How To Say No: ‘Anti-Guru’ Sarah Knight Suggests You Do Less And Live More

By Samantha Balaban

Sarah Knight has built a career on saying no.

Her latest book, simply titled F*ck No! is a 300+ page book about how to say a single, two-letter, one-syllable word.

It’s tongue-in-cheek self-help that offers advice on how to do what Knight calls mental decluttering, in order to pare down life to the essentials.

Now, with social and professional calendars cleared, a lot of people are getting a quarantine crash course in Knight’s philosophy. “I’m hopeful that we’re all going to come out of this with some better perspective on what’s important, what isn’t,” she says.

“The books that I write are coming straight from my brain and straight from my heart,” says Sarah Knight. She’s the author of the “No F*cks Given Guides” — a series of books about mental decluttering.Alfredo Esteban Morales/Sarah Knight

This time spent at home is an opportunity to clean house, to identify what you don’t really want to be doing. The challenge will be not letting those things creep back in “when the world opens up again,” Knight says.

Long before social distancing, Knight was already something of an expert. That’s because before she was a professional nay-sayer, Knight was a senior editor at Simon & Schuster in New York City — and she’d achieved a lot of success.

“I was at a real peak,” she says.

She’d edited Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, and The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, which was the best selling debut the year it came out. She’d worked on a humor book that was being turned into a Broadway play. A lot of award winners, a lot of bestsellers.

But she was unhappy.

“Every day was a struggle to get up, to get ready, to put on makeup, to put on heels, to get on the subway, to go to work,” Knight says. “I started having a lot of panic attacks and some depression and some just real big questioning, existential: What am I doing with my life and can I continue doing it in this place for these people until the end of time? And the answer was no.”

So she saved up for a year, quit her job, sold her apartment, and moved to the Dominican Republic. Now, she lives in a little fishing village on the island’s north coast called Las Terrenas. Unlike other beachside towns in the country, there are few all-inclusive resorts. It’s cozy, and isolated.

Knight can — and does — watch the sunset from her favorite rooftop bar. She gets pizza at a restaurant where you can eat with your feet in the sand. She and her husband live about a five-minute walk from the water with her two feral cats, Gladys Knight and Mr. Stussy.

“I wake up when I wake up. I never set an alarm unless I have an appointment …” she says. “Maybe I sit outside depending on how hot it is, and just kind of wake up and figure out what my day is going to look like. And if I’m working on a book or if I’m working on an article or something like that, I usually get started around noon.”

It’s idyllic — and still incredibly productive. Knight has written two self-help journals and four books since moving here. She’s working on a fifth right now.

‘Why am I doing this?’

It’s a self-help empire that started as a parody. Back when she was clearing out her office at Simon & Schuster, Knight brought home a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.