Could you go a whole year without shopping?
In her late twenties, that’s exactly what Cait Flanders did. Despite having cleared nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, she still struggled to save money. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy, she embarked on a year-long shopping ban.
The Year of Less documents the 12 months during which Cait spent money only on the essentials – food, bills, car fuel – and steadily cleared out 70 per cent of her belongings. She learned to make do and mend, imposed a television ban and researched the zero waste movement. The results were profoundly transformative: the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt. In the process of decluttering her apartment, she also decluttered her life and overcame long-held toxic habits.
With advice and practical tips from Cait, 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
. ‘For your friend who has already Kondo’d her cupboards after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, The Year of Less will inspire them to do the same to their finances.’ Metro
‘What is an incredible personal journey is also a stark reminder of how materialistic many of us have become. The Year of Less will certainly change your perspective on how you spend your money.’ The Independent
By Becky Hinshelwood
In the wake of this most recent Netflix-inspired Marie Kondo fever which seems to have swept the nation, this book is entirely on trend. Cait Flanders even name checks her a few times. The Year of Less isn’t a how-to manual in the same way as a Marie Kondo tome, however. The book is born of a blog so it’s far less instructive and more meandering in thought and experience. Its core is one of financial saving rather than consumerist psychology. Essentially, though, Cait draws the same conclusions: don’t keep and don’t buy what you don’t need.
There are hundreds of different ways that other belief systems come to the same conclusions. Some are religious, others financial, some seek to improve mental well being and some are environmentally centred. A quest to live sustainably will put you in a fundamentally similar end point to a quest to live cheaply. They’re all valid, and so it follows that The Year of Less is a fundamentally good thing. One which many readers can and should learn from. That’s not to say that the core values behind the project will be shared by all readers. Cait’s writing is endearing and pragmatic. This is a description of an experiment in self control to save money and an exploration of the author’s ability to overcome her social wiring to succeed in that experiment.
And there lies the centre of this book, indeed this author. Cait seems to be a serial crusader. This is clearly a coping mechanism to counteract an addictive personality. She makes ongoing reference to past projects designed to pay off debt, lose weight and quit alcohol which show that The Year of Less is by no means Cait’s first foray into lifestyle target setting.
My husband similarly is rarely without a lifestyle project. From attempting a no-days-off exercise regime to cutting sugar or alcohol or both, I have taken to raising an eyebrow at these undertakings. My approach is very much in the realms of moderation and winging it over abstinence and targets. So I did need to consciously force myself to give Cait a fair go and not immediately reject her voice. Cait writes so warmly that it is, in the end, easy to like her even if I’d never go for this kind of target driven project. The instructive section at the end of the book and pages for notes are a little wasted on me I’m afraid.
It’s clearly different for Cait, though. The crusader approach seems to work for her and many people will be inspired by the changes that she’s made in her life. A good deal of this book dips into personal history. As each month passes we learn not only what anti-consumerist steps Cait has undertaken, but we also glean snippets of personal history and adversity. From relationship trauma to addiction to family crisis it’s clear that Cait hasn’t had an easy time of it. So I hope that other readers warm to this author as readily.
It has to be said that I struggle to comprehend the challenge that many people have to control their shopping habits. I really really hate shopping and darn everything I own to avoid having to buy new. I avoid processed and packaged food, cook from scratch, make my kids’ dressing up and brew yoghurt in our airing cupboard. In many ways I’ve ended up in the same place as Cait. However, I also hate to throw things away and have very strong hoarding tendencies so perhaps I could do with taking a few moments to be ruthless with my household!
Because that’s clearly the key – every one of us has different motivations and different circumstances. So we all need to locate our unique areas where we need to be ruthless. In fact some people are perfectly happy to sidestep any level of decluttering or ruthlessness. Cait is very accepting as a writer of any readers who question her methods or find that her approach doesn’t work for them. So maybe the appeal of The Year of Less is: take from it what you need.
If Becky’s review has inspired you to read more, then you can buy your copy HERE + free UK delivery. Published by Hay House