Learning to say no – a lesson in minimalism

in Eco-minimalism - 3 min read
Learning to say no thank you.

We quickly learn to say “no” as children, for some of us it is our first spoken word. It is short, simple and sweet – until we realize the power of what “no” can really mean.

And what a high-powered word no can be! It can be harsh, or it can simply mean “not right now, maybe later”, so watch your intonation and gestures, lest you waste your time and energy on projects and people that drain your quality of life.

Why do we say this? Well, as minimalists, it comes in handy to say no when someone wants to give you something that you do not want or need. As highly sensitive people on a gluten-free diet, we cannot just accept any food that is lovingly homemade – stirred with the bread spoon? cut on your bread board? just a little bit of pasta?!?

Learning to say “No, thank you.”

It expresses our emotions of not wanting to receive something, it states that we have had enough or that we don’t want any more. Yet, as we age, the inclination to say “yes” increases and “no”-s are met with frustration and stress, often combined with displeasure.

We want to be happy, we want to make others happy, so we try to avoid that two letter n-o. In other words, we don’t want to hurt the other party, shame or embarrass them based on their generous and giving nature. What we do to ourselves though is to paint our feet into a corner, unable to deal with the situation at hand when we aren’t completely honest with our thoughts and spoken words.

If we really don’t want or need something we must say so.

By attaching a “thank you” we are speaking with gentle politeness – and that is going to come in handy in the process of simplifying your life.

It seems there is a never-ending thirst for people to give, and giving with the best of intentions they usually are, however intentionally giving is about knowing the other person on such a level that you understand their wants (if any!) and needs. Know their philosophy of life, their desires and their ethics.

Most people will accept a cookie or a candy from a friend or family member, but when life changes due to health-related or spiritual issues, the answer may change course as well – and as we well know, dealing with change is difficult for a majority of people.

  • What if you gave up eating sugar or GMOs?
  • What if you discovered a gluten (or other food allergy) intolerance?
  • What if you are avoiding all artificial food dyes?
  • What if you are simply not hungry at this moment?
  • What if essentialism stole your heart?

Would your answer change to “no, thank you” if you knew that you were healthier without?

In the past, people have mistakenly chosen to believe that because we live simply, with fewer things than conventionally acceptable, our “poorness” necessitated giving. In our reality we had enough. In others’ minds we were in great need of used shoes, pants, sweaters, dishes, extra tables, processed foods, little trinkets and decorative souvenirs of places they had been. It seems to have never crossed anyone’s thought to ask us what we may have needed, or to give in a way that truly mattered to us at the moment such as buying a meter of firewood that we use for warmth and daily cooking or helping with a trip to the market to buy in bulk.

Gifts – new or reused – tend to be geared towards stuff. Shift the focus on reducing clutter in the first place, followed closely by not adding to the pile, and your outlook (and space) in life will definitely improve.

Define it for yourself if you feel anything missing in your life. Let in what fulfills, enriches and what you find useful – otherwise let it go.

The polite firmness in your response and openness about accepting or not accepting gifts will grow more confident with time. Decide for yourself just how much is enough and say yes – or no – accordingly.

In the spirit of environmentalism, minimalism and living simply, what have you said “no, thank you…” to lately?

Cheryl Magyar

Cheryl is a freelance writer and content creator on all things related to simple living, ecological minimalism, organic gardening and foraging. She is the co-creator of the Earth Gratitude Journal, a monthly downloadable journal that focuses on having greater appreciation for living on this incredible planet.

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