“No” is perhaps my favorite word as a minimalist. I use it quite often. While that may sound strange at first, I have found saying no to be one of the best ways to create space in my life.
Before minimalism I found a significant portion of my happiness in productivity. Everyday I would aspire to get the most work out of my day and every night I would bury my face in the warm, familiar embrace of my unachieved goals, wasted time, and my promise that I would “get it together” tomorrow. It’s funny how hard it is to get it together when you hardly have any idea what “it” is.
I wanted to do more than meet deadlines. I wanted to read books, to write songs, to simply be with people. Some of the most valued activities in my life had fallen by the wayside as I sacrificed myself on the altar of productivity. My mind was cluttered with my skyscraper of goals, and I was trapped in a self-inflicted cycle of inadequacy.
I needed space.
This realization led to the discovery of my most prized freedom: the freedom to say “no.”
I began to hunt down and say no to the little inconsequential parasites in my life like new obligations, online binging, smartphone notifications, etc. These parasites would beg for my attention and plague my subconscious, but give me nothing in return; they did not add value to my life.
As a result of this purge, my schedule became a reflection of my values. I had fewer things to do, wasted less time, and could devote my full attention to whatever task was at hand. Furthermore, I allowed myself the pleasure of spending deliberate time doing what I enjoyed—I had created space for it.
It’s an amazing thing when the way we spend our time genuinely shows what we want out of life. It requires the space to think clearly, to part with the excess, (physical or otherwise) and be present with the things that remain. It is by no means easy, but it is worth every second.
Create space for the things you value, and don’t be afraid to say “no.”