BOOK REVIEW: Year of No Clutter by Eve O. Schaub

I just found this book as a recommended title on Libby so I thought I would give it a shot and I’m glad I did. Year of No Clutter is a memoir by Eve Schaub of the year (I believe its 2016 or 2017) of her and her family decluttering their house, specifically the ‘Hell Room’ a room that seemed to have become the families dumping ground.   

I tried finding some info about Eve after finishing the book and it seems like she’s primarily a blogger. This is her second book, with the first one being Year of No Sugar which documents her family’s year of no additional processed sugar.  

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In the first chapter I was debating returning the book to the library. It’s primarily the story of Eve and the Hell Room, which sounded super super disgusting. There are boxes with cat pee stains, dead bugs and one dead mouse. When she saw the dead mouse she thought it was so gross that she wrote a post about it for her blog and decided the she needed to keep the mouse as a memento of the blog.  

Everyone that I mentioned this to agreed its nasty and asked why I was reading it. Which was fair, I was debating calling it quits because I didn’t want to read the memoir of someone who thought it was cool to keep little biohazards. But I pushed through, because I found her writing quite engaging.  

Once I got past the mouse, the book improved a lot. The book documents her year, and it’s not in a month by month play thought like The Year of Less (Link to Review). But a series of anecdotes of when her (and her kids) would work to tackle all the items in the room.  This is after she comes to the realization that she had hoarding tendencies and if left unchecked could become a full hoarding situation.  

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Things I like about the book: the decluttering process wasn’t easy. I will compare this book to The Year of Less again, since they are both decluttering memoirs. Cait was able to get rid of like 50% of her items in the first month. That isn’t something that most people can do, so Eve talking about her struggles with detaching memories from her items was interesting to read and I think better reflects most people’s struggle as they start the process. Decluttering is a muscle and needs to be built up before its really good for anything.  

I also enjoyed that Eve actually mentioned the part after making the pile for the donation bin. She talked about selling clothes to consignment, online and donating it to different organizations which I feel like so many minimalism/decluttering books skip or briefly mention. She also talks about the time requirements to go to all these places while trying to run a household.   

The last thing I will mention is that the family is filled with crafters/creatives which I feel aren’t mentioned enough in the decluttering/minimalism space. There’s a chapter where she talks about going on a weaving retreat and she talks about knitting which are things I really relate too and enjoyed they got a mention. 

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The main thing I didn’t like, how long she kept that dead mouse. But also how uninvolved her husband was in the process. Her and her kids would spend so much time looking at all this stuff (which a bunch of it was his, although he wouldn’t own up to it) and he would just complain there was piles waiting for to go to Value Village but didn’t seem to take any active role in maybe getting the stuff out of the house if it bother him so much. Her method of finally getting him to look through he’s shit was to just pile it in inconvenient places till he broke down and looked at it. I am not married but I feel like that isn’t the best way to do it. But that chapter was a strong reminder that this book is a memoir and not a guide.  

Overall I enjoyed the book after getting past the first couple chapters. The book isn’t a guide but she does share some of the things that she figured out. I think a lot of her epiphanies are things that were mentioned in Decluttering at the Speed of Life if you are looking for the step by step guide version of a decluttering process. 

BOOK REVIEW : The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

I recently finished listening to The year of Less by Cait Flanders. Published in 2018, the book chronicles Cait’s journey through her year of being in a shopping ban. My friend Sam recommended it and I kept seeing it in Libby as related titles to other books I was reading.

The short review is: I enjoyed the book. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by the author which I though was nice, as it is her memoir.

I also liked that Cait is Canadian. As a Torontonian, it’s nice to read from authors that are in my neck of the woods (sometimes, most of the book took place in BC).

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The book starts with a prologue of Cait telling her friends that she’s going to do a shopping ban. Meaning she’s only going to buy food, gas, and an approved list of items. After that, each chapter is a reflection of one month of her journey.

As part of the ban, she also decided that she would  get rid of any extra items in her life. In July, her first month of the ban, she decluttered like 40 or 50% of her belonging. Which is pretty impressive.

The book is mostly reflection on her process, if you are looking for a practical guide or a step by step guide, this book isn’t it!

I noticed that the majority of the one star reviews come from people that expected it to be a guide, not a memoir. But if you read the full tile or the synopsis, this shouldn’t be an issue for you. But if you want a guide, see the last six pages of the book (#spoilers).

Although, its not a guide there were some take always. I though that her November chapter and facing Black Friday was the best, and most useful part of the book.

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Maybe because I was listening to large chucks of it at a time, I did find that some of her wording or things she was saying rather repetitive. For example, when she was talking about the stuff she quit before this year it would always the same words, in the same order.

This next part will seems cold, since her addictions are obviously important and transformative but I heard about it too often… I didn’t hear much about her trying to learn to sew or more logistics on how she was trying to go zero waste. Which would have been nice since those are both large projects.

Again it’s not a instruction manual, but I found she focused a lot on things that happened years ago than things that were happening during the year of her spending ban. It seems like she mastered sewing and going low waste without any sort of second thought, which I find unlikely. But I heard so much about her previous drinking habits in ways that didn’t make sense in the greater context of what was going on.

She mentioned in the epilogue she didn’t take up candle making but it would have been nice to have more of an exploration on her buying the supplies and why she ended up not using them. What was she doing instead? Not sure, it wasn’t developed.

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So overall a nice quick read/listen. I didn’t hate it, but it’s been a few days since I finished it and I don’t really remember much about it. I mentioned that to my friend that recommended it to me and we both agree on that point.

I do remember being very frustrated by her always buying books and never using her Library. She would donate her books to the library but didn’t actually use the resources. I found that part extremely frustrating!

On the podcast I listen to “Go Help Yourself” they always ask if this book needed to be written and who is it perfect and not perfect for. Which I think is a useful format to wrap up this book.

Did this book need to be written?

No. In my opinion, there was very few memoirs that need to be written. Without wanting to sound mean, this book didn’t present anything particularly new or revolutionary.

Who is this book perfect for?

I think its perfect for people that need to hear other peoples success stories as a way to motivate themselves. Very similar to people that watch cleaning videos to get themselves to clean. Or people that are just entering the minimalism/slow movement and want to see how others have done it.

Who is this not perfect for?

Based on the 1 star reviews on Goodreads, this book is terrible if you are looking for actionable advice and a step by step guide on how to live with less.

So that’s my review of A Year of Less by Cait Flanders. Have you read it or seen it in the bookstores/ library shelves? Let me know in the comments.