Why I’m Saying “No” In November

November gets a bad rap, don’t you think? October has the creepiness of Hallowe’en, and December gets the glamour of Christmas. November can feel a little lacklustre. I think for me, November conjures up images of cold, rainy school mornings; wet, grey evenings, and extra homework before the holidays. 

Do you ever hear people saying, “I need to learn how to say no”? On the whole, I feel like I’m already pretty disciplined with myself, but there’s always room for improvement. I’ve decided that this November I’m going to make a few changes. They’re not really goals, but a list of things I want to be avoiding…

NO to… staying up late.

This has really been playing havoc with me recently. I have two modes of function: nightbird, where I’m up all night working; or “mortal life” as I call it; where I wake up about 6:30/7 and get sleepy around 9. My whole life I just oscillate between those two patterns. The problem is Ryan is some sort of superhuman and can get by on 5-6 hours sleep. Many a night we get into bed around 12, watch TV (ok, Stranger Things) until 1:30/2am and then the next morning, Ryan’s good to go and I’m a zombie.

NO to… cramming in social events.

We’re in the last week before I’m away for four months (well, almost, with a couple of breaks back in the UK in between trips). The pressure to have a catch-up pint with everyone I’ve ever met is pretty high! Normally I run myself into the ground doing this and surprise, surprise: I’ve already got that cold that’s been going round. London is ABUZZ this time of year with fun, festive stuff to do. Normally I go full-throttle into seeing everything, but this month I want to focus on just seeing Ryan and a few close friends.


NO to… free emotional labour.

This is something that has really resonated with me recently. I try hard to share stuff I’ve learned or articulate ideas where I can. Too often, people come back to me with questions and it means I’m giving up my time and headspace to help somebody else. It’s not bad questioning, but it’s still asking me to explain and give up my time. “Why are ASOS racist and where is the expose on their child labour?” or “What can a white person do to be a better ally?” or “Did you find it hard going vegan?”. None of those questions are things I can’t actually answer, but I seem to get a lot of identical questions, and frustratingly, it’s normally stuff I’ve already answered elsewhere on this blog, so it can get a bit draining.

NO to… extravagant Christmas shopping.

I’m quite a restrained shopper year round (well, I think I am!) but at Christmas, I really go for it. Thing is, my Mum gets all her presents from the charity shops and expects the same in return, and my Dad hates present-buying and receiving. And yet, every year, I feel obligated to buy them like a festive dried fruit and nut selection, or a skincare gift box, or a DVD boxset. Inevitably it ends up getting returned or regifted, so why do I do it? It’s so easy to believe that unless you serve up a huge pile of presents, you’re a terrible friend/partner/daughter – but I can’t think of many people who would genuinely be upset if you just gave them something small and meaningful (or: donated the money to a worthy cause). I’m going to bear that in mind this year.

NO to… wasting my own time.

Checking my phone every time I make a cup of tea. Forgetting to print stuff off when I’m near a printer and causing all kinds of havoc. Booking myself in for classes I know I don’t have time to go. Normally I’m good at being kind to myself and realistic with my time, but I’ve been so scatty recently what with trying to plan three massive trips simultaneously that it’s like present-day life has run away with me a bit.

NO to… extravagant Christmas shopping part 2.

I get easily sucked in this time of year by Pinterest and Instagram…! It can’t just be me that’s been thinking of getting a Christmas duvet cover or set of festive candles, can it?! Whilst I’d love to own a few more festive bits and pieces to spruce my room up with, realistically, with 5 people, 3 animals and 17 plants, space is already at a premium in my little home. I’m also only going to be at home for about 9 days between now and 2018, and none of those days are Christmas Day. I think it’s wiser to save my pennies and live vicariously through everyone else in the meantime.

What are you saying no to this month?

Pictures taken by Leigh – thank you! Don’t you think we look a little Stranger Things-y? Hat, $12, stall in New York years ago. Similar here and here. Coat, gift – similar here.

Thanks to Leigh for these photos. Don’t you think they look a little Stranger Things-y?


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  • Reply Priya

    YES- to all of this! Especially the staying up late thing, I’m not a great sleeper or morning person as it is, so I’m really focusing on getting in the habit of not getting in bed and then scrolling on my phone foreverrrr. I’m really trying a “no phone in bed” policy (like, I should be using that time to unwind and read or write instead!)

    I’m already stressed about Christmas shopping for my family as well, but we typically do a “Secret Santa” and have been doing a Google doc of ideas/wishlist as well, that’s been really helpful.

    Priya the Blog

    November 9, 2017 at 7:08 pm
  • Reply denisesplanet

    I have to learn from this list, Laila! Constantly people tell me I MUST say no to some things, because I always try to help everybody and in the end, I have all the sorts of problems and demands because of this. No to people occupying space and time, that’s the best, it resonates with me. This week a guy asked me if I could be part of a professional initiative, took 4: 40 hours of my time and when I said I cannot do that, simply because I know the field better and that is not how others will react to his ideas, he got angry. Well, I said I hope – honestly – that he finds someone to carry on his plans, but that I am not the right person for that. You see, I was being honest, and now I will be seen as “hard”. I hope you say NO to people who demand things from you!

    November 9, 2017 at 8:08 pm
  • Reply Elizabeth Rebecca

    We have been quite strict with presents this year – we are aiming for a £20 for each other – and a £50 budget for all our family and friends.

    November 9, 2017 at 8:56 pm
  • Reply Gemma

    Couldn’t agree more!

    More sleep, less shopping- you’re on to a winning formula : )


    November 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm
  • Reply Alyse

    I can 100% get behind no to cramming in social events and free emotional labor. Nothing wrong with some time with close friends and spending your headspace wisely.

    November 10, 2017 at 9:54 pm
  • Reply Jane

    “No November” I like it! Better than Movember.
    My friends and I stopped doing Christmas presents a while ago (and birthday presents recently). It’s really liberating actually, everyone gets to keep their money and spend it on what they want for themselves!

    November 11, 2017 at 9:14 am
  • Reply cateinthekitchen

    Girl YES to the Christmas extravagance!! I’m running on lower income than any of my adult years so far and it’s reeeeeeeeeeeally doing wonders for my needless festive purchases (candles, crafty nonsense) and making me see how much cash we throw away on shit we don’t need!

    November 15, 2017 at 6:59 am
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