Grab my notes from “The Year of Less” and see what Cait Flanders has to teach us about the blessing of living with less.

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Ok, I admit it. I have a problem. I’m an impulse buyer.

Cute little throw pillow? Gotta have it.

Another comfy sweater jacket? Already in the cart.

Came here for groceries? Can’t wait for the candy aisle.

My closets are overflowing, we’re running low on storage space, yet I complain that all I do all day is clean my house. I spend so much time organizing my things, picking up toys, and folding clothes while thinking, we have too much stuff.

Yet, I buy more.

I especially get into this funk this time of year, right after our Christmas present haul and right before taxes are due.

I’m looking forward to spring cleaning, but seriously, how did we accumulate so much stuff?


Cait Flanders had some similar thoughts, but her experiment with her own year-long shopping ban was prompted by her own personal debt. I picked up “The Year of Less” thinking it would be a Marie Kondo type book of decluttering, but it was so much more than that — it was a memoir of how her previous victory over alcoholism only emerged in new destructive shopping habits. Throughout the book she learns how to deal with stress in ways that are healthier for her mind and body.

I learned a lot about myself through reading her story; she challenged me to think about the choices I make and set goals for what I want to do with my time and money.

When she realized how often she binge watched TV and mindlessly scrolled through social media, she began being creating better habits. She replaced her TV time with TED Talks, podcasts and audiobooks – something that she thought she didn’t have time for. If there was a documentary or movie she wanted to watch, she planned for it, instead of flipping through trying to find something to watch.

By the end of her year-long experiment, she learned to live on 51% of her income, saved 31% and spent 18% on travel that she thought she couldn’t afford.

I love the lessons she learned along her journey of buying less and being more intentional about her habits and lifestyle. An inspirational read with a lot of practical tips!


Why Do a Ban?

  1. Committing to slowing down
  2. Finding out what you really want, rather than acting on impulse
  3. Being a more mindful consumer
“I wanted to get to a place where I bought things only when I needed them. I wanted to finally see where my money was going and budget in a way that aligned with my goals and my values. And I really wanted to start spending less and saving more. But it would never happen if I continued to make mindless spending decisions.” -Cait Flanders

Things to Take a Break From

  • Unhealthy food
  • Take-out
  • Clothes shopping
  • Buying decorative items
  • Purchasing things you already own
  • Social media
  • TV

Things to Replace Them With

  • Gardening
  • Hiking
  • Exploring your city
  • Cooking instead of eating out
  • Traveling
"The toughest part of not being able to buy anything new wasn't that I couldn't buy anything new -- it was having to physically confront my triggers and change my reaction to them." -Cait Flanders

Questions to Help Decide What to Keep

  1. Have you used this recently?
  2. Do you plan to use this soon?
  3. Are you really going to use it?

Tips for Shopping

  • Only buy things when you need them, not because they’re on sale
  • Carefully consider your purchases, don’t be impulsive
  • Only buy books if you know you’ll read them right away

Cait’s 10 Tips for Creating Your Own Shopping Ban:

  1. Declutter your home: get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose in your life
  2. Take inventory: write down things you use the most in each room, don’t buy the top five items during the ban
  3. Write 3 lists:
    • Essentials (can buy whenever you run out)
    • Non-essentials (not allowed to buy during the ban)
    • Approved shopping list (specifics you’re allowed to buy)
  4. Unsubscribe from all store newsletters/social media
  5. Set up shopping ban savings account: deposit certain amount each month from things you cut out
  6. Tell everyone you know: the more people you tell, the more likely you’ll stick to it
  7. Replace costly habits with free/cheap alternatives
  8. Pay attention to your triggers and change your reactions: replace bad habits with good habits
  9. Learn to live without: become more resourceful (borrow, fix, rent)
  10. Appreciate what you have: talk positively about the ban, stay mindful
“The truth, I was learning, was that we couldn't actually discover what we needed until we lived without it...Not having cable freed up time I used to complete my degree, start my blog, change careers, and start freelancing on the side. And even with all that, I managed to get outside, go hiking with friends, and spend more time with the people I loved.” -Cait Flanders

Tips for Backsliding

  • Be aware that small slips can turn into a downward spiral
  • Don’t let one mistake ruin all your hard work — forgive yourself and move on
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • You can always return or cancel orders!
  • Tell someone to help with accountability

Ways to Minimize Advertisements in Your Life

  • Get rid of cable and use a streaming service
  • Stop following retail on social media
  • Unsubscribe from shopping emails
“[Minimalism/simple living] reminded me of what my childhood had looked like. I pictured my feet back in the soil, the kitchen table covered in homemade pie crust, and the cupboard chock-full of canned fruit. I wanted that again. I needed that again.” -Cait Flanders


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Happy Reading!