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How to declutter your life: 6 kinds of people you need to let go of

hand holding a red lipstick writing Bye on a mirror with the lipstick

Do you feel like your life is filled with clutter? Maybe you have too many material things, perhaps the number of responsibilities has encroached on your free time, or possibly you just have a lot of people in your life who drain your energy and stress you out. In any case, it’s natural to want to declutter your life and simplify things. 

You might have already decluttered your home in the last two years and organised your wardrobes and shelves. What about your relationships? Did you know they need sorting out too?

Many of us find our social circle large but not meaningful. It’s not uncommon for people to stretch their friendships past the breaking point. 

If you want to know how to declutter your life, keep reading!

Why do we hold on?

I didn’t know I had a choice of letting people go. Terms like family, loyalty, or not wanting a confrontation kept me from cutting people off from my life who were draining the joy out of me. Sometimes it is challenging to declutter because it is difficult to let go of that part of your life. Over time, I realised that any relationship that leaves you drained needs to be evaluated.

Clutter can manifest in several ways: 

  • Physical clutter is having too much stuff around your house that you don’t need. 
  • Emotional clutter is the feeling of being weighed down by issues and people in your life. 
  • Cognitive clutter is having too many thoughts running through your head without giving you any clarity of thought. 
  • Digital clutter is having too many unread emails and other notifications on your to-do list and your calendar.

Most people have legitimate reasons for holding onto things that don’t have a place in their daily lives. It could be a sentimental item that reminds you of a loved one or a token given to you by a friend who has passed away. 

The problem occurs when you’re holding onto stuff that doesn’t have a place in your current life. When it comes to the people we hold on to, we often don’t realise that we have the option of not making them part of our everyday lives anymore.

Some of the fears we have when we think of cutting off people from our lives are valid: Will I have anyone left? They’re family, and family is forever, or we’ve known each other for so long it doesn’t seem right to let go. Letting go of people you used to love can be tricky. 

When you are clear about what is important to you and how you want your life to look, it is easier to determine which people and items you will need to declutter. 

Identifying a toxic relationship

Often, our mental space is taken up by relationships that ‘do not spark joy’. Think of a day you were feeling great, and then you got a call from a ‘friend’ offloading all their issues on you, leaving you feeling exhausted; or they’ve done that when you are dealing with your own issues and don’t have the mental bandwidth to take on more.

There are some people in our lives who suck the energy right out of us. We all know them—the Debbie Downers, the drama queens, or the negative nellies. They can be family members, friends, or colleagues, but they all share one thing in common: they leave us feeling exhausted and depleted. So what do you do when you realise that a relationship is toxic and it’s time to let go?

Devoting energy to a relationship that is not meeting your needs will leave you disappointed and emotionally exhausted. A relationship can become emotionally draining when one person asks for more than you are willing to provide.

This, of course, doesn’t apply if you are a caregiver for a friend or family member who needs your support. Sometimes in a relationship, one person will take more from the other. These ups and downs of relationships are natural. However, when a person capable of giving in to a relationship doesn’t do their share of the work, you need to ask yourself why you would want to continue to invest in the relationship.

A toxic person is not likely to go away immediately or change their behaviour simply because you asked them to. They might promise that they will change or try to manipulate the situation by making you feel like this is your fault. 

Driven by feelings of love and misplaced loyalty, someone trapped in a toxic relationship may sacrifice growth and change, reverting into the small, restrictive space that a toxic person is manipulating them to inhabit.

The 6 kinds of people you need to let go 

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they need to declutter—physically and mentally. Living a clutter-free life might seem impossible to some, but it’s not. You just need to be honest with yourself and let go of the people in your life holding you back.

It can be tough to let go of things we’ve held onto for so long, but it’s essential to make room for new and better things. 

There are the obvious toxic traits of abuse, both mental and physical, that are red flags. However, toxicity also seeps into our lives in much more subtle ways. Here are six kinds of people you need to let go of to live a happier life—

1. The Negative Nelly: 

This person constantly brings you down and makes you feel bad about yourself. They’re the ones who tell you that you’re not good enough, that you’ll never achieve your dreams, and that you should just give up. To them, the world is full of bad things that happen only to them, and it’s their job to caution everyone never to leave their shells.

2. The Freeloader: 

This person never pays their share and always expects you to do everything for them. It could be anything from monetary support to doing their chores and cleaning up after them. 

3. The Control Freak: 

A person who tries to control every aspect of your life needs to get a life of their own, away from you. Often, it is a parent having a hard time realising that their child is now an adult and should be making their own decisions.

4. Drama Queens: 

They feel that the world revolves around them and will make you listen to what they have to say without showing any interest in you. They also make a big deal over the simplest thing and are always on an emotional high. It can be exhausting to be around someone like that constantly.

5. Gossip mongers: 

Contrary to popular belief, men gossip more than women. When the harmless whispers turn into hearsay analysing every detail of a third party, you need to move on. Some people thrive on scandals and spreading rumours while closely guarding their own secrets. You need to wonder if they’re gossipping about you too when your back is turned.

6. Convenient Relations: 

Sometimes, we hang on to relationships just because they’re convenient at the moment. Having most of my friends and family living in different parts of the world, I would grab on to whoever was available. But if we take a step back, we’ll realise we don’t need to settle for an okay relationship because a better one will come along soon enough.

Certain people in your life don’t serve a purpose. They’re not bad people, but they’re not adding anything positive to your life. Let these people know they’re not invited to your life. You don’t need to cut them off entirely. Understanding the relationship dynamics will help you manage it with less stress. 

How to deal with a toxic person?

You can keep your distance emotionally but still acknowledge that you will need to engage with toxic people on a practical level (by seeing them for a holiday dinner, for example, or at work). 

Here are some tips on dealing with a toxic person:

  • Evaluate if you’ve endorsed the behaviour in any way—by always being available, letting them talk over you, or saying it’s ok even when it’s not.
  • Let them know if you don’t have the bandwidth to handle their problems at the moment or are not interested in gossip.
  • Let them know your boundaries and stick to them even when they try to cross them.
  • Clarify if they are looking for solutions or someone to hear them out.
  • Cut them out of your life if possible, at least temporarily, if they fail to respect you. Be firm, and make it clear that you don’t have the free time to give.
  • Distancing yourself from the person—spending less time with them, not sharing private information, or not interacting with them temporarily or permanently—can do wonders for your mental health. You could still accept engaging with the person if needed but refuse to allow them to pull you into an emotional model of toxicity.

What are the benefits of decluttering your life?

There are many benefits to decluttering your life, both for your physical and mental health. You create more space and improve the overall appearance of your surroundings which can be very gratifying and motivating. Mental clutter also negatively affects our well-being, such as reducing our focus and productivity, so decluttering can also lead to an increase in these areas.

Spend more time with positive people who will make you grow and feel good while limiting or eliminating toxic people who will just sap your energy. If you remove things that do not bring you joy or value, you will have more time to spend on things you enjoy.

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