Joshua Becker on Controversial Values, Minimalism with Children, and Inside-Out Simplicity

July 28th, 2010 § 0 comments

Interview by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

If you’ve been reading about minimalism for long, you know Joshua Becker and his family. Joshua started blogging about minimalism two years ago, and quietly gathered a large following on his blog Becoming Minimalist.

There are a lot of ‘being minimalist’ books coming out these days –these things tend to happen when a topic becomes so incredibly popular so quickly,– so I’ve started to become incredibly selective about which books I recommend to my readers.

The reason I’m recommending Joshua Becker’s new book is because it’s challenging, it’s engaging, and it really asks some tough questions about why you’re pursuing this lifestyle, and how to maintain your decisions in the long run.

Joshua Becker didn’t just write a book about simplicity because it’s a good business decision –in fact, he was scared to write this book, see below. He wrote it because he and his family actually live a minimalist life, and have for a number of years now.

So without any delay, here is my interview with Joshua Becker on controversial values, minimalism with children, and why Joshua believes that we will never have a simple utopian society:

Everett Bogue: You say in the opening pages that Inside-Out Simplicity was the book you were terrified to write. Why is that?

Joshua Becker: The short answer is that I was afraid of controversy.

Although, the book is not particularly controversial, the book is weighty. It deals with some very deep, heart issues – such as contentment, gratitude, and forgiveness – not to mention chapters on sexuality and spirituality. And I think that whenever you start to talk about such things, you never know for sure how people are going to respond.

It can be pretty difficult for people to deal with some of those issues in their own heart. But I still wanted to write about those topics and inspire them to pursue some of those key life-changing principles and find simplicity in life because of it.

In the end, I decided that I look forward to the disagreements. After all, if you agree with everything that’s written in a book, what’s the point in reading it?

Everett: You mention continually throughout the book that simplicity comes from inside you, which I think is totally true. I think it could really help our readers if you explain how you came to this conclusion and how it effects how we think about simplicity.

Joshua: Early on in our journey towards minimalism is when I came to that realization. I was surprised at the emotional response I was feeling to the practice of minimalism. It caught me completely off-guard.

As we went from room to room removing things, I kept asking myself the question, “How did I get all this stuff? Why did I buy it in the first place?” Luckily, I kept pursuing those questions until I found some answers in my heart and soul.

We will always live out our heart’s true desires. We can mask over them and change our lifestyle for a time, but our true motivations will eventually win out. That’s why we’ve got to develop those life-changing principles in our lives… because a life of simplicity is not possible in the long run without them.

Everett: You know what really blows my mind about this book? This line:

“…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.”

I guess that says it all, but here’s my question: how did you come to the above conclusion, and how did this knowledge improve your life?

Joshua: Super-early in the blog when we were still just telling our story, a reader posted a comment that went something like this, “I think that minimalism forces you to recognize your values. It helps bring clarity to them.”

I hadn’t thought about our minimalist journey in quite that way prior, but he was absolutely right and helped me identify some of the emotions that were going through my mind. Minimalism is ultimately about values. And if your values are changing, it is very difficult to find simplicity in life. For me, the realization of that truth caused me to sit down one day and actually write out my values on paper.

I still vividly remember the morning and where I was sitting. It was freeing to define them and intentionally choose to pursue them about everything else.

Everett: One of the main differences between our blogs, lifestyles, etc. is that you have two children –whereas I don’t have any. This is one of the main reasons that I’m always saying ‘if you have kids, go read Joshua’s blog and stop emailing me saying you can’t have a simple life because you have kids.’ How has having kids influenced how you apply minimalism?

Joshua: It certainly makes it a bit tougher. Kids need stuff. And they are constantly changing (size, maturity, interests), so their material needs keep changing too. You can’t just settle in on a set of possessions.

You are always making adjustments. It forces you to think a little bit more. But more importantly, my kids have become my great motivation for minimalism. One of the greatest benefits of paring down is that I have so much more time with them.

My desire to spend time with them and invest into their lives is one of the reasons I continue to embrace the lifestyle.

Everett: Finally, one last hard question. Imagine for a second a world in which more people adopted the simple values that you describe in your book. What would this world look like?

Joshua: I once wrote a post on The Utopian Impact of Desiring Less. As I was writing the post, I came to the conclusion that a world where people desired less rather than more is not possible.

It will never happen on a global scale. But, it can happen on an individual scale! It can be true of my life and there are countless benefits to my own life and soul by choosing to desire less. In the same way, a world where everyone adopted the principles in this book is not going to happen.

Instead, I’d encourage people to ask the simpler question, “How would my life look different if I adopted these principles? How would my days look different if I was more generous, more committed in my relationships, and more forgiving?”

Because that is something that can actually happen. And one good reason you should pick up a copy of the book.


You can find out more information on Joshua Becker’s new e-book Inside-Out Simplicity here.

To learn more about Joshua Becker read his review of Minimalist Business, and check out my interview with him earlier this year about the power of rational minimalism.

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