Cait Flanders downsized her life dramatically over the course of a year, and her memoir, The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered That Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store, chronicles the process.
Flanders saved $17,000 and spent another $10,000 for personal travel during the year while living on an average of 51% of her income. She also got rid of 70% of her stuff.
Don’t you think it’s impressive?
The Year of Less, on the other hand, is about so much more than simply living. It’s about facing your fears and demons and finding the strength to live a healthier and happier life as a result.
Flanders confronted her addictions during her self-imposed shopping ban, which limited her purchases to consumables and replacements only. This was especially true during times when her life was flipped upside down.
During particularly trying periods, Flanders overate, binge-watched TV, and felt tempted to drink after months of abstinence. Anxiety and despair were precipitated by life events, which kept her in bed for weeks at a time.
If any of these behaviors or obstacles sound familiar to you, take heart: with time and awareness, Flanders was able to say “no” to these self-destructive patterns and replace them with life-affirming ones.
What the Year of Less Can Teach You
Consider your personal relationship to money, things, and consumerism for a moment.
Do you find yourself wanting more yet never feeling completely satisfied?
Do you spend more than you earn, causing you to go further in debt?
Are you attempting to achieve happiness through worldly items, yet finding your delight to be fleeting?
Do you ever have any money left over at the end of the month to invest or save for retirement?
Would you like to have money set aside for personal travel or to try new things but don’t have any in your savings account?
If that’s the case, The Year of Less can help you develop a new and liberating relationship with money, possessions, and consumerism.
Are you looking for ways to simplify your life so you can spend less, save money, and be happier? Cait Flanders tells how she embraced simple living and saved $17,000 in only one year in her memoir, The Year of Less. If you need more information, read this review…
Flanders learned the following during her 12-month shopping ban:
“By committing to not shop for a year, I was either setting myself up for failure or the most lucrative year of my life, and I’m delighted to report that it was the latter.” Throughout the journey, I was forced to slow down, understand my spending and overconsumption triggers, and confront and change my poor habits. I gave up the things that marketers try to persuade us we need in life: the latest and best of everything, everything that can solve our problems, and whatever is fashionable. I sold everything and replaced it with the bare basics, realizing after a year of not being able to buy anything new that this was all I needed. That was all that was required of everyone. I’d always been caught in a cycle of desiring more, purchasing more, and then needing more money. The ban revealed the truth: when you decide to want less, you can buy less and, as a result, require less money.”
The Flanders shopping embargo was such a great success for her that she proclaimed the next day that she would do it again for another year. She opted not to repeat the experiment at the end of the second year because conscious consumption had become a way of life for her.
What Can You Learn from Decluttering?
Flanders discovered the following after removing 70% of her belongings:
“Decluttering and purging 70% of my belongings taught me a variety of lessons. I realized I had spent the first 29 years of my life trying to be someone I believed I should be by doing and buying whatever I could. Because I never felt like I was good enough, I kept a lot of things and ate the wrong foods. I didn’t think I was smart, professional, intelligent, or creative enough. I didn’t trust that who I was or what I brought to the table in any given setting was already unique, so I bought items to improve myself. Then I spent a year trying to make sense of it all and figure out who I was. A reader and a writer. Hiker and traveler are two words that come to mind when describing myself. Animal lover and dog owner. Sister, daughter, and friend are all words that come to me when I think of you. It turned out that I had never been a materialistic person. I treasured the people in my life and the adventures we shared. None of that could be found among my personal possessions. It has always had a special place in my heart.”
How would you feel if you got rid of 25% of your belongings? How about a 50% discount? Allow Flanders’ decluttering journey to encourage you to get started if you see and experience the benefits.
The Insider’s Guide to the Year of Less
Flanders takes you through each month of her year of less in her memoir, highlighting the personal barriers and problems she faced as well as her triumphs in an intimate and at times heartbreaking way. She also gives a glimpse into her past and the insights that helped her break free from bad habits and replace them with good ones.
At the end of the book, you’ll also find the 10-step “Your Guide to Less” guidelines, which you can use if you want to follow in Flanders’ footsteps.
Make Your Own Experiment in 30 Minutes or Less
Good for you if you’re all pumped up and ready to take on a year of less.
You can start with whatever feels comfortable to you if a year-long shopping ban like Flanders sounds too extreme, too huge, or too stressful.
Experiment on your own:
Remove takeout coffee (or any other food) from your diet for a month and see how much money you save. For the entire year, add a new item each month.
Experiment with decluttering. Once a week or once a month, fill one large garbage bag. Donate as much as you can.
Make a month-long shopping restriction a priority. Purchase just consumables and spare parts. Then decide whether or not you wish to proceed.
You are free to create your own shopping ban and decluttering program in any way that makes sense to you.
What do you want to make a commitment to? Remember to consider your “why.” Knowing why you’re doing something will help you get through the time you’ve set aside for your experiment faster.
In the approaching year, I’ve been thinking about how I can live with less. Climate change, which has resulted from unlimited production and consumerism, is burning up and flooding our globe at the same time.
That’s why I’m here. The idea of a shopping prohibition, at least for a period of time, appeals to me.
Although times have changed since Flanders’ year-long experiment, her wisdom remains timeless.
In fact, given the current economic situation brought on by the pandemic, it may be even more important. According to Tim Denning, the United States’ annual inflation rate has reached 6.8%, the highest in 39 years.
Prices have risen, while the dollar’s worth has fallen. You might have to make do with less. Making a conscious decision to live with less can, however, be much more than a reaction to a financial crisis.
Flanders discovered her own self and what mattered most in her life through her modest living experiment, which she recounts in The Year of Less. It’s possible that the same thing will happen to you. Because that is the beauty of basic living: it forces you to look within, think deeply, and make deliberate decisions.