May 5th, 2021


The Year of Less

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
by Cait Flanders

This was a really beautiful book. I listened to it on libby while I was outside staining my porch and it really kept me going. The author decides to go on a 1 year shopping ban, I'd say for three reasons:

1) She's sick of the clutter in her home
2) She hasn't been able to achieve any money saving goals
3) She's had good results identifying and stamping out other addictions in her life, especially alcohol

At first I thought I would not be able to relate to her story because she's a single 20-something in the cool startup marketing/communications world. I have a family. This is STILL something I struggle a lot with when I read cool millenial money saving books, I feel like I'm in a weird spot. But I came around and liked the book.

She struggles with serious addictions to shopping, food, alcohol, TV. Alcohol is the first big huge one she's already kind of conquered at the beginning of the book, she's been sober for months, but still talks about the struggles of living in a world where people are jerks about it. She went from being "good at partying" and embracing that identity to realizing she did not want to get blackout drunk every time she had a glass of wine, and friends were not all supportive. She has a lot of good insights - we will all have a friend who's supportive, and a friend who's right there to help us self-destruct again. In all things.

When it comes to shopping, she made a very clear list of things she was allowed to buy - food, toiletries, cosmetics only if she runs out, and she had a few clothing items she knew she wanted to buy that year. She re-wrote her rules a little throughout the year, like allowing herself to buy some gardening supplies and start up container gardens. She snapped one time on black friday and bought an e-reader since the one she had was getting a little old, but recognized the bad place that the motivation came from and cancelled the order. It was a promising moment.

During her year some bad things happened in her life, which I think makes the book that much more genuine because we all have to deal with these bumps in the road, figure out how to be true to ourselves and our new goals.

In the end, she's realized that since she can live on a lot less money, she can quit the job she hates and support herself with freelance, which is great. It's also the millenial dream that happens at the end of all the books in this genre of financial independence. So in that respect, the book reminded me of the Frugalwoods, except a LOT more relatable, a little less advice-y.

I also related to her because she's a blogger and like me, gets a lot of benefits from using a blog to process her thoughts and get advice from comments. In the book she talks about her reports out on her monthly spending, and the feedback she gets from photos of her newly decluttered closet. So I was surprised to check back in and see that she's announced her retirement from personal blogging! She starts feeling like a "content creator", pressured to churn out posts, build community, and it's conflicting with the mindful space she wants to create in her life.

Maybe that's what happens when your blog gets huge and becomes your job, but I see livejournal as $20/yr therapy. I feel so much BETTER when I'm writing entries regularly, and the comments I get add support and advice that multiplies the benefits I get from just writing down what's in my head. It's motivating for me. I'm going to read, eat, fix airplanes, fix my house, save money... if I also blog about it I'm a hell of a lot more organized and intentional. So I can't imagine giving this up, but to each their own.

I think this is a great book about addiction recovery and looking deeper into our values. It's not a criticism of all the evil things materialism is doing to our world, it doesn't take off to a 50,000 foot view of any systemic issues, it's very much in the head of the author. but that's a great place to look at these topics.