Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Q&A with Joshua Becker About “Living With Less”

Q&A with Joshua Becker About "Living With Less"

Joshua Becker, from the blog Becoming Minimalist, has been an inspiration to me for quite awhile now. He began his journey to a simple, minimalist lifestyle after a long day of cleaning out his garage when he would have rather been playing catch with his son. A neighbor’s comment that day about her daughter’s minimalist home inspired Joshua to seek out his own freedom from “stuff.”

Since then, Joshua has written several bestselling books on simplicity and minimalism including, Simplify. I recently read his latest book, Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness, a book written for teens but applicable to anyone who is interested in a simpler lifestyle. Following is a Q&A I had with Joshua about his new book. 

Q. Your new book offers advice to teens on living a simpler, minimalist lifestyle. What advice do you have for parents wishing to teach the virtues of simplicity to their children? 

Good question, Sandy. Thanks for asking it. Recently, I published a guest post on a blog that went into great detail about raising teenagers in a consumer-driven society. I’ll direct your readers there for a longer answer to the question. I interviewed a number of parents in preparation for it. But in short, teaching the virtue of simplicity is as simple (and complicated) as teaching our children to value anything we think is important. We intentionally model the behavior for them. We seek out teachable moments to speak truth into their lives. We encourage and praise when we see the virtue taking root. And we hope and pray that when the time comes, they’ll make the right choices themselves.

Q. Being a Christian myself, I had never really thought about what the Bible says about simple living. What is your favorite Scripture that inspires simplicity for you? 

In the book, I mention four specific Scriptures from the life of Christ that have played a significant role in my spiritual journey towards minimalism. But before I began living a minimalist life, the Scripture that consistently “bothered” me the most was Luke 3:11. In Luke 3, John the Baptist is preparing the hearts of Israel for the ministry of Jesus. The people ask him, “What should we do to get ready?” And John tells them, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none…” In his words, we see that John the Baptist intentionally connected our physical possessions and the preparation of our hearts for spiritual truth. As if to say, if you are desiring to experience as much of Christ’s ministry as you possibly can, rid yourself of the distraction of excess possessions. You should keep some. But only what you need. In this, your heart and affections will be better prepared for the things of God.

Q. What was the most challenging part of going minimalist for you and your family? The easiest? 

The most challenging part has always been managing the different expectations in our household of what minimalism is actually going to look like for us. I have a picture of what I think it means. My wife has a picture. My two young, growing kids have evolving pictures of what that should mean. And none of them are the same. But just like every disagreement in a marriage or family, it offers new opportunities for patience, grace, compromise, and commitment. We have learned to love and live together. Managing expectations is difficult. So is living counter-culturally in a consumer-driven world. It takes careful intentionality and focus to reject the world’s way of living. For me, the easiest thing has been experiencing and recognizing all the benefits of living with less. It truly is a life-giving approach. And we were able to articulate those benefits early in our journey of removing unneeded possessions.

Q. There are a lot of people drawn to the message of your book but overwhelmed by their own clutter and they don’t know how to start. What advice do you have to help them get started on the path to simple living?

Start as simple as possible. Nobody runs a marathon on the first day of training. Instead, they run one mile. The lessons they learn, their appreciation for the journey, and the new muscles that are developed compel them to run two miles, then five miles, then 16, and eventually 26.2. Begin to see your decluttering journey as a marathon and just start by running one mile. You didn’t collect all your possessions in one afternoon and it’ll take longer than one day to remove them. Clear out the easiest space in your home first (maybe your vehicle, living room, or guest room). You’ll love the brand-new, stress-free feel of this uncluttered space. And it’ll provide you with the motivation and victory to eventually tackle the larger projects in your home.

Q. While I find the new book applicable to all audiences, you wrote it specifically for high school students and young adults? Why did you choose that audience?

I chose to write a book specifically for the young adult market for a number of reasons. But the most important reason is because I believe they hold such great potential and I wanted to catch them with the message of minimalism before they rang up large amounts of credit card debt, car loans, or mortgage payments. I wanted to free them to pursue their passions of lasting value rather than pursue a career just because it pays well. I wanted to encourage them as early as possible to find life in the invitation of Jesus rather than search for it on sale at a department store. And my hope is it will effectively accomplish those very things in the hearts of many.

Crash Course in Home Simplifying

One of the great laws of productivity is that a project expands to fill the time allotted to it. Thankfully, it works the other way too, and with a bit of concentration and a plan, you can tackle a seemingly huge project like “simplify the house” and make great strides in a short amount of time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with clutter and “messy house syndrome,” here are three steps to help you whip your home into shape fast.

Get rid of stuff. Seriously.

The easiest and fastest way to get your home looking clean and pretty is to get rid of the clutter. Don’t hide the clutter. Get rid of it.

Decluttering actually works faster and is less painful if you’re in a bit of a hurry because you’ve got a goal in mind and not much time to fret about it. Take it one room at a time, grab some boxes and just plow into it. Make decisions quickly, and don’t second-guess yourself. Do you really need it? Do you even want it? If not, just let it go, and get those full boxes of discards out of the house as soon as possible.

Making the commitment to get rid of the excess stuff and not look back has huge benefits, both for the “right now” (my house looks much cleaner!) and long-term (this space won’t take nearly as long to clean up now that half the junk is gone!)

Even more important, the psychological lift of less stuff is pure freedom. If you don’t need it or adore it, let it go. Now. Work quickly and deliberately, and don’t let yourself get bogged down in “what if’s” and nostalgia.

Don’t shuffle stuff. Deal with it.

A lot of people, when they frantically “company clean,” really just move stuff around so it “looks” better. Have you ever grabbed a pile of laundry and shoved it under the bed? Filled a laundry basket with clutter and stuffed it in the closet? (Confession: I have.)

Instead of moving it all around, take just a moment for each item, and deal with it properly. Is it a paper that needs to be filed? File it. Do clothes need to be put away? Take them to the closet, now. Is it trash? Throw it away. If it’s something you don’t know what to do with, think really hard about whether it even warrants space in your home. If not, let it go.

Once all the “stuff” is out, clean up.

Work top to bottom — dust surfaces while tidying up the {hopefully fewer} beloved items you’ve chosen to keep, brush off the upholstery, straighten artwork. Wipe down mirrors and shiny surfaces from fingerprints, plus clean kitchen counters, bathroom fixtures, etc. Fluff the pillows on the bed, run the vacuum around, sweep up the floors. Take out the trash and recycling. Open up the curtains so the sun shines in. Grab an iced tea and enjoy.

Crash Course in Home Simplifying