We continue our journey to learning how to give no f*cks. This book is inspired by Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (obviously), which inspired millions of people to clean up their homes. The author, Sarah Knight, realized that decluttering is about more than just old clothes and unused kitchen appliances; our minds are just as cluttered as our homes. This is about clearing the mind.
So she made a guide to decluttering our mental and emotional lives after we’ve decluttered our physical surroundings. In The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, she explores the social norms that led us to giving too many f*cks, and outlines steps we can take to reduce that number.
The NotSorry Method
We are overwhelmed by mental clutter and obligations. Do I really need to go to my coworker’s grandmother’s new boyfriend’s niece’s birthday party? Must I really invite my second cousin thrice removed and her entire step-family to my wedding? We often suffer through all the little things that annoy us out of obligation or worry. Worry that people will judge us on what we do or don’t do.
That’s where the NotSorry Method comes in. It’s a simple two-step program that will help us cut through all the obligations and annoyances, and extricate ourselves from sensitive situations with grace and ease.
Step 1: Decide what you don’t give a f*ck about.
Step 2: Don’t give a f*ck about those things.
These steps are simple, but by no means easy. Step 1 takes a lot of soul-searching, and requires you to be in tune with your values and beliefs. Step 2 is even more difficult; you have to contend with other people, some of whom you care deeply for, and all the guilt they will unleash on you. The core of NotSorry is to be honest, but polite.
People Who Give No F*cks
Children are open, carefree people who haven’t been subjected to the thing we call life. They are still able to do what they want when they want, because they haven’t yet internalized society’s conventions.
Assholes don’t care about anything but themselves, so they are very good at not giving any f*cks. But, they don’t care about anything but themselves, so they are very bad at being polite and sensitive to other people’s feelings. We don’t want to be an asshole.
This is the category we want to be in. Enlightened people are self-aware; they know what they value in life, and they accept the world for what it is. So they know that they have to stand their ground and not let the world force them down paths they don’t want to go.
- Take care of yourself first. Everyone will demand things from you, and almost no one will put your needs before their own.
- Allow yourself to say no. You are not required to do everything people ask of you. It’s ok to say no to things.
- Release the worry/anxiety/fear/guilt that accompanies saying no. Most of us are used to giving in to obligations; it will be very hard to start saying no to things. But the feelings of worry and fear and guilt are often overblown. Saying no to your neighbor’s house re-warming party will not make your neighbor hate you. Your neighbor won’t spend the next five years stewing over your refusal and come up with an elaborate plan to get revenge. (At least, normal neighbors won’t do that.)
- Reduce mental clutter. Eliminating all the little annoyances in your life gives you more time to enjoy the things you actually want to do.
You can’t control what other people think. They will think it regardless of your actions. Most of the time, you can express your opinion without hurting someone’s feelings. Most people you meet will either understand, or shrug it off, because it wasn’t that important to them to begin with.
If your “no” affects someone else, be honest and polite. Express your reasons in terms of “I” and “me,” instead of making it about them. For example, “I’m not interested in going to the World Curling Championships; I’ve seen other curling competitions and curling is just not for me.” Most people will be fine with that. They’ll ask someone else to go with them. But, “Curling is for idiots and I’d rather die than go to a competition” is not the way to go.
If it affects only you, you don’t need to care what other people think. If someone is taking offense to your new haircut, the smoothie (green or otherwise) you ordered, or the book you’re reading, who cares what they think? You don’t need to care about their feelings (beyond basic human decency) because they shouldn’t be forcing their opinions on you anyway.
Like the KonMari Method, the NotSorry method should be applied in a particular order. Starting with the easier categories first will ensure you see this cleansing through. First, make a list of everything you don’t care about, according to these categories, in this order. This is our Step 1. After you’ve made the list, Step 2 is to ease yourself out of the obligations you listed in Step 1.
These are any inanimate objects, like kale, and concepts, like Scientology, that you just don’t care about. It’s easy to start with things because these are out of your control. And in most cases, it only affects you.
Work is a little trickier than things, because work involves people. You have to see these people every day, so it’s not like you can tell Susan to f*ck off about her daughter’s Girl Scout cookie sale. (Seriously, why do parents foist their daughters’ Girl Scout cookies on their coworkers? The whole point is to teach young girls communication and entrepreneurial skills. Selling the cookies for your daughters are not teaching them anything other than “Mommy and Daddy will take care of everything in life.”) But the same principle applies; all the meetings, projects, events that waste all your time but also won’t get you fired if you skip them, they all need to go.
Friends, Acquaintances, Strangers
Strangers should be a no-brainer; you’ll never see them again. Observe common courtesy and don’t worry about it. Acquaintances will depend on their potential: are they likely to become a friend one day, or are they someone you wouldn’t want in your life? Act accordingly.
Friends aren’t necessarily trickier, but they do require more finesse. These are people you like and chose to be a part of your life. Friends will understand you don’t share all the same interests and that you don’t have to do everything together. But at the same time, it increases your obligation to do things for and with them. Only you know what the right balance is, and Step 1 is all about defining your boundaries. If anything, this will weed out the true friends from the fair-weather friends.
Family is the worst. “Because we’re family” gets used as a threat a lot; you risk being ostracized unless you give in to their ultimatums, extortion, and other emotionally abusive requests. What you can do here is to weigh freedom of choice over obligation. Is it more important for you to attend a sold-out final concert for your favorite band’s farewell tour, or to fly out-of-state to your great-grandmother’s third annual 100th birthday party? Only you can answer that question.
What do we gain by learning to not give a f*ck? Step 2 is about finding which items are costing you the most and to cut them out accordingly. Some items might fall under one but not the others, or in any combination of the three. The easiest ones to cut out first are the ones that only have one “cost,” be it only time, energy, or money. The hardest to cut out will be the things that cost you all three.
Let’s take the example of your coworker’s house re-warming party (what even is a re-warming party?). You accept this invitation, because you have been cubicle-mates for five years and everyone else seems to be going so you don’t want to look like a party pooper.
What you didn’t realize was, your coworker lives out in the boonies and commutes 2 hours one-way to work every day. Not only do you have to get ready for the party, now you must spend 1/4 of your waking hours in your car driving to and from Lord knows where.
You must also expend effort into getting your coworker a house re-warming gift. With no clue what your coworker likes/needs or what her house looks like, you must now do extensive research to find the right gift. Or you simply pick up a succulent at a rest stop on the way, that works too.
The gas to drive out to nowhere. The wear and tear on your car. The price of the succulent. Think of all the things you don’t care about but force yourself to do. These little (or not so little) costs add up over time.
Conclusion? It’s ok to say no to your coworker’s party. If anything, bring her a succulent on Monday.
As with the Mark Manson book, I had a little trouble with the language, but once you get into the flow of it, it’s an easy read. And these are both a more extreme take on Leo Babauta’s book (read my review here). It’s good to have a regular reminder to refocus our values in life, and to make sure we’re spending our time on earth in the most enriching way.
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