Saying ‘No’ Might Just Make This My Best Year Ever

woman saying no woman saying no

This past year was a big one for me; namely, it was the first year of a separation from a partner I’d spent one third of my life with. I thought the best way to kick off singledom was to spend a year, Shonda Rhimes-style, of saying YES. I’m not sure whether Shonda ended up in some of the places I did, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m exhausted.

My yesses in the past year had me riding motorcycles, getting a huge tattoo, burning through two credit cards, going to restaurants I couldn’t afford, going on dates with people I shouldn’t have, traveling overseas on a whim, and taking on every freelance work assignment that was thrown at me (yet also being unemployed for weeks at a time and letting my kids eat donuts for breakfast). I stayed out till 5am more than once or twice, broke into an abandoned soccer stadium with my kids, slipped a disc at a kickboxing class, and, perhaps worst of all, wore a midriff. Multiple times.

I’ve basically been the mom version of a rebellious teenager. My parent’s worst nightmare. My own worst nightmare. Because while yes was a blast, it was also destructive, exhausting, and unsustainable. This woman/child is spent. Now I’m looking forward to having some guardrails, some witches hats around the broken glass and spilled liquid in the pantry aisle. So, I’ve decided the coming year will be my Year of No. Here’s how it’s going to play out. This year, I’ll be saying no…


I’m starting off with a toughie. I love online shopping. I’m addicted to the shiny boxes and bags turning up as if by magic. They make my heart beat fast, dilate my pupils and cause my hands to shake with excitement.

But my habit leaves me with clothes and shoes I never love. Moreover, the money spent doesn’t feel like real money, and yet the credit card bills are very real, and they’ve added up. So this year, I’m going to do a big wardrobe cull and give away what I don’t like and make the rest work for me. Then I can work out what I want want/need and save up for it. It’s not going to be easy. I’m gonna miss those shiny, new things. Maybe I’ll just get friends and family to periodically drop empty boxes at my house so I can still feel that thrill.


I think we all have that friend who doesn’t make us feel great. Mine is someone who’s always getting herself in terrible situations and needing to be rescued. The irony is that during the past year I often felt I needed to be rescued, but there I was, at her service all the time. This year, I want to shake that so I can make space for healthy relationships with supportive, loving, generous people who allow me to be the best version of myself (and the worst – and not be judged for it). So how am I going to do it? With this particular friend, it won’t be easy. I plan to let her know I’m taking a break from our friendship, and I gotta tell you, the realization that this is the right approach fills me with nausea and angst. Big girl pants: on. There is so much adulting required this year.


I love my family. But there always seems to be drama. And my ex-husband’s family? Don’t even ask. But I’ve realized that I have inadvertently contributed this drama in the past. I recently caused a huge furor over a lost gold bracelet of my daughter’s that my ex-husband had misplaced. It turned into a three generation war of attrition and it wasn’t worth it. It never is. This year I’m going to learn to let go, rise above and carry on. I’ve learned the hard way that revenge is never as sweet as you think it’ll be.


Like most parents, I feel guilty about spending too much time on the phone, on my computer, and multi-tasking in general. To be honest, I find it impossible to completely switch off these habits and be fully engaged with my family. And, okay, sometimes I need some sanity restoration from the kids’ bickering and snack-wanting — and quite often that comes in the form of flicking through Facebook. But by doing this as much as I have been, I’ve missed important moments with my kids that I’ll never get back. I’m ashamed to admit that they have called me out on this several times.

This year I’m going to focus on them more and be a part of the real world with them. Amazing conversations happen when I don’t try and get a million things done. The other day I ditched the dishes and went for a walk after dinner with the kids. We talked about relationships, the future, and what they want to be when they grow up. I don’t want to miss this. I also know I’m human and I’m not going to be too hard on myself. It’s about striking a balance.


It probably comes as no surprise after my online shopping confession that I’m not amazing at managing my finances. Last year I lived way beyond my means (I blame Shonda Rhimes because saying yes is expensive!) and it’s taken its toll. Spiraling at 3am about unpaid bills is no way to live. So this year I’ll be implementing a budget, setting up a regular credit card pay-off system, and saying no to more credit. I need some help, though. Friends swear by The Barefoot Investor. His advice on how to get out of debt is really practical and digestible, and his podcasts are free, so that’s where I’ll start.


I want to accomplish a lot this year. I have plans to write my book, save for a house and do some study. My only problem? I have so many excuses. There is always a voice placating me, telling me that I don’t really need to work that hard because I’m a busy parent/ I’m not good enough/ I might fail/ etc. All kinds of negative business getting in the way of just DOing. For me, routine is the key to excuse-busting. I need to get up at the same time each morning and write before my kids get up or it won’t happen. It’s a deal I make with myself and it’s non-negotiable. And when I actually tick items off my to-do list, it feels good. It’s motivating. It gives me the confidence to keep going. it will be tiring, and it will take discipline, I will fail sometimes, but I’ve run out of excuses and 2019 is going to be the year of doing.

…TO “NO” (once in a while)

I’m naturally a risk-taking hedonist so all this no is getting me down a little.

Until I remember a loophole. I can say NO to NO, too! A girl can’t live on finance podcasts and old jeans alone, so every now and then I can cut the sensible ties and put on a brand new dress and eat a fancy dinner at 3am with a motorbike riding stunt driver. Just once in a while.

Sorry, mum.

Kristen Toovey lives in Sydney, Australia with her two kids and dog. She works in TV as a writer/producer/editor by day and paints the town a soft beige by night. She's currently working on a murder mystery, recording an album of 90's inspired rave anthems, and trying to find all the lost socks.