It has been about six months since I began my journey through decluttering my life. In that time, I’ve made a lot of lifestyle changes. I’ve already talked about some of them. However, I decided it was time to go about sharing more on how I’ve decluttered something else: Relationships.
My relationships with people were complex. It’s always been that way. I figured that the only way to make my relationships sustain is to understand what drives them to the point that they become toxic.
Step 1: Honesty About Myself
I tend to be slightly dishonest when it comes to telling people about myself. Slightly is the operative word here because I didn’t lie to people in the explicit sense of the word. Instead, I’d tell them half-stories, hide some details and so on so forth. I tried to show through a metaphor in my first ever story which wasn’t as good as I thought it was once. It was titled, David Quinn.
The reason I did this was that not every person was capable of taking the full version. I had learned this through experience. Most people whom I showed every side of me, even the most annoying ones, would just up and leave. I was a different person in front of everyone. Yet, when I came home, I was a different version of myself altogether.
I changed all that and more by applying the idea of decluttering to myself first and becoming a whole version of me instead of a thousand fragments for a thousand people. I was reading this article in the morning which talked about how people tend to leave when you start being yourself, appreciating yourself and so on. That is precisely what happened when I began to be clear and upfront about myself.
However, something else happened too. I realised that the closer I got to who I truly was irrespective of how eccentric or weird, people appreciated my company. In fact, some of my existing relationships became better and clearer.
Step 2: Losing My Saviour Complex
Most of my relationships became complicated over time because people would only look to me as a solution to some problem they had. I know how “a friend in need is a friend indeed” is an age-old piece of wisdom that works. However, it’s not very endearing to wake up to a call at 3 in the morning only to realise its something about your friend’s assignment.
I had an extreme case of the saviour complex. I still have it to some extent, to be honest. However, I’m more in control of myself.
When I was young, back in school or such, I used to idolize superheroes and whatever they stood for. “I’ll save them”, I’d declare. I never had an answer to the question that usually followed. “From what?”
So, I started saving everyone from everything. I’d be the errand boy when no one was around. I’d do things for people before they even asked. I became the greatest people pleaser.
It became even worse in college when people only started relying on me because I was resourceful. It was a good feeling to be the dependable one. At least, while it lasted. After a while though, most friendships became toxic because in saving everyone from everything, I’d lost my place as an individual. I was nothing more than a 24×7 customer care.
I understand the narcissism that this complete argument is spewing. However, to be in the place where you push out your needs to fulfil an almost stranger’s wants is a very unpleasant experience. It feels good in the beginning. Until you realise you put most of your priorities at bay and you end up overexerting yourself.
Step 3: Removing The Clutter
Most relationships survive on talking and conversation. However, I realised that most conversation, especially in a group, is words that go nowhere and you just end up where you started, if not further back. Here’s an example.
I asked my friends the other day if anyone wanted to tag along with me to the supermarket. There would’ve been two answers. No and Yes.
Instead, a heated discussion spurted out of a harmless question.
“Why are you going to the supermarket?” Asked the first friend.
I shrugged the question off. It was unnecessary. However, they continued the prying so “I need to get some utensils. Plates and such” was my reply.
“So you don’t have utensils? What have you been doing for all this time”, was my friend’s response.
Another friend jumped in between to suggest, “You’ll be going home soon. Why not get some from there?”
While a friend had an agenda of their own, “You know, I have some extra plates that I’ve wanted to get rid off since a long while. Why not take those?”
Now, I won’t deny that these are all perfectly good suggestions. I could go with any of them. However, I had asked a completely different question before this spontaneous sharing of advice began.
“Does anyone want to tag along to the supermarket after lunch?” I had asked. The uncalled for advice annoyed me and I just said this,
No, no and no. Thank you. We would’ve avoided this ruckus before we even began had all of you listened. So, let’s stop it here. I’ll go alone.
I’ve noticed lately that most conversation is actually just throwing around ideas no one wants to hear. This is clutter to me. It’s not always like that but most of the time, it doesn’t help. Since I can’t control people, I’ve tried to point the clutter out like I did in the reply above. In that way, I give essential feedback while maintaining my place.
I’ve also stopped most random texting that I used to do with friends; exchanging memes, jokes and snarl comments back and forth. I figured it wasn’t worth the time and no meme could strengthen my bond with those who appreciate me already.
This does not mean I don’t like talking to people. In fact, I love talking to everyone, even strangers. However, if the conversation is of no or low value in itself, it probably won’t help the individuals or the thing they’re talking about. This realisation helped me understand the importance of quality silence.
That’s how I’ve decluttered my conversations.
One Last Thing: The Joy of Giving
I recently donated over two dozen pieces of old clothing that I had set aside when I began my Project 333. I figured the clothes would serve those better who could use them now. So, I started by asking friends and family first. Some people claimed some pieces. A T-shirt there, a belt here and so on. However, most of it was still unclaimed so I asked the people who work in my building and let’s just say, the Spider-Man T-shirt I stopped wearing looks way better on him than it ever did on me.