I had the good fortune of interviewing Joshua Becker of the website Becoming Minimalist for the Minimal Mom column with Western New York Family Magazine.
Minimal Mom: Interview with the Becoming Minimalist Dad
by Mary Ann Carrado Romans
Joshua Becker describes himself as being the dad in a typical middle class family. Becker, his wife and their two young children are a self-described typical middle class who have adopted a minimalist lifestyle. The author of two books and a popular blog, www.becomingminimalist.com, he hopes to share the lessons his family has learned and inspire others to intentionally live with less. Recently, I got the opportunity to speak with Becker about the joys and the challenges of being both a minimalist and a family man.
Why should families consider minimalism?
Because our “stuff” is not adding as much value to our lives as we think. In fact, it is distracting us from truly living and burdening us with all sorts of different cares and obligations. Consider for just a moment how much of your time and energy is spent in the pursuit or management of your possessions. We research and purchase our possessions, we bring them into our home, we have to organize and clean and repair and remove and replace… and that doesn’t even begin to count all the hours we worked in the first place just to earn the money that we used to buy things that we have to organize and clean… It’s becoming too much. All the while, the most important elements of our lives, the truly life-giving ones (our families, our relationships, our passions) are being pushed aside.
What has living with less brought into your life?
Practically speaking, owning fewer possessions means that we have less debt, less stress, and less cleaning. We have more time and energy and mental capacity to pursue the things that are most important to us. In short, it has brought into the life the opportunity to pursue our greatest passions.
What have been some of the challenges?
First off, one of the greatest challenges is that not everyone in the family is convinced to the same degree on the importance of minimalism. My wife and I have both bought in – but to varying degrees. However, my two small children aren’t so convinced. Secondly, even if every member of the family did buy into the lifestyle completely, each unique individual is going to define their most important passion and pursuit differently. As a result, the things they need are going to look different. I’ve learned there is no simple formula for minimalism and it always requires patience, grace, and flexibility.
What would your children say about your lifestyle?
My son, nine, gets it. He understands it to the extent that he can. My daughter, six, is not so sure. For her, the number of dolls in her room or clothes in her closet is never enough. But I don’t blame her for that. At this point, that’s what is most important to her. In response, we try to model a life of contentment and communicate life lessons when appropriate “You know, you wouldn’t have to spend so much time picking up your toys if there weren’t so many of them.” But I can relate to her beliefs and pursuits… after all, they perfectly resemble mine for the first 30+ years of my life.
What mistakes did you make in the beginning of your journey that could serve as lessons for others?
I threw away the Jell-o molds my wife had bought for my son’s upcoming birthday party. Of course, she didn’t realize that until she went to cut the Jell-o just a few short hours before the party was set to begin. So basically, I forgot to communicate with my wife. I jumped in with both feet and proceeded to start removing the things I saw in the house that I saw no reason to keep. I quickly realized it is far easier to recognize someone else’s clutter than it is to recognize our own. Expecting someone else to progress as quickly down the road to minimalism as you is unfair to them.
Is minimalism just about getting rid of things in your life?
Minimalism is about increasing intentionality in our lives. It is about removing the distractions so we are better able to pursue what is the most important, valuable, and lasting. Physical possessions are often the most obvious, because we can see them with our eyes. There is just as much benefit in removing the distracting time commitments, relationships, or unhealthy habits from our lives, too. Typically, I find that removing the unnecessary physical possessions from our homes opens up our heart and mind to identifying and removing some of the other barriers.
Are there any downsides to minimalism?
Most of the downsides are removed by remembering that minimalism is not rigid and inflexible. I have recently begun playing the game of tennis after taking 17 years off after high school. I love the sport, the exercise, the competition, and the relationships. I found it was adding value into my life. So I bought a new tennis racket. Minimalism serves me, I don’t serve it. In that way, minimalism works. I don’t feel confined by it in any way.
So many parents are already overwhelmed. Do you have any advice on how they can get started on living with less?
Just start small and with your own stuff. Experience the emotions that accompany the process, so you are better equipped to help the others in your family down the road. You’ll find great freedom and life in the process. Your family members will notice the benefits and desire it as well.