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Out With The Old, In With The New: Relationship Decluttering 101

Ready for better relationships in the New Year? Need to break free from toxic ties? Ditch the emotional baggage and learn the art of relationship decluttering for a happier you!

Friends laughing with sparklers in their hands

The New Year is the perfect time for fresh starts, new goals, and organizing.  While many of us focus on organizing our physical spaces, it's equally important to clean up our emotional space starting with some relationship decluttering. 

Think about the people in your life. Whether it's a romantic partner, friend, or family member, it's important to reflect on what's working and what's not. We all have people in our lives who bring us joy and support us, but we also have those who might be holding us back or bringing us down. It's easy to hold on to relationships out of habit or fear of change, but with a fresh start comes the perfect opportunity to let go of what's not serving us and make room for new possibilities. 


Maybe you've been stuck in a toxic relationship that's been weighing you down for too long, or holding on to a friendship that's no longer fulfilling. Whatever the situation, it's important to recognize when it's time to move on and make room for fresh, positive connections.


If you're ready to say goodbye to negativity, clean out your relationship closet, and create space for meaningful connections, keep reading.


Identifying The Clutter In Your Relationship Closet

Before you start chucking people out like expired milk, take a moment to acknowledge the mess. Just like a closet overflowing with old or unused items, unhealthy relationships can pile up, take up space, and weigh us down. Not all connections are bad, but some might be doing more harm than good. But before tossing them out, take a moment to explore the clutter in your relationship closet. 

Not sure where to start? Before letting a relationship go, consider the following: 

  • Toxicity. Are you met with constant put-downs, manipulation, or emotional withdrawal? Does someone belittle you, make you feel insecure, guilt trip or shame you? If your self-worth shrinks in their presence, it's definitely time to say goodbye.

  • Neglect. Do you ever feel like you're carrying the relationship load alone? Like you're putting in all the effort while the other person checks out? Do you have people in your life who only reach out when they need something? If you feel forgotten, like a sock in the dryer, it’s time to re-evaluate the balance. 

  • Codependency. Do you feel like you're drowning in someone else's needs, neglecting your own or vice versa? Do you rely on each other to the point that you’re losing your sense of self? Healthy relationships are supposed to encourage growth, not stunt  it. If you’re losing yourself in the mix, it's time to take a step back and reassess if the relationship aligns with  your personal goals and interests.

  • Communication Black Holes. In relationships, staying silent isn't always the best approach. Prolonged periods of silence, misunderstandings, and unspoken resentments can signify unhealthy relationships. If you find it consistently difficult to communicate, it’s time to get to the root of the problem to identify whether or not its time to work on rebuilding your connection or consider moving on.

  • Unrealistic Expectations. Are you holding on to a relationship based on how it used to be instead of what it actually is? Clinging to the past can prevent you from experiencing genuine connections. If the relationship feels stagnant and unfulfilling, it might be time to let go and open the door to new possibilities.

If you find yourself feeling worse after interactions, it may be a sign of an unhealthy relationship, and may mean it's time to move on.

Sorting The Clutter

Now that you've identified the clutter, it's time to sort through it. Just like sorting through clothes, this process involves careful consideration of what adds value and what doesn't. This is where you decide what relationships are worth keeping and which ones may need a bit more attention or, in some cases, need to be let go. Deciding what stays and what goes isn't always easy. 

Here are some tools to help you sort through your relationships:

  • Journaling. Grab a notebook and jot down your feelings about each key relationship in your life.  Write down your feelings, experiences, and frustrations. What patterns emerge? Are there recurring issues you need to address? Seeing your thoughts laid bare can be surprisingly clarifying.

woman journaling in bed

  • Reflecting. Ask yourself questions that can help you gain valuable insights into the health of your connections:

    • Does this person support my goals and growth?

    • Do I feel respected and valued? 

    • Can I be my authentic self around them?

    • Does this relationship bring joy and fulfillment?

    • Do I feel heard and understood?

    • Do I feel drained or energized after spending time with them?

  • Communicating. Sometimes, the best way to sort the clutter is to talk about it. Initiate open and honest conversations with your loved ones. Share your feelings, listen actively, and be receptive to their thoughts. Honest conversations can clear the air, build trust, and strengthen connections. Start by using "I feel" statements to express emotions without assigning blame.

When things get tough in your relationship, talking openly and honestly about them is the best way to work through it together.

Deciding What To Keep And What To Let Go

woman sorting through keep or declutter piles

After sorting  through your relationships, it's time to decide what to keep and what to let go. Don't worry, this isn't like a Marie Kondo clean-out where you have to say goodbye to all your relationships that don't bring you joy. It's just a chance to take a deep, honest look at your current connections. Sometimes the hardest part is admitting that a relationship has run its course. It’s important to remember that letting go doesn’t always mean ending a relationship. Sometimes, it means setting boundaries or expressing your needs. Other times, it may mean ending a relationship that is no longer serving you. It’s up to you to decide what is best for your wellbeing. 

Here’s when you’ll know it's time to let go:

  • You Feel Drained After Spending Time With Them. If you always feel exhausted or emotionally drained after spending time with someone, it could be a sign that the relationship is no longer serving you. 

  • They Don't Support Your Goals Or Values. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your goals and who share your values. If someone in your life is constantly putting you down or minimizing your dreams, it’s time to move on. 

  • They Bring Negativity Into Your Life. That person who's always complaining or gossiping can be a real downer. Negativity is contagious, and it's important to protect your mental health by surrounding yourself with positive people.

  • The Stagnant Ones. Remember those conversations that used to be filled with engageable banter and laughter, but now feel like awkward silences? These connections might have served their purpose at one point, but they're no longer growing alongside you. It’s time to let them go. 

  • The One-Sided Ones. Do you feel like you're constantly the cheerleader in your relationships, offering endless support while receiving little in return? These unbalanced partnerships are like an itchy sweater that needs to be let go.

For those worth holding onto, here's how to strengthen the bond:

  • Set Boundaries. Define what's acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Communicate your needs clearly and consistently. This doesn't mean building walls, but establishing healthy limits to protect your energy and wellbeing. Learn to say "no" and prioritize your wellbeing. 

  • Express Your Needs. Don't bottle up your feelings. Ask for what you need, whether it's more quality time, emotional support, or a better listening ear. Don't be passive-aggressive. Communicate your needs clearly and assertively.

  • Have Difficult Conversations. Conflict is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be destructive. Learn to communicate calmly, actively listen, and find solutions together. Don't shy away from tough topics. Approach them with empathy and a willingness to listen and learn. Avoidance doesn't solve problems. 

Not all relationships are meant to last a lifetime. If a connection constantly drains you or brings more negativity than joy, it might be time to let go.

📝 Exercise: Identify one relationship you want to strengthen. Write down three boundaries you'd like to establish and three needs you want to express to the other person. Think about how you will communicate these to them. Remember to be open to their perspective and willing to negotiate wherever possible. Be prepared to listen to their needs and boundaries as well.

Filling The Space

Now that you’ve let go of the clutter, it’s time to fill the space with healthy and fulfilling connections. This might mean finding new friends, nurturing existing relationships, dedicating more time to your own self-discovery, or setting limits with difficult people in your life.

How to make room for new connections:

empty closet

  • Expand your social circle. Open yourself up to meeting new people who share your passions. Join a club, take a class, volunteer, and say "yes" to invitations. You never know who you might meet!

  • Nurture existing relationships. Invest time and effort in the connections that matter. Show appreciation, be present, and make sure they feel loved and valued by planning a fun outing, sending a thoughtful note, or simply finding new ways to be present.

  • Create Boundaries. Not everyone deserves space in your closet. You don't have to cut everyone out, but you can limit their access to your time and energy. Protect your peace of mind by saying “goodbye” to toxic relationships, without guilt or drama.

Seek out connections that align with your values and bring out the best in you.

📝 Exercise: List three activities or groups you've been curious about. Make a plan to explore them and potentially meet new, like-minded people.

Maintaining a Tidy Closet

Just like a clean closet needs regular upkeep, so do your relationships. 

Here are some tips to keep things fresh:

  • Practice Open Communication. Keep talking! Openly share your thoughts, feelings, and needs, even when things are good. Regular check-ins prevent resentments from festering. Share your joys, your struggles, and everything in between. 

  • Invest In Quality Time. Make time for the people who matter, even if it's just a weekly phone call or a quick chat over coffee. Schedule specific times for friends, family, and partners. Block out all the distractions and connect on a deeper level. 

  • Express Gratitude. Don't take your loved ones for granted. Let them know how much you value and appreciate them. A simple "thank you" or a thoughtful personal gesture can go a long way.

Check in with yourself and your loved ones to ensure your relationships continue to grow.

Remember, decluttering your relationship closet isn't about throwing people away. It's about making space for connections that lift you up, inspire you, and make you feel like the best version of yourself. So, roll up your sleeves, embrace the mess, and make this the year of healthy, fulfilling relationships!

Happy New Year! Here's to a year of meaningful connections and personal growth!


Comment Below: What’s one red flag you identified in your relationships?

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Feb 20
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I love these exercises!!

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