A guide to purging toxic people from your life

I hate to brag, but I lost more than 200 pounds in a week. Yup. I did it by cleaning out closets and purging possessions that didn’t “spark joy,” inspired by the KonMari Method outlined in Marie Kondo’s bestseller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

It was such an enlightening experience—pun intended—that it got me to thinking about other areas of my life that could be decluttered in a more figurative sense. Like curtailing obligations to free up time for activities I truly enjoy. Surrounding myself with people who enrich my life, not suck it dry. Caring less what other people think about what I say or do.

Well, you know the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears?” I no sooner put these musings out there to the universe than my Facebook newsfeed shows me a post about a book entitled, “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.” It’s a parody of Kondo’s book that promises step-by-step guidance on “how to stop spending time you don’t have with people you don’t like, doing things you don’t want to do.”

How could I resist? I bought the book (hey, it sparked joy).

In the introduction, author Sarah Knight writes that her tome is “for all of us who work too much, play too little, and never have enough time to devote to the people and things that truly make us happy.”

And her approach—which she calls the NotSorry Method—is quite simple. First, you decide what you don’t give a f*ck about. Then, you don’t give a f*ck about those things. Without feeling guilty. And without being an asshole about it.

To start, Knight suggests that you sort your f*cks into four categories: Things; Work; Friends, Acquaintances and Strangers; and Family. She strongly recommends that you follow this prescribed order, saving family stuff for last since it’s such a minefield—and you’ll have gotten your don’t-give-a-f*ck sea legs by working through the other categories.

Because my threshold for crap has gotten considerably lower as I’ve gotten older, I’d actually already begun this divesting process in recent years. So Knight’s book was great (and profanely funny) affirmation for what I’ve accomplished so far in terms of rationing my f*cks.

Things like family drama and dysfunction, having a perfectly spotless house, arguing with bigots, attending baby showers, being polite to telemarketers, watching the presidential debates and political talk shows, whether sending back a disappointing meal will offend the chef, serving on another volunteer committee, paying full retail, having a house that’s bigger than we need, learning to make pie crust, being concerned about what people might think if I use the f-word…these are all things I’ve decided I don’t want to give any f*cks to anymore.

And I’m pleased to say that, the more you practice letting go of this kind of stuff, the easier it gets. I’ve even tackled some family stuff:

  • I no longer speak to an uncle and his wife who, under the guise of offering “support” when my mother was dying, flew up to Maine and proceeded to question virtually every decision I made about mom’s care. Said uncle, while alone with me at my comatose mother’s bedside, also tried to initiate a conversation about a hookup he’d had with my high school boyfriend’s mother 50-plus years ago. And he kept referring to the “40-year-old divorcee” with whom he went on evening walks around his neighborhood (sans his wife). Nope, I do not give a f*ck about maintaining a relationship with this relative. And I’m NotSorry.
  • I‘ve also severed ties with an aunt I helped move from Colorado to California last summer (her hoarding tendencies triggered my own purge). In the category of “no good deed goes unpunished,” after my sister and I got our aunt settled in her new place, she began to accuse us of being after her money, and implied that I—whom she’d asked several years ago to be her power of attorney—couldn’t be trusted. This was the latest in decades’ worth of narcissistic, mean-spirited and manipulative behavior (not to put too fine a point on it), and for me it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I sent her a registered letter matter-of-factly stating I would no longer serve as her PoA, and requesting that she remove me from her will as a beneficiary. We’re no longer in contact (she doesn’t speak to my sister anymore, either). I’m NotSorry—and neither is my sister—because our lives are now blessedly free of her drama and the stress it created, which we’d endured for years out of a sense of obligation.

Just as limiting your possessions to those that spark joy helps you feel lighter and clearer, purging toxic (or even merely extremely annoying) individuals from your life makes more room for the people and relationships that really matter. Those two hours a week I used to spend on the phone listening to my aunt bitch and moan can now be spent hanging out in blissful silence with Hubs. And I’m NotSorry.

I’m decluttering.
Is there a donation bin
for certain people?

What about you? What things or issues in your life do you no longer (want to) give a f*ck about? Are there people in your life you need or want to cut loose (or already have), or with whom you need to set clearer boundaries? Please share.

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4 thoughts on “A guide to purging toxic people from your life”

  1. That’s the great thing about my family: We never argue over who should get whose money, because none of us have any.

    Just the same, I can think of a lot of toxicity that could be pushes away … it’s a great idea.

    1. Well, I guess that’s the upside to not having money, right? And frankly, I can’t think of any downside to letting go of toxicity…Thanks for commenting, Mark!

  2. Thanks, Donna! The thinking about it was much worse than taking action. And now that it’s done, there’s SUCH a sense of relief. Life’s just too short for the B.S. and drama!

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