My Year of Less: How I'm Trying to Have Less Stuff

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I've been reading Cait Flanders' personal finance blog for a few years, on & off. Sometimes, when I feel guilty about my inability to manage my finances, I skip her posts in my feed reader & move on to whatever's next. Sometimes, I save up a bunch of her posts & read them all at once for a double dose of inspiration & reproach.

When I saw that Cait had written her first book, I knew I had to get my hands on it - & that was before Vogue named it one of "7 Nonfiction Books to Change Your Life in 2018." Equal parts memoir & self-help, it's called 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.

Whew, that's a verbose title - but the book itself, of course, is all about thoughtful minimalism.

This month, I listened to Cait's audiobook & started thinking of all the things I've purchased lately that I probably (OK, definitely) didn't need. Here's an abridged list: a dermarollera deck of tarot cards; this weird, twisty workout boarda leg lamp lapel pin; a curling wand I can't get the hang of using; & this cat toy that my cats have zero interest in.

There are many, many more ridiculous purchases lurking in the shadows, I'm sure.

I decided it was time to embark on my own Year of Less, whatever that means to me. I don't have the same personality as Cait or the same priorities; I wouldn't want to own just one pair of jeans, & I care more about makeup & skincare products. I'm also never going to give up my lattes, expense be damned, because going to the coffee shop to get them is sometimes the only socialization I get in a day. (Ah, that work-from-home life.)

Still, I finished the book feeling inspired & motivated to try my own version of a Year of Less. Maybe it won't be a year, & I'm sure I'll never be as thoughtful & intentional about it as Cait is/was. But I've started making small changes & have already begun to feel the benefits of these efforts. I feel calmer, more at peace, less claustrophobic - & I want to feel more of that.

We'll see how this transpires, but here's what I'm working on & what's next.

1. Social media clean-up 

I unfollowed 80+ people on Instagram, mostly brands & accounts that haven't posted in months. Not only am I excited about a cleaner, less cluttered, more thoughtful Instagram feed, I'm also looking forward to a lot less temptation to buy, now that I've unfollowed every brand I've ever loved.

2. Inbox clean-up

Using, I unsubscribed from all extraneous email subscriptions, another way to keep myself from being tempted to buy things I don't need. I also unsubscribed from email lists for causes I only semi care about, allowing me more energy to focus on those that really matter to me (Planned Parenthood and Everytown for Gun Safety, especially).

3. Financial clean-up

With Mike's help, I'm going through my bank statement, line by line, to determine what I spend the most on - & where I can & should cut back. I know the answers, to some extent - coffee, eating out, Lyfts - but I think sitting down & budgeting will be really helpful.

4. Home clean-up

I've packed up three bags of stuff for giveaway & am always on the hunt for more. I also threw away any opened beauty products that I don't use & gave away any unopened items I didn't have plans to use. I also tossed nearly every sample I owned because for the most part, I never use samples.

5. Closet clean-up

I'm still running a Poshmark store, though I haven't sold anything for awhile. I've gathered a few high(ish)-value items - Frye boots, a Kate Spade bag, a Michael Kors watch - & am planning to list those on Poshmark, eBay, Facebook, and/or wherever else is appropriate. I may donate the rest & shutter my Poshmark shop entirely, just to be rid of it all. 

6. Bookshelf clean-up

I don't have a ton of books, but I do have a few I look at & think, "Never gonna read that, don't even want to." So why am I still hanging onto them? I'm planning to gather them up, consign what I can at Visible Voice Books or Loganberry Books, & put what's left in my neighborhood's Little Free Libraries.

7. Wedding clear-out

I've got a bunch of wedding stuff to try to sell in a local Facebook group for brides-to-be, including centerpieces, a beautiful sash I didn't wear, two never-worn rehearsal dinner dresses I rejected, & a massive backyard canopy we almost used as a wedding chuppah. My guest room will breathe a sigh of relief if I can get rid of all of this stuff!

That's where I am for now, with more, I hope, to come. I may or may not keep you updated along the way, but as I begin this effort, I'd love to know: How do you feel about minimalism, intentional ownership/purchasing, etc.? Do you have any tips for me?

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