There has been a great deal of buzz lately about simplifying and decluttering our homes and spaces, and with good reason; there are a myriad of benefits that follow sorting, organizing and eliminating the junk that tends to accumulate in our lives that goes far beyond extra space and a tidier home.
In the process of taking stock of and paring down our belongings, we often confront the attachments and beliefs we hold in regards to these items, and by extension, that we hold about the intangibles in our lives.
The method of choosing which items to keep and which to let go of often involves holding the item in question and discerning whether or not it brings joy. Do you love the item? Does it make you feel happy? If not, or if it is not immediately useful or necessary, it should go.
This is a very effective technique, particularly for those of us who have a difficult time parting with our stuff, and learning to discriminate between something that we’ve grown dependent on or attached to from something that truly sparks joy is a very useful skill.
What I like most about coaching clients through the decluttering process is seeing these new skills and perceptions about the things they’ve chosen to surround themselves with spill into other areas of their lives. Once their homes are tidy and sorted, and they are surrounded by only those things that truly benefit and enhance their well-being, clients often begin seeing – perhaps for the very first time – other aspects of their lives that might require a similar attitude of discernment.
One particular area that this spill-over seems to occur in most often is relationships. Turning a discerning eye towards those people we surround ourselves with on a daily basis – our friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances – and determining which of those relationships serve us, can hold immense potential for positive change and growth.
But how do we go about decluttering our relationships?
We can’t exactly line up every individual and give each a quick squeeze to see if we feel joy or not. And deciding which relationships to keep or let go of is obviously not quite as simple as choosing which flower vase goes in the garage sale.
However, we can do the next best thing by taking a detailed inventory of those people we spend the most time with, and then letting our hearts tell us which relationships truly bring us joy, and which do not.
I found a handy little page from The Coaching Tools Company called ‘Detox Your Toxic Relationships’ that proved quite useful for this somewhat daunting task.
Part of their Balance and Self-Care Toolkit, the Detox template provides a nicely organized place to list each relationship, along with a column in which to choose a numbered score from -5 to +5. The score is assigned based on how you feel when thinking about spending time with, or after spending time with each person on your list.
Do you generally feel happier and more energized after spending time with this person, or do you feel drained or stressed? Do you have a lot of guilt or anxiety when thinking about spending time with this person? Basically, does this person or relationship enhance or bring joy to your life? If not, does it serve some other important or useful function that makes it worth maintaining? Examples of these might be mentor-type or work relationships.
The final column on the Detox sheet is titled ‘Action’, in which you or your client are guided to list a suggested course of action to be taken for each relationship. For those with a particularly low score, is there something that can be done to improve or repair the relationship? If not, is it perhaps time to let this relationship go, or at the very least, to give it less priority and time?
For those with high scores, are there opportunities for strengthening and reinforcing these beneficial and uplifting relationships? What adjustments can you make that might allow you to spend more time with these people? Or perhaps the action might simply be a show of appreciation for the value and joy they bring to your life.
Seeing a detailed and tangible summary of all of our key relationships provides a very useful snapshot of if and how our relationships are serving us, and where we might need to make adjustments. A list of mostly negative scores may give us a nudge towards finding and cultivating healthier, more supportive and more loving relationships, while seeing a spread of high positive scores may just serve to remind us to appreciate all that we already have.
While decluttering our relationships may be a little more complex and challenging than decluttering our wardrobes, the same principles apply: keep and maintain what serves, benefits or brings joy, and work to change or let go of the rest.