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

ORDER THE BOOK

To order your own copy of “The Year of Less” by Cait Flanders, click here:

Don’t forget to grab my free bookmarks! Click to print:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…

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What I Learned About Being Present from “Meditation and Mindfulness”

Grab my notes from “Meditation and Mindfulness” and see what Andy Puddicombe has to say about being present.

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

FROM PAIN CATASTROPHIZING TO MEDITATION

I have had a fascination with meditation and mindfulness ever since I struggled with chronic pain. My illness left me panicky, worried and anxious at all times. I could never stay in the moment and deal with it in baby steps. Everything went immediately to worst-case scenarios and what ifs.

While my pain has improved (or at least my reaction to it), this year has thrown us all for a loop in how we deal with fear and anxiety. You may not be dealing with physical pain like I do, but to some degree, we all deal with some form of worry.

The best way I have learned to combat my own anxiety, is through learning about meditation and mindfulness–the practice of being present in the moment and learning how to deal with your thoughts in a healthy way. Mindfulness emcompasses so much more than gratitude and slowing down, and I feel like there’s no better teacher to get you started on this than Andy Puddicombe, the founder of my favorite app, Headspace.

Andy’s book, “Meditation and Mindfulness” walks you through his story as a college dropout turned circus performer turned monk—yes, you read that right—and how he learned about the transformative practice of meditation.

His story takes the intimidation out of meditation and equips you with realistic tools for helping you cultivate a healthier mental state through simple daily practices.

“We don’t think twice about exercising our bodies and yet the well-being of the mind tends to take a back seat.”

Page 13

MY NOTES FROM “MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS” BY ANDY PUDDICOMBE

WHAT DO PEOPLE USE MEDITATION FOR?

  • To relieve day to day stress
  • As a way to practice mindfulness and learning to be present
  • As a tool toward deeper spiritual growth
  • To help improve relationships with others

SAMPLE PRACTICES OF MEDITATION

  • Practice do nothing
  • Tune into your senses
  • Observe your physical sensations
  • Focus on good and bad sensations
  • Awareness of your feelings
  • Mental body scan

“[Meditation is] about training in awareness and understanding how and why you think and feel the way you do, and getting a healthy sense of perspective in the process.”

Page 14

ANALOGIES FOR DEALING WITH YOUR THOUGHTS

  • BUSY HIGHWAY (learning not to chase the cars, but simply observe and let them pass by)
  • BLUE SKY (that the thoughts may come and go, but the blue sky is always there if you look for it)
  • THE WILD HORSE (reigning in your thoughts slowly and gently instead of with force and anger)

RESEARCH ON MEDITATION & MINDFULNESS

  • Many mental health professionals recommend mindfulness-based meditation techniques to their patients.
  • Meditation triggers areas of the brain related to happiness.
  • Mindfulness reduces negative emotions.
  • Meditation lowers the stress-response in the body.
  • Mindfulness helps with reducing anxiety.
  • Meditation helps with pain sensitivity.
  • Meditation helps combat destructive impulses.
  • Mindfulness helps you focus on tasks.
  • Meditation aids in falling asleep.
  • Meditation helps improve age-related mental declines.

“When we feel angry the world can look very threatening: we see situations as obstacles and other people as enemies. And yet when we feel happy, the world can appear as quite a friendly place…The world around us has not changed that much, but our experience of that world is radically different.”

Page 62

BASIC STEPS TO A MEDITATION PRACTICE

  1. Get comfortable
  2. Start with deep breathing
  3. Count your breaths (this is where the longest part of the practice and focus is)
  4. Let the mind wander for a minute
  5. Gently open your eyes

“It can sometime feel as though we’re so busy remembering, planning and analyzing life, that we forget to experience life–as it actually is, rather than how we think it should be.”

Page 134

EXAMPLES OF MINDFULNESS DURING THE DAY

Being mindful simply means that you’re giving full attention to whatever you’re doing. It’s a practice of being present in the moment, instead of thinking about where you’d rather be or wishing things were different. Here are a few examples:

  • “Walking meditation” where you observe the things around you without getting distracted by your thoughts
  • Giving your full and undivided attention to someone when they’re speaking instead of waiting for your chance to talk
  • Enjoying an activity your kids choose to do together instead of wishing they’d pick something different
  • Eating a meal without watching TV or checking your phone
  • Absorbing yourself in a good book on Sunday night rather than stressing that it’s almost Monday morning
  • Being in tune to the smells while cooking a meal instead of rushing to get it done

10 SKILLS FROM BEING PRESENT AND LIVING MINDFULLY

  1. Perspective
  2. Communication
  3. Appreciation
  4. Kindness
  5. Compassion
  6. Balance
  7. Acceptance
  8. Composure
  9. Dedication
  10. Presence

“Just because we experience a thought doesn’t mean we have to react to it, or act upon it…we actually have the ability not to take thoughts too seriously.”

Page 87

ORDER THE BOOK

To order your own copy of “Meditation and Mindfulness” by Andy Puddicombe, click here:

Don’t forget to grab my free bookmarks! Click to print:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…

For more posts on books I love, check out:

Happy Reading!

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5 Reasons to Slow Down Your Day

Stop the glorification of busy and take care of yourself. You’ll be surprised that by slowing down, your productivity will increase!

NEEDING MORE TIME VS TAKING A TIME OUT

Most of us are not even sure how to slow down. You have a million things to get done but not sure where your to-do list is, and you haven’t sat still for a minute to even eat lunch. Sound familiar?

After I started doing so much better with my health, the overload from multitasking and trying to “do it all” led me to a new problem: exhaustion and burnout. Which led to more frequent flare-ups and frustration.

I depleted my energy resources into every task that appeared before me and forgot to do what was most important for my own productivity: rest.

Most of us aren’t even sure how to slow down.

The glorification of busy is a real problem in our society, and mental health issues are on the rise. While multitasking has it’s benefits, it also has its downfalls. Are you surrounded by half-completed projects? Or are you finishing projects only to find your health is suffering for it? Have you become a workaholic, or someone who’s constantly saying, I don’t have time for this?

What if I told you that you would actually be more productive if you took more breaks and time for yourself? I’m telling you, re-prioritizing and taking care of yourself can do wonders for your productivity.

Whether you’re an unorganized mama, dealing with drama at work or just simply tired all the time, mindfulness has a benefit for you.

Give it a try. Slow down, be present. How? I’ll walk you through 5 reasons why you need to practice mindfulness today.

5 REASONS TO SLOW DOWN YOUR DAY

1. SET YOUR PRIORITIES

Multitasking doesn’t not equal success. When you multitask, you leave a wake of unfinished projects if you’re not careful. You aren’t able to give your best if you can’t focus on the task at hand. I found that when I stop multitasking and work off a list, the laundry gets done, the game plays on without interruption and the person on the phone gets my undivided attention.

How are you progressing through the day? Are you putting off what needs to be done and distracting yourself with menial tasks? Set your top three priorities for the day and tackle those first. It will free up so much room in your mind for calm and clarity.

2. RELAX YOUR BODY

I feel like a multitasking machine only to crash and burn right before school gets out and dinner needs to be made. Scheduling gentle exercise each day to check in with my pain level has had major benefits on my physical health. Do a quick 10 minute yoga session to focus on slowing your breathing and to quiet your mind.

3. CALM YOUR MIND

Many times when we’re overworked and stressed out, our breathing is sporadic or too fast. Stopping to practice slow and steady breathing has multiple health benefits including lowering stress levels. Take a few minutes to calm your mind by meditating. Stop doing and simply be.

4. WORK THROUGH A PROBLEM

Not sure where to start on a project? Need to give advice to a friend? Take a break from the problem and get some good old sunshine. Revisit the problem in an hour or so when you’ve given yourself some much needed space and vitamin D.

5. TAKE A “ME” BREAK

One thing I work into my schedule each day since I got sick is rest time. Sometimes I take a nap, sometimes I watch a show. My body can’t keep up like it used to and I pay for it at night if I haven’t intentionally scheduled breaks. Don’t like to sit still? Relax with a hobby.

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Take a moment and slow down today with this Coloring Book I created just for you! It includes most of my doodles from around my site and is a great way to unwind. You can find it in my shop here:

For more posts on mindfulness, read:

Hope this encourages you to take a minute to slow down today! You’ve got this!

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