An Interview with Joshua Becker
Over the last month, I’ve been interviewing amazing bloggers about simple living, location independence, financial freedom and more. Every Thursday, a feature interview is posted on RowdyKittens. Last week, I spoke with Naomi Seldin of Simpler Living. This week the feature interview is with Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist.
Tammy: Your book, Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter their Home and Life, was really inspiring. Can you tell us about the book and why you decided to write it?
Joshua: Thanks for the kind words. When I sat down to write Simplify, my goal was to make the principles of minimalism "attractive to the masses." Two years ago, we were just a typical family of four living in the suburbs trying to raise our family as best we knew how. When we stumbled onto the minimalist life through a short conversation with our neighbor, we immediately embraced the idea and began removing things from our home. We have found so much freedom and joy in this lifestyle that we desperately desired to inspire others to do the same. Simplify is a compilation of the most important lessons we learned during the process.
Tammy: In Simplify you talk about "rational minimalism." Can you tell us about the concept?
Joshua: I have always made a point to remind people that their practice of minimalism is going to look different from others. Minimalism is not a word that needs to conjure up images of bare walls, handmade clothing, or living with less than 100 things. Instead, minimalism should be entered into strategically after identifying your values and the items necessary to live them out. Rational Minimalism is a phrase that I coined simply to help people realize that truth about minimalism. The word rational simply means “thought through, to use your mind.” It seems to take the edge off of minimalism for most people. And the concept has really taken off.
Tammy: Do you think the economic downturn has changed the way people view consumption?
Joshua: Absolutely. When your economics change and the paycheck stops coming every two weeks, you are forced to reevaluate what is important in your life. You begin to buy only the things that are truly necessary. But unfortunately, that motivation for minimalism and consumption quickly ends when the paycheck starts coming in again. For that reason, some of the other factors that lead people to embrace minimalism (such as concern for the environment, response to growing complexity of life, or a return to focus on people rather than things) will have far more staying-power than a cyclical economy.
Tammy: I loved your post "Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids." It reminded me of the holiday season and the onslaught of gifts my nieces and nephews receive. I know you have children and I'm wondering how you handle the holiday season and birthdays?
Joshua: That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked it. My wife and I had to make a decision following our first holiday season after becoming minimalist. It quickly became apparent that our extended families did not understand our lifestyle. At that point, we wisely decided that taking away our extended family’s opportunity to give gifts would rob them of a chance to communicate love to our children. We didn’t want that. So, we didn’t ask them to stop. Instead, we decided to work hard at crafting gift lists to hand out to the relatives for them to use when buying presents - and putting only items that our children need on the list. So far it has seemed to work pretty well (not perfect, but well).
Tammy: What is one of the biggest challenges you've faced in your minimalist journey? And how did you overcome it?
Joshua: As I briefly alluded to in the previous question, our biggest challenge surfaced following the first holiday season after deciding to become minimalist. After countless gifts to our children from extended family (and us), our house was full of new toys, new clothes, boxes, and gift wrap. It literally felt like all of our hard work was wasted and the new lifestyle was going to be difficult for a family of four. It actually took a month or two for my wife and I to pick ourselves back up, redetermine that we were committed to the minimalist lifestyle, and begin purging items again.
Tammy: What books are you always telling people to read?
Joshua: I'll go a bit off the beaten-path with this one. Even though I don't agree with what certain people have chosen to do with his words, I really enjoy reading the life and teachings of Jesus. It’s unfortunate that so many people have twisted his teachings for their own personal gain. Jesus was a man who led the ultimate minimalist, simple life. He seemed to live his entire life unified in his desire to give himself to other people. I have always found his teachings challenging. And enjoy encouraging others to read it too.
Tammy: Everyone has unique skills; skills that I call superpowers. What is your superpower(s)?
Joshua: I have always been an optimist and strong encourager. I love seeing the good in other people (I thank my dad for that quality, by the way). Generally speaking, I believe that people can accomplish whatever they set their hearts and minds towards and enjoy helping them believe in themselves.
Tammy: Take a minute to promote your blog. What makes it different than the others?
Joshua: Wow, thanks for the opportunity to promote Becoming Minimalist. There are two things that people seem to like about the site. First, the approach to minimalism is always presented from a family perspective. It offers the principles in a way that makes minimalism accessible to families. They can readily relate to the ideas being offered. Secondly, it offers an approach to minimalism that includes the entire person: body, mind, and heart. It regularly tackles heart issues such as contentment, jealousy, honesty, and forgiveness. It realizes that minimalism is not just about the possessions on the outside, it is also about the heart issues on the inside.
Note: The link to Joshua's book is an affiliate link. If you decide to purchase the book, you'll be supporting RowdyKittens and Becoming Minimalist.