Confessions of a Wannabe Minimalist – Q&A with Joshua Becker

I admit it… I can’t let go of my stuff.  I like my stuff, I don’t know why … I just do, and have a hard time letting go.  I have a lot of excuses as to why I hang onto stuff, but in spite of the offhanded comments that I receive from a less than humble “minimalist” in my life… I have discerned that my life would be better without all the stuff to get in the way of living life with simplicity of purpose and more intense focus on the things that matter most to me.

So when I heard about Joshua Becker, his blog and books – I boldly asked him some questions… AND he answered!  (This is a guy with over 7,000 twitter followers and has written three books… so he certainly didn’t HAVE to answer my questions.  THANKS @joshua_becker)

Several of my friends are extremely on board with this minimalism fad/lifestyle/journey (Jen Hatmaker is a favorite of theirs), so under the assumption that even more people may be interested in #becomingminimalist, I thought I would share the information Joshua shared with me… in case you struggle with either the peer pressure and/or the personal desire to become a minimalist.

As parents, I sincerely think our kids notice the relationship we have to our stuff.  We have to consider what these relationships say about who we are and what we value most.  As they grow and develop, there is no denying that our children more often than not, mimic our relationships (healthy or otherwise).  There is so much more that is whirling around in my brain about all of this, and how it relates to parenting and leadership and how kiddos develop… but all this will have to wait for another post on another day …

Here’s the email interview: 

Q:  What is the difference between getting organized and being minimalist?

A:  For starters, thanks for this opportunity to discuss minimalism with you and your readers. I enjoy the private and informal setting.  This is a good first question, I’ve never had it asked before. I certainly have nothing against organizing. In fact, for the past 18 months I’ve written a monthly post for Organizing Your Way.  But generally speaking, to me, organization doesn’t address the underlying problem. I view organization as simply rearranging physical possessions… but minimalism is about removing them altogether. The goal of minimalism is to live with only the most essential possessions necessary in life to accomplish our greater purposes. It recognizes that excessive possessions do not bring happiness into our life. Instead, they actually distract us from the very things that do bring our heart and soul meaning, abundance, and happiness. Organization seeks to find solutions for our clutter… but minimalism seeks to remove them once and for all.

Q:  How can I prevent the goal of becoming minimalist from overwhelming me?

A:  I find it helpful to remind myself (and others) that becoming minimalist is not the goal… never has been, never should be. Minimalism is the intentional promotion of everything I most value and the removal of everything that distracts me from it. Too often, possessions distract our most valuable resources (money, time, energy) from the very things that bring us real joy and lasting fulfillment (faith, family, friends, service to others). So the best way to keep the goal of becoming minimalist from overwhelming you is to remember that the true goal of minimalism is to intentionally structure my life in pursuit of the greatest goods. And as long as my life is aligning more and more with those pursuits, I’m moving in the right direction.

Q:  I think because of the family dynamics in which I grew up I have unhealthy emotional attachments to my stuff… any advice on overcoming the emotional aspect of becoming minimalist?  

A:  Sure, but first, it is important to point out that most people when confronted with the idea of removing physical possessions immediately begin thinking of the hardest things in their life to remove. The invitation to live with only the essentials is usually met with this response, “But I could never get rid of my x?” I always respond, “Well, you don’t have to start by removing x. Just start by removing all the things in your home that you know you don’t want anymore. You’ll know what to do with x when you get there.” Items with an emotional attachment are always near the top of the list for difficult things to remove. But you don’t have to start there… nobody is telling you to get rid of them right now anyway.  Second, you’ll find boundaries to be incredibly helpful. Determining to own just one box, container, drawer, shelf, or closet of forces your hand on measuring your actual emotional attachment to any given item. When forced with the choice, you’ll realize which items contain important emotional attachment and which ones carry just “some” emotional attachment. You can also further explore the topic if you need to:  Letting Go of Sentimental Items  How to Simplify Your Stuff and Honor Your Memories

Q:  Advice for getting a spouse on board?
A:  When starting out, purposefully don’t worry about him/her. Declutter your own belongings first. Lead by example, not by request. You have stumbled in to a better way to live and it likely caught you at a most unexpected time in your life. Your spouse will recognize the change in you. Your spouse will begin to notice the positive changes that are taking place in you. And he/she will stumble into this new way of life at just the right moment… just like you. Until then, practice love, patience, grace, and commitment.

Q:  Advice for communicating a desire to become minimalist to others who enjoy gifting items to your family?

A:  If it is a huge problem, tell them gracefully about your new views on life and how they can specifically help you in the process. Provide them with specific alternatives: give fewer, but nicer gifts; give experiences rather than physical objects; or purchase for needs rather than wants.  As you do, don’t forget that “giving gifts” is a very specific love language for some people. Most people are not intending to demean your new lifestyle, they just desire to show you and your children that they love you. Because of that, we’ve chosen to respect that view and not rob others of their opportunity to express love in that way. Typically, that means we set aside a time after the celebration/holiday to work through the collection of new toys and sort out which ones should stay and which ones should not.

Q:  Have you ever later WISHED you hadn’t gotten rid of something?  

A:  No. I honestly haven’t. Unless you count the time I threw out the football-shaped Jell-o molds my wife had purchased for my son’s birthday party… in that case, I have one.

End of interview.  Lots of great info to chew on.  So, are you inspired?  Do you want to become a minimalist, or are you happy with your stuff?

LINKS TO CONTACTING Joshua Becker:
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4 Responses to Confessions of a Wannabe Minimalist – Q&A with Joshua Becker

  1. Pingback: How to keep your child from being SPOILED ROTTEN. - erintarr

  2. You are an excellent blogger. I love it. I’m in Shanghai reading on the other side of the world. In a city of 22 million people crammed into a little space, I bet many here practice minimalism. Yet, they seem to like their fashion. Thank you for sharing, it certainly has made me think of my stuff. I tend to spend money on adventures rather than stuff, but I do like some of my stuff too. And, gosh, I sure wish I could get rid of the chocolate in my life. :)

    • erintarr says:

      Thanks Betty! I am really enjoying blogging and feel I am learning a lot as I go. This minimalism things is really weighing on me as I plan for my trip to Liberia, where everyone has so little in comparison to the United States, and yet still (from what I have heard) live with such joy, hope and expectation for a great future. Checking out the “www.globalrichlist.com” brings it home even more!

  3. Pingback: Why haven’t you read this book yet (with your toddler)? - erintarr

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