You’ve probably seen a book like this before – promising to tell you the secret to escaping the cage of your material goods, into a brighter and more fulfilling life. How-to manuals on this subject are everywhere, but that’s not quite what’s happening in The Year of Less by Cait Flanders.
More than anything, The Year of Less is a really good story. Cait Flanders tells her own tale of how she navigated her way out of various addictions, including buying things to try and make herself feel better. Her journey began when she decided to undertake a shopping ban for one whole year: for 12 months she would only be allowed to buy consumables like groceries and toiletries and other essentials. Buying new clothes, housewares, books, etc. was all off the table. Each chapter focuses on a month, in which she tells the story of her most significant epiphany from that month, and how her journey was affected by that month’s circumstances. Any advice or “how-to” feel seems to happen by accident as the reader is drawn along, fascinated by Flanders’ story.
As a blogger, Flanders knows how to structure each short chapter and keep the reader’s attention with bite-size anecdotes that all build into a larger, more profound narrative. Bits of wisdom and insight are scattered throughout, and it was these that gave me a sense of wonder and clarity. Flanders knows, as she writes, that the specific advice of what to get rid of and how are less important than uncovering the emotions and habits that caused the clutter to build up in the first place. Good tidbits include: sometimes we buy things for the ideal person we’d like to be instead of the person we actually are; buying things is a way of insulating against pain, so instead we need to learn to feel things and keep on living; a shopping ban is a countercultural lifestyle and as such will face digs and doubt and peer pressure from those around you.
If you’re interested in memoirs, minimalism, mindfulness, organization, or things like intentional consumerism and the zero waste movement, this may be the book for you.