The Life Changing Magic of No


Wonderful Wednesday EighteenThis week I said yes to a mate date with one of my oldest and dearest. I’m not for a second saying that I contemplated saying no: she’s hilarious and wanted to co-eat a huge juicy burger stuffed full of bourbon glaze, washed down with pear and peach cider*. There’s nothing not to love about that.

Over our glaze coated chins we discussed our respective readings of late. Hers? The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Mine? The slightly pithier Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k. Both equally valuable but wildly different iterations of the same message: less is more. Less stuff, less clutter, less noise in your home, mind and life.

The idea of preserving your energy and focus for the things and people you really choose isn’t a new one but there is a fine line between a cathartic spiritual declutter and telling everyone you know to do one, isn’t there? I think the balance lies in those two little letters: N  O.

The husband has made an art form out of saying no, he’s so affable and pleasant and genuinely care free about it. Me? Infinitely less so. I’m an awkward sort, a slithery guilty looking social slow worm. The guilt really gets me, I don’t know what I did in a former life but I live this incarnation in perpetual guilt at the word no: guilt that I might be offending someone or being rude or that I would rather be doing back to back Come Dine With Me than whatever the thing is.  Surely it’s easier just to say yes and whinge about it afterwards isn’t it? Or to say yes and then implement radio silence until they just stop asking? Please don’t do that, it makes you a bit of a plank and it usually ends with an intervention group showing up at your front door.

Since the burgers though I’ve been trying to practice what I’m now preaching; to say no more. Not to be a massive twonk, simply to free up some time in a busy life and space in a ridiculously overworked mind tank. Space and time I can devote to the things that actually make my heart paint with all the colours of the wind or something.

It’s hard though. It’s incredibly difficult to start saying no when everywhere you look the world wants you to be a yes person. I suppose ‘be a yes person as long as you really want to do the thing in which case yay you but otherwise remember that it’s a-ok to say no if the thought of the thing makes you want to weep a bit and start telling lies’ just isn’t as catchy.

I’ve been practicing; testing out saying the word without gurning wildly in the mirror. I shamefully needed to remind myself that actually life is about experiences and I started 2016 with the intention of curating my experiences like an Insta-savvy teen, choosing only the glossiest, most fabulous ones to make it into the final cut of my existence (mouth vom). I’ve also written a number of post-it reminders that no will never be an ok response to paying the credit card bill or working to buy food; I’m good to go.

Full disclosure: I did accept a cup of tea at 10 last night knowing I’d be up all night weeing (well, I didn’t want to be rude) but it hadn’t really started then. Now. It starts now, right this second. Who’s with me?? Don’t say no….

*that should be peach and pear cider shouldn’t it? I don’t know why but I’m convinced that the peach should come before the pear. Like fish and chips. No-one says chips and fish. Except my nan and she gets a telling off every single time.

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  • Cate Cruse

    Oh god I find it so hard to say no as well. ‘Shall we go out for lunch?’ Well I’ve brought lunch and I’m poor and on a diet so… yes? Haha. I need to practice this too, clearly! xxx

    The perks of being a hipster – The Breakfast Club Bottomless Brunch

  • “Chips and fish” actually sent a shiver down my spine. Jesus christ I can definitely say ‘no’ that that!!!

    Katie xx ¦ La Coco Noire

  • I need to get on this train too, I’m useless at saying no and drive myself crazy!

  • Great post Michelle! I’m so bad at saying no to things and people, because I’m always terrified of letting people down and missing out on things, but I need to start being more confident and affirmative, and saying no when my heart really isn’t in the thing / event I’m being asked to join in / go to, so this post was great for me to read today. And agreed, I would have gone for peach and pear cider too – it’s funny how pairs of words sound weird the other way around? I hadn’t even noticed it until you wrote chips and fish! – Tasha

  • YES YES YES to this (the irony). I say yes to everything always and then wonder why I end up run down and unable to move from the sofa as a result. Imma start practicing no more too! x

  • Em

    Creating my ‘Fuck Budget’ has worked wonders for me. It’s helped me prioritise my life a bit – and in a moment of genius, I decided to start giving the book to people as a gift so they can see where I am coming from……gift sorted – events i don’t give a shit about avoided with no guilt because i’t not in my budget!
    Also peach in your cider? I’m not sure about that. But the elderflower and lime – i’ll have that every time x

  • I genuinely wonder if “no” has disappeared from my vocabulary, and it’s so bloody awkward as I seem to be a perpetual “yes” person (and no one likes the yes people!). I need to read that book (and also finish Marie Kondo’s book too).

  • Cat

    I need to do this more (or at all), really need to. Let us know how you get on?! I have the Irish guilt and the Catholic guilt…adding a bucket of no on top of that is going to take some work.

  • Helen

    This is EXACTLY how I am with the guilt thing, and my husband is just like yours too. Sarah Knight’s book really helped but it’s still hard. I think it’s the perfect storm of being British and a woman.

  • I agree, some people seem to find it so easy but I really struggle to say no!

  • LilylovesLola

    I’m the opposite…I say no to everything and should say yes more. Ha! Hope you get on well with your mission. Also, I am craving a burger now big time. xx

  • I hate having to say no to things, but I will admit I have got better at it in recent months! I won’t lie to you though I still get the guilt, and sometimes I slip up and feel I have to go so say yes when I mean no haha! But hey noone’s perfect right? x

  • I find it impossible to say no over the phone or in person, but I’m usually a complete walkover, especially at work. If it’s over text or email, my brain has time to process a no thought.

    Peach and pear definitely sounds better, it just rolls off the tongue.

    Is Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k good? It’s on my wish list. I was going to the tidying one but so many people have written or spoken about it I feel like I don’t need too. x

  • I’m a no person. I probably didn’t need to say that. Kris is a “no but ok then if everyone else is”. I keep trying to tell him the phrase is “no, because I don’t want to” but it’s not catching on.

  • Absolutely agree with absolutely all of this. I’ve been making a conscious effort to say no to a lot more events, opportunities and meetups, cos I realised last Autumn that as much as I want to see everyone and do everything, my brain just can’t handle it and I need at least 3 nights a week at home in bed watching Netflix and cooking dinner. It really does help! xx

  • Samantha P

    The made me laugh. I’m definitely not shy about staying NO. I’m selfish and not afraid to be so. It can bite me later on but right now it has served me well.

    S .x