What I Learned About Simplifying from “The Year of Less”

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

*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure for details.

A FEW THOUGHTS ON IMPULSE BUYING…

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?

THE YEAR OF LESS

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! Here are my favorite parts from the book:

MY NOTES FROM “THE YEAR OF LESS” BY CAIT FLANDERS

“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.”

Page XIX

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

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.”

Page 31

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

“[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.”

Page 103

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.”

Page 101

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

“When you want less, you consume less–and you also need less money.”

Page 142

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My Favorite Tools for Goal Setting

Here are my top 10 must haves when it comes to goal setting and implementing them in to my daily routine.

*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure for details.

TOOLS FOR GOAL SETTING

I’m an organizer at heart, so my home is filled with labels, baskets and schedules. So when it comes to goals, I have a few favorite tools for goal setting that I always go to in helping me organize my thoughts and execute a plan.

1. A SIMPLE TO DO LIST PAD

These are by far my favorite. Simple, to the point and ready to rock and roll. Plus I love the old-school design.

2. A GOOD SET OF HIGHLIGHTERS

I always come back to these Sharpies. They are the brightest, last a long time, and I probably own more highlighters than pens. Every time I finish a task, I get a nerdy rush highlighting it off my list.

3. A SMOOTH PEN TO GET THE JOB DONE

Lately, I’ve found that pens with that weird squishy thing on the end (I guess it’s used for a stylus) write the smoothest. I jump back and forth on which pens are my favorite, but currently, these are the front-runners.

4. POST-ITS FOR YOUR TOP 3 GOALS

I know this is so basic, but seriously, I can’t live without my Post-its. I use them mostly to write my top 3 of the day. Each morning, I take 2 Post-its, write:

  • WORK 1. 2. 3.
  • PERSONAL 1. 2. 3.

Then I fill out the 3 main tasks in each category I want to accomplish that day.

5. DRY ERASE MARKERS FOR YOUR BATHROOM MIRROR

I write on my mirror all the time for reminders, motivational quotes, and habit tracking. Write 1-21 on your mirror and cross off each day you meet your goal. They say it takes 21 days in a row to develop a good habit, but feel free to set your own number or goal parameters. (Who are “they” anyway?)

6. A PRETTY WALL CALENDAR

Maybe you like dry erase calendars, or a simple yearly overview, but have something on the wall to refer to when you need to track something. Having everything digital can be a pain especially when you just want to look up the date and end up jumping over to Facebook.

7. TRELLO APP FOR A BRAIN DUMP

Speaking of digital, I fight the urge to use a digital calendar, because I am always drawn back to good old pencil and paper. However, my office is littered with bits of paper, scraps of ideas and jumbled lists. Last month, I discovered Trello boards (Ok I know I’m behind the times on this one) and spent two days straight organizing these amazing little boards. I use them for meal planning, cleaning checklists, editorial calendars, medical information—you name it. Consider it your brain organized in an app.

8. MONTHLY PLANNER

I can’t seem to get on board with updating a daily calendar, but monthly calendars are my jam. I use a planner that simply contains two years of monthly calendars and write down everything I can think of, and for day to day tasks, refer to my to do list pad that I add to as needed.

9. SPECIFIC GOAL PLANNERS

Every once in awhile I need a little help in organizing my thoughts when it comes to goal setting and about twice a year, I re-evaluate where I’m at and where I want to go. These are great motivational tools for getting the job done.

10. WHITE BOARD FOR INSPIRATION

I use my white board in my office to write out my goals and the progress I’m making on them. Some days I feel like I’m doing great, others I don’t feel like I’ve gone backwards. Having a board or even a piece of paper that tracks your progress on a long term goal can be the perfect motivator to help you see small milestones you’ve reached along the way to help you power through.

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Not sure where to start on your own goals? I’ve created this NEW Goal Setting Workbook to walk you through it! You can find it in my shop:

Check out these other posts on goal setting:

Now get out there goal-getter! You’ve got this!

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Motivational Quotes to Encourage You to Reach Your Goals

Need inspiration and encouragement to reach your goals? Read this list of my favorite goal reaching motivational quotes.

Motivational quotes

MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES ON GOAL SETTING

I’m a sucker for a good quote. Some of these quotes have gotten me out of bed, out of a rut, started on a business, or helped me become a better person. Compile your own list of quotes and keep them in a place where you can turn to when you need a pep talk (I store all of mine on this Pinterest board)!

Here are a few of my favorites:

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Enjoyed these motivational quotes but need a little more guidance on where to start on your goal setting? Then check out this NEW Workbook I created just for you! You can find it in my shop here:

For more posts on goal setting, read:

You’ve got this!

Motivational quotes
Motivational quotes

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