A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Go Slow: Part 2

Editor Note: This the second part of a guest post series on “Go Slow by Gena Smith from Hanuiloa. If you have just arrived at Part 2 I highly recommend you bookmark this page and head over to read Part 1 of this 3 part series.

My name is Gena, I live on an island and I want to teach you how to “Go Slow.”

If you are approaching an intersection and discover the signal isn’t working correctly and crossways traffic is still headed through in spite of you having a green light; are you going to take your chances because you were given the green light and barrel on through the intersection hoping not to get hit?  Of course not.  You understand the need to apply the brakes in that situation. You may even pump them to get the traffic behind you to notice the predicament, but you’re not going to ignore the situation. You’re going to deal with it. You don’t want to get crunched by an oncoming cement mixer, right? So you put on the brakes.  Funny thing how we notice the obvious when a few tons of steel are headed our way, but not the equivalent of an invisible freight train.  Hello dear reader, meet your life’s schedule, otherwise known as a ‘freight train.’ Something is going to give soon, and it won’t be the locomotive; you are going to have to decide to put the brakes on.

“How in the world do I do that?” you are probably asking about right now. Thanks for staying with me, glad you asked.  I’d like to reintroduce the little used word ‘No’ back into your vocabulary.

Relearning the Word “No”

Unless you are a parent of a toddler or a preschool teacher you may have forgotten how it feels to say that word. Well, you’re getting ready to speak it, sing it, text it and email it with abandon.  Here is a really good example of the “why” behind the need to say “No”:

“Janet” attends a large church in her city with her husband and three children.  They have been committed in small group gatherings, dramatic presentations, and at one time or another most areas of involvement.  They really enjoy the church and all of the opportunities for a stay at home, homeschooling mom, and kids to stay connected.  There is just one fly in the ointment. They have a pretty busy schedule between church, home life, and dad’s work schedule.  They just came through a busy holiday season and there is a lot going on in their friend’s and family’s lives. It’s getting ready to get even more interesting . . .

Janet just received a not so nice warning from a gal in the nursery that she needs to put in her *mandatory* volunteer time in the church’s nursery age department.  Her youngest is not yet to the age limit and occasionally attends them.

The problem here is in the phrase *mandatory volunteer.*  She feels frustrated that the church’s thousands of other parents aren’t consistent and since she’s been faithful in this area for the last eight years, she’s a bit burnt out.  No choice though, if she is going to bring her youngest to the class on Sunday mornings or evenings she is going to have to follow the policy she agreed to and do her time.  Do you notice the phraseology here? Do the time . . . as if it’s a prison sentence.

Areas of involvement in church, school, or community life can feel that way when autonomy is taken away.  Make it mandatory?  Before you know it people will chafe at the restraint.

Back to Janet . . . what is her solution? Does she put up with several more months of doing a ‘volunteer’ job she has grown to dread?  Does she butt heads with someone she considered a friend?  No.

She says no in the only way she feels like she has a right to, she decides to stay home.  Something is going to give; if the requirement won’t then she will exercise her only freedom and use her voice in the only remaining way.  They will stop attending.

Losing Out & Burning Out

Who is losing out here?  Both the church and the family are.

While this is not the overall subject of this article it must be said that Churches, organizations, schools, charities all have in common the need for people.  People make what they do a possibility.  Families need connection to others, to faith or an opportunity to make a difference, but they also need the freedom to decide when that works best for them.  Take away that right and they will be a lost cause.

Janet was facing burnout, she made a decision she felt she could live with.  Could this be handled better?  Maybe.  One way or the other though, she needs to say no. She found her voice, not in an ideal way, but one where her health and peace of mind is still intact.  Janet said no.

You may be wondering why I share this little “some details changed to protect the innocent” story.  I shared it to illustrate that you are not alone.  Others, just like you, also feel worn out, under appreciated, overtaxed and un-rested and they, like you, need to learn how to say ‘No’.

Just Say No

Say that word out loud, right now, really, ‘No.’ As in…

  • “Thank you for thinking of me, normally I love doing this sort of thing, but our family business is in a hectic season right now, so no, I won’t be able to help this time.”
  • No, I didn’t know our annual picnic was only two weeks away! I simply cannot help this year, I have other plans.  No, that won’t work either; I look forward to it next year, thanks for calling.”
  • “We would love to help you with a bake sale later this year, however, right now our family has decided to curtail extracurricular activities in favor of more at home time, so, no, we can’t help you with that.”

I want you to notice you can say “no” and be gracious.  I used to wonder if that was possible, but you don’t have to be a jerk, even though you will probably feel bad at first.  Then, at some point in the ensuing days, you will realize you have nothing planned for the weekend and it will hit you…the word “no” did this for me.

You are driving the car, others will try and convince you that you have no choice but to barrel on. Don’t fall for it.  Their urgent matter, event, situation, etc. is not your responsibility.  Your health, peace of mind, family, and life are your responsibilities; that’s enough!  This is your wake up call!  Put on the brakes before it’s too late!  Your health, your family, and your future self will thank you.

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about why and how you say no, I want to share a little of another story. It’s a “testimonial” of sorts on how I almost didn’t make the adjustments in time.  My cautionary tale is fraught with medical drama, family intrigue and . . . hold on, I encourage you to bookmark this page to refer to again when you need a shot in the arm, a little reminder and the confidence to say no. Then head over to Part 3 to get the inside scoop on a couple of people headed in the wrong direction . . .

Take Me to Part 3 of the Go Slow Series

You can read more from Gena at Hanuiloa.com. Ha Nui Loa means ‘Take a long slow, deep breath’. When they say ‘live Ha Nui Loa’, they mean, be at rest as you live simply & travel slowly!

You’ll be hearing more from Gena in my upcoming book Family-Sized Minimalism coming on March 14th.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to Minimalist at Home or follow me on Twitter. The only way my blog reaches more people is if you Tweet it, Like it on Facebook, link to me from your blog, or email it to your friends. Thanks for reading!


Article originally published on 02/23/2011

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  1. Faith,

    I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to guest post for you and your willingness to host part of the Go Slow series, I really appreciated getting to share with your readers a subject that is close to my heart. I know you probably have similar stories and all of us have yet more tales to tell about the need to slow down and appreciate what we have, striking a balance between home, work, church & civic life. I’d love to hear how you balance your time with homeschooling, my best friend in Oklahoma homeschools as well and her kids are really excelling, I’m forwarding her a link to Minimalist at Home, I know she’ll love it!

    Thanks again and have a great day!

    • Faith Janes says

      Thanks so much for this post, Gena. It’s such an important reminder to Go Slow. Even the minimalist out there need reminders to go slow and not let things creep back into our schedules after we manage to clear things out.

  2. this is fun following the story around! Hi Faith! Hi Gena & Jeff! 🙂

    Saying no is a hard one for me sometimes, but I have really been practicing it this year quite a bit. I used to feel bad when I said no to parties or gatherings especially and then one day, i realized i wasn’t getting my own needs met by stretching myself so thin.

    it’s actually quite freeing once you get started!

  3. Marianney,

    It is fun, isn’t it? Glad you’ve made your way around to our little treasure hunt! I used to struggle with that particular guilt, invited to a function and you feel compelled to go…at some point we realized that we didn’t have to be at every one and the ones we went to we enjoyed all the more. Spreading ourselves out so thin just seems to lead to us snapping at some point. Glad to hear you are taking a lower key approach!

  4. No! No! No! I’m really starting to like sounding like my 18 month old. 🙂

    I accidentally read the “Slowing Down Series” out of order (I read 1, 3 then 2), but it left a great impact just the same. It’s a regular thing for me to overextend myself, retreat from everything, repeat. If I could find the balance you write about this wouldn’t happen anymore!

    Thanks for a great series Gena. I’m envisioning myself escaping to an island in the tropics to go slow for awhile — if only in my imagination for now.

  5. Ahh, the power of imagination, it often sustained me when we were far from the ocean and longing for simple times. Glad you found all the pieces, in any order, I tried to make them stand alone enough that it wouldn’t be a significant issue if read out of order or a part missed. Glad you enjoyed. Keep dreaming! 🙂

  6. Travis @DebtChronicles says

    When my son was in 1st Grade we joined Cub Scouts. Just by coincidence, the Cub Master of the Pack was exiting that year as his son was “graduating” from Cub Scouts that February. At some point in their search for a new leader, I ended up being asked if I would consider being Cub Master. With my inability to say, “No,” I began my career as a CubMaster. That, along with my inability to properly delegate tasks, I was overloaded with Scout activities for 4 and a half years. On one hand someone had to do it…on the other hand My son and I joined scouts to spend time together, and for his entire Scout experience I had to forfeit actually enjoying doing the activities with him for constantly having to be the coordinator, money gatherer, leader, guy who made sure everything was running smoothly.

  7. Travis,
    Don’t be too hard on yourself, I can tell you meant well, and your son probably still has some good memories if his Dad being scoutmaster. A good exercise for you may well be say no for awhile to anything you aren’t already committed to. Say for the remaining first half of the year and ask yourself and your wife, for accountability, if you can honestly take on the thing requested. For so many of us we feel obligated to oblige just because we were asked, then at some point if we’re honest we realize it feels pretty good to be known as the go to guy or gal. It becomes part of our identity. The problem comes when we can no longer discern what “belongs” to us to do and what may have been meant for someone else. Those that suffer alongside us; our family, just want us, not all the things we can do for them (for the most part 🙂 So slow down on the “yeses” for awhile and see if quality time with family picks up where the over commitments left off! 🙂


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by G Smith, minimalblogger. minimalblogger said: Great 3-part series on slowing down by Gena @ Ha Nui Loa – http://bit.ly/flTLuC, http://bit.ly/h3PSxP, & http://bit.ly/ijwu9y […]

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