Written by Kelley Keehn
Wednesday, February 7th, 2018
For an entire year, writer and Forward Thinking contributor Cait Flanders committed to a shopping ban. That meant only buying essentials — groceries, gas — and foregoing the other stuff.
"Basically, I was debt-free at the time," she says. "I had paid off my debt in 2013 and then I found that I went back to spending all my money. I wasn't saving anything. I would start a month thinking, 'I would love to save 20% of my income.' Then I'd get to the end and find I had made all kinds of justifications for why I only saved 5%."
Flanders chronicled the highs and lows of her year of breaking the consumerism cycle in her new book, The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store.
Here's what she had to say about her experience.
There Was No Aha Moment
"It wasn't a huge moment. I was sick of justifying my spending. I knew I genuinely wanted to save more, and knew I shouldn't be spending 90 to 95% of my income. I could probably live on less. I started it from there."
Her First Act: De-Clutter
"The first thing I did at the beginning was de-clutter. I got rid of a bunch of my stuff and wrote down the things I owned the most of. I took an inventory, which became very helpful for when I would come against things where I'm, like, 'Oh my gosh, I really want to buy this thing.' I had a mental inventory. For example, I knew I didn't need more books — I had more than 50 I hadn't even read yet."
She Stopped Following Her Favourite Brands on Social Media
"I didn't get rid of social media, but what I did was I unfollowed or unliked every retailer that I used to follow. What following retailers online does is it just makes you want more stuff."
Don't Feel Guilty About Your Spending
"It's just the awareness. There's no guilt attached to it. No, 'Oh, I've bought all this stuff and I haven't even used it.' It wasn't about that — it was literally an awareness exercise. I physically don't need more books or other stuff."
How It Affected Relationships
“I spent a lot more quality time with friends. I found by the end of the year, I felt like I had much stronger friendships with some people. I also travelled a bit more that year than I had in a long time. I never had the money to travel because I was mindlessly spending it on whatever else."
Putting Your "Stuff" Into Perspective
"I think it would be interesting for people to get to the end of that and see how much they purchased in a month, because then you can do some reflection. 'Did I actually use all of those things?' If you haven't, maybe look at why you haven't used them? Are you still happy that you made that purchase? Is it something that you would reconsider if you were thinking of buying it today?"
"It feels really awful to buy stuff, let it collect dust and think about the fact that you've wasted money on it. My biggest piece of advice for people is buying stuff isn't bad and spending money isn't bad, but feeling the need before buying it and actually using it — that feels so much better!"