Sam Holstein

“The Year of Less” Is an Easy Read That Will Make You Face Hard Truths

“The Year of Less” Is an Easy Read That Will Make You Face Hard Truths

Sometimes I just want to read an entire book in one day, getting swept away in an emotional experience that inspires me to make positive changes in my life. The Year of Less by Cait Flanders is a great book for this. It’s the kind of book you can read and go from laughter to tears to life-changing insight over the course of an afternoon. It’s the kind of book where you don’t remember facts and figures, you remember the stories that moved you.

The Year of Less is ostensibly about living a simple life with less. It’s also about living a life as a human. Flanders talks about her no-spend decluttering year, but she also talks about her breakup and the divorce of her parents. She talks about the ups and downs of life that always interrupt our perfect financial plans. She tells a story that’s eminently human.

My Favorite Quotes:

“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.”

“It never occurred to me to wait until I actually needed something. The truth, I was learning, was that we couldn’t actually discover what we needed until we lived without it.”

A Brief Overview of the Book:

The Year of Less is about Cait Flanders’ experience with doing a no-spend challenge over the course of a year. But what starts out as a story about a no-spend challenge expands to a story about how one woman learned new and healthy ways to overcome challenges she experienced during that no spend-year: first being broken up with, then divorce of her parents.

Over the course of the book, we are taken month-by-month through her no-spend challenge and what she learned that month. Some months are focused on the stuff; she learned she didn’t need to buy new clothes to feel better about herself, she learned she wasn’t reading most of the books she owned, so on and so forth. These insights were useful to me because they inspired me to reflect on my own life. My closet has been getting a little full lately, and I’ve been reflecting on my own tendency to buy-and-donate clothes several times a year. My new year’s resolution for 2021 was to buy no new clothes the entire year, but that resolution fell apart by March. I picked up this book to re-read in the first place because I wanted to transition from a buy-and-donate cycle to simply not buying things in the first place.

Other months, though, Cait doesn’t talk about no-spend much. Instead, she talks about how she dealt with the emotional blows she was dealt over the course of the year. She described weeks of laying in bed crying and weeks of letting trash pile up on the end table while she did it. These portions of the book made me feel accepted. I, too, have gone through periods in my life where I was a total train wreck. More than that, Flanders’ honesty gave me hope. Even people who go through phases of being a train wreck can have happy, successful, wealthy lives.

What This Book Taught Me:

Learning how to live with less doesn’t end when you declutter. Decluttering is the beginning of learning how to live a simple life. Once you’ve decluttered, you need to disconnect the emotional triggers in your mind that lead you to buy things in the first place.

Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you’re perfect. Cait Flanders experiences many less-than-perfect moments over her no-spend year. She is still able to achieve her goals and so much more. Being human and making (many, many) mistakes is simply one part of a full human life.

Who I’d Recommend This Book For:

Anyone who is looking for an easy read about minimalism and learning how to spend less that will emotionally motivate them.

The Year of Less is not as much about the technical how-to’s of money management. If you’re already fully motivated and simply need a how-to guide, I would recommend Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez instead.

If you’re minimalism-curious, or if you know your life needs a big change somehow but aren’t sure where to start, The Year of Less will be a great read for you.