Just Say No to Complicated Calendar

Last week the editor of a women’s magazine called to ask me to do a simplicity make-over on a young family with a very complicated life. The only catch was that she had a tight deadline and I would have to do it right away. I told her I’d love to, but my calendar was completely booked; I wouldn’t be able to meet with the family until June.

She said: “But you just have to do this. We’ve got it in the schedule.”

I pointed out that one of the ways to keep my life simple is by saying no.

“But an article of this type would help so many people,” she pleaded.


Ah, guilt. It gets us every time (though I noticed she had no problem saying no to my schedule).

I told her I’d get back to her.

I’ve gotten pretty good at saying no to the things I don’t want to do. But saying no to the things I want to do but don’t have time to do is still sometimes a challenge.

I thought about doing this project, and tried that on for size. I realized that if I doubled up on my schedule for the next week and a half, I actually could do it. I lived with that feeling for a bit, but it didn’t feel great.


Then I tried on the idea of keeping the comfortable pace of my simple life. I didn’t like the giving-up-the-project part, but keeping my schedule easy felt terrific.

Even so, I vacillated.

“I shouldn’t do this.”

“If I do, it’ll complicate my life.”


“But I don’t want to lose this opportunity.”

“If I don’t do this, it won’t be the end of the world. I’ll survive.”

The next morning I did what I should have done in the first place: I called her and told her no. I avoided outlining the reasons. Just a simple sorry, can’t do it now. She couldn’t resist one last turn of the screw. “If you can’t do it now, we’ll just have to find another expert.”

I had already faced that prospect and knew that, much as I didn’t like missing out, that would be preferable to creating stress in my life.


Two days later she called again. There’d been a slight change; they would be able to adjust to my schedule and do it in June after all.

Here’s how I see it: When we’re true to ourselves and our commitment to live more simply, things work out for the best. And if we miss a thing or two, that’s OK. And if they don’t work out, that’s probably for the best too.


Elaine St. James is the author of “Simplify Your Life” and “Simplify Your Life With Kids.” For questions or comments, write to her in care of Universal Press Syndicate, 4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111.