Sunday, March 27, 2022

Weekend Review: The Year of Less

The Year of Less / Cait Flanders 
Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, c2018.
189 p.

These kind of minimalist books always appeal to me in a weird way -- since I am not a minimalist, and I dislike the obsession for getting rid of All The Things.

Still. Thought I'd give this one a go as everyone was talking about it in my library. There's a long holds list for it as well, so I guess others are also compelled to read these stories of decluttering in hopes of catching the bug.

The summary for this book reads:

The author decides that for twelve months she will only buy consumables, consume less of many other things, declutter her apartment, get rid of 70 percent of her belongings and learn to repair things as opposed to tossing them away.

I can get behind some of this. I'm all for buying less, and repairing instead of throwing away. Most of my own buying happens at thrift stores these days, either that or fabric stores! There are frequent "shopping bans" in the sewing world, with people pledging to buy no Ready To Wear clothing for a year, or going on fabric or pattern fasts, etc. So I see people wanting to buy less, even while consumerism rages all around us and tempts even the best of us to overspend & overbuy.

But both this book and Marie Kondo's decluttering book left me cold. Both authors seem obsessive to me, using decluttering as a slightly extreme lifestyle choice. Flanders notes down what percentage of her belongings she's removed at the start of each chapter. After a year it's 80%. Either she had hoarder level stuff in the beginning, or she now lives like a Zen monk.

I don't feel that the advice for extreme clearing out will really help that many people. Maybe a few with the same personality type. But I'm never going to have a wardrobe of 23 items -- I love clothes and sewing. And I'm never getting rid of 80% of my books. The whole point of having books is that you haven't yet read them. 

That said, I could do with a general clearing out. Some of the ideas are useful. Consuming less to begin with is a fine idea. I am also reading through some books on sustainable fashion right now, and many of those have the same direction -- buy less & take care of your belongings. 

This book also delves into Canadian author Flanders' own life and personality, though. Her struggles with family dissolution, addictions and other troubles explain a lot about her need to place limits on herself in the area of spending, which may not be the same for other readers. The book thus has a little more complexity than simply a decluttering story. If you are interested in a memoir of better living through drastic decluttering, this one will be for you. 

(I originally posted about this book at my book blog, The Indextrious Reader, in 2018. Still feel the same about it!) 


  1. I often feel decluttering is a double edged sword. You get rid of things, but they are still on this planet! Are people who declutter removing or just moving on the excesses they sometimes feel they have.
    I once had a letter to the Editor published in Threads, when they were asking for comments on this. As I said then, I have a really BIG stash of fabric, fibre and fleece (and patterns). But as is often talked about in Sustainability discussions, many things provide a multitude of ecoservices, not just the service we believe it is intended for. For me, so much of my excesses are memories... I can remember what happened when I bought certain fabric (or other), or who gave it to me, or why I purchased it and it is all memories, which I love. They provide an important function in my life as we are all a result of our past, not just the here and now. Sometimes knowing I have so much can weigh me down mentally, but I am lucky I have a loft for storage where I frequently go for inspiration and ... to remember.

    1. That is so true! I'm not a minimalist by any stretch -- I like my stuff, probably for the reasons you bring up. It's the memories held in the things, and for me, also the potential for creation that comes from having things around me. But I also don't want to contribute to rampant consumerism.

      It's a balance between that desire for supplies and things and the stress that excess clutter or "too much" can cause. I think that balance is different for everyone!


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