I think most human beings are subconsciously programed to respond positively as often as possible; meaning, we say ‘yes’ far more often than we should.
- Yes, I can add one more meeting to my already busy schedule.
- Yes, I can pick up the kids.
- Yes, I’ll be on the committee for one more year.
- Yes, I’ll buy that.
- Yes, I can wash that shirt tonight.
- Yes, I will skip lunch to help you with that project.
- Yes, I’ll pick up an extra shift at work.
- Yes, I’ll host the holiday party this year.
- Yes, we can donate 5 dozen cupcakes to the benefit sale.
- Yes, I’ll store that in the garage.
We want to be helpful. We want to be agreeable. We want to be able to do it all.
But at some point, even the most ambitious, over-achieving, full-of-energy, extremely helpful person reaches the point where they just can’t add one more thing to their home or life—which are both already so full of things and activities that don’t necessarily make them feel happy or fulfilled.
Have you been there?
As I mentioned already, a simplified home and life require intentional effort and intentional choices as to how we will—and more importantly—how we will not spend our time, energy, money, and resources. While I don’t think a simplified home and life requires sitting around doing nothing fun or useful in a tiny, empty home, I do think we need to learn to say ‘no’ a lot more!
Not because we are rude or mean or unhelpful or stingy, but rather, because by learning to say ‘no’ to the things and activities that cause us stress, unhappiness, and guilt, we will have more time and energy to focus on the things and activities that energize us, things and activities we enjoy, and thing and activities we feel called to do.
Saying ‘no’ is not something I enjoy, and I assume it’s not your favorite either. It’s not fun to be “the bad guy” or the “mean parent.” It’s not fun to let anyone down or go against the crowd. But at the same time, it’s not fair to ourselves or our families to be so intent on pleasing others that we completely lose sight of the goals and dreams we have for our own lives.
If simplicity is one of those goals you’re striving for, you must learn the art of saying ‘no’.
When you say ‘no’ to the committee you’ve been guilted into serving on for the past 4 years, you say ‘yes’ to more time with family, more time for hobbies and activities you love, and more time for a different committee you feel called to join.
When you say ‘no’ to bringing more and more and more stuff into your home (even if it’s free stuff or a fabulous bargain), you say ‘yes’ to more space, less clutter, less time and energy spent cleaning and organizing your new-found treasures, and more room to breathe.
When you say ‘no’ to something that stresses you out or makes you unhappy, you say ‘yes’ to less stress, more happiness, and more simplicity.
This is not to say that we should say ‘no’ to everything and anything we don’t feel like doing—the laundry and dishes aren’t going to do themselves, and as adults, we often need to do things we don’t 100% enjoy.
However, if and when you have the choice, I would strongly encourage you to take a step back, look at your options, and consider if ‘no’ is the answer you need to make in order to move towards a simpler life.
Many times, this might be a difficult decision to make, and I promise, you will eventually let people down. It won’t feel great at first—but slowly, as you learn the art of saying ‘no’, you’ll begin to see how transformational it can be in your own life and your quest towards simple living.
In my personal life, I’ve seen over and over again how stepping back and making the hard decision to say ‘no’ rewards me with a sense of peace and more time, space, and energy to devote towards something more meaningful and useful for me.
As I mentioned above, we can still have very full homes and lives… if we want. The important thing is that our homes and lives are filled with activities and things that motivate and encourage us, things that we actually need, use, want, and love, activities we feel called to do and find enjoyment in doing. The other things and activities need to go—maybe just for a period of time; or maybe forever.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- Do you have trouble saying no? What are you afraid will happen if you say no?
- Take some time to evaluate where you are spending your time, how you are using your space, and what (if any) changes you’d like to make in either of those categories.
- Then, choose one thing in your schedule and one thing in your home to say ‘no’ to this month.