The Year of Less


In some ways, we are alike. Ok, I didn’t start decluttering first …yet  🙂 . She eventually came to the conclusion that the money she gained from freelancing and blogging were enough to live and travel… so she quit her job.  She hesitates telling her father about the job and when she does, he sustains her. She quits drinking and binge watching TV series, creates new healthy habits. She started an one year ban on compulsive shopping.

She said in the end something like this:

My shopping ban ended on July 6, 2015. Throughout the year, I lived on an average of 51 percent of my income ($28,000), saved 31 percent ($17,000), and spent the other 18 percent on travel ($10,000).

I know, our salaries in Romania can’t be compared. You won’t be able to save those amounts here. But the percentages are doable. I’m one month into my sabbatical and I’m doing it. And it’s fun to be resourceful. And it’s freedom at stake. One step at a time, one day at a time.

I’m leaving you with a few extracts from this inspiring book.

Up to this point, some of the things I learned to love most about myself had only become evident when I was changing my life. Digging myself out of debt showed me how much determination I had. Living on a tight budget proved I could be more resourceful. Taking control of my health confirmed I was, in fact, in control of my body and my mind-set. Not drinking alcohol continued to teach me I didn’t need to be under any influence to have—or be—fun. And giving up shopping for a year demonstrated I had more willpower than I thought, and I was happier when my attention wasn’t focused on what I could acquire. Each of those challenges forced me to adjust my habits and push myself outside of my comfort zone. I had different concerns and fears during each one, but many of those stemmed from the same thing: change, and the uncertainty that comes with it. Quitting my job and working for myself would be no different, but I was ready for it.


As my end date got closer, I couldn’t stop my thoughts from drifting away from work and toward questions about the future. What were my days going to look like? Could I put more energy into my own blog? How would I juggle that on top of freelance work? Would I be okay if a client dropped me? What would I do if all my clients dropped me? Whenever these concerns took me too far down this line of thought, I looked at the numbers and reminded myself I would be okay. I had enough work lined up to survive until the end of the year. I didn’t know what would happen after that, but if I could do this for even six months of my life, it would be worth it. Living with so many unknowns wasn’t going to be easy, but I had done it before. In fact, I had been doing it ever since I had gotten sober. “Living one day at a time / Enjoying one moment at a time.”

(…)I should have known by now that anything was possible if I made it a priority.


As I started packing and reflected on the past year, I began to laugh at how ludicrous this experiment must have sounded to my loved ones in the beginning. First, I told them I wasn’t going to shop for an entire year, which was naturally met with raised eyebrows and questions. But then I added an extra tidbit of information, which was that I also planned to get rid of anything I owned that I didn’t use or love. At the time, I couldn’t make a well-versed argument for how the two things were connected or why I wanted to do both at the same time. I had simply used that line in my blog post: “I’m still not the mindful consumer I’d like to be.” I didn’t know what the ultimate goal was, or what I was truly signing myself up for. I simply jumped in with both feet but without a compass, like I usually did, and hoped for the best.

In challenging myself to not 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 latter. 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 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 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.

Decluttering and purging 70 percent 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 really 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.

If I had simply stopped shopping for a year, I might have learned a lot about myself as a consumer. And if I had simply decluttered my home, I might have learned a lot about my interests. But doing both challenges at the same time was important, because it forced me to stop living on autopilot and start questioning my decisions. Who was I? What was I already good at? What did I care about? What did I really want in this life? Family history showed that if I was lucky, I would get 85 years on this planet. What did I want to do with them? I would always need to pay for things, just like I would always need to eat food and drink water to survive. That was a fact of life. But I was privileged enough to be in a position where I could choose what to spend money on and what to put into my body. This realization not only helped me become a more mindful consumer and save money in the process, it expanded my capacity to care for others and to feel gratitude for the simple things.


When I started this challenge, it was about the spending; the money. That’s where this story began, and where many of my stories had begun. And the same way sobriety helped me save money every year, the shopping ban had, in fact, done the same. But looking back, it was never really about the money. The best gift the ban had given me was the tools to take control of my life and get a fresh start as my real self. It challenged me. It turned my life upside down. It helped me save $17,000 in a single year. And then it saved me.


[But] something I had learned time and time again was that every small change you make pays compound interest. It helps you make another change, another mind-set shift, another decision to live a new way.


Today I consider myself a former binge consumer turned mindful consumer of everything. I continue to experiment with consuming less of things I feel I’m not getting any value from, including doing a 30-day social media detox and another month without television. Whether it’s these experiments or the shopping ban, I still hear some people’s concerns about how a ban feels too restrictive. While I understand how easy this is to worry about, my advice is always the same: Remember that all you’re committing to is slowing down and asking yourself what you really want, rather than acting on impulse. That’s it. That’s what being a “mindful” consumer is all about.

[…]More was never the answer. The answer, it turned out, was always less.


Source: Cait Flanders – The Year of Less

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