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Why You Should Do a Friends Cleanse Periodically

Here are 10 questions to ask about each friend in your life

Key points

  • A friends cleanse encourages your to review your friendships and shed the ones that don't belong in your life.
  • Ask yourself 10 questions about your friends. If the answer to at least one is yes, then consider cleansing that person from your circles.
  • A proper friends cleanse can leave you with more time and energy to dedicate to worthwhile relationships and experiences.
  • As you accumulate more and more people in your life, it's a good idea to do a real friends cleanse periodically to clear out the clutter.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.
A "friends cleanse" can help separate the situational friends from the ones to actually keep.
Source: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.

You know all those different cleanses that you keep hearing about that may or may not do what some people claim that they are supposed to do? The ones that have you put brewed tea, apple cider vinegar, lemon water, or some other liquid down your mouth or elsewhere? Well, the jury's still out on which of these may actually work. But here's a cleanse that works that doesn't involve any drinks or enemas. I can vouch that it's made a big positive difference in my life. It's what I call a "friends cleanse."

What is a Friends Cleanse?

My first friends cleanse came shortly after an over two-year relationship had ended. Despite having already unconsciously emotionally checked out of the relationship for months, my younger, more ignorant self had neither the awareness nor gumption to end the relationship earlier. Near the end of our relationship, my significant other at the time, whom I'll call Nota Goodfit, had, unbeknownst to me, been hanging out with a friend of mine, whom I'll call MetHer Throughme. In fact, another friend, whom I'll call Didnt Tellmeintime, eventually told me after the fact that Nota and MetHer had actually begun dating weeks before my relationship with Nota had officially ended.

This situation left me wondering how I had ever become close with any of the three people. I then relayed this situation to another friend, whom I'll call Toobusy Tolisten. However, Toobusy was, surprise, surprise, too busy to listen to what I had had to say. Both he and another friend, whom I'll call Doesnt Understandme, seemed quite wrapped up in their own careers and only offered cursory platitudes when I relayed the situation to them.

In fact, it was then that I fully realized that I didn't know a whole lot about either of their personal lives because Toobusy and Doesnt rarely revealed what was really going on with them, beyond their repeating the "things are going great" mantra whenever I had asked. In fact, at one point, Toobusy told me, "yeah, we were talking about you and how things have not gone so well for you." Great, Toobusy was too busy to talk to me but apparently wasn't too busy to talk about me with others when I wasn't around. It was then that I began the cleansing.

10 Questions to Ask About Each Friend

That realization prompted me to systematically go through each of my friends and determine whom I really wanted in my life. If someone met one or more of the following 10 criteria, that person was a candidate to be cleansed from my friendship circle:

  1. Have they not been there for me when I reached out during the tougher moments of my life?
  2. Were they judgmental when I revealed that I was going through tough times?
  3. Did they not make an adequate effort to stay in touch?
  4. Did they fail to make enough effort to really get to know me?
  5. Have they not been open about themselves and their lives? Were they instead presenting a front or charade to me?
  6. Did they fail to tell me or warn me about important things that I needed to know?
  7. Did I wonder about what they were saying or doing behind my back?
  8. Did they date my significant other while I was still with the significant other?
  9. Did they not seem to cherish our friendship?
  10. Did they not change any of the above behaviors even when given the opportunity to do so?

In many cases, I just let the to-be-cleansed people simply fade from my life by no longer making any effort to maintain contact. My rationale was that if they had indeed been true friends, they would have noticed that I was no longer contacting them and would eventually make an extra effort to find out what was going on and reach out to me. That happened with one friend, whom I'll call Whydidyouvisitthecity Andnotcallmetomeetup. He contacted me as soon as he had realized that I had visited his home city yet didn't call him to connect in person. His first inclination was that he had done something wrong, which made me realize that he indeed cherished our friendship. This and his follow-up made me realize that he was worth keeping in my life.

Feeling Refreshed After the Friends Cleanse

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
A proper "friends cleanse" can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated with more time and energy.
Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

It was striking how many positive things happened after this first cleanse. Casting away friendships that were way past their best-by dates freed up so much more time and energy for me to pursue more meaningful relationships and activities. It can feel great to "Marie Kondo" so-called friends who frankly have been adding to the clutter of your life. (Kondo, by the way is the Japanese organizing consultant, author, and TV presenter who wrote the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and is known for ruthlessly telling you to throw away stuff.)

Soon after I had completed my first ever "friends cleanse," something magical happened. I started seeing new people and new experiences that I hadn't noticed before. By removing the clutter of the old, I had much more time, energy, and vision to welcome new people and new experiences into my life. Remember, every minute that you spend on someone is a minute that can't be spent on someone or something else.

Now, just because you deem someone to be cleansed from your friendship circles doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is a bad person. Or can't be a good friend to someone else. It just means that he or she is not a good fit for you, at least not for the moment. Maybe that person doesn't fully recognize your worth right now. Maybe that person is prioritizing others over you. Maybe that person has some growing to do himself or herself. Perhaps someday things may change. But today you only know the present. And if that person ain't present for you that presents a problem.

Do a "Friends Cleanse" Periodically

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Over time, people who don't belong in your life can end up cluttering your life.
Source: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

It's a good idea to do a real friends cleanse periodically. As you travel through the ocean of life, you can continue to find new shipmates and new types of wind to help guide your boat. But you can also continue to accumulate lots of barnacles. While some of the new relationships that you develop may be built to last, many others may only be situational, like that guy whom I had met after he had tumbled down the stairs drunk in our college dorm or those folks whom I used to go club-hopping with while I was in medical school. We had become "friends" at the time because we offered each other superficial things that were needed at the time. Time and changing situations had since made me realize that they were never real friends.

The realization that someone's not really a friend may not come to you until you consciously look at your situation. It's easy otherwise to fall into a routine or accept the status quo when you don't regularly actively question what you are doing. A periodic friends cleanse forces you to look at your real situation and clean things up every now and then, just like a periodic housecleaning makes you realize that you've left that forgotten doughnut under your bed for far too long.

So why not try a friends cleanse and see what your friendship "house" really looks like? It can help you better understand who and what you'd like around you. And you never know how Marie Kondo-ing your friendships may help "spark joy" in your life, to repurpose a tidy phrase from Kondo.

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