If you’re anything like me then you will love dreaming up challenges to help you become a better version of yourself. I feel as though, in this respect, Cait Flanders, author of The Year of Less is a kindred spirit except that there is an important difference between us: she actually manages to complete her challenges.
The Year of Less chronicles Cait’s year of stopping shopping and giving away her belongings. I’m not revealing any secrets, since it is in the subtitle, when I write that her conclusion is that life is worth more than anything you can buy in a store. The thing I most valued about this book though was hearing about the journey that led Cait to that conclusion.
Cait’s year of less was not without its challenges and one of the biggest of these was that her parents decided to split up. I don’t recall reading any other books that have discussed what it feels like to be an adult child of divorcing parents. I am sure that there must be books that do talk about this but I really appreciated Cait’s account of it.
Cait writes about the rewards and challenges of being an employee within a start-up company too and her experience of giving up alcohol. Another topic that featured regularly throughout the pages of the book was Cait’s decision to reduce her personal belongings.
In some reviews I have read, people have felt that incorporating other aspects of her life detracts from the focus of what they had anticipated to be the subject of the book. This is not a book solely about a shopping ban. It is a a book about life over the course of a year in which someone spent less and resolved to own less. Arguably then it is more memoir than self-help, although it certainly could be helpful to anyone wanting to take on a similar challenge, and the book is broad in its exploration of what it means to live with less.
Personally, in the end, I liked the approach that Cait took. I felt I understood much more fully the significance, challenges and rewards of making this kind of lifestyle change because of having heard about it within a real-life context. For those who do want some pointers on how to recreate such a challenge, or aspects of it, there are two sections at the end of the book – Your Guide to Less and a Resources section – that offer some tips.
It would be lovely, of course, to have an A to Z guide of how to recreate Cait’s success. But the truth is if we want to make challenges like this work then they have to be tailored to our lives. They need to take into account our individual strengths and weaknesses. You have to find the confidence, grit and determination to create and tell your own story. In writing a memoir of her year, Cait doesn’t shy away from this truth and I think the book is better for it.