A different kind of uncluttering

As we approach the end of the year, I know many people who are uncluttering their homes and offices to start the new year fresh. But there’s another kind of uncluttering you may want to consider: old relationships.


There’s someone I knew 30 years ago who I used to keep in touch with through periodic phone calls, at least on her birthday. A few years ago I stopped making the calls, because I realized this was mostly just a habit, and maintaining the relationship (even in this minor way) simply wasn’t important to me any more.

How do you know when it might be time to let a friendship fade away? As organizer Monica Ricci wrote:

Ask yourself, “If I met this person TODAY would they be someone I would choose to engage in a friendship or other relationship with?”

We change over time, so it’s not surprising that our friendships might change, too. Some old friendships endure, while others may not.

Our social time is limited, and choosing who we want to spend our time with may be one of the most important choices we make. I’m willing to have some relationships end so I have more time to spend with those people whose presence in my life I truly treasure.

Social media relationships

I often see people complaining about the things their Facebook friends write, which makes me wonder why they keep these people as Facebook friends. You’re under no obligation to stay connected on Facebook (or any other social media) with people whose words only make you angry on a regular basis. So go ahead and unfriend on Facebook or unfollow on Twitter when that makes sense.

For close family members who you feel an obligation to befriend on social media, things are more complicated. You could unfollow them (Facebook) or mute them (Twitter) so you don’t see their posts — they won’t be notified that you’ve done that, and you’ll no longer see their aggravating comments. But this type of action does bring the risk of missing some important news which they are assuming you’d see.

Business relationships

Have you been using the same service providers (doctor, lawyer, accountant, auto mechanic, veterinarian, barber or hair stylist, etc.) for a long time? Sometimes it’s because the service you receive continues to be outstanding, as with the contractor I’ve used since I bought my house 25 years ago. But other times things change in ways that degrade that service. Businesses change hands, lose key employees, move to new locations that aren’t convenient, and so on. If there’s a key service provider you’re using who you’re not enthusiastic about, consider asking for recommendations for someone new.

Groups of people

As with individuals, the groups of people you fill your life with might need to change over time. Such groups would include spiritual communities, book clubs, professional groups, charitable groups where you volunteer, and more. Such communities always change members over time. If you’re a member of one that is no longer feeling right for you, it may be time to part ways and make space for a new community. You may also feel you’re overcommitted as a member of too many groups, and it’s time to pull back.

7 Comments for “A different kind of uncluttering”

  1. posted by Jenna on

    This post is so appropriate for me right now. I am trying to declutter my life, and I am forcing myself to examine my relationships. Thank you for these great tips!

  2. posted by Mark on

    I don’t have any friends on Facebook other than my fiancée. (Simply so we can share links of articles.). I use FB for keeping up with businesses, musicians and general interests.

    I have found FB gives me a false sense of connection to friends. In reality if some news of a friend is imortant to me, I will hear about it eventually. I’ve found it allows me to spend less time on FB so I can participate more in my life.

  3. posted by HappinessSavouredHot on

    Clutter can be mental as much as physical, which is why I agree that we need to focus not only on what really matters, but also on WHO really matters. 🙂

  4. posted by Tina on

    This is very timely since I am updating and creating a new address book. I was having difficulty deciding who to keep and who to drop. This is also timely for the Christmas/yearly newsletter. Thank you for giving me the tools and suggestions for helping me unclutter relationships.

  5. posted by Michaela on

    Last year I dumped a bunch of business relationships that I was not happy with. This consisted mainly of clients who never paid on time (or anyone who lied to me, or treated me poorly). I simply went through my past due invoices, and anyone who had one was chopped out of my life. The money wasn’t worth the hassle of tracking it down every month and hoping I would get paid. I simply called, demanded payment, and told them to take me out of their system upon payment. I told some friends (in my same line of business) what I did and I received many negative comments about dumping clients. Its been over a year now, and I’m happy to report that most months I get paid on time and have no issues with the people I work for. I’m not afraid to tell someone I don’t want their work either (for whatever reason that may be). I now see a lot of my friends (in the same line of business) who took on these former problem clients of mine and are struggling with the same issues I had. Its not easy to make decisions like that, but I have no regrets for what I did. It made my life simpler and less stressful every month.

  6. posted by Monica Ricci on

    Thanks for including me in such a poignant post! XO

  7. posted by Christine on

    I could not agree more with this post!!! Although it might be hard to cut toxic people out of your life, sometimes… it’s necessary if you want to live a happy and amazing life. It makes room for the awesome, positive people you don’t know yet. 🙂 I’ve seen it happen in my life and in my clients’ lives time and time again!

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