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Becoming Minimalist: An Interview with Joshua Becker

Over the last few months, I’ve been interviewing amazing bloggers about simple living, location independence, financial freedom and more. Every Thursday, a feature interview is posted on RowdyKittens. A few weeks ago, I spoke with Chloe Adeline, of Simple Rabbit Society.

This week the feature interview is with Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist. Enjoy the interview and make sure you visit Joshua’s blog! 🙂

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Tammy: Can you tell us about your new book Inside-Out Simplicity and why you decided to write it?

Joshua: I wanted to write “Inside Out Simplicity” because I didn’t know of any other book quite like it available. I wrote the first book, “Simplify” as an easy-to-read manual to help anyone declutter their home and life. And I think it does a good job of accomplishing that goal. But shortly after we chose to declutter our life and embrace simplicity, I began to realize the journey towards simplicity was about far more than just removing possessions. And as we began to ask questions about why we owned so much stuff in the first place, we realized that the process involved our very heart, soul, desires, and motivations.

This new book, “Inside-Out Simplicity” is about that journey inward. Taken from the framework of our most important relationships, it deals with issues such as contentment, generosity, intentionality, and forgiveness. And gets to the very heart of the issue.

Tammy: I love this quote from, Inside-Out Simplicity:

“…many people go through life having no clear sense of their true values. Instead, their desires are molded by the culture and the advertisements that bombard upon them each day. As a result, they find no consistency in life. No unity. Their desires change as fast as the culture and they are quickly swept off their feet by the newest fashion, the most recent technology, or the latest diet fad.”

How can people move past consumerism and find more unity in their lives?

Joshua: First, they’ve got to slow down their lives enough to provide opportunity for some real, transparent self-evaluation. Too many people get so caught in the race to acquire more and more possessions that they never take the time to evaluate if all that “stuff” is really making them happy or meeting their needs.

Second, as is mentioned above, they need to decide for themselves what they most want to accomplish with their lives – what is truly most important to them.

And then thirdly, they need to take the significant steps necessary to align their life with their values. This last step can be difficult for some. But is life-changing and freeing for all.

Tammy: What prompted you to start your downsizing journey?

Joshua: My life changed after a 2-minute conversation with my neighbor who introduced me to the minimalist lifestyle. It was that simple and we’ve never looked back. Of course, the background leading up to that conversation had prepared my heart to abruptly accept the significant life change. I was dissatisfied with the amount of time that I had available to spend with my family. I was upset about constantly living from paycheck to paycheck. And I was becoming increasingly aware that a big house full of nice things was not bringing satisfaction or contentment to my soul.

Tammy: A number of my readers want to start decluttering their homes, but don’t know where to start. How can folks start the decluttering process and avoid feeling so overwhelmed by the challenge?

Joshua: Start small – one drawer, one closet, or one room. Believe it or not, my first decluttering project was my car. It took me about 14 minutes to finish. But the following morning when I got inside the car and felt the freedom, I knew I had to tackle each room in my house, one by one. It’s best to see the decluttering process as a marathon rather than a sprint. You didn’t collect all this stuff in one day, and it’s going to take longer than one day to remove it.

Tammy: Since the NYTs article, But Will It Make You Happy?, was published I’ve received hundreds of emails from mothers and fathers asking how they can live simple, minimalist lives with kids. You’ve been living a simple, minimalist lifestyle with kids for a number of years. Can you tell us about your experience and give our readers a few downsizing tips?

Joshua: First off, I would assure them that it is possible. We stand as living proof. After all, we are just a typical middle-class family of four living in the suburbs who have learned to embrace simplicity and minimalism. Second, I would try to convince them that not only is it possible, it is beneficial for your children and your family. Removing your unnecessary possessions will result in more time together, deeper relationships, and more significance in each others’ lives. Parents with kids should actually have more motivation to simplify their homes and lives.

And here are a few downsizing tips that we’ve learned over the years that we’ve used to help families:

1) Come to the realization that you can give your children far greater gifts that just another toy. They need/want your time, attention, and investment far more than the next video game.

2) Model simplicity for them. You can’t ask them to remove their clothes and toys until you have removed yours.

3) Accept the reality that growing kids need things. They outgrow clothes, toys, and school supplies. As a result, you’ll need to make those purchases.

4) Stay on top of the things they have outgrown by donating them to others. Find a neighbor, friend, or Goodwill store near you and regularly donate outgrown clothes, toys, books, sporting equipment, or school supplies.

Tammy: Your blog is very thoughtful and I think everyone should head over and take a look at your content. Which of your posts should my readers check out?

Joshua: Thanks Tammy. To read how minimalism has positively changed our life, they could read Benefits of Minimalism. To get a feel for how we have embraced minimalism with children, they should check out How to Become Minimalist with Children. To read our most popular post, I’d direct them to The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life. Or to get a flavor for our new book, they could read Stop Chasing Success. Seek Significance.

Tammy: I’ve really appreciated this interview. I feel like we’ve gone beyond the superficial “buy my book” type interview questions and answered some real helpful questions for the readers. Any closing statements of advice that you want to offer?

Joshua: Yeah, real simple. Give simplicity a shot in your life. You’ll find a counter-cultural life that results in less stress, less debt, and less impact on the environment. You’ll discover more freedom, more time, and more meaning. Even if you start small, you’ll be glad you did!

Tammy: Thanks Joshua!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Elizabeth August 12, 2010, 5:53 am

    I recently found your blog through an msn article and am really enjoying it. This summer I have been doing my own little challenges on my blog. One was a $400 healthy eating food challenge (for five people) and this month (June was as well) is the $1,200 challenge where we try to live off $1,200 for the month (for five people…and that is everything…mortgage, bills, food, etc.). Stop by sometime! 🙂

  • Twila Hankins August 12, 2010, 6:27 am

    So happy to have found Rowdy Kittens Thank you for sharing all this great info for a better way of life

  • Dan Goodwin August 12, 2010, 7:09 am

    I’ve just finished reading Joshua’s book, and would highly recommend it also.

    It goes beyond the surface of just throwing out your stuff and counting how many possessions you have, and looks at much deeper values and areas of life that are connected. It’s a brave book, well written, and Joshua comes across as confident and at peace with his life choices, and explains convincingly why they work for him, without forcing them on others or saying they are the only possible way to live.

    Thanks Tammy for the interview, I hope it gives Joshua more (and well deserved) exposure.

    • Joshua Becker August 12, 2010, 9:08 am

      Thanks Dan. Those are kind words.

  • Karla August 12, 2010, 7:45 am

    Just sold our car last night after finding inspiration from the NY Times article, your blogs and others. A baby step, but feeling lighter and ready for more. Thanks!

    • Logan August 12, 2010, 8:45 am

      Wow Karla! That is great news! Your comment made our day! 🙂 Let us know if you have any questions about car-free living. Sounds like you are well on your way. 🙂 Cheers!

  • JessQ August 12, 2010, 9:17 am

    Your quote from Joshua’s book is similar to what the author of The Happy Minimalist says in his book too:

    “Most people go about the lives without consciously and conscientiously thinking about them. The dreams of their parents influence them. The wishes of their spouses compel them. And the norms and practices of the world dictate their lifestyles”

    Hopefully, as more and more people think likewise, we will hit the tipping point…

  • Nicola August 12, 2010, 11:28 am

    Thanks for introducing me to Joshua’s work. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of years getting really clear on my values and it’s an enormous lesson in self empowerment. We don’t realise how much of ourselves we are giving up to advertising agencies, media outlets and even our friends and family until we take the time for this personal and emotional decluttering. It’s a very powerful process.

  • Katie August 12, 2010, 1:54 pm

    Tammy, both you and Joshua are living inspiring lives and I’m sure you’re helping to spearhead a movement. As you say, Joshua, a simple lifestyle effects your time, level of stress, pocketbook and planet. It’s the only thing that makes sense. I was surprised by the absolutely amazed tone of the Today show hosts when Tammy’s minimalist lifestyle was featured. They seemed a bit awestruck. Shouldn’t it really just be common sense, and not some rare and unreachable state of being. I’m glad to hear people are reaching out to you Tammy to find ways to simplify. Well done to both of you for helping others simplify their lives. I know I’m inspired.

  • Diane August 12, 2010, 2:07 pm

    We had very few toys when I was a kid, because money was scarce. But we lived in a more rural area and were allowed to play outside by ourselves, which was incredible. I guess kids living in urban areas have fewer options to just go outside and play and use their imaginations.

  • Majeeda August 12, 2010, 7:40 pm

    Good stuff! I still haven’t managed to get Joshua’s second book yet but I am really looking forward to it – even more now.

    @ Joshua – I went to look at your post on minimalism with children and it is great. I think they learn such a lot from what we show them. For example, as you said, that we don’t all have to live the same.

    One thing I have found is that even though I do try guide them to a minimalist way (and I’m not strict – far from a 100 things type of person), that each person, each child is an individual. There is someone in our family who is a natural hoarder! lol. So we try gently, but for them we have to allow some leeway. No use forcing. It’s not my place.

    • Joshua Becker August 13, 2010, 6:12 am

      Thanks Majeeda.

      I agree. It is our place to “parent,” not “force” – that is a thin line that requires wisdom, discretion, and intentionality.

  • Meg - Minimalist Woman August 13, 2010, 6:32 am

    Okay, Joshua, when are you gonna write that book about minimalism with kids? (poke, poke, prod, prod ;D) I’m not kidding, actually–it’s a subject which really merits special coverage, and your experience plus your unmistakable love for your kids would make a killer combo, imo.

    • Joshua Becker August 13, 2010, 2:14 pm

      Meg, I’m flattered. Truly.
      Unfortunately, I told my wife going into the last few weeks of the second book that this would be the last one for awhile. My job kicks into high gear right now until November. And I’ve got a few speaking opportunities lined up for this fall as well. All that say… I’m not sure she’ll be very happy about you putting thoughts into my head but I do really like the idea.

  • anne August 14, 2010, 2:41 am

    Your article made the front cover (congratulations!) of the condensed version of the NYT that comes with the local paper every weekend (I’m from Singapore). Your ‘simple living, downsizing” mantra resonates with someone who’s recently ditched the corporate gig and traded off the paycheck for freedom and fulfilment, the pursuit of a simple life is part of the script. ( Where I come from, the almost-national obsession is the pursuit of the 5-Cs – condominium, car, cash, credit cards, country-club…haha:)… tragic, but true. I am/was guilty of that myself, I concede detoxifying myself from the toxic 5-Cs is a process, not an event. ( de-cluttering is in the pieline) Many here have stuff ( lots!) , but little inner fufilment and happiness. Your blog marries inspiration with practical application and life stories…love it !

    Drifting to Joshua’s blog from the article and your blog is the extra icing on the cake. Thank you both !

  • sandy August 14, 2010, 3:25 am

    The one thing I do not see in these blogs is planning and paying for long term financial security. All I see is spend less and work less. It is philosophically no different than conspicuous consumption. You are merely exchanging conspicuous consumption of goods with conspicuous unproductive free time. Where is the old balance of work hard, live within your means and save for the future.

    • Majeeda August 15, 2010, 3:23 pm

      @ Sandi your comment really caught my eye! I think you raise an interesting point, though it probably does depend a lot on the individual. Minimalists or those who are downsizing are a hugely varied bunch in the way they actually put that into practice. I think there is a trend to spend less and work less but I don’t necessarily see that there is anything wrong with that, nor that it precludes the person having a plan (or working towards that plan) for long term financial security.

      I would be interested to hear what others have to say on this. Granted, long term financial security, saving for the future etc are not things that are focused on on sites like this…that may simply reflect that it’s not the focus – not that it’s not in their game plan at all. I don’t know really, but I’m having a stab at it it hear. Good q’s.

      PS As a parent perhaps I feel the ‘need’ to think about medium and long term future security more too.

  • exhuasted public servant August 15, 2010, 7:30 am

    I have been checking out this site for several days-ever since I read the article in the New York Times. I just have to say WOW… this is a breath of fresh air. When I was a little girl and thought about the very special and important big girl life I was going to lead…this was not quite it. I am 25, recently married, and a public servant. The work that we do is very important and very worth while however with that being said can I just say I am exhausted. I work 50 + hours a week. Lately I have been looking around at my stuff in our little 1 bedroom apt and my always too-full day planner and feel as though the walls are closing in…There has got to be another way. This was the life I planned for, after all I went to school got 2 degree, occurred allot of school debt, and am working in the field I have dreamed of my whole life. But here’s the thing, after my 12 plus hour days at work and waking up day after day tried and crabby I relieved the life I have built for myself wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

    And let’s get serious about the American dream with the house, white picket fence, and kids in the yard which was shoved down are thoughts since childhood- Who has the time for that dream? My husband and I can barely keep our 1 bedroom apt clean let alone a house and a yard; or make children let alone raise them, and let’s no even talk about the cost of that dream. In the last year we have been together we have worked very hard to lower our debt and we are almost there (except for my student loans). We have already started going through our stuff and have gotten rid of a lot. Some of it I had no idea I even had. But one thing is for sure we do want to do something different with ourselves and spend more time doing what we love with our family and friends. I am not a person who normally posts comments. I think I may be the only one on the plant without a myspace account- not like I would have the time to check it- but I have enjoyed reading the information and opinions on this site. Thank you.

  • dronedog August 15, 2010, 9:43 pm

    like the website. it reflects a well explored point of view. however, i am very leery of ‘gurus’ who espouse simplicity and reject others as having no direction, etc – you can have a very fulfilling life which is complex, busy and full of trying things out (including a stab at simplicity)

  • Moneymakergal September 28, 2010, 3:56 pm

    I just found your blog, which I love, and this was a fantastic post too! Very inspirational!

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