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Sarah Knight: Care Less, Get More – Transcript

Read the transcript of Caitlin’s interview with a self-help “anti-guru” and the author of internationally bestselling No Fucks Given Guides, Sarah Knight.
by Natallia Darozhkina | Sep 6 2018

Caitlin Schiller: Welcome to Simplify. I’m Caitlin Schiller.

Ben Schuman-Stoler: And I’m Ben Schuman-Stoler.

Caitlin: Alright, so first things first: today there will be lots of swearing. If you’re listening in the car with your kids, or blasting this on your living room Alexa or HomePod or Google Home or whatever, consider this fair warning to maybe wait till––I don’t know––the kids are asleep. Curse words are in every single one of Sarah Knight’s titles and she is the person we are talking about today.

Ben: Is that true? Every title? There’s The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, Get Your Sh*t Together, and does the third one have a dirty word in it?

Caitlin: It’s You Do You, but it clearly says it’s part of the No Fucks Given Guides. But anyway, let’s see if you did your homework. Who is Sarah Knight, Ben?

Ben: Sarah Knight––for anyone who doesn’t know––is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, and that’s probably her most famous book, we talked about a couple of other ones. She worked in publishing, she graduated from Harvard, she worked for big New York publishing companies. Suddenly realized after a while she hated her job. She quit, she moved to a Caribbean island.

Caitlin: No big deal…

Ben: Right. And she wanted to share what she learned. So she started what she calls the No Fucks Given Guides, and the 4th one is out in January.

Caitlin: Indeed. And she doesn’t give a fuck about baby showers.

Ben: Right, yeah, she mentions that in a few places, doesn’t she?

Caitlin: She does.

Ben: But I guess, other people do like baby showers and they don’t give a fuck about other stuff.

Caitlin: Right, well, I guess that’s exactly the point.

Ben: What do you mean?

Caitlin: Sarah Knight basically says that she wants people to spend more time listening to what their bodies and their brains are actually telling them, which is a nice tie-in with the first episode of the season with Cheryl Strayed, if you haven’t listened already, go do that. It’s great!

Basically just listening to yourself and doing a little bit better with that. And Sarah Knight has this way of cutting through the bullshit. So when you get into a rut of unhappiness or unproductivity – just listen to yourself or listen to Sarah Knight. And doing what you need to get back on top doesn’t make you a monster.

Ben: Right, listen to yourself. I think the number one thing I learned from her is then the next step. It’s essential that you ask for what you want and push back on what you don’t. And actually, she says that to you in this interview, which we should get into right now.

Caitlin: Stick around after the interview, when Ben and I will make a quick book list in case you want to dive deeper into some of the topics that Sarah covers. See you then!

Ben: Cool. See you in a bit!

Caitlin interviews Sarah Knight

Caitlin: Hi Sarah. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Sarah: Thanks for having me.

Caitlin: Could you introduce yourself, please?

Sarah: Sure. My name is Sarah Knight. I am the internationally best-selling author of the No Fucks Given Guides, which is currently a series of three books and the fourth one will be out in January of 2019.

Caitlin: Who did you write this book for actually? Who are the people who reach out to you? I’m just so curious about who you were envisioning when you were writing these books.

Sarah: Well, I started out writing The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck for people like me, who I just felt were kind of overwhelmed, had become completely anxious and burdened, and you know, were losing their minds on a daily basis because they were just giving too many fucks to too many things. And that book was really intended to be a laugh, it began as a parody of Marie Kondo’s bestselling Japanese tidying guide The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Caitlin: Which for the record, you actually respect.

Sarah: I do, I do! I still fold my clothes exactly the way Marie Kondo taught me to fold my clothes. Although I do not wear socks anymore now that I live in the tropics.

Caitlin: And why would you?

Sarah: But you know, I’ve read that book and I thought what she’s doing for physical space – I am doing right now, having just left my job and kind of rearranging my life in a way that was much more pleasing to me – I’m doing that for my mental space. So, you know, what if tidying up was really not giving a fuck, and that book was born. And when I finished it and people started reading it because it was on such a short publication schedule that I really started getting feedback right away, it became clear that it was a valuable self-help book in its own right and that whatever I was tapping into was worth something.

And so I continued. And in each of the subsequent books – including the fourth one that I’m writing now, which is called Calm The F*ck Down, – I’m really taking into account all of that feedback that I get from people.

Caitlin: But let’s actually, let’s just even start with what does it look like to give too many fucks? Or how did it manifest for you? How can people tell whether or not they’re giving too many of them?

Sarah: So I look at it, I call it “your fuck budget”, and you can deplete it in the same way that you could deplete a financial budget. So, if you are overbooked on the calendar, and you’re overwhelmed with a to-do list, and you’re overburdened by people’s expectations of you – those are all fucks that you are giving. So I actually did a TED Talk, that people can search for, called The Magic of Not Giving a F*ck that really explains this, really distills the method. But essentially, if you care about something, you give a fuck about it, and if you spend your time, energy, or money on that thing, those are your fuck bucks and you’re literally giving them to that thing. So giving a fuck has this dual meaning of caring, and then spending time, energy, or money on something.

So for me, I was depleted. I was overburdened. I was overdrawn, and it was largely in that time and energy sphere, but there’s also a lot of things that people tend to overspend on, that put them, you know, in the red. And so I urge everybody to say, “OK if I were to treat my time and energy the same way I treat my bank account, you know, I can’t let myself get to that point where I’ve taken on too much.” So, you know, not giving a fuck and paring things down is really about reclaiming your time, energy, and/or money.

Caitlin: Is there a way to tell when to give a fuck and when not to? Or is that too broad a question?

Sarah: Well, that’s really for the individual to determine for themselves. And that’s kind of a running theme of all of my books is like, I’m not sitting here telling you what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s about what’s right or wrong for you in your life. So there’s an exercise in the first book, in The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, where I talk about, you know, your mind is a barn, and it’s stuffed with crap, it’s stuffed with every single thing that you’ve been asked to give a fuck about, whether you want to or not.

And you sit down and make a list, just write out all of those things, and that itself is pretty therapeutic. And then you go over the list, and you just hover over each item with a fat black magic marker, and you think, “Do I really give a fuck? Do I care about this thing? And do I want to give my fucks to it?” And if the answer is no, you cross it out. And that is really the first step, the literal first step in the book of taking inventory of all of your obligations, and all of the things you’re being asked to care about, and really being honest with yourself about whether you do care about them and whether you want to spend your time, energy, and money on them.

And so, for example, you know, for me, I don’t give a fuck about baby showers. And when I stopped going to baby showers, I reclaimed so much time and energy. I will always send the gift, so I still spent some money on them. But it was just like this magic word, you know, RSVP – no, kind of loomed in the air, and it was fantastic. But other people really like baby showers. So for them, they don’t give a fuck about something different. It’s fine. There’s no judgments. This is a judgment-free zone.

Caitlin: What I was getting, t’s almost like you’re giving permission in your books for being who you are. And one of the things for which you do give some permission ––which I think is pretty controversial–– is selfishness. And you talk about being selfish, and there’s a right way or wrong way to be selfish. But when’s the right time to be selfish, and how do you know?

Sarah: Well, I definitely think that selfish has become a four-letter word in our society. And I think I’m kind of an expert on four-letter words, and I don’t agree that it should be among them. I really do believe that being selfish in a good way, which is to say benefiting yourself more than you’re hurting anybody else is a fine thing to do, and that looking out for number one is essential, and maintaining your own emotional and physical health and sanity means that you will then be a better spouse, partner, parent, you know, sibling, employee, boss to the other people in your life. You know, the minute that you are pulled in too many different directions at once and overwhelmed, then you are likely to take that out on other people.

So for me, I consider self-care as actually beneficial to all the people around me too, because they do not want to have to deal with me if I’m not taking care of myself. And some examples that I give in You Do You are like, OK, you know, you really need to take a nap because you didn’t sleep well last night, and you need to be re-energized, so you want to take two hours, and go into your bedroom, and shut the door, and tell people not to bother you for two hours. That’s fine. But if you fall asleep on the couch, and expect your family to tiptoe around you for two hours, that’s bad selfish. That’s infringing on their space, and their ability to go about their lives because you’re doing something you want to do. So, the idea is always to be considering, you know, how does this affect me? How does it affect others? And is it benefiting me more than it’s hurting anybody else?

Caitlin: Okay. Those are actually three pretty clear sort of goal posts for how to decide if something is good selfish or bad selfish.

Sarah: It’s kind of my thing.

Caitlin: Yeah, it’s good to have a thing! There’s a part ––I believe it’s in The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck–– where you write, “If your friend’s project is really important to you, then and only then can you give a fuck about it.” Does this make you kind of an asshole ––not you personally, I mean one in general–– or actually you said there are kinder, gentler ways to politely not give a fuck, and one of them that I really liked was personal policies, like as in “I don’t fly coach” which might be kind of a jerk personal policy.

Sarah: Well, it benefits you, it doesn’t hurt anybody else.

Caitlin: Yeah, I guess so. Unless you’re using someone else’s budget to buy your own ticket. How did you come up with this method? Like, when was the moment that you developed your first personal policy?

Sarah: I have to give credit to my husband on this one actually. Because there was a point in our probably early 30s where we had a friend, his name is Phil – I don’t think he would mind if I told you his real name – and Phil was still partying really hard, and we were kind of feeling our age a bit. And he was the type of guy, who every time he got you out, would try to force shots on you. And he got really, you know, aggressive when you did not want to drink the shots. And so my husband said, “That’s it. I’ve got a personal policy. I don’t do shots”.

And it’s really difficult to argue with someone, who says it’s a policy. Because they know now that they can’t convince you. It’s not like I just don’t want one now, or I don’t want one because I have to get up early tomorrow morning. You haven’t given them any way in to make a further argument. And I think that, generally speaking, people are conditioned to sort of respect policies and rules, and like, not question them. So that worked so well, with regard to our friend Phil no longer trying to make my husband do shots. That I sort of took personal policies and started applying them to other things in my life. And it actually is great because people really just kind of accept it at face value. And then you don’t have to have an argument about it.

And I actually grew this concept over the course of the No Fucks Given Guides. And in You Do You I talk about in the chapter about being difficult saying, it is essential that you ask for what you want, and push back on what you don’t. And that is all tied up in the concept of setting boundaries and enforcing them. So there’s definitely a lot of ways that you can do that, but a personal policy is sort of an easy go-to in situations, where you really just want to issue a blanket no now and forever.

Caitlin: Right. Actually, you just led me exactly where I wanted to go. I wanted to talk about being difficult, which I think is actually also gets a bad rap much like being selfish. I’ve always been termed a difficult woman by, I’m thinking of my dad right now.

Sarah: Oh, you have one of those too?

Caitlin: Oh, I definitely do. He always told me, “Caito, your life’s never going to be easy and you may never find a man to love you because you’re difficult”. I mean, maybe he’s sort of right so far, I’m not too worried about it. But I think being difficult is a strength. There’s a way to mentally redecorate difficult, which is also one of your terms. What is the upside of difficult?

Sarah: Well, You Do You is built around these – what I call – clauses of the social contract, that we’re all socialized to follow from a young age. And so one of them is “don’t be selfish”, and another one is “don’t be difficult”. And I’ve turned those on their head and said, “You know, actually: be difficult. This is how you are going to get what you want in life, and if people don’t like it, then move along.” And so the concept of mental redecoration, it goes with the concept of mental decluttering that is part of the first two books in the series. And it’s basically saying to take what somebody else accuses you of as a flaw and redecorate it yourself as a strength. So, you know, “oh, she’s so difficult” can turn into “yeah, but I get what I want”. So it’s really a way… You Do You begins with the premise “there’s nothing wrong with you”. And it’s all about taking your own characteristics, whether other people view them as flaws and you agree, or if you don’t view them as flaws, and really turning them around and showing the positive productive side of them.

So, you know, I give examples such as, you know, you show up at a hotel, and you get to your room, and it’s right next to the ice machine or the elevator and you know it’s going to be really loud. There’s nothing wrong with going right back down to the front desk and saying, “Hi. I’m just wondering if you happen to have another room that’s available and ready because I know this one’s going to be really loud”. It’s the person on desk duty’s job to look in the database and see if there’s another room available. You know, you’re not screaming, you’re not complaining, you know, people are assigned to these rooms all the time, they didn’t do anything mean to you. But there’s no reason why you can’t take that little extra effort and say, you know, “I would like something different, please”. And you might get it, and that’ll be great for you. And if not, you know, you tried, and you wasted five minutes, and it’s no big deal.

But I think that especially for women this idea of asking for something other than what you’ve been given is somewhat of a foreign concept to some women just because of the way that young girls are socialized to make everybody else feel good, and to avoid conflict. Whereas men, young boys are socialized to win. And so, you know, winning usually means asking for, demanding, going after what you want. And making everybody else feel good is… Usually, the consequence of that is to just take what you’ve been given and not complain.

So, much like being selfish, I think, there are good and bad ways to be difficult. Certainly, I’m not, you know, recommending that you start stomping around and throwing your weight around, and yelling at customer service employees. But I do think that you can afford to ask for what you want, and you can also push back on things that you don’t want.

Caitlin: Yeah. And you know reading this section of the book actually made me realize how recently I have even begun to believe that it’s OK to ask for something different than what I’m given. It’s really difficult. I’m 33 years old and this is the thing that I think I only figured out about two years ago. How would you counsel someone, who isn’t totally comfortable asking for something different than what they’ve been given? Are there ways to sort of ease into it?

Sarah: Well, the thing that I tell people, and I’m not sure how helpful the sounds on the face of it, because it’s kind of like a drug dealer who’s like, “Just try it, you’re gonna love it.” But I do think in all of my books, and all of the advice that I give, and all of the emails that I get from people, they say, “I didn’t realize how easy it would be until I just tried it.” And whether that is – administering a personal policy, or, you know, saying no to a boss, or telling your mother something you think she doesn’t want to hear – everybody says, you know, “once I tried it, I realized the world didn’t come to an end, you know, people went on with their lives, I RSVP’d no to a party, and it was fine.”

So that’s really, I say, you know, you just sort of have to start, just do it once, and realize that you’re probably bad consequence free. You know, it sort of depends on how you conduct yourself. And so that’s why all three of my books have a lot of cautionary tales against being an asshole, or a psychopath, or an insufferable prick. There’s actually three sections on exactly those things in the books. But I do think that if you just give it a shot, you might realize that this whole time you were more in thrall to what you think society thinks you should do, or other people think you should do. And that actually it’s totally fun to just do what you want to do.

Caitlin: I wonder if some of that fear of not asking for something different what you’ve been given, or not asking for a raise, or not being your authentic self – I wonder if some of that fear is just about not even always what others think of you, but fear of your own regret, fear of having regret. What role does regret have to play in all of this?

Sarah: Yeah, I mean, you know, I also think that it’s no coincidence that I started writing these books as I was approaching my late 30s, and now I’m almost 40. And some things had happened in my life, some unexpected deaths that really sent me into overdrive in terms of, “Oh, this this might not go on as long as I want it to,” or there was definitely some morbidity that informed my risky decision-making in terms of leaving my career behind, and then my husband and I moved from New York City to a tropical island from where I am speaking to you right now.

Caitlin: Congratulations. That sounds a lot better than what we’re currently experiencing in Berlin.

Sarah: It is quite wonderful. I was a little bit worried about our call because there are some loud neighbors and an occasional rooster. But it’s quiet for the moment.

Caitlin: It’s OK, it’s flavor.

Sarah: But yeah, I made these really really big life decisions. A lot of those are chronicled in Get Your Sh*t Together, and then I give really hard advice for how to do these kinds of things, whether they’re big life changes or small life changes. But a lot of that I think was powered by what if I regret not, you know, having taken this chance. And you can apply that up and down, from what if I regret not trying life as a blond, to what if I regret, you know, not getting out of this relationship when I felt that I should have, or what if I regret never trying my hand at stand-up comedy. You know, there’s a wide range to which you can apply that question.

And you know, I just really think that I became more confident in exactly what I want out of my life, and how to get it, and not caring what other people think. And like you said, not caring what I think. Because I would have quit my job five years earlier if I had realized how great it would have been. For a long time, I was worried of what people would think of my decision: “Oh, she wasted all this time”, “Oh, she’s making the wrong call”, “Oh, she’s leaving her authors in the lurch”, you know, “Oh, she’s mistaken about how much better her life is going to be as a freelancer”. I had a lot to work through in terms of worrying about what other people would think about my decision and how that really impacted my decision.

So it’s, you know, I tell people all the methods and things in my book are really simple. They’re not necessarily easy. I’m not promising you the easiest path to a new life, but it’s simple, they’re binary decisions, they’re “yes or no” questions, they’re, you know, is this better or is this worse? So, if you can really get yourself into a frame of mind, where you’re able to be honest with yourself, I think that the decisions follow from there and then the actions follow from those decisions.

Caitlin: Do you think that there’s some sort of central competency to not giving a fuck and getting your shit together, and doing you. Is that… Would it be confidence? Is it authenticity? Is there something that undergirds all of that?

Sarah: I think, it’s probably being willing to take a risk. Just being willing to say, I’m not going to do it the way everybody says it should be done. Or I’m not going to do it the way I’ve done it up until now. And with The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, it’s being willing to risk saying no, and what the fallout might be from that, which, hint: the fallout is not bad, the fallout is very good. With You Do You, it’s being willing to risk being seen as who you really are. And, you know, I wish I had had that book to read when I was 15. I hope that a lot of young people will read it because it took me way too long to be cool with who I really am, and it’s awesome now that I’m doing it.

And with Get Your Sh*t Together, it’s about admitting to yourself that you have goals or want to make changes, and risking admitting that, and then risking people watching you achieve them or fail at them, and risking yourself achieving them or failing at them. Now, I happen to think that if you follow the advice in Get Your Sh*t Together, you’re going to achieve more of them than you are going to fail at. But it’s still that inherent risk in saying, “I want this, and now I have to go after it, and I’m going to know and everybody else is going to know if I don’t get it.” So, I think that’s probably being willing to take a risk is at the heart of all of them.

Caitlin: I love the risk that you just talked about in Get Your Sh*t Together. We have such a great fear of that, of being seen as wanting something. How do you deal with that?

Sarah: You know, I’ve started dealing with it differently in the last few years. I think that, for example, for all my life, I thought I’m a writer, I’m a writer, someday I’m going to write a book. You know, and then I got my job in publishing, and I was editing other people’s books. And I always had this kind of… You know, there’s definitely a trend in the publishing, that a lot of people who get into it, get into it because they want to write their own books, but maybe they never do. And so it was a big risk for me to take to actually put an idea on paper, and show it to a literary agent, and let her show it to all of these editors all over town who knew me. You know, because what if none of them liked it, what if I got a big old no from everybody. And then I would have said, I want this, I think I can do this, and been told, “Sorry, you can’t have it. You’re not good enough. You can’t do it”. So that was a huge risk for me to take and obviously it worked out well. But I think that admitting, in any fashion admitting, you know, “I have this goal, and I want to do it,” is a little bit terrifying. But it makes life a lot better, if you at least see, you know, where it leads you, I think.

Caitlin: If there’s a central thought that you could leave people with about really being who they are, and getting what they want out of life, what would that be?

Sarah: That’s big. That’s tough. I’m such a long-winded narrator, that it is hard to distill my thoughts down into one. I guess what I would say is, you may not know it now, but you are enough. You know, you are who you are and that’s fine. And the sooner that you recognize that and embrace it, the better your life will be. And it may sound, I’m making it sound simple, you may not think it’s easy, but it’s true that accepting yourself for who you are is a much faster, easier path toward a satisfying life than beating yourself up about who you aren’t.

Caitlin: That’s a beautiful note to end on. But I do want to ask you one more thing particularly you, because you come from a publishing background and were an acquisitions editor. I imagine you still read a lot. What have you read lately that you’ve enjoyed?

Sarah: Oh, yes. I read so much more now that I’m not editing for a living, because I have all this time for pleasure reading. I read The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll. She wrote a book two years ago called Luckiest Girl Alive, and it was the bestselling debut fiction of that year and became a bestseller all over the world. And The Favorite Sister is her follow-up, and it is set, it is juicy, and dark, and funny, and edgy, and it’s set in the world of reality TV, in a group of women who are on a show called Goal Diggers, and they are all ambitious, successful career women who are being pit against each other by the producers. And one of them dies, and so the book begins with that, and then unravels to find out whodunnit and why. And it’s just so sharp, and so insightful about women, and power, and ambition, and money, and also, you know, the way women are portrayed and pit against each other. So, I highly recommend it, especially right now — a great summer read.

On the other end of the spectrum, a nonfiction book I just read. Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir. And the author grew up in a large fundamentalist family, who were all homeschooled, and kept off the grid by their parents in the in the mountains, and just had a very alien upbringing. A lot of people would find it just frankly horrifying but also just incredibly strange how these kids were raised. And she really was able to escape this extremely narrow-minded dangerous world, that she was brought up in. And wound up, you know, traveling the world and going to Harvard University and really self-educating to kind of get out of that cycle of religious, you know, I guess “brainwashing” I would call it. But it was a fascinating, absolutely page-turning, beautifully-written memoir – Educated. And I loved it. And I could go on, I’ve read a lot of a lot of great books lately, but those are sort of two that really span kind of a wide spectrum, depending on who your listeners are.

Caitlin: Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to talk today. I really appreciate it.

Sarah: Yeah, thanks for having me. I look forward to hearing the interview when it’s up, and spreading it around.

The Bookend

Ben: Welcome to The Bookend where we end… with books. Do you think we should go right in the books or do you want to… What do you think?

Caitlin: Yeah, we could go into the books. Except I do want to say one thing that I really liked about this interview. First, it’s that I think it’s really hard sometimes to tell what “good selfish” or “bad selfish” looks like. And the idea that “good selfish” is even a thing that exists was a little bit surprising to me. It’s kind of counterintuitive, right? Because you learned that being selfish is across the board a really bad thing.

But Sarah Knight gives this example of how… Say, you need a nap. Needing a nap, that’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a fact, you need a nap. What’s “bad selfish” is if you’re laying on the couch and you expect everybody around you to tiptoe around the living room and not make noise in the kitchen because you need a nap and you’re laying in a public space. It’s affecting someone else’s life negatively and you’re taking up sort of more space than you need to be.

But “good selfish,” there’s nothing wrong with saying you need a nap, going to your bedroom, closing the door and taking an hour to sleep so you can be a decent person to your family or friends. So yeah, “bad selfish” is the kind of like flop into a nap on the couch and expect everybody to deal with it around you, and “good selfish” is going to take care of your own needs in a place where it doesn’t affect others’ well-being. And I thought that was actually a really cool concrete example for what “good selfish” can look like.

Ben: Yeah. Actually––good and bad selfish––can I do a book recommendation? Because that kind of ties into one of mine.

Caitlin: Definitely!

Ben: OK. The book is called Rethinking Narcissism by Craig Malkin. So, like you said, a lot of what Knight talks about comes down to being OK with taking actions that might be categorized ––even wrongly––as selfish. In the interview at one point, she says like, “selfish” is considered by some people like a four-letter word, like a dirty word! Don’t be selfish, that’s the worst thing you could be. So this book Rethinking Narcissism is interesting because it breaks down the whole concept of narcissism. Like it goes into Freud, goes into mythology, Narcissus. And did you know, there’s a scale of narcissism called the Narcissism Spectrum?

Caitlin: I did not.

Ben: So if you’re like a zero on the Narcissistic Spectrum…

Caitlin: There’s something probably wrong with you.

Ben: You’re right. You’re like completely abstinent and you hate the world. But if you’re 10, then you’re like a narcissistic maniac and the world hates you. So, you want to be like a 4, 5, 6. And the question is: is that actually possible? Is it possible to be like medium level narcissistic or have humans been pre-programmed to be very narcissistic?
So, this book Rethinking Narcissism covers a lot of that. Also, you’ll like this: there’s sections on how to spot a narcissist, and how to keep your partner’s narcissism in check. You like that stuff, right?

Caitlin: I do. I like human psychology stuff, it’s true.

Ben: Do you want to do a book rec?

Caitlin: Sure! So, this is a little bit unorthodox and might not be for everyone. So, Sarah Knight used to be an acquisitions editor in a big publishing house. That’s the job that she left before she escaped to the Caribbean and decided that she was going to live on an island and never wear socks again. And because she was an acquisitions editor, she didn’t do a whole lot of pleasure reading. She couldn’t: she had no time. So, this book rec is my nod to the importance of pleasure reading. And my pick is The Reason for Flowers by Stephen Buchmann.

So, I really love flowers. I have a flower budget, which is a tradition that I’ve had with myself for years now, where I allocate a small amount of money, usually averages out to about three euros a week to buying myself flowers.
Ben: That’s enough? That’s like two dollars, $2.50.

Caitlin: Dude, I go to like a bargain supermarket and get the daisies and the whatever is seasonal and ALDI or LIDL have. That’s what I usually get. So it’s not much but it’s something because they make me happy. They lift my spirits and because as I learned in this book, flowers are really fascinating. They blush after fertilization, for example. Did you know that? Flowers blush!

Ben: No.

Caitlin: Pretty adorable, right? So, and broccoli and cauliflower –– they’re actually stealth flowers. They’re not just veggies – stealth flowers. And in Victorian England, there was this whole language of flowers that suitors use to communicate with their mistresses and friends used with each other.

Ben: You have an example?

Caitlin: I do. So, if you were to give a lady really like some red roses, if the thorns were taken off, it would mean that your love is true and lasting and real and you felt confident. But if you leave the thorns on, it indicates that, you know, you’re maybe a little bit unsure about your feelings. It’s like overthinkers galore for flower lovers.

Ben: Sounds terrifying.

Caitlin: Yeah, kind of intense. So anyway, this is the kind of reading that pleases me. The other kind is like, I don’t know, some young adult fiction books.

Ben: That’s like a deep inside cut of Caitlin Schiller’s…

Caitlin: Deep cut, yeah. Flower budget. There we go. Do you have one more book?

Ben: Sure. So The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, it’s inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which was a big hit a couple years ago. Anyway, we should keep trying to get Marie Kondo on Simplify. Didn’t you wanna learn Japanese for that or something?

Caitlin: I don’t know if “want” is the word I would use for it?

Ben: Right, so in all seriousness, Knight says, you know, what Marie Kondo was doing for physical space, she was trying to do for mental space. And honestly, like I really enjoyed this book. I think this book is really fun. So, if you’re the kind of person who’s skeptical of books that go huge on bestseller lists and then kind of disappear…
Caitlin: I definitely am.

Ben: Then just go to the library or local bookstore, and just open it for a second, or check out the blinks. Because like everyone I know who’s read it, has taken one powerful idea what them, that kind of sticks with you.

Caitlin: What did you take?

Ben: Mine is… There’s this idea of saying thank you, like so tidying up, throwing out stuff, getting rid of stuff that can be difficult. And Marie Kondo says: “If you’re having a hard time just say thank you to the stuff.”
For me, it would be something, you know, thank you, Hawaiian shirt I bought at a thrift store in 2008––you gave me joy, it is not your time now. Goodbye. See you in the afterlife.

Caitlin: Are you saying your Jimmy Buffett era is over?

Ben: I’m just saying that that was one thing that I found really helpful. Yeah, so that’s three cool books. And maybe just to wrap up this whole episode, if there was one thing that people should remember today, what would you say?

Caitlin: I would say that it’s do what you want a little more often because it’s probably OK. Ask for that better hotel room, don’t go to your friend’s whatever kind of fundraiser, decide what you want and just commit to it because chances are it’s going to be just fine and getting what you want doesn’t make you a monster.

Ben: Getting what you want doesn’t make you a monster. That’s cool.

Caitlin: Great, so this episode of Simplify was produced by me, Caitlin Schiller, Ben Schuman-Stoler, Nat Darozhkina, Ody Constantinou, Terence Mickey, and Ben Jackson, who wanted me to tell everyone that he definitely did not make that one app in the appstore that does absolutely nothing. It’s just a blank screen, and it costs 99 cents.

Ben: Right. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, all the podcatchers wherever you listen to podcasts, and as always: If you enjoyed this Simplify episode, share it with somebody you like. Or go to which has really pretty colors this season, I think.

Caitlin: It does!

Ben: It’s like an autumnal orange.

Caitlin: Indeed. It’s everywhere in the shops this year.

Ben: Yeah. Shout out to Sarah. I think, a designer named Sarah Kennedy did that, so shout out to Sarah Kennedy.

Caitlin: Yeah. All right so, and we would love to hear what you think of the season so far, including the colors: the colors, the guests, how about this slightly altered format? Let us know what you think! We care and we use your feedback to make changes. And yeah, email us at [email protected] or on Twitter: I’m @caitlinschiller. Ben?

Ben: I’m @bsto. And quick shout out to Judy for writing in after one of the earlier episodes this season gave me personally some good feedback. And that’s cool! We like that stuff.

So lastly, Simplify is made by the same people who make Blinkist. Blinkist––if you don’t know––is a learning app that takes insights from the world’s bestselling nonfiction books and condenses them into these focused little capsules of knowledge that you can read or listen to and just 15 minutes.

Caitlin: And if you want to try it out, we made a voucher code for this episode. And by voucher code I mean, you get to try it free. So you get 14 days of Blinkist, if you go to and type in the voucher code: budget. So yeah, 14 days free, Give it a try!

Ben: Like budgeting your fucks.

Caitlin: Yes, fuck budget, which is just so delightful to say. Fuck budget. The internal rhyme of that is great.

Ben: Thanks, Sarah Knight, for letting us say the words “fuck budget” in front of the entire world.

Caitlin: Yeah, indeed. I’ve just been aching for this opportunity.

Ben: Great. Cool, then that’s it. Till next time! Checking out.

Caitlin: Checking out.

Ben: See ya!

Caitlin: Bye!

Read the show notes for this episode here!

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