that can be added and subtracted. I see friendship as a fluid, organic thing (say, with values like “0.3” and “0.5 and growing”). Since friendships wax and wane (even the steady ones have some oscillations) it’s not always clear whether the friendship is “out” or “in”. (I think this echoes Rebecca’s idea of a “rotation”.) Sometimes the relationship seems over but you find something in common again, other times a friendship has fizzled out sometime before you noticed. And even if we could unambiguously label our relationships, it’s not entirely in our control to add or subtract them. A friendship grows over time, and there’s a need to wait and see if it develops. And a true friend might remain loyal even if you try to subtract them.

  27. posted by Audi Byrne on

    I just wanted to add that I don’t think it is extreme or rude to try to organize your priorities or even prioritize your friendships. (I was only referring to the dinner man’s actions). I just wanted to argue that it can’t be done so thoroughly with friendships. I think this is an interesting question.

  28. posted by Laura on

    I can understand this philosophy. There have been times in my life where my number of social engagements have gotten overwhelming to me and I get a little stressed out about it. The sad fact is, the people who are our CLOSEST friends sometimes get the ax on a social engagement when you are too swamped because out of everyone, they will understand. I try to just have low maintenence friends. The ones who love you no matter what, and understand that even if it’s been months, you are still there for each other and still care. I feel I am lucky to have as many close friends as I do. Connections to other human beings is the best thing in this life.

  29. posted by SavvyChristine on

    I think it’s neat that they came up with the 150 number. In The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, he talked about a company that discovered 150 was the magic number of employees for getting a close-knit, productive group. Any time they went over 150, productivity suffered and they split into two smaller groups in two separate workspaces. It’s neat to see that reiterated here.

  30. posted by Susan on

    To my way of thinking, close friends are the ones that no matter how long it has been since you wrote/talked/saw each other, you can just pick up where you left off without any awkwardness. Of course, maybe that is my age speaking – I’m 66.

  31. posted by Vijay R on

    Hi, Interesting subject. I would like to be friendly with everyone, but not have everyone as my close friend. While I don’t have any set quota, I like to keep it between 5 to 10. I believe that like any other thing in life, friendship has some regularly scheduled maintenance costs associated with it. If I don’t pay, I get aggravation in return. It could be my quality time, it could be my energy or money or something that’s of value to me. To keep my other commitments for my family and my self and to spend quality time, I’m better off having a few friends and taking care of them reasonably well, than to have too many “friends” and clutter up everyone’s life.

  32. posted by BJ on

    Thanks for all your thoughtful comments! I think about these issues a lot, as time seems to fly by the older I get and I feel the need to try to prioritize how I want to spend my time in life, and with whom.

  33. posted by Bennett on

    Rather than ‘regulating’ the numbers of friends, I tend to set aside time for friends and when that slot for the week or month is taken, that’s it.

    My husband doesn’t need as much down time as I do, he would fill up every night of the week if there was something that was interesting to him. So, I have started writing “PLANS” on the calendar at least one weekend per month. That way, when my husband is on the phone and quickly checking the calendar he can accurately reply, “Sorry, looks like we’ve got plans.”

  34. posted by Twitchy Fingers on

    No wonder that guy had a friend vacancy come up quickly – I’d imagine that he had a fairly high rotation of friends…

  35. posted by J.P. on

    This is one of the most thought-provoking posts I’ve seen in some time. In fact, I’m afraid that even having thought about the issues raised by it most of the day my musings on it still aren’t totally coherent. As such, here are a few things that have come to mind:

    -It’s not that we get rid of friends; it’s that we spend less time with some friends in order to make time for new ones. This has the effect of moving some friends into more distant circles, but, at least for most of us, I don’t think this is a conscious choice, but rather an effect of our preference. (Just like more time spent exercising will mean less time watching television, or engaging in some other activity.)

    -Based on some of the comments above and my own experience it does appear that some friends are “Unitaskers”: they take up a lot of space (time) and their functions could be better filled by more efficient tools (friends). O.K., now I’ve made it clear that I’m a bad person.

  36. posted by josie on

    i dont think i could ever announce that i had a friend opening… or even look at friends in that kind of a way, that is a very strange concept to me. looking at who i have been close to over the past few years it does seem as i drift apart with someone i become closer to someone else, it is a natural trade off. As circumstances or events come up I am closer to someone and more distant with someone else, i haven’t written them off and given their spot as a friend to another i have simply needed to have different individuals closer at different times.

  37. posted by Joan on

    I would say that right now, although I don’t feel like I have “too many” really close friends – “best” friends, if you will – I have too many to be a good best friend to all of them.

    One of my best friends was hospitalized last week with blood clots in her lungs. Another of my three best friends, during the same time, began having serious problems in his relationship. And my husband, my BEST best friend, was having problems at work.

    I ended up feeling that I didn’t give any of them the support they really deserved.

    Does that mean I don’t want to have them as ultra-close friends? Definitely not. But I can see the idea.

  38. posted by Ryan on

    This really reminds me of the (if I remember correctly) Buddhist saying that before you put something into the box, you should take something out. And although I’m not spiritual, I am philosophical and this is sound philosophy.
    What it comes down to is priorities. I think we mostly naturally regulate our friendships. There is still that human need to socialize, and I think we generally find people we get along with best and with whom we satisfy most of that need with. Like staple foods there are staple friends. However, though we are social, but we can’t spend all of our time socializing. Only a certain portion of our lives can be spent doing social things. How big that portion is depends on your priorities. Scarcity means choice. Friendships are use it or lose it. If you leave them for too long, you will eventually drift apart. There’s nothing sad about it (well unless it’s unrequited friendship, but I’ll leave that alone). It’s just two people going there ways. There are many past friends that I’ve had that I know I’ll never be good friends with again. Once, in college, when a new roommate moved in we each said flat out that we both had too many friends to see regularly as is and weren’t looking for another. There were no hard feelings–we were just being realistic.

  39. posted by Dawn on

    I am totally fascinated by this concept! I don’t think I’m a one-in, one-out person but I do believe in culling cluttering friendships. My die-hard rule is that when it comes to friends, it’s almost a “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me) attitude. I don’t mean that harshly, rather, I mean that if a friendship has become difficult, trying, stressful, one-sided!, frustrating to maintain, then it’s time for it to go. If I’m not getting out of it what I’m putting into it, I re-evaluate. I have enough difficult relationships in my life that I have no control over – annoying coworkers, dysfunctional family, issues with in-laws, demanding bosses, etc., – that I don’t need to throw friendships on that pile. Friends are to be enjoyed, not serviced. Some friends are worth the extra effort when the need arises – I’m not referencing those here. The friendships I’m talking about would fall into the outer circles mostly, altho, thru the years I have had to put the brakes on relationships I thought were “BFF!” So sad… but here’s a sticky for you: I recently discovered Facebook and altho I’m enjoying the reconnection w/old friends & acquaintances, it’s already gotten to the point of being out of control. I want this to be a mechanism for me to touch base w/others & keep them updated on me, but I’ve fallen into the guilt of friending people I would normally not pursue a true one-on-one relationship with. It’s time to cull the friend list but, so far, I’ve not had the heart (or the guts) to do it…

  40. posted by Michele on

    It is COMPLETELY false that on-line friends cannot be real friends! I developed a friendship with a group of ~20 via a wedding planning message board, and years later most of us are still in touch.

    It’s true that we are too wide-spread for frequent face time, but we schedule yearly weekend getaways together and put together group support for life events (like baby gifts). One member of our group suffered a serious illness last year, and two others flew out to be with her during her rehabilitation.

    Long distance friends are still friends, however you met them originally.

  41. posted by Tania on

    My friends will never be clutter to me. They uplift, not inconvenience my life. And I have a lot, way more than the numbers given in that article. I am blessed and I love my friends and they love me.

    This is a weird concept to me.

  42. posted by Simon on

    All I would say is you should do what most satisfies you with your time. If you feel you are spending too much time along then invest in a new friend. If you too busy to think… pencil some time in your diary to be alone.

    Probably thinking too much about number of friends is just replacing clutter in your life with clutter in your head.

  43. posted by joel on

    This is insane.

  44. posted by Paco on

    Maybe parents should do this with their children? Sorry, can’t have another until one leaves home or is eaten by wolves.

    *rolls eyes*

  45. posted by The Simple Dollar » The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Spring Break Edition on

    [...] Should The One-In, One-Out Rule Apply to Friends? This is an utterly fascinating rumination on the number of friendships a person can sustain and the “one in, one out” rule that’s very useful in keeping a good grip on the number of possessions you accumulate. (@ unclutterer) [...]

  46. posted by me on

    I just can’t believe we reached this line.

  47. posted by MB on

    I can definitely relate to this on some level. Not to the extreme of the ‘one in, one out’, but I don’t necessarily go looking for new friends.

    A dear friend was telling me about a group the other day, that I could go to and how I could ‘meet other moms, new friends’. I commented that I am having a hard enough time keeping up with the close friends that I already have and that I prefer to make more time for them, as opposed to spreading myself even further around new people. She totally understood. We have been friends for a long time. We have several close friends in our own neighborhood that we rarely see and I would prefer to nurture close relationships than seek out new ones.

    This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy meeting new people. I do. I LOVE meeting new people. But, I’m not going to go out of my way to get their phone number or exchange email addresses or the like. I’m happy simply being an acquaintance in a lot of instances, so I have more time for the close friends I already have and dearly love and don’t have nearly as much time with as I would like.

  48. posted by Marie on

    I think there is a time for every friendship. Some outlast others, and have proven themselves over time. I’m sure that each of us have a few like that, and it’s doubtful those friends will go anywhere. Our focus on who we spend time with may change, and our best friends might even welcome some space from us from time to time.

    The worst thing to do to a friend, though, is to hang onto them for dear life when your values have changed significantly to the point you have nothing in common. You are not married to them and are under no obligation to “grow together” again. If you can work to revive the friendship, great, but if you can’t, let them go, with your blessing. Who knows? Maybe in 10 years, they’ll look you up again and you’ll hit it off.

  49. posted by catmom on

    Java Monster,

    I was like you, an introvert and still am to a certain extent, but I’m working on improving myself. Like you said, there are many reasons people may have trouble developing friendships, I’ve been down that road too. Along those same lines from my experience, just when I was getting to know someone, they move away, leave the company we worked together at, started attending another church, just to name a few examples. Maybe that could have been a reason for me not to make new friends, when it happened so many times, eventually it was like “what’s the use?” My mother was like yours, she thought I should have been socializing everyday of the week and wondering why I didn’t have a plethora of friends (this was back in high school and my early adult life).

    To MB,

    I echo your thoughts. Like you, I’m lucky to have time to see the friends I currently have, but I’ll be open to new friendships.

    You both sound like good people and I wish you the best in life!

  50. posted by All web resource stuff » The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Spring Break Edition on

    [...] Should The One-In, One-Out Rule Apply to Friends? This is an utterly fascinating rumination on the number of friendships a person can sustain and the “one in, one out” rule that’s very useful in keeping a good grip on the number of possessions you accumulate. (@ unclutterer) [...]

  51. posted by Bonnie on

    I do find that the longer I live away from my hometown that it becomes harder to stay in touch with friends who still live there. Some I talk to just often enough (every few months or so for most, or weekly but very short conversations in the case of one) but there are some who have become very demanding of my time and I have to say I don’t like it. I want to say, as others have mentioned here, I have a full life and friends here! And I totally agree that one high-drama friend is more than enough. Luckily most of my high-drama friends were also toxic friends and I’ve managed to quietly drop them over the years. I am struggling with one friend right now who (although she hasn’t done anything overtly horrible to me) I have come to believe is very selfish. So she’s kind of gradually gone from friend to acquaintance.

  52. posted by Eliz on

    I have to disagree with some of the people who say that the man who said ‘one-in, one-out’ wasn’t capable of being a good friend. In a way, he’s putting a very high value on friendship: he’s saying he’s not even willing to commit to being your friend unless he has the amount of time he feels is appropriate to spend on building a friendship, either because his involvement with someone else has waned, or because of some other change in his life. After recently watching a good friend make herself sick because she was spending more time keeping dates with friends than taking care of her own life, I have to say he might be a bit doctrinaire and socially inept, but he’s not actually bad. IF he’d just said something like “Well, I’ve a lot of commitments right now, but I hope we’ll be able to stay in touch.” and then had contacted her a few months later to schedule a get-together, would it have been so bad?

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