The Year of Less* follows Cait Flanders during a year, in her late twenties, when she implemented a yearlong shopping ban and decluttered her life. Although she’d paid off almost $30,000 of debt, she noticed her poor spending habits and consumerism returned. So she decided to take drastic action and bought only consumables (such as groceries and toiletries) for an entire year. This is a memoir style book rather than a how to book so doesn’t include specific practical examples but more on concepts that may lead you to a happier life.
When you want less, you consume less—and you also need less money
Why did I want to read The Year of Less
I’m currently reading decluttering and minimalism books to inspire and help me focus on sorting our house out for a full renovation. I know the less stuff we own the easier the project will be and the nicer the “new” house will be. I added this to my list because I used to enjoy listening to Cait on the Budgets and Cents podcast and I thought hearing the month by month personal experience would be different to other books on decluttering as I’d feel the experience instead of looking back from the completion point.
My key takeaways
While this book originates with a focus on consumer debt and a desire to stop shopping. It is still relevant to decluttering because she shows that when you learn to spend less you also want less which impacts your thoughts on what to keep as well as what to buy.
Overriding takeaways is understand your priorities. Not what others tell you are your priorities or what you think should be your priorities. What is important to you. Without understanding those you won’t be on the path in life you want to be on, you’ll be on someone elses.
- Understand what you want – don’t buy or do things because others are, don’t keep things because you think it will upset people. Respect your feelings more than you worry what you think others will think
- Appreciate the difference between need and want – we’ve been encouraged to think we need something when we want it
- Focus on the benefits of not spending by thinking how you’ll spend the money on something you really want such as a special holiday
- Being brave and making a drastic decision will help you learn more about yourself – decide what is best for you even if it is different to what is expected by “society”
- It takes continued focus to stop falling back into bad habits, particularly if those bad habits have ben in place for a long time
- A pause will help you reduce impulsive decisions or actions
Whenever you let go of something negative in your life, you make room for something positive
What I’ve changed after reading The Year of Less
The book is making me question what I spend – why do I want it? Will I actually use it or do I just want to pretend I’ll use it? Is it an intentional purchae? Am I a mindful consumer, or is it mindless consumption? Can I consume less?
I’ve thought about my usual vices. My big three are:
- board games – I’m always tempted by new games, while knowing we don’t need more as we don’t play the ones we have as much as I’d like
- software on life time deals – because I just don’t know when it could come in useful (and its a bargain)
- non fiction ebooks – particularly when they’re on offer for the same reasons as software.
With all of these, really what I want is more time to use what I have, not more of them. So now I’m more aware of that, I’ve slowed down my spending by really thinking about whether I’m likely to use the item in the near future or if it is for some mythical future me.
Who are you buying this for: the person you are, or the person you want to be?
The Year of Less journal Prompts
While there were no direct links to journal writing from the book, I was inspired by the bold decision Cait made, and her approach to thinking of her shopping ban as an experiment. So I’m trying some journal prompts to make me think about what bold changes I could try as an experiment. I’ve only used the prompts once so far, but a few days in, and I’m seeing a change in how I view the change. If you’d like to know more, sign up to my newsletter to be updated when I share the journal prompts.
Should you read The Year of Less
This is a month by month description of Cait Flanders actual life during her shopping ban. It is a personal book including thoughts on addiction, alcoholism and relationships. It is not an instruction or how-to book on minimalism, but does show Cait’s changed habits. I read the whole book in one day during my summer holiday.
I think it will be of interest to people who
- feel stuck with their finances
- feel they don’t have enough at the end of the month
- feel they have too many things and want to declutter
- want to live an intentional life where you feel in control to buy and do what you want
- want simple living
- are interested in living with less
- want to change old habits
The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
The Year of Less follows Cait Flanders during a year, in her late twenties, when she implemented a yearlong shopping ban and decluttered her life. While it is not a How-to book on minimalism it does highlight how making one change can lead to other benefits.
*Disclaimer – This post also contains affiliate links which means if you buy something after following a link I will earn a percentage of the value but it does not cost you any more.