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

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

WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLERIn 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...

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Title: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
Author:Cait Flanders
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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 Reviews

  • Jenny (adultishbooks)

    I have been a big fan of Cait Flanders for over two years now. Her story of debt repayment and subsequent shopping ban inspired me to pay off my own debt between 2015-2016. This book was the most anticipated release for 2017 for me. I rarely buy books anymore but I pre-ordered the Kindle version since I wanted to support Cait and give back a snippet of what she’s given me.

    I am very familiar with the ins and outs of Cait’s shopping ban and I was worried that this book was be repetitive to her blo

    I have been a big fan of Cait Flanders for over two years now. Her story of debt repayment and subsequent shopping ban inspired me to pay off my own debt between 2015-2016. This book was the most anticipated release for 2017 for me. I rarely buy books anymore but I pre-ordered the Kindle version since I wanted to support Cait and give back a snippet of what she’s given me.

    I am very familiar with the ins and outs of Cait’s shopping ban and I was worried that this book was be repetitive to her blog or the stories she’s told on several podcasts. This goes deeper and provides new content which I am relieved by. I blew through this in two days so it’s definitely a fast read I will revisit in the future (hence why I purchased a digital copy). I wish it was longer and more fleshed out since I am so fascinated by her shopping ban. Still, this is one of the better minimalism books on the market and a good, gentle easing into stopping or curbing mindless consumption. I also appreciated the candor regarding her struggles with drinking and how that weaved into her story of simply not shopping. Her voice is strong and consistent with the Cait Flanders I know from her podcast and blog so it doesn’t feel edited or written by the editor.

    Overall, I highly recommend this and since her story overall means so much to me, I couldn’t give her any less than five stars.

  • Ali Edwards

    Super quick read on a topic I’m interested in - how less can mean more. This book is more memoir than how-to and I was interested in her story and all the ways in which she cake to having and wanting less. Glad I read it. It’s so much more than just a story of not shopping for a year.

  • 7jane

    This is not just a 'unclutter your stuff' kind of a book, but also about saving money and getting only things that matter, not just what you think others expect, or what you want to be in your 'ideal self' future. Yeah, it's a 'one-year of __' (doing something, living in another place/country etc.) book, but it's a good one of that kind, and you can trust that all information you can gather to apply on yourself will be there at the end of the book, and you don't have to pick anything as you read

    This is not just a 'unclutter your stuff' kind of a book, but also about saving money and getting only things that matter, not just what you think others expect, or what you want to be in your 'ideal self' future. Yeah, it's a 'one-year of __' (doing something, living in another place/country etc.) book, but it's a good one of that kind, and you can trust that all information you can gather to apply on yourself will be there at the end of the book, and you don't have to pick anything as you read. There is a also a small number of resources the personal guide.

    So: the author - who has already recently conquered her debts, alcoholism, bad eating habits, and ended one destructive relationship (with connection to the alcoholism point) - gets an idea of taking a year off her usual way of consumerism, with some rules on what is allowable to buy and what is not allowed (with some soon-to-be-needing-replacement items listed separately - which she can buy when the time comes). Seems a bit hard at first, but as she keeps going, it gets easier, and she discovers so much more, things that change her life for the better.

    A year of discoveries: how to fix things, watch less tv/Netflix, change habits, starting new traditions, finding good friends, dealing with things instead of relapse/hiding, realising what she wants to do for living.

    And a crisis or two: another broken relationship (but less toxic), losing some friends, parents' divorce, increasing frustration with current job... which leads her to find the type of job she likes eventually.

    She starts with decluttering most of what she owns, and experiences some shopping cravings, similar to what she had with some older habits. She realises she needs to break some behavior habits to become a better person, like speaking up, and what to do when you feel down. She does have one shopping relapse, but she now knows how to react to it, both in action and in how she talks about it to herself. She learns to appreciate her parents' skills (though she can't learn them all, fe. she has no green thumb skills with plants). She realises she needs to keep an emergency fund, not just save for good things like travel or a restaurant dinner. She decides to not just quit a bad job, but move to a smaller city as she prefers a slower pace place more.

    It's a really fruitful year for her, and she really deoes become a better person in a better place in life. The story flows really well, and I could tell it was a good book in how I wanted to keep reading it beyond the usual daily amount, and finished it quick. I might not do it in the same way, but it has got me thinking about my own use of money, and what I should do with things I have (I might use some decluttering-centred book for the latter, though, besides what is here...)

    A good book to add to your collection, and very nice to see this be: decluttering + saving book! One really enjoyable reading experience.

  • Christy

    This was an interesting memoir about Cait Flander's year of less. For one year, Cait got rid of a lot of things she didn't wear, use, or want (over 50% of her belongings) and quit spending money. Not completely, she still ate out occasionally, traveled some, and bought toiletries and things on an approved list, but no more mindless shopping for clothes, daily lattes, and other things she didn't need.

    I find this topic fascinating. I have so much stuff, sometimes I just want

    This was an interesting memoir about Cait Flander's year of less. For one year, Cait got rid of a lot of things she didn't wear, use, or want (over 50% of her belongings) and quit spending money. Not completely, she still ate out occasionally, traveled some, and bought toiletries and things on an approved list, but no more mindless shopping for clothes, daily lattes, and other things she didn't need.

    I find this topic fascinating. I have so much stuff, sometimes I just want to clear it out (except for my massive book collection0 that stays) and books like this motivate me. I feel the need to go through my closet as we speak! Cait voiced the audio book herself and I found her instantly likable. In fact, as I finished the book, I went straight to her blog to subscribe. I listened to this book for free on my libraries audio app and I'm glad I gave it a shot.

  • Julie Ehlers

    I'd been reading Lauren Elkin's

    and was in the midst of a lengthy section about author Jean Rhys, who had a problem with alcohol and a tendency to get married a lot (although despite her chaotic life, she lived a surprisingly long time). It occurred to me that there were two basic types of self-destructive people: the ones who aren't entirely convinced that becoming less self-destructive will actually make their lives better (see, e.g.,

    ), and the ones who really genuinely wa

    I'd been reading Lauren Elkin's

    and was in the midst of a lengthy section about author Jean Rhys, who had a problem with alcohol and a tendency to get married a lot (although despite her chaotic life, she lived a surprisingly long time). It occurred to me that there were two basic types of self-destructive people: the ones who aren't entirely convinced that becoming less self-destructive will actually make their lives better (see, e.g.,

    ), and the ones who really genuinely want to become less self-destructive. I decided I wasn't in the right mood to read about the former and instead picked up a book about the latter:

    , in which Cait Flanders, who has already battled alcoholism, food issues, and a mountain of credit-card debt, decides to tackle her consumerism by not buying anything unnecessary for an entire year.

    lived up to my expectations. Flanders takes the bull by the horns so readily that it's a bit hard to believe she used to be such a mess. But in twelve chapters (each corresponding to one month of her shopping ban) she takes us through her past, describing her various attempts to stop drinking and what helped her finally quit; the food binging she also eventually quit; the consumerism that led her to accumulate $30,000 in debt, and the discipline that helped her pay it off in a couple of years. All of this was honestly inspiring to read about, and when she set her sights on Not Buying Anything, I was excited to see what would happen. All was great for several chapters, at which point things started to get a little samey and the book got a little tedious. This was disappointing because I'd been enjoying myself so much up to that point.

    If I'm being honest, at the same time the book got a bit tedious, it also got a bit disturbing, at least for me. By her own description, Flanders was a pretty hard-core user of drugs and alcohol for a while, and she also clearly did have major issues around food and shopping: She describes having "blackouts," after which she'd come to having eaten everything in sight or purchased things online, without remembering any of it. The fact that she was willing to give up these crutches is admirable, but I began to feel as if she was using her new minimalism as another type of crutch. At the beginning of the book, in an effort to pare down, Flanders gives away a large percentage of her belongings—clothes, unread books, toiletries—anything she's had for a long time without using. This is all well and good, but midway through the book, while going through a hard time emotionally, Flanders immediately turns to her sparse remaining belongings and starts getting rid of even

    . This seemed so clearly motivated by her current pain that I couldn't understand why she didn't recognize it, even while writing about it after the fact.

    After this episode, it was hard to see Flanders's experiment in a purely benign way. Flanders refers to herself as a "reader," but she gives away even more of her books because she decides she bought them for an idealized, "smarter" version of herself. I sort of see what she means, but it disturbed me that she kept insisting she would never be "smart" enough for these books. Never ever? What were they, advanced astrophysics texts? Around this time, Flanders also decides to "simplify" her life even further by... growing her own vegetables on her apartment patio, making her own candles, and even making her own cleaning products (!). How does this simplify anything? The whole thing took on a weird compulsiveness that made no sense to me. Then there's the way Flanders also attempts to give up TV but keeps coming up with excuses to watch more of it. So the books have to go, but the reality shows get to stay? The image of her sitting in her mostly empty apartment, glued to TV shows on her laptop, just didn't convey the sense of inner peace she claimed she was achieving.

    And that's the thing: Except in a brief section about a road trip Flanders takes with a friend, I really wasn't feeling the peace or the joy. Part of this may just be the limitations of Flanders's writing—all of the emotions are more understood than felt, by the reader and seemingly by Flanders herself. She does try to head critics off at the pass by reminding us that everyone is different, and just because we may not want to live like she does doesn't mean she can't be happy that way. Which I agree with! I just didn't think she seemed all that happy. I know she wouldn't want this, but I feel a little sad for her. Fiscal responsibility is important, but there's a lot of middle ground between rampant consumerism and a completely barren apartment. Things are part of who we are. They can bring us joy, make us feel more ourselves, make us feel more at home. I'd like to read another memoir by Flanders in 15 years and see if she still feels exactly the same.

    As for this current memoir, it was fine: Well written, readable, likable, serviceable, but ultimately disposable. Given Flanders's penchant for tossing everything, maybe she'd see that last bit as a compliment.

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to the publisher.

  • Kelli

    I got this audio on Hoopla and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Cait Flanders delivers more of a memoir than a how-to guide and the result is a very honest look at some self-assigned lifestyle changes that brought about deep introspection, which led to healing, self-acceptance and deliberate decision making. 3.5 stars

  • Emma

    Interesting concept... a whole year of not buying unnecessary items and clearing your home so it's not cluttered with the things you don't use regularly. It must have had some impact on me as I cleaned the cupboard under the sink half way through reading it! It's made me think hard about all the "stuff" I buy or stockpile that is unnecessary. I don't think I could do a year of this, but it's a fascinating book. There's a lot of stuff in it about the author's own life and I'd question if it all w

    Interesting concept... a whole year of not buying unnecessary items and clearing your home so it's not cluttered with the things you don't use regularly. It must have had some impact on me as I cleaned the cupboard under the sink half way through reading it! It's made me think hard about all the "stuff" I buy or stockpile that is unnecessary. I don't think I could do a year of this, but it's a fascinating book. There's a lot of stuff in it about the author's own life and I'd question if it all was relevant but a positive read and definitely one for the hoarders out there!

  • Rhonda

    The title leads one to believe that this is a book about living with less. It is, however, a memoir about a twenty-something who struggles with overindulging in a variety of areas in her life. We hear about her alcoholism, her weight loss journey, her career moves, her romantic relationships, and her family. The information about the shopping ban is minimal. There are 8 pages at the end which outline some practical steps to declutter and live with less.

    Unfortunately, the title is misleading. I w

    The title leads one to believe that this is a book about living with less. It is, however, a memoir about a twenty-something who struggles with overindulging in a variety of areas in her life. We hear about her alcoholism, her weight loss journey, her career moves, her romantic relationships, and her family. The information about the shopping ban is minimal. There are 8 pages at the end which outline some practical steps to declutter and live with less.

    Unfortunately, the title is misleading. I was disappointed in the book as I wanted to hear about living with less rather than the ups and downs of a millennial’s twenties.

  • Brandy

    This was awful. You can start by not spending money on this book. 99 percent of it is self indulgent millennial whining.

    I picked it up because I had read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and while parts of that book were kooky, it did help me declutter my house and think about what I wanted to keep. So I thought this book might help me tackle the front end of the problem. How do I learn to buy less stuff in the first place, such that I have less crud to tidy. For me it was less about savin

    This was awful. You can start by not spending money on this book. 99 percent of it is self indulgent millennial whining.

    I picked it up because I had read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and while parts of that book were kooky, it did help me declutter my house and think about what I wanted to keep. So I thought this book might help me tackle the front end of the problem. How do I learn to buy less stuff in the first place, such that I have less crud to tidy. For me it was less about saving money and more about being a thoughtful consumer. I wanted to think about what I bought and why, what gets treasured as a meaningful purchase versus stuffed in a closet, and perhaps a few thoughts and stats on consumerism generally. Nope. What I got was endless whining about boyfriend breakups, binge eating, alcoholism, mommy and daddy's divorce, and work complaints. And lots and lots of lots of stories about buying expensive coffee and candles. The only even slightly useful bit of the book is in the last 6 or so pages. I suggest you go read On Walden Pond again instead.

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