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‘The Year of Less’ by Caitlin Flanders

Here’s another of my reviews of books I’ve been reading.

Charming and unfailingly honest, Caitlin Flanders’ book about her year of no shopping is a real pleasure. Like most people she had a huge backlog of things she had bought just in case, making her feel overwhelmed. And so she set out to live on less: obviously she bought groceries and toiletries – but no shampoo since, like most of us, she had way too many bottles bought because it was on special offer. She also bought no clothes, no books, no things and nothing on impulse. As if that wasn’t challenge enough, she decluttered her life and threw out or donated 70% of her belongings. She set up rules for what she could and could not buy which suited her (one outfit for weddings, but only one) and she recorded absolutely everything along the way.

In the process she had to weather family emotional hurricanes and become mindful instead of allowing herself to buy on autopilot. And – no surprise – she saved enough money to cushion her debut as a freelance writer.

The whole of the internet is now set up to get people buying mindlessly and for emotional reasons, which has the same effect as it used to when it happened in clothes shops and bookshops and jewellery shops. For a minute or two we feel happy, and then we feel miserable. We recognise that we’re turning the daylight of our lives into things and that the things do nothing for us ultimately, except take up space.

The distinction between Caitlin buying for the Ideal Caitlin as against buying for the Real Caitlin is particularly valuable. I’ll be using that as I get rid of the stuff in my expensive storage unit (ahem… eventually.) Most of it is there for an Ideal Patricia who will never exist.


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