The principles of the KonMari method are simple: If something no longer sparks joy for you, then you don’t need to keep holding onto it. Thank it for its service, and then move on.
As my last semester at Cornell progresses, I’ve started to say goodbye to many things. Old chemistry notes, drafts of essays, prelims — thank you for your service. And though Marie Kondo gives us strategies to declutter and say goodbye to our possessions, I’ve found that her philosophies have lent themselves just as well to the relationships in my life.
Like our possessions, we hold onto so many relationships with people because we’re afraid of letting go, even if we’ve long since stopped being excited about hanging out with them. We might be afraid of confronting potentially difficult or embarrassing situations with these individuals. And we’ve been conditioned to believe that we need as many friends and followers as possible in order to be valuable. We bog ourselves down with past drama, hurt feelings and idle conversation — it’s easier to be chronically dissatisfied than it is to be acutely uncomfortable.
But when we ignore the negativity in our lives, we only end up hurting ourselves. We drain ourselves of energy when we try to keep up with relationships that no longer spark joy for us. We carve ourselves into ruts. We teach ourselves to normalize and accept toxic and unsatisfying relationships as facts of life. We carry so much stress with us about others that we lose our time and connection with ourselves.
Marie Kondo writes that “the process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past.”
When I looked back on some of the friendships that I’ve had, I began to realize that I made and kept them because I didn’t want to face issues in my own life. I’d spent years engaged in strained conversation at Terrace because I thought it was better to scroll idly on my phone next to someone than it was to be seen scrolling by myself. I invested my time into one-sided friendships with people that I didn’t even feel comfortable being around. I sat with friends to reminisce about past memories, without ever making any new ones.
Just as we purchase our possessions for a specific purpose in our lives, these relationships have all played a role in my life. But that doesn’t mean I have to hold onto them forever, especially when holding onto them would prevent me from building new ones.
I think we too often fall into the trap of feeling like it’s a bad thing to move on or to change. As Marie Kondo says, “when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” We anchor ourselves in our past life, or else we hoard relationships to combat against the uncertainty of the future. All because we are afraid of living in the present.
We don’t want to admit to ourselves that we don’t care about certain people like we used to — and we don’t reflect on why we feel that way. We ask to catch up with others over lunch, and never follow through. We suggest, vaguely, that we should “hang out sometime” with them. We are irrationally uncomfortable with letting people go, even when those people begin to make us feel exhausted and miserable.
At some point I realized that I’d gotten myself so tangled up in the webs of a friend group that was no longer sparking joy for me. I stayed tethered to it for so long because it was safe and convenient, even if it wasn’t making me happy or helping me grow in the way I wanted to. I was afraid of hurting others’ feelings.
But you aren’t selfish for wanting to be happy. If happiness means that you have to distance yourself from a few negative influences, then thank them for what they’ve taught you and quietly move on.
It’s not a bad thing to drift apart from someone, because it means that you can drift closer to someone else. Moving away from my old friend group gave me time to meet new people and to be a better friend to the others in my life. I did things that I’d have never done with my other friends. I had long conversations about art and literature. I daydreamed with people about ways to be more sustainable. I took a weekend trip to New York City.
Marie Kondo tells us to “Find what you truly cherish in life.” Our life shouldn’t be about trapping ourselves in our pasts and fearing for our futures. The answers to everything we need are in front of us already, in the next thing that feels right.
Colton Poore is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Help Me, I’m Poore runs every other Monday this semester.