Published January 16, 2018
In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.I don't think I have a shopping problem, but always in the back of my mind, there's a little thought of, how can I spend less? Do I really need all of this stuff in my house? So when I heard about Cait Flanders' Year of Less, I was intrigued.
The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.
The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.
Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life—and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less. - from Goodreads
At the beginning of the book, Cait Flanders lays out her plan for a shopping ban, making a list of approved and non-approved items. She also declutters her home, listing what she gets rid of. Each chapter focuses on a month of the challenge, but after the initial plan, the book becomes more of a memoir and less of a how-to book. She talks about her sobriety; her parents' divorce and how it affected her; and her plan to quit her job. I thoroughly enjoyed Cait's writing; it has a great flow and is very personal and approachable without being preachy. She isn't trying to tell people that they have to do things her way in order to succeed; you can take her ideas and tweak them to fit your lifestyle.
After finishing the book, there are a few things that stuck with me that I hope will help me moving forward.
1. How many clothes does one person really need? When Cait began weeding through her clothes, she realized that she really only liked and wore very few outfits. So - get rid of those clothes you feel uncomfortable in; the clothes that don't fit you just right; the clothes you're holding onto for when your weight fluctuates; and pieces that aren't very versatile. I wear business casual all week to work, so do I really need 5 or 6 pairs of jeans when I only wear them on the weekends?
2. Analyze your mood before you make that purchase. One of Cait's shopping triggers was trying to make herself feel better or feel less pain. She says, "I found myself constantly wanting to do anything at all that might brighten my day, or lighten some of the load I was carrying around with me." She usually did that through buying something. But although that might help temporarily, was it really solving anything? I know when I'm sad, I immediately want to spend money, go shopping, whatever. But now I can take a step back and really ask myself why I want to make that purchase. Is it to make me feel better now, or for the long haul?
3. Set priorities. So many of us complain that we want to travel but don't have the money for it. If we really took a look at our finances and what we're spending our money on, I bet we could all find things we're wasting money on that we could funnel towards travel (or something else we want to do). I like to go on trips, even short ones, so saving for that is a priority for me. When I get my first paycheck of the month, I automatically transfer a certain amount of money into an account dedicated to travel expenses.
4. Never stop learning. Cait realizes during her year-long shopping ban that she could actually save a lot of money if she had more skills. She regrets not learning more from her parents when she was younger, like asking her mom how to sew or learning how to change her car's oil from her dad. For many of us, it's just easier and more convenient to pay someone else to do things like this for us. Maybe if I had paid more attention to my mom in the kitchen, I'd be a better cook and not rely on take-out so much! But, it's never to late to learn a new skill, whether it's sewing, or gardening, or whatever!
5. Are you buying for the person you are or the person you'd like yourself to be? Am I buying this shirt because it's trendy and I see everyone else wearing it and I want to be fashionable, or because it's my style and something I truly like? Am I buying this book because I think I'll actually enjoy it or because I think I should be reading it? While I agree with Cait that you should accept yourself for who you are, I think a case could also be made for wanting to try new things or better yourself. I'm not saying to do this all the time, but some things you just won't know until you try them for the first time. Like, I want to be a craftier person. I was artistic as a kid, but not so much now. I think it's ok to start with one small project; it's not ok to buy every crafting supply in the story and then never use it.
Overall, I think this book had a great message to be more mindful, in every area of our lives.
This book sounds great! I like the lessons you took away from it. I don’t think I have a spending problem because I don’t have any money to spend. :)ReplyDelete
Aj @ Read All The Things!
Haha, I don't have a lot to spend, either! That's why this was good for me.Delete
This definitely sounds like a good read. I am sure I could do more to spend less and I like your takeaways. Great review!ReplyDelete
I love your takeaways and I can't wait to listen to this book. I want to learn to be more mindful!ReplyDelete
I think you'll really enjoy this one!Delete
What a challenge!! The television ban is interesting … what to do with all that spare time. Thank you for a great review.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Linda! Haha, probably read more!Delete
These tips would have been of much more use when I was younger. When I switched careers (twice), I took HUGE pay cuts both times. I save my pennies for experiences these days, but when I was younger, I was a total clothes horse, shoe whore, perfume hoarder, and collector of too many things.ReplyDelete
Oh, I know. The older I get, the more I want to spend my money on seeing and doing things, instead of things themselves.Delete
These are all amazing takeaways! I really like the one about priorities. That's one I've tried to live by!ReplyDelete
I liked that one, too - it was so relatable.Delete
I’m don’t think I’ve got a shopping problem either, but I do buy so much stuff I don’t need, mainly clothes. Pretty much all I ever wear is a t shirt and black jeans, yet my wardrobe is so full of random stuff that every time I open the door an avalanche of clothes fall on me! :)ReplyDelete
It sounds like there’s some pretty great lessons to be learnt from this book, so it’s definitely going on my TBR. Great post! :)
Awesome, I hope you enjoy it! Over the years I've definitely bought way too many clothes, too, and lots of times, almost as soon as I get it home, I'm like, why did I buy that?Delete
Numbers 2 and 3 from your list are ones that I need to really focus on. I do tend to spend more when I'm feeling down and want a pick-me-up. I also love to travel, but I tend to go ahead and take a trip and then prioritize and spend less after the fact to pay my credit card bill instead of saving for the trip up front. I should probably reverse that, lol.ReplyDelete
Yeah, #2 can be a bad one for me, so I really need to watch that. Haha, I at least like to save for the big things, like airfare and hotels!Delete
This is awesome! I've been in a cleaning out mode recently, specifically with clothes. I have WAY too many! I'll have to snag this book!ReplyDelete
Yeah, we need to do a purge, too. We got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved, but we can always get rid of more.Delete
Oh this book sounds so great - and your post comes at a perfect time, when I've been in this minimalist sort of mood, listening and reading loads of articles on this exact kind of topic. I'm with you on making priorities - travelling is a priority for me, so whenever I get my paycheck, or anytime, really, I always plan on putting some money aside dedicated to travelling :)ReplyDelete
Lovely post! :D <3
Thanks, Marie! She had some great points.Delete
While what this woman did is more extreme than I'm willing to go, the overall lessons and concepts really resonate with me. I'm in the process of trying to declutter, from my wardrobe to books to all the accumulated stuff of living in the same house for several decades. Thank you for the recommendation!ReplyDelete
I hope you enjoy it and get as much out of it as I did!Delete
This sounds like a great life lesson book. There are times I tend to spend too much when I am upset, and when I notice myself doing that I stop. I think to myself are you for real? - Do you want to live in a cardboard box? I think I need to get this book.ReplyDelete
I am the same way! I don't know why, but I always think that spending money will help me feel better if I'm upset. But it's not really so great to be spending money so emotionally. I hope you enjoy this book!Delete
Sounds like an interesting book!ReplyDelete
I'm not much of a shopper. People tell me "oh, I can hardly ever leave Walmart without spending over $100!" I'm at Walmart almost every day because I work there, but I mostly just buy food and toiletries. I wear my clothes until they wear out. I do like books though. I think my biggest problem might be getting rid of worn out clothes.
I normally just get the basics at Walmart, too, but once in awhile, I will walk out with something I didn't need when I came in! I try to get rid of clothes often, especially if I buy something new.Delete
I'm a pretty frugal person and I still sometimes find myself buying something to cheer myself up (usually food) or doing what I think of as 'aspirational buying', buying things I'd like to use but won't. And like you, I don't think I have a shopping problem, but I still like the idea of being able to spend even less. I think I'd enjoy picking this up and hearing about the author's experience :)ReplyDelete
I feel like I got a lot out of it, I hope you do, too!Delete