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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

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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.

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.

189 pages, Hardcover

First published January 16, 2018

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About the author

Cait Flanders

3 books749 followers
Cait Flanders is the author of Wall Street Journal bestseller, THE YEAR OF LESS. Described by Vogue as “a fascinating look into a living experiment that we can all learn from,” it has been translated into 10 languages, and sold more than 190,000 copies.

Her new book, ADVENTURES IN OPTING OUT, is a field guide to opting out of expectations, changing paths, and leading a more intentional life. Powell's Books says it, "offers a sturdy and flexible framework to navigate whatever path you are currently on."

Cait's story has been shared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, Oprah.com, Treehugger, Forbes, and more. She always has an adventure in the calendar, and believes in leaving every place better than she found it.

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5 stars
8,725 (19%)
4 stars
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3 stars
14,959 (33%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,184 reviews
Profile Image for Rhonda.
172 reviews9 followers
March 19, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Brandy.
370 reviews21 followers
February 11, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,751 reviews31.9k followers
June 16, 2018
Non-fiction challenge

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.
Profile Image for Tanya.
414 reviews5 followers
January 29, 2018
I really needed to stop and take a moment before I said what I thought of this book. I listened to the audiobook (a first for me - never made it through an entire audiobook before).

I don't want to make negative comments about the author's personal life or what she went through. It's her journey. But I did not know this would be a memoir, like many readers I thought it would be more of a guide to, well, living with less.

Being that I do not have an addictive personality, though I have family members who do, I see where she was coming from and what her struggle was. However, if I had wanted to read a self-help guide on being sober, I would...have not, as I don't drink.

Very minimal info towards the end, AFTER the epilogue, yes I said AFTER the epilogue on what I came for. Many repetitious phrases throughout that may have been stylistic but ended up as padding.

I also felt a lot of reverse snobbery, i.e.. I don't need designer purses and pretty dresses and makeup but if you like it I guess that's okay for YOU. But not for me, never for ME! I only spent my money before I stopped spending my money on books and travel! UGH. It got a little didactic. Honey, if you don't want to wear a little mascara and lipstick, fine. But don't guilt me because I do!

Thank god this was a library lend.
Profile Image for Lauren.
328 reviews20 followers
April 15, 2018
Didn't know this was 99% memoir and 1% how-to-minimize-and-declutter-your-life going into it. It was a super fast read but I wanted to know more about her initial process of getting rid of the majority of her belongings, which she simplified in just a few pages by basically saying she threw it all on the ground then threw it away without hesitation. The reader only gets to know one specific instance when the author almost bought something not approved on Black Friday... other than that, this whole book read like "it was easy for me to get rid of my belongings and I didn't really struggle with not buying anything for 12 months, but here's the story of how I grew up:..." I admire her opening up about her repeated attempts at sobriety but it took up about half of this 200ish page book and the finished product just wasn't what I thought it would be. The title alone is misleading because it feels like we spend little time with Flanders in her Year of Less and are often looking into her past.
2 reviews
September 4, 2018
This was one of the most poorly written, useless and superfluous books I’ve read in a long time. Not only is the author a whiny privileged millennial with some very first world problems, she also seems to have no credentials except for a blog and a healthy following? This woman is much too entitled and the mere fact that she wrote this book proves that no one has told her that not everyone is interested in her story and that she isn’t any more special than anyone else. I thought I could get some useful pointers but instead I ended up wishing I had stopped half way and returned it. If I could have given it zero stars I would have.
Profile Image for Marcia Unrau.
1 review1 follower
February 18, 2018
I never review books. I simply read then, rate them and move on. This book was so misleading that I found myself very upset and disappointed so I am writing a review to let others know before they purchase. **uncertain if there should be a spoiler alert as I don't review. I do not believe I gave any spoilers, but read with caution**

I was excited to come across this book and pre-ordered it based on the title and description. I figured it would be a great read to hear about how life would be like not spending money or cutting out the habit of take-out coffee every day etc. This book, however, is 97 percent (or more even) about a lady in her late 20's and her travels, boyfriends, past "stop drinking" success, weight, and work life. There was almost NOTHING in this book regarding the life in the year of less in regards to "how I stopped shopping and gave away my belongings". In the first bit there is a page or two on decluttering her house. At the end there is "10 things" list of how to succeed at this. Somewhere just past the halfway mark of the book was a page or so on an actual situation of purchase during the ban. At points I am not even sure she remembered she was writing a book about her own rule of "no take-out coffee" as that seemed to only apply when she was alone. She certainly spent money outside of the home on coffee and food when she was with people. And the traveling. My word. I believe she spent 10 grand in that year on travelling. Even that was odd seeing as how her boyfriend, who was long distance, and herself split the costs of travel and costs when one was the host. I thought this book would be about not spending and it was a book about her past and current 20 something year old life. VERY DISAPPOINTED. I would not recommend this book if you are looking at a good read on someones daily life going from spending to no spending for a year.
Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews391 followers
February 17, 2018
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
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,112 reviews1,383 followers
May 27, 2018
I'd been reading Lauren Elkin's Flâneuse 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., Cat Marnell), 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: The Year of Less, 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.

The Year of Less 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 more. 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.
Profile Image for Kirsty ❤️.
920 reviews45 followers
March 23, 2019
There's a lot of people who have given reviews of this book that seem really angry that it's not a self help book with all the answers but is in fact a memoir of one person's journey. If you read it expecting the answers you will be disappointed. If you read it as a memoir that you can pick up hints and tips from then it's great.

For me, I found that we share a few of the past issues in life and also the emotional spending and eating really resonated. I found that as I went on reading the book that I filled my notebook with ideas. I tried to start a no spend at the beginning of the year and while I found some of the Facebook groups supportive I don't think I saw the full picture. I've written 3 blogs while I read it full of ideas. If nothing else, it's fired me up to try again. 

So for me really enjoyable and I got a lot out of it. I would recommend it 
Profile Image for 7jane.
674 reviews247 followers
February 17, 2018
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.
80 reviews
October 6, 2018
Tedious and banal - especially if you are older than your early 20s. I was hoping for interesting anecdotes, practical strategies, or at least straight up weirdness, but nothing like that here. The most thought provoking part of the book was when she suddenly rewrote the rules of her strict spending ban to allow the purchase of supplies to make homemade candles - but then she never actually bought or made homemade candles!! I was waiting to hear about the candle making for the rest of the book and it never happened! She seemed to be someone who really got a lot of joy out of a candle. I felt bad for her that she wasn't able to at least purchase a dollar store candle from time to time, especially if she wasn't going to make one.
Profile Image for MissBecka Gee.
1,436 reviews587 followers
October 1, 2018
"But there were really only two categories I could see: the stuff I used, and the stuff I wanted the ideal version of myself to use."

This is a memoir masquerading itself as a financial journey in spending less.
There was more than enough information on her recovering alcoholism, her weight loss, her parents divorce, what she ate on her travel trips, her career changes and her past relationships.
Sadly that stuff took up more than 80% of the pages.
The quote at the top was the most helpful part in the book.
The 20% where she did discuss the spending ban I felt was glossed over and not nearly as details as all the emotional baggage she included.
There is a final chapter that gives you the basics of doing a spending ban and how to declutter your home, but that was less than 10 pages.
I feel I was swindled into reading this memoir.
Profile Image for Beth.
80 reviews6 followers
April 29, 2018
Good god this book was terrible. It has nothing to do with someone attempting to live with less. It's a memoir about a young woman dealing with intensive addiction issues. I found myself repeating over and over "You need professional help right now. Please, please go to therapy. You will feel so much better." If I wanted to read a book like this, I would have sought it out. Instead, I feel it's a bit (well more than a bit) of a bait and switch.
Profile Image for Ali Edwards.
Author 6 books909 followers
January 21, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,021 reviews2,777 followers
April 1, 2018
3.0 Stars
I love reading these "do something for a period of time" memoirs. However, this one had very little focus on the actual project of spending less money. Instead, the narrative discussed the author's recovery from binge eating and drinking as well as her relationships with family, friends and ex-boyfriends. Given the synopsis for this book, I was disappointed that the narrative was not more focused on her spending habits.

Profile Image for Ana  Lelis.
450 reviews141 followers
January 15, 2023
I was hoping for a book with more tips, it was a memoir that was all over the place. I liked to see her honesty and everything, but she left all the valuable notes for the last pages of the books. It was somewhat tiring. I could still absorb some of the things said and it helped in my journey to stop being a shopaholic.
Profile Image for Emma.
132 reviews53 followers
March 25, 2018
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!
Profile Image for Spencer Lebel.
16 reviews
May 28, 2018
A disappointing read with a misleading title and description. The “book” is essentially 12 seperate blog posts stitched together into a personal timeline diary of Cait Flander’s life. And it’s not even a well-written diary at that. There are several repeat sentences and you will see content from chapter one come up again in chapter seven, nine, twelve and essentially the entire remainder of the book. The process of living a “year of less” should have been published as an infographic on Flander’s blog and left at that. Save your money and start your year of less by not purchasing this book.
That being said, I admire Flander’s courage in being able to show vulnerability in allowing her readers a look into her personal life. I just didn’t find value in the time spent reading this book.
Profile Image for Romany.
662 reviews
January 19, 2018
This was a very simple book that didn’t try to go very deep into the issues of consumerism and addiction. It floated on the surface and told a beautifully written story of one woman’s attempt to be buy less, drink less, eat less and be more organized. I loved it. But at the same time, it highlighted all the things we aren’t really and truly mindful of. E.g. This big machine in which we are only a tiny cog. The death of workers’ rights, and the rise of the gig economy. The way in which our consumption damages the environment and feeds into slave labor. But I’m still giving it 5 stars because it was entertaining. Which in itself is part of the problem.
Profile Image for Lisa.
609 reviews232 followers
July 31, 2018
A personal memoir of a young woman’s struggle with various addictions and how she streamlined her life to find happiness.

Cain Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, repeat. After she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt her old habits took hold again. When she realize that nothing she was buying was making her happy—only making things worse—she decided to set a challenge for herself. She would not buy anything for herself for one year. She also decluttered her apartment and got rid of seventy percent of her belongings, learned how to fix things rather than throw them away and completed a television ban. She soon found that the less she consumed the more fulfilled she felt. Her challenge served as a lifeline when various situations during the year turned her life upside down. Her changed habits helped her realize what truly matters.

“One lesson I’ve learned countless times over the years is that whenever you let go of something negative in your life, you make room for something positive.”

I felt very much like I was listening to Cait tell me her life story. It was very conversational and much more than I was expecting. She shares not only about the habits she was trying to change, but also goes deep into her struggle with alcoholism and her weight, her unhappiness with her career, her troubled relationships and the huge impact of her parents divorce.

I’m a firm believer in the benefits of retail therapy and a shopping ban sounded like... well, I can’t even imagine. That’s precisely why I wanted to read it. Is it even doable? What are the rules? She provided some great guidelines that would serve as a good starting point for those who might be interested in starting a shopping ban. Anyone interested in streamlining and simplifying their life might enjoy this very personal self-help story. Cait was able to live on less, save more, and do more of what she loved. Isn’t that what we all want?
Publisher Hay House
Published January 16, 2018
Narrator Cait Flanders
Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

“The ban uncovered the truth, which was when you decide to want less, you can buy less and, ultimately need less money.”

Profile Image for Kristin Hackett (Merrily Kristin).
213 reviews3,650 followers
October 19, 2020
I wish I had known this book would be more of a memoir than an advice manual before I went into it since I had been looking for the latter. I've been decluttering for the past few weeks and I've been wanting to change my spending habits so I'm purchasing less of what eventually tends to get donated. With that being said, I did love the epilogue which included the actionable advice I was searching for. Before impulsively picking this up during a kindle sale, I hadn't known that the author is a blogger (nor that she struggled with alcohol abuse). The Year of Less is very readable and held my interest since it has the feel of reading a year of monthly recap blog posts, but ultimately, I found the focus on alcohol unrelatable and I wish it had been more focused on breaking shopping habits.
Profile Image for Linda.
766 reviews
June 9, 2018
Lately, I have found myself drawn to the topic of less.

Less stuff. Spending less. Eating less crap.
The idea of less being more.

This book was very interesting to me. It first caught my attention with the word: less. And then I read the subtitle which immediately made me picture a person with no belongings, living off the land. I was way off. :)

I briefly glanced at the reviews and learned that this is a memoir, not a how-to book, so I added it. First, because I enjoy an occasional memoir and second, because I was interested in how it is possible for a person to stop shopping.

I started reading and realized the subtitle was a little misleading. The author doesn't completely stop shopping. She still buys things like groceries and toiletries. She also doesn't give away all of her belongings- but gives away a significant amount.

The author, Cait Flanders, is a blogger. She has a personal finance blog. She successfully paid off thousands of dollars in debt before the shopping ban. But, she still felt a little out of control as a consumer. THIS was interesting. And it got me thinking about my own shopping patterns.

Even though this memoir covers much more of the author's life than her year of no shopping, I still found it interesting. There are a several things I will take away from this book and that is always a good thing.

I can't say that I am sold on the idea of not shopping for a year after reading this book, but it gave me some things to think about. And this topic of less is even more intriguing to me now.

Profile Image for Kevin.
281 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2018
An inherently less indulgent Julie & Julia. 😉 Warning: this is NOT a self-help book! It is a memoir and should be reviewed as such. I had to check how Cait Flanders categorized her book after the first few chapters and was pleased to confirm that she was in fact writing a memoir. (Although she does include a perfect little “how to” at the end of her journey in the epilogue.)

I cringed when she started to say that she was a blogger – I have had a couple bad reads from bloggers-turned-book authors – but quickly understood that Flanders was an exception to my experience. Her voice is honest and humble in true Canadian fashion. There is nothing flashy about her life or story, which makes it accessible to anyone endeavoring to read her book.
The timeline is sometimes a little confusing – what job does she have now? Wait, is this during the challenge or before? What city is she living in? These chronological blips can be overlooked since we get the whole story by the end, but it made for a little extra puzzle-piecing throughout.

Luckily, I grew up with a mom who instilled saving (or, more importantly and in line with this book, not spending) in me from my first allowances. Today, I don’t think not spending is an inherent trait – if you are living in North America, it’s easier to spend than not, especially when money is available that you don’t actually have (credit cards). I have my own strategies for battling the constant barrage of advertisements, temptations, and “needs,” and it was very cool to see Flanders express her journey so publicly.

Ultimately, 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 is a book about struggle, reconciliation with oneself, and adaptation. An easy read and one without too much drama so it was easy to flip, flip, flip… we get the idea pretty early on and toboggan along with Flanders through her year of less. I think one of her main points is to inspire others to do the same in a pursuit of happiness, and I have to believe that this book will do exactly that for more than a couple people.
Profile Image for Robin.
1,423 reviews37 followers
December 24, 2018
An easy-to-read sort-of memoir about a young woman coming out of a number of years of alcoholism, overeating, and over-spending, and realizing that money and things don't buy happiness. Her point is not necessarily in writing a "how-to" book on simplifying life but more of becoming inspiration in getting to anyone wanting to get to that point. There is a short section at the end with practical advice. However, if a reader doesn't necessarily need the motivation to simplify their life and simply wants more on "how-to" to do it, there are better books available. They include Marie Kondo's sometimes silly THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, Jeff Yeager's Ultimate Cheapskate series, Levin's NOT BUYING IT, and the book that started it for me years ago, Elaine St. James' SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE. Also, a book that helped me tame my "digital" and paper clutter was Fay Wolf's NEW ORDER. For those who want to go to extreme minimalism, check out Sasaki's GOODBYE THINGS. Also check the GoodReads lists for "Simple Living & Minimalism."

And yes, I am a bit addicted to life simplification porn. And yes, I do always strive to keep my "stuff" to a minimum--except clothes and books, you know the important things in life. :-)
Profile Image for Rachel Aranda.
869 reviews2,259 followers
October 14, 2019
2.5-3 stars

This book was a struggle for me to get into. I started with the print version but kept losing focus on what I was reading. Switching to the audiobook didn’t prove to be a solution. What ended up working best for me was reading AND listening together. The author narrates the audio version so that is always neat. I can’t say I was wowed by anything. It’s a 6 hour listen so you can get it done during a day.

Those who may get the most from this memoir are fans of the blog the author writes. She makes references to posts on her blog and I just didn’t know anything about it so wasn’t able to recall these moments. If you’re hoping for a “how to” guide book then you’re better off looking for a different book as this isn’t that. If you want to listen to a short memoir then this could be an option.
Profile Image for My_Strange_Reading.
511 reviews82 followers
January 23, 2020
#mystrangereading The Year of Less by Cait Flanders ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This felt like a personal attack...but in the best way possible. This book brought to light so many things that I struggle with personally: consumerism, impulse buying, needless spending and just not being a mindful buyer. Her stories were relevant, raw and honest. I loved that she gives a guide on how to practice her experiment yourself, and I’m thankful I have a friend who wants to try the experiment with me.

If you feel like you share these same issues and are looking for a non-judgmental take on how to change your habits and practices, I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,113 reviews1,337 followers
December 11, 2020
Another book club pick for work that I did not enjoy. I'm still a bit puzzled as to why I bounced so hard off of this memoir about the author's story of quitting her habit of over indulging in shopping, after having similar issues with alcohol and food. She also gives away most of her belongings and saves a bunch of money.

Sadly I found the book quite dull. I never felt emotionally engaged; I just didn't care. It's the kind of life story I would empathize with if the person were my friend, but as a memoir by a stranger there was little to capture my emotions or mind.

Partially it's because I don't struggle with any of the addictive behaviours she does. I can see how this book would be helpful and cathartic for people who do.

It's funny, she mentions Brene Brown a couple times and I felt about this book pretty much the same way I felt about the one Brown book I read: these are just cliche statements that the author finds revelatory about how to live life that to me are just self-evident. What is everyone else's fuss about?

I'm sure what Cait Flanders did helped her live a more authentic and fulfilling life. (Although there were times when I wished I could tell her, girl you need to go to a mental health professional to work on why you're trying to fill a void with shopping/food/alcohol--it's a bit like focusing on the symptom instead of the disease). But the way she wrote about her journey did not get me rooting for her.

All this to say: I found this book boring.
Profile Image for Radiantflux.
424 reviews403 followers
August 26, 2019
104th book for 2019.

While I found the writing only so-so, I found Flanders story fascinating.

In what turns out to be a very frank memoir she details how over a series of years she first overcame alcohol and drug problems, then obesity and other health issues, and finally crippling financial debt—paying off 30000 dollars in CC debt in two years.

In her late twenties, despite having a good salary and now being debt free, she was frustrated being unable to save significant amounts of money. In attempt to break her personal consumerist treadmill, she decides to do a year long experiment where she only allows herself to spend money on certain categories of items: the necessities of life (groceries, petrol); replacement items for worn out clothes etc; and travel (which she'd never had much money too before). Things that were on her no-buy list include: take-out coffee ($100/month), new (non-replacement) clothes, books etc. At the same time she did essentially a Mari Kondo on her apartment, before Mari Kondo was a thing, systematically ridding herself of all clothes, books, toiletries items etc, that she had no use or love for. She continued to do this pairing down through the year, eventually ridding herself of about 70% of her possessions.

The experiment is so successful, that she finds herself going from saving 10% of her salary to 50% by year's end, while at the same time being able to take a series of trips she's always dreamed taking, but never having the funds to do. Moreover, her costs have been reduced so much that she now has the freedom to quit a job that has become unfulfilling and become the full-time writer she has always dreamed of being.

She readily admits her insights from this year were banal—stuff doesn't bring happiness—but as her book shows in painful detail this banal insight is not a trivial one to achieve.

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