Book Review: The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

by | Nov 20, 2018

When I picked up The Year of Less by Cait Flanders at the library, my friend at the front desk told me she read the first part, but only leafed through the rest. “Minimalism is nice, I guess, but not for me,” she said, as she handed the book to me.

I wish she had read it all the way to the end, and will probably tell her so when I return it. It’s easy to read this as a primer for quitting shopping, saving more, and consuming less – and it is all those things – but it’s more than that: it’s an honest account of a hard year and Cait’s slow stripping away of the crutches she used to numb her feelings instead of facing and learning from them.

What I like best about this book is that Cait never pretends that minimalism or sobriety or mindfulness “cured” her and now life is tidy and perfect and wonderful; instead, this book is a sweet reminder of a sometimes bitter truth: life is about learning the same lessons about our own worth over and over again, often without realizing they’re the same because the packaging is different.

It’s harder to learn life’s big lessons when we armour ourselves with things that stop us from facing them head-on. When we drink or shop or eat to numb the feelings, we don’t let ourselves do the hard work of learning that we – all by ourselves – are enough.

Who should read it?

This is a book for you if you’ve gone through something hard for a long enough time that you’ve created positive change, thought you were “cured” and then were surprised by another hard thing, another struggle with wanting to quit, and the same lesson you thought you’d learned already being shoved in your face again.

If you’re feeling sensitive to some kind of pain in your life, are willing to examine your reactions to that pain, and will ask yourself “why?” frequently enough to learn from the answers, pick up The Year of Less. You’ll feel like you have a friend doing the same thing alongside you.

If you only have time to read one chapter:

Chapter 9: March: Lightening Up

This is the corner chapter, after some of the most difficult days of February, where Cait let’s TV and food stand in as fEeLiNgS substitutes for a while. As she watches herself, she knows that turning to easy comforts instead of putting in the hard work of facing the real issues just prolongs the hurt. And this is where you see her reflective IQ really shine.

If you only have time to read one paragraph:

The stuff I wanted the ideal version of myself to use was everything I had once bought in hopes that it would somehow make my life or myself better. There were books I thought smart Cait should read, clothes I thought professional Cait would wear, projects I thought creative Cait could tackle. Classic novels, little black dresses, scrapbook materials, and more. At one point, I’d put thousands of dollars on my credit cards for this stuff – stuff I purchased with every intention of using, but only because I told myself it would somehow help. I wasn’t good enough, but this stuff would make me better. I wanted to read, wear, and do everything so I could become the person I thought I should be. Having these items in my home proved it was possible. I would do it all one day, and become a better person one day. This time, one day never came.

Chapter 8: February: Letting Go of the Future, pages 117-118

If you only have time to read one sentence:

Who are you buying this for: the person you are or the person you want to be?

Chapter 8: Letting Go of the Future, page 118

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