The 101 Of Friendship Hoarding
Keeping friends for the sake of it is ruining you.
Confession time; I'm a reformed hoarder.
Not of possessions, though I'm sure my husband would argue I have way too many handbags. No, I used to hoard friends.
And yes, in answer to the questioning burning in your mind, it's possible to hoard people. The problems we associate with a house full of junk, essentially, can happen to our relationships too.
We can drown in a sea of friendships that do nothing for us.
For me, I reached a point where it was time to stop. I decluttered my friends, and my handbags, too.
I no longer hold on to friends for the sake of holding onto them.
I've cleansed my life of the people who cannot bring me happiness, who don't care about me and who don't support me when I need them.
This hasn't been easy.
Understanding I was hoarding friends was a brutal realisation to come to first. It took a lot of soul searching and painful friendship conversations to realise had many people I was allowing into my life that didn't deserve to be there.
I make it sound so simple. Just do what I did and get rid of those "useless" friends. Yet, it is far more complicated than that, emotionally and physically.
Here's my 101 to cleansing yourself of the toxic quality of holding onto friendships for the sake of it.
1. Understand what friendship hoarding really means
Most of us understand the concept of hoarding. It's keeping objects we believe are important to us when they likely have little to no value.
I don't want to treat people like objects. I also don't want to assign value to people in the same way we place a value on objects. These people are human beings with feelings. It's not the same thing.
Here is the way I view it; friendship hoarding means you're keeping friends in your life for the wrong reasons.
In practicality, it means you:
- Don't have fights or arguments with any friends for fear they will break up with you
- You don't delete anyone from your contacts, phone, email and social media, ever
- You invite everyone you know to parties and events
- You have friends that come from every single step of your life - school, first job, second job, friends of your ex
- You keep friends in your life despite anything they've done to hurt you - you forgive everyone when it would be better for you to let them go
- You keep friends in your life that are a bad influence on you - they lead you down the wrong path in life
- You keep friends in your life everyone else hates and warns you to get rid of
Everyone, by the way, can find an exception to the rule.
We all have a friend who fits one of these criteria that we can't let go of. It's not about holding onto one specific friend. It's about keeping everyone you've ever known close to you, in some capacity.
Essentially, you lack the ability to break up with friends.
2. Understand why you hoard friends
I didn't realise how my friends really treated me until after a few key events happened in my life.
I thought all these friends I kept around me cared about me. I took them at face value, rather than reading between the lines about how they treated me.
I was a pushover. I was the friend you used to get somewhere in life or feel better about yourself with.
When you're a pushover, you don't think about getting rid of friends. You don't think people are taking advantage of you. You believe they care.
Yet, one day, I discovered they weren't my friends. I understood my place in their friendship with me, yet I remained friends with them.
That was my hoarding. Keeping people around for the sake of it, even though I know they were no good for me.
Not everyone is like me. We hoard friends for many reasons and from our varying experiences with people.
It's part of the bigger problem. As we all get pushed and shoved around, hoarding often feels like it happens to us rather than it's something that we do.
Here are the reasons we friendship hoard:
- We think we should keep them because of shared experiences - We've been through tough times together. Perhaps we knew each other when we were both going through a rough patch in our life. Or we share a friend who passed away at a young age. These shared experiences are ones only you have with each other, and it's the only thing keeping you together. You wouldn't be friends otherwise. We've built this shared experienced up over time and it's meant we are unable to part with the people we've had it with.
- We think we should keep them because of how long we've known them - School friends. This is the most common reason we keep friends; we've known them so long, we should keep them. It's the right thing to do. It's what long-term friends do. And perhaps, somewhere along the line, we made a juvenile promise to each to be friends forever. The problem is you're honouring something you said when you were twelve.
- We don't want to face an awkward break-up conversation - Getting rid of your friends is hard. It requires having awkward and emotionally confronting conversations with them. Or you have to ghost them, which inevitably backfires and makes you feel like a cruel person. It's easier to keep friends around than have "the conversation".
- We're hoping these friends will come in handy one day - No one wants to admit to being a friendship user, but sometimes we think we will need these friends someday. It's in the same way we hold on to the spare screws that come with an Ikea bookshelf. Throwing them away, ending the friendship, seems like we're burning bridges. Why do this if we might one day need the connection? That's a justification for keeping bad relationships in our life. You put up with bad friends in the hope it might pay off.
- We don't know how to have meaningful relationships, only superficial ones - We believe the more friends we have, the better the friends are. This is a perception where quantity trumps quality. But in keeping these friends who aren't good for us, we're too concerned with our quantity dropping.
- We spend too much time with the shoe on the other foot - How would it feel for the other person to get broken up with? It would suck, right? We become too afraid of hurting someone's feelings, assuming it would hurt their feelings, too. We can talk ourselves into anything if we want to avoid something painful.
3. Think about a life without friendship clutter
If you've figured out you are a friendship hoarder but don't know if you can shake a lifetime habit of keeping friends, it's time to think about what could be.
For me, the following changed in my life when I quit friendship hoarding:
- I felt less pain in my relationships - I didn't know how miserable I was with my friends until I cleansed myself of the noise. The weight lifted from my shoulders in an instant. I didn't understand the extent of the baggage until it was gone. I felt like I was starting as a new person.
- I felt less anxious hanging out with friends - All my encounters with friends were becoming problematic. The anxiety of being with them riddled me, even with the friends I knew I wanted in my life. Without those people dominating my thoughts, I could enjoy being social again. I was thriving without them.
- I stopped thinking I needed to be something I wasn't - The more people I had in my life, the more I felt I needed to impress people. It was like I was constantly having to be on, to make sure everyone felt like they were getting a piece of me. It was exhausting.
- I had more time for the people and activities I love - Without these toxic friendships cluttering my diary, I could devote myself to the things that meant the most to me. I was living for my friendships; they were all-consuming before I purged myself. This allowed me to find what I truly wanted in life.
- It proved who cared about me for the right reasons - Some people I pushed away came back to me. This is the only risk of de-hoarding; you might part with a friendship that was meaningful and true. But if it's meant to be, the old saying about setting something free definitely rings true.
You don't have to get rid of friends. This isn't the overall suggestion I'm making.
Yet, it doesn't hurt to evaluate what life without an abundance of friends could look like. It might make you realise you are keeping friendships that don't serve you.
Or, in a happier situation, it helps you appreciate the friendships you have, forcing you to treasure them more.
So, here is the big question; are you a friendship hoarder?
I'll leave that one with you.