How I Wrote It

Cait Flanders spent a year not spending any money and it changed her life

The journalist shares how she embraced minimalism and mindfulness in her new memoir, The Year of Less.
Cait Flanders is the author of the memoir The Year of Less. (KM Photo Studio/Raincoast)

When Cait Flanders was in her early 20s, she found herself $23,000 in consumer debt. In order to turn her life around — and get out of debt — she set out on a mission to address some of the root causes of her over-consumption. Flanders' memoir, The Year of Less, documents how through a self-imposed shopping ban, cutting back on eating out and drinking and de-cluttering her life, she rediscovered happiness, health and financial security.

In her own words, Flanders explains how she changed her life and wrote The Year of Less.

Gradual change

"It seemed like the change was very quick and impromptu, but I was continually acknowledging that I was going over my budget and paying attention to the fact that it didn't feel good not moving toward any of my goals or the life that I wanted. After thinking about that for many months I decided I needed to do something different. And that's been true of many changes I've made in my life.

"Every small change you make pays compound interest. Over the years, it may look like I've taken on these big challenges but each one has actually come from making small calculated changes. What each little change has shown me is if I can change one thing first, maybe I can do it in other areas of my life."

Be mindful

"Be aware of what you're feeling and where the feelings are coming from and how your environment and mindset influence those things. It's about figuring out what's going on and what is making you want to do certain things. Once you've become aware and start seeing the bigger picture it helps us make more informed decisions.

"I wanted people to think about their habits. It's not about pointing the finger or saying that any of our habits are bad, it's about making us think and line up the dots. I never used to take the time to connect any of the dots of why I did those things or why I got into those situations. My hope is that people will start to look at the dots in their own lives."

Don't be so hard on yourself

"I had to stop being so hard on myself. I realized that one of the reasons I was in this cycle of binge consumption and spending was that I was so hard on myself that I was stuck in a place of self-loathing and self-abuse. The point of this is to move in a positive direction and learn something from it. I learned how to accept myself. I came to the end of the year feeling like the best version of myself. I know now that no object out there is going to magically make me better or more interesting." 

Cait Flanders' comments have been edited and condensed. 

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