How to Marie Kondo-ize a relationship

June 17, 2019


It strikes me that Marie Kondo’s method of assessing whether or not to keep a belonging–“does it spark joy?” works extremely well for relationships of all kinds–including friendships. That thought came up as I rested after recent surgery, considering the hundreds of virtual strangers–Facebook friends–who sent me well wishes and also considering several people I thought were close to me who made only a cursory outreach, if even that.

First, let me assure you

that I had no shortage of really good friends who called, visited, emailed, texted, sent cards or flowers, cooked chicken soup, and offered help. One “broke in” to surgical prep by pretending to be my son, then sat with my husband, while another arrived when I was out of recovery. I felt loved and cared for in such a big way.

But I was reminded of a discussion I had with my late BFF about how surprised she was at the disappearance of several close friends during her illness. It’s an artifact that others have talked about, too, and I’d always thought that the root was discomfort with serious illness.

But maybe that wasn’t it, at all.

When someone doesn’t take time to reach out in a meaningful way to offer support and love, it may well be that the relationship has run its course. Maybe it’s a decades-long friendship or maybe something newer–it really doesn’t matter. People come into our lives for a reason or a season and not everyone goes the distance with us.

There are always signals along the way, even if we pretend not to see them.

I have had my share of strange friendships, I’ll grant you that. My tolerance for the strange in people has always been great. But maybe those days are over. As I looked back at the friends who were there for me and those who weren’t, I asked myself, “Does this friendship spark joy?”

Mostly what friends who are not there spark is curiosity. Confusion. And then, finally, re-categorization.

Because if a relationship doesn’t spark joy, it doesn’t belong in our lives.

That’s what I think, what do YOU think?

7 comments on “How to Marie Kondo-ize a relationship
  1. Alana says:

    When a childhood friend went on her first cancer journey, at age 29,she experienced just what you described. Her second time, years later, it happened again. This time she was prepared for it. I’ve actually been thinking of friendship a lot recently, in the context of retirement and having witnessed a person outliving her friends and a son.

  2. Rena says:

    I really have to get better at this. I have a hard time showing concern. Not knowing what to say but more feeling as if I am an intrusion during a special time. It’s hard to explain but I was always raised to think of myself as less than. A burden because I was a girl and bad at everything. I was there to help take care of them. So I guess subconsciously I feel as if I am just getting in the way of recovery, but I can see where it could be construed as cold.

    • Reaching out is always welcome. I know it is a talent to know just how much is too much, but really, a sincere reachout is always appreciated. A card. A note. A bowl of soup. Even a text! I was lucky to have learned about this back in the 80s when I worked as an emotional support person for those with HIV. We learned how we didn’t have to “fix it” but that holding space for someone was not that hard to do. A good heart goes a long way.

  3. Lauren says:

    I’m about to head into a major surgery next week and the timing if this is perfect. So many friends have offered help. Let’s see who really comes through.This is going to be interesting, And yes the ones who don’t show up in any way will be Marie Kondo’d. Life is to short to waste any more precious time on people that don’t spark joy. Yet, I am so grateful for those that do and i would do anything for them as well.

  4. Donna says:

    I’ve had cancer twice. Along the way, there were good friends who failed to show up and strangers who reached out with kindness. I decided it was better for my health to embrace them all, warts and all. Sometimes my friends do not bring joy, but I don’t bump them unless they’re toxic.

  5. Betty says:

    I love the idea of Mari Kando’izing people who don’t bring me joy. But like Donna, I tend to be pretty generous and don’t give up on people very quickly.

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