I’m concluding Minimalist Month with a post that is going to seem really cutthroat and make me look like a cold dude, but I promise there is virtue in it. What’s left to cut out of our lives after excessive material things and unnecessary, time-consuming obligations? Relationships.
Unnecessary, unproductive, unfulfilling, time-consuming, toxic relationships.
We’re social creatures, and Maslow argues that one of our core needs is love. Friendship, a sense of belonging, sexual intimacy; stuff I would never say is a bad thing. They’re all great things. Which is precisely the reason we go rushing in, head down, into relationships without thinking. We crave them to get us over the next ladder rung on the way to self-actualization.
The result is a few great relationships, several moderate meh’s, and some outliers that provide little reward in exchange for a lot of work. The minimalist should be mindful of who he or she decides to give his or her time to. The aim is to clear the chaff until we’re left with great relationships, and to continue to pursue relationships that have the potential to be great.
Do not enter into or continue a relationship with an individual (friend, buddy, bro, significant other or otherwise) if…
…they create or facilitate drama.
Drama. A lot of people secretly love and crave it. I personally hate it. It’s a time-waster, especially if it arises out of some pseudo-problem that is commonly generated to satiate someone’s need for drama in the first place to make their life interesting. Every time I have offered to listen to what sort of drama a friend has gotten themselves into, a pattern emerges that breaches all genders and age groups. It’s all self-inflicted. Sure, we all have our problems, but going on about the juicy details, developing a cast of characters without even hearing their side of the story and subsequently praising them or demonizing them is far from a productive solution. Find some friends that value more in life than this petty he-said, she-said shit.
…you need them to be a source of validation.
Basing your actions on the approval or disapproval of others is a great way to limit yourself. If you told your entire network of friends that you were moving to China to teach English for a year, how would they react? Hopefully, regardless of how crazy they thought you had become, they would encourage you, because that’s what a true friend would do. Asking for advice is one thing, but letting your big decisions and goals in life depend on the weight of someone’s words is not healthy. Requiring their approval for whatever reason will crush your potential and hold you back from major achievements in life. If you can’t break your dependence on their opinion, it’s best to sever the relationship.
…they’re a black hole of negativity.
This type of person can take on many shapes and forms. It could be the average Debbie downer, negative Nancy, or Dolorous Ed, or they could be as hostile as a black hole of negativity that strives to hold everyone around them down their level. These sorts of people are the embodiment of the old adage, misery loves company. Stay away from them. Negativity and minimalism simply do not go together.
…it’s just out of habit.
I can’t think of many worse reasons to continue a relationship that has ran its course. Different people experience personal growth and evolution at varying rates, and it’s only natural that we sometimes outgrow our friends. It can be a painful thing to realize, but it happens. Pursuing continuity in stagnated relationships will burn your time as you try to feign interest in interests that have diverged from your own over the years. Luckily, these things usually come to a natural termination as you lose touch over time because of your growing apart, but it may be up to you to end your association and seek out more like-minded individuals.
The great Facebook cull
The easiest way to start untethering from toxic or simply outdated relationships is to thin your herd of Facebook “friends.” First of all, how many of these people are actually your friends? The last time I had a Facebook culling, I even found people I rather disliked on my friends list. Social media is great, but it has begun to redefine friendship and reduce it’s meaning down to a very disingenuous level. It’s a great tool to keep in touch with friends abroad, as well as friends back home, but our friends lists should reflect our attitude towards relationships in the real world. Simply pare it down to meaningful relationships, even ones that exist solely online. A great time to do this is during any major election. Keep Facebook open; the ones that fell through the cracks will slowly reveal themselves.
Fewer people, more enrichment
The crux of minimalism is less is more. This concept works with virtually everything, including the amount of people we spread our time across at a given moment. If we strive for a concentrated network of people who value us as much as we value them, support us, encourage us, and hold us accountable, all the while engaging us in stimulating, thought-provoking conversation, then we are on the right track.
But I guess I could just be a cold bastard that doesn’t have time for petty bullshit. I’m going back to my cave now. Have a nice day!