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If you ask the commercials that we are bombarded with every day, more stuff is the answer to all of life’s problems. Are you having difficulties finding an attractive partner? Well, just buy a car. Don’t have that perfect body yet? Just get this new gadget. Oh, the car didn’t really get the job done? Well, then I think you need a whole new collection of body wash. All of this is, of course, complete bull****. The never-ending consumerism treadmill will not solve these problems for you. Cait Flanders questioned this and went on a year-long shopping ban to rediscover what life actually has to offer.

In this top five takeaway summary of her book, The Year Of Less, I will present some of the most important findings of hers.

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Summary of The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

Takeaway #1: More no more

More is a craving that never stops no matter how much you feed it. Everyone wants everything in life. But due to opportunity costs, everything is never an option. More stuff steals the most important resource that you have in your life, your time. More stuff costs money, which you will have to work to regain. More stuff takes time to buy. More stuff takes time to maintain and organize.

Less stuff, on the other hand, frees up a lot of time. Whenever you get rid of something negative in your life, you make room for something positive. Getting rid of a negative relationship makes room for a good one. Getting rid of debt payments makes room for investments. Getting rid of unproductive time consumers makes room for productive ones.

We are all having the same type of mental excuses for buying the latest gadgets or item. You deserve it. You’ve worked hard. You only live once. But debt and distractions are no fun. And if you’re a good person, no, I actually do not think that you deserve it. In the next four takeaways, you will learn how you can strive for less to achieve the things that you really want in your life. Don’t let the commercials tell you otherwise.

Takeaway #2. Declutter your life

During Cait Flanders’ Year Of Less, she tossed, donated or sold some 70% of her total belongings.

Why?

Because having less will make you appreciate what you already have more.

Here’s a two-step process on how to do it. Firstly, take a physical inventory of everything that you own. Secondly, toss away, donate or sell everything that fulfills at least one of the following. It hasn’t been used in a year. It doesn’t fit or it is broken.

One thing that both Cait Flanders and I realized in doing this exercise is that you only use a handful of your stuff anyways. There are many excuses that can be tough to overcome when doing this. Some items may seem like wasted money, wasted opportunities, and wasted dreams when you throw them out. For example, you may have an instrument that’s just been gathering dust in a corner for years. With such items, it is important to consider a concept called sunk cost. Basically it means that you cannot get money, time, and energy that is already spent back. So therefore you shouldn’t let them affect your future decisions. That money, time, and energy already spent are sunk costs.

Takeaway #3. Buy only what you need

Once you’ve removed unnecessary distractions from your life, it is time to make sure that you don’t undo your hard work by bringing in new ones. Have you ever fallen for one of these? Take three, pay for two. Buy for $100 and get free shipping. Buy for $200 and get item X for free. I know I have. But what do you think the purpose of such advertising is? That’s right. It’s to get you to buy more stuff, more of what you didn’t actually come for, and more of what you don’t actually need. This is of course good for the profitability of the companies, but it isn’t good for your wallet and it isn’t good for decluttering your life.

The secret to combating such advertising is to buy only what you really need. Buy only what you need now. Do not pile up on things that you may need or even probably need in the future because chances are that you will not. You might convince yourself to buy that extra suit because it is 30% off and because he may use it someday, but chances are also that someday will never come.

Cait Flanders went on a year-long shopping ban, which she eventually extended by the way. And she recommends creating three types of shopping lists beforehand if you’re thinking about doing the same thing.

The first list is the allowed-to-shop-for. This list should primarily consist of consumables, such as groceries and toiletries. Whenever you run out of them, you buy new ones.

The second one is the approved-shopping list. This should contain specific items decided on beforehand. No impulsive shopping during the year is allowed, but things such as birthday presents, clothes for work, et cetera, that you know that you will have to buy eventually, fits well here. Also, anything that must be replaced goes, but then you must toss, donate or sell the replaced item.

The third list is the not-allowed-to-shop-for. It is quite self-explanatory that you aren’t allowed to shop for anything that isn’t on the first two lists. But if you know that you have certain weaknesses, maybe you like to binge on $5 lattes, you can list them here to emphasize what you are trying to avoid.

Takeaway #4: Black or white

Quitting a habit is never easy. After all, we’ve spent many years perfecting it. Quitting unnecessary shopping takes time. You must start to analyze your own behavior. Whenever you feel an urge to get back on a spree, stop and think about what triggered this reaction. Either you will have to make sure that you don’t get those triggers anymore, or you will have to change the way that you respond to those triggers. In the beginning, it is really tough, but triggers will get less and less painful to face if you just give it some time.

One of the worst ways of trying to get rid of any type of addiction is to allow yourself to compromise. It’s all or nothing here, black or white, because small slip-ups will often cause full-blown relapses. And it doesn’t matter what type of addiction we are talking about here. It’s the same with all of them. Do you think that you will just get a few beers? Do you think that you will just do some window shopping? Do you think that you will just have a little sneak peek? Well, think again.

However, if you do have an occasional slip-up, don’t shame yourself for it. If you fail temporarily, no worries. That is just human. Stay accountable to someone while trying to ban something in your life. The worst thing to do is to keep occasional slip-ups to yourself and feel ashamed for them. Blaming yourself won’t help you from not doing them again.

Takeaway #5: Save and invest the surplus

Spending an extra $5 here and $10 there amounts to large sums over time. If you engage in a year of less, you will notice a surplus in your bank account at the end of every month that perhaps hasn’t been there before. And this is of course wonderful. This money should not be allowed to sit idle. Open a savings or investment account and call it something that gives you motivation. How about financial freedom or millionaire before 40? Maybe the ultimate vacation? Well, you know what motivates you. Best of luck.


Deep dive into The Year of Less by ordering the book or getting the audiobook for FREE.

New to StoryShots? Get the audiobook and animated summaries of The Year of Less and hundreds of other bestsellers in our free top-ranking app.

What did you think about this summary? What do you agree or disagree with? Comment below or tweet to us @storyshots.

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