Always Well Within

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How to Spend Less, Save More, and Reclaim Your Joy

Year of Less by Cait Flanders

Cait Flanders radically simplified her life in the space of 12 months and recounts the process in her recently released memoir, The Year of Less:  How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered that Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store.

By living on an average of 51% of her income, Flanders saved $17,000 and used another $10,000 for personal travel during the year.  She also purged 70% of her belongings.  Impressive, don’t you think?

But The Year of Less is about so much more than simple living.  It’s about facing yourself and your demons, and in so doing finding the courage to create a healthier and happier life.

During her self-imposed shopping ban, which allowed her to buy consumables and replacements only, Flanders came face-to-face with her addictions, especially during periods when her life suddenly turned upside down.

During intense times, Flanders indulged in binge eating, binge t.v.watching, and felt tempted to take a drink after many months of sobriety.  Life events triggered anxiety and depression that took her to bed for weeks at a time.

If any of these habits or challenges sound familiar to you, feel encouraged because, with time and insight, Flanders found the strength to say “no” to these self-harming habits and create life-affirming ones in their place.

What You Can Learn from The Year of Less

Are you stuck in a cycle of always wanting more, but never feel fully satisfied?  Do you spend more than you bring in, digging yourself further and further into debt?  Are you trying to find happiness through material possessions, but find the joy you experience little more than fleeting? Are you wanting to save for retirement but never have a cent left over at the end of the month?  Would you like to have funds available for personal travel or to explore new endeavors, but find there isn’t a penny in your savings account?

If so, The Year of Less can help you learn to relate to money, possessions, and consumerism in a completely new and liberating way.

Would you like to save money + have money to spare for what you truly enjoy like travel? Check out this book review of Cait Flander's The Year of Less #simplicity #minimalism #yearofless #caitflanders #shoppingban #decluttering

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This is what Flander’s learned from her 12-month shopping ban:

In challenging myself not to shop for an entire year, I was setting myself up either for failure or for the most prosperous year of my life, and I’m happy to say it was the letter.  Throughout the entire journey, I was forced to slow down, discover my triggers to spend and to over consume, and face and change my bad habits.  I gave up the things that marketers try to convince us we should want in life:  the newest and greatest of everything, anything that can fix our problems, and whatever is in style.  I exchanged it all for the basic necessities and, after a year of not being able to buy anything new, realized that was all I needed.  That was all anybody needed.  I had always been stuck in the cycle of wanting more, buying more and then needing more money.  The ban uncovered the truth, which was that when you decide to want less, you can buy less and, ultimately, need less money.

Flander’s shopping ban was such a complete success that the very next day after its completion, she announced she would carry on and do it for another year.  At the end of the second year, she decided not to repeat the experiment because mindful consumerism had become a way of life.

What You Can Learn from Decluttering

This is what Flanders learned from purging 70% of her belongs:

Decluttering and purging 70% of my belongings came with different lessons.  I realized I had spent the first 29 years of my life doing and buying whatever I could to be someone I thought I should be.  I kept so many things, and consumed the wrong things, all because I never felt like I was good enough.  I wasn’t smart enough or professional enough or talented enough or creative enough.  I didn’t trust that who I was or what I brought to the table in any situation was already unique, so I bought things that could make me better.  Then I spent a year sorting through the mess and figuring out who I was.  A writer and a reader.  Hiker and traveler.  Dog owner and animal lover.  Sister, daughter, and friend.  It turned out I had never been someone who valued material objects.  I valued the people in my life and the experiences we shared together.  None of that could be found in the belongings in my home.  It had always been in my heart.

How would feel if you purged 25% of your belongings?  How about 50%?   If you see and feel the benefits, let it inspired you to get started.

Inside the Year of Less

In her memoir, Flander takes you through each month of her year of less, sharing the personal obstacles and challenges she encountered as well as her successes in an intimate and sometimes heart-wrenching way. She also shares glimpses of her history and the insights that helped her detach from unhealthy habits and create positive ones.

You’ll also find the 10-step “Your Guide to Less” instructions at the end of the book, which you can put into play if you choose to follow in Flander’s footsteps.

Create Your Own Experiment in Less

If you feel all charged up and ready to take on a year of less, good for you.

But if you feel a full-on shopping ban like Flander’s is too radical, too big, too overwhelming for you, you can start with whatever feels comfortable to you.

Create your own experiment.  Cut out takeout coffee (or any other item) for a defined period and see how much that alone saves you.  Or try a decluttering experiment.  You can design your own shopping ban and decluttering program in whatever ways make sense to you.

Dominating my financial reality has been on my radar since the beginning of year.  Inspired by Flanders, this is what I’ll do for the next month:

  1. Consistently track all my expenses in Mint.
  2. Track my cash expenses in a small notebook so I can allocate them correctly.
  3. Refrain from buying anything new for 30 days, except consumables and replacements (only if absolutely needed).  Decide if I want to continue at the end of 30 days.
  4. Embark on a 7-day streaming ban, meaning no Netflix or Amazon video. I’m on day four. This past month, I’ve watch some fantastic programs on Netflix including Alias Grace and Wild Wild Country.  But I find it easy to become addicted to lower quality programs that have little redeeming value.  Instead, in the evening, I’m listening to teachings from Sri Prem Baba’s 2018 India season, which edify and uplift me.  There are 39+hours of teachings on topics like love, boredom, and ethics. You can listen for free. The talks are in Brazilian with simultaneous translation into English.

What would you like to commit to?  Be sure to reflect on your “why.” Knowing your why will help you make it through whatever time period you allocate for your experiment in less.  If you would like more inspiration, read How I Simplified My Life and You Can Too.

Through her simple living experiment, Flanders discovered her true self and what matters most in her life. The same could happen for you.  Because that’s the power of simple living, it makes you look within, it makes you think.

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered That Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Caith Flanders, Hay House, Inc,. 216 pgs.

P. S. The last time I looked the Kindle edition was only $1.99.  I can’t promise it will stay at that price.


Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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14 Comments

  1. What a fascinating journey of discovery. I’m always curious about the end results of a shake up in life. Not one that takes us by surprise but a deliberate and determined decision to change something in a big way…and this certainly fits the bill.

    One thing I’ve noticed about myself as I’ve ‘matured’ is my need to buy more ‘stuff’ has diminished incredibly. Other than replacing what is necessary, so even though I’m not on the path that Caith has been walking…in some little way I can relate.

    Great read Sandra. Thank you for this. 🙂

    • I thought it was an amazing story too, Elle. I’m also interested in less stuff, but I know I could pare down a little more so I felt very inspired by Cait’s story.

  2. I love this practical advice. It is so easy to get caught up in consumerism, and it causes nothing but unhappiness and stress. I had to adopt minimalism over the past decade out of necessity, and I am better and happier for it. I would love to try some of your suggestions.

    • I so agree with you, Debbie. Excess consumerism brings so much suffering along with it. It might feel good in the moment, but not necessarily on the long run. I’m glad you feel better and happier for having adopted minimalism.

  3. There is a hype that we are made to believe on a new product, that when you get it all your problems will disappear! You get it as fast as possible only to enjoy it for a while before a new one comes and the cycle repeats. Talk about mobile phones, cars, clothes, laptops, houses etc. What a pity.

  4. Wonderful to take a year of intentional change. I wrote down everything I spent for a couple of months and it was helpful to get a clearer vision of where the money was going. I too feel, especially at this point in my life, it doesn’t make sense to keep buying “things.” I like the idea of purging things I don’t need or am not using. Your article has inspired me to come up with a plan. Less is definitely more.

    • What a great exercise, Cathy. Which shows there are so many different ways to do our own experiment with less. I’m glad you feel inspired to come up with a plan for your next phase. I agree, less is more.

  5. This reminds me of when I left Boston in my late twenties to follow my intuition that said, “Go west and do something with horses.” I had two apartments of stuff that I put in storage while I crammed what I could in my Jeep Grand Cherokee. I hoped I would have enough in my Jeep.

    After two years of traveling, I found that I had twice the stuff I needed in my Jeep. When I finally settled down, I had a moving truck empty the storage unit in Boston and bring it all out to Colorado. I had forgotten about most of what I owned so it was like Christmas seeing it all come off the truck. Unfortunately, I ended up with two (or three) of everything. Instead of giving it away, I put all the extra things away and, as things inevitably broke, I had a backup. The whole excursion taught me how precious little I truly needed.

    The best things in life are the people you love and your experiences, great and small.

    • What a great experience, Paige. I also put some things into storage – not a whole apartment, but things I thought I might want – for three years when I moved to France. But like you, it turned out I didn’t need those things at all. Such great learning!

  6. Thank you for such a wonderful and inspiring article! I moved to a much smaller house several years ago, after my divorce, and got rid of a lot of excess stuff. I haven’t missed any of it !

  7. Just this morning my little girl said, “mom why are there so many advertisments everywhere I go. I cant really buy every shampoo for hair! And if every shampoo gives you beautiful hair, why on earth do we need so many choices. So confusing!”….
    I had to explain to her the who consumerism trick and how ads create needs where there are actually none.
    I personally started reducing the stuff in my life a few years back. I’m not yet at the point where I want to be…but I’m getting there. This books sounds like the perfect motivation to get to that next step. Will get it! Always love your reviews <3
    xoxo, Z~

    • Hi Zeenat,

      Kids can be so wise! I feel the same way. Variety is good, but too much variety equals overwhelm. I’m already fairly slim when it comes to things, but this book inspired me to look at my finances and to clear out remaining clutter. I wish you the best on your next steps.

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