I have been following Cait Flanders‘ blog for a while and had to read her book as I find her writing as well as topics she chooses to discuss extremely interesting. According her own words: “Cait Flanders paid off $30,000 of debt, tossed 75% of her belongings and did a two-year shopping ban. She writes about consuming less and living more.”
The Year of Less is a memoir. It’s a story about what Cait discovered during her one year long self-imposed shopping ban. It’s not a how-to guide and I think it’s important to keep that in mind when reading this book to avoid any disappointment.
Before we dive in though, let’s first have a look at what GoodReads summary says:
WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER
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.
Cait’s memoir is all about her numbing experiences and how she managed to get out of those addictive habits of hers. It can be used as an motivational read as there is nothing lighthearted about not wanting to experience pain, shame and other emotions we deem difficult. My heart went to her as I could relate with many things she was experiencing.
“I don’t remember how much it hurt with Chris, because back then I numbed myself. I numbed my sadness with food, and my emptiness with stuff.”
We live in a society where numbing is slowly becoming our way of coping.
Numbing could be any activity that we use to suppress feelings we don’t want to experience. Often commonly used numbing tools are: alcohol, food / sugar, binge TV watching, over-exercising, ‘busyness’, recreational drugs, self- medication, shopping sprees.. anything really that ‘takes that edge off‘ and that saves us from having to feel emotions we don’t want to encounter.
Dr Brené Brown talks about about numbing in her book Daring Greatly. Dr Brown’s extensive research points out following: “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
When we choose to numb all that pain, anxiety, shame and fear, we are also numbing all that joy, cheerfulness, hope and love. It’s not easy to accept that when I was “busy” or “buying things to feel better”, I was also subduing all those feel-good emotions I was so desperately seeking.
What particularly resonated with my was this sentence of Cait’s:
“Who are you buying this for: the person you are, or the person you want to be?”
You see, I used to be guilty of such behaviour. I would buy dresses my “sophisticated” self would wear but I never ended up wearing them as they were just not me. I would buy books my “smart” self should read but they only gathered dust on shelves afterwards. I would buy make-up my “grown up” self should wear only for it to stay unused.. I bought things for the person I was so eagerly trying to become. It’s painful to admit it at times but having compassion towards my younger self helps as I can see her for who she was.
I recommend The Year of Less to anyone who is curious about what may happen once we stop numbing ourselves. It’s an journey of a 20-something Canadian gal that went through a lot of pain but came out much stronger because of it. It’s not a guide on what to do, but it may inspire you nevertheless.
Over the years, I have minimised my own possessions and am definitely more mindful about my purchases. However this book triggered some thoughts in me about my own future spending habits and I am seriously toying with an idea of coming up with a self-imposed shopping ban as well…. stay tuned! Side note: I reserve the right to change my mind though! 🙂
I’ll leave you with this beautiful passage from Cait’s book:
“One of the greatest lessons I learned during these years is that whenever you’re thinking of binging, it’s usually because some part of you or your life feels like it’s lacking—and nothing you drink, eat, or buy can fix it. I know, because I’ve tried it all and none of it worked.“
There’s more to it but I won’t give it all up as it’s such a wonderful ending of Cait’s book, which made me all teary-eyed. ❤