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« Flexibility & Change | Is It Too Small To Save? »
Tuesday
Jan282014

Ask the Expert: Joshua Becker

It’s thrilling to begin our third "Ask the Expert" interview series! In the past few years we’ve created a monthly venue to connect you with industry thought leaders. We’ve enjoyed inspiring conversations with best-selling author Gretchen Rubin, productivity guru David Allen, organizer and future thinker Judith Kolberg, theory of Multiple Intelligences creator Dr. Howard Gardner, and many more. The 2014 interviews continue with another dynamic group of experts. I’m excited to start the year with author, blogger and minimalist trailblazer, Joshua Becker to share his wisdom about simple living and fresh starts.

While I’ve been a loyal @Joshua _Becker Twitter follower for a while now, we recently “met” while appearing in a Selfication blog post together about simplifying and organizing your life. Shortly thereafter, I invited Joshua to contribute to one of my posts about life balance. I asked him, “What do you want more of and less of to create your desired balance?” Being true to his minimalist philosophy, he provided an insightful and concise response, “More focus on the important things. Less distraction on the little.”  A few weeks later he contacted me to see if I’d be interested (and I was) in reading an advance copy of his soon to be released book, Clutterfree with Kids. The book is filled with practical strategies and deep wisdom. It’s a must read! His ideas provide a great catalyst for reconsidering our lives. My deepest gratitude and thanks goes to Joshua for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about him.

 

Joshua Becker is the founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist, a website that inspires others to find more life by owning less. His rational approach to minimalist living has made him one of today’s most-influential simple living advocates. He is also the best-selling author of Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life and the newly released, Clutterfree with Kids. He lives with his wife and two children in Peoria, AZ. You can connect with Joshua on Facebook, Twitter, or website.

 

 

Linda Samuels:  As an author, speaker, blogger and dad, you inspire others to consider the minimalist approach to life. How do you describe minimalism?

Joshua Becker:  I describe minimalism as the ‘intentional promotion of everything I most value and the removal of anything that distracts me from it.’  When many people hear the word ‘minimalism,’ they often imagine barren walls, tiny houses, or living out of backpacks. But that is not how we view it. We’ve just come to understand that material possessions do not add lasting joy to our lives—even worse, they often distract us from the very things that do. We have two small kids. We live in the suburbs. We enjoy having people over to our house. Our lives are unique. Minimalism is always going to look different for us. But it’s going to be about removing the excess possessions that keep us from the things we love the most.

 

Linda:  You’ve said, “There is more joy to be found in owning less than can ever be found in organizing more.” What are some benefits of “de-owning?”

Joshua:  The benefit of owning less is an important concept—one that most people can easily relate to. It’s just that in this world where we are constantly told to buy more and more, we never take a step back and ask ourselves, “How would my life be better if I owned less stuff?” For starters, we’d have less cleaning, less stress, less debt. We’d experience more freedom, more time, and more intentionality—more opportunity to pursue our greatest passions. And eventually, when the desire for physical possessions is removed, our hearts are open to contentment, gratitude, and generosity. It’s really quite wonderful in every respect.

 

LindaIn your just released book, Clutterfree with Kids you share many ways to shift perspectives about how families live with and think about their possessions. What are some first steps for clutter-free living?

Joshua:  The absolute first step is to rethink the all too common “more is better” mentality. One of the easiest ways to understand clutter is to recognize it as too much stuff in too little space. And our homes are full of stuff: our kitchen cabinets, our closets, our garages, and our toy rooms. The first step to living clutterfree is to remove the things in our homes that are not used or needed. Grab three boxes (donate, recycle, discard), pick one room, and fill them up. The key is not to find more storage solutions for your stuff—the key is minimizing the number of things we own.

 

Linda:  Along with having kids, comes owning toys. You said, “I’m not anti-toy. I’m pro-child.” You make a powerful case that having fewer toys translates into kids with longer attention spans, better social skills, and being more resourceful. What else can you tell us about the “less toys” benefits?

Joshua:  And this is proven by scientific studies. Kids who own fewer toys learn to be more creative, more generous, more resourceful and more perseverant with longer attention spans. There are too many parents nowadays who have a hard time saying ‘no’ to their children. But it is good for kids to learn boundaries and to learn that there are other ways to express love than buying toys and giving gifts.

 

Linda:  What has been your biggest personal challenge around becoming a minimalist?

Joshua:  I think the biggest challenge for me is often the biggest challenge for others as well. The journey to becoming a minimalist (and I’ll be the first to admit it is a journey, not a destination) is one of the most difficult and fulfilling inward journeys anyone can embark upon. My first mini-van load of things to Goodwill was easy, so was the second. But by the third or fourth vanload of items to drop off, you can’t help but start asking yourself some pretty difficult questions—starting with, “If I didn’t really need this stuff, why did I buy it all in the first place?” And when those questions of life purpose, life focus, and wasted opportunity start beginning to surface, it can be very difficult to realize the level of discontent most of us live our lives in. It is a challenge. And it’s helpful to have someone close to help process the feelings that emerge. It is both highly difficult and beautifully delightful all at the same time.

 

Linda:  Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?

Joshua:  I think I’ve overstepped my word-limit, so I’ll just leave it at that. Thank you for the opportunity Linda.

 

You’re most welcome, Joshua. I’m grateful for each of your carefully chosen words. Thank you for all the insights you shared about simple living, minimalism, and the significance of less. Your message is positive and filled with hope. I love how you describe your journey as both “difficult and beautifully delightful.” What a powerful underlying concept you explore about possessing less so you can shift your focus away from stuff management and towards what’s truly important and meaningful.

I invite all of you to join Joshua and me as the conversation continues. We’d love to hear your thoughts about minimalism, fresh starts, or anything else you’d like to share. What resonates with you?

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Reader Comments (34)

Thanks for sharing this insightful interview. What really resounds with me is this, that by having less we "experience more freedom, more time, and more intentionality". It's that true emotion that makes the difference after you have started letting go. It's hard to imagine that feeling before you start letting go, but it is so powerful and compelling after.

Congratulations on your 3rd year of this series. What an amazing way to connect!

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Linda! I did not know Joshua before today and I just ordered his book! For someone who works with "students" all day long, the issues usually extend to the family, clutter and stuff that abounds. I always preach the mantra that what you really need should be what you really want. Stuff needs to matter! And Joshua hit on this point beautifully. I am so glad he talked about the time and energy aspect of all the "stuff". I have been spending a lot of time lately with clients discussing awarding our "time" to manage all the stuff the same value as the actual stuff. We don't talk about that aspect a whole lot and Joshua wrapped it together beautifully! Loved this!

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

Thank you for this wonderful interview, Linda! The idea that owning less to experience more really hit home with me. My favorite gifts to give and receive are gifts of experience - theatre tickets, outdoor excursions - memories to create and hold forever. I also enjoyed reading about Joshua's philosophy as it relates to children and toys. I'm a big believer in giving children building blocks and letting them create!

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane N. Quintana

Well, I think I need to meet Joshua! I'm so on board with this mentality -- my own term is "selected complexity"... actually choosing where I want to fill my life with things/activities/challenges. I firmly believe that "more" is overrated!

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Linda
I really appreciate your selection of super effective communicators for this series. Joshua is no exception. Every way we turn the message is "Consume more!". Joshua's simple yet powerful statements cut down any pro-consumption argument.

My favorites
“There is more joy to be found in owning less than can ever be found in organizing more.”
Reminds me of one of my coaching principles - "Focus on less rather than prioritize more"

and

Minimalism as ‘intentional promotion of everything I most value and the removal of anything that distracts me from it.’

These statements make one pause, reflect and then choose powerfully. Once we become conscious of the behavior we can change it. We also need a compelling argument for change. Joshua's language provides that argument.
Much Thanks!

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCameron Gott

" ... material possessions do not add lasting joy to our lives—even worse, they often distract us from the very things that do." << LOVED this! Never a more true statement. Having less often means less to do, less to maintain, and less to worry about. I sometimes need to remind myself of this when I see a new gadget or tech tool that looks cool. =)

Owning less can also help us realize that we really do have more than enough to be happy and content.

Thanks for introducing us to Joshua, Linda. =)

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Lee

What an amazing group of voices! It's wonderful how much is resonating with you.

@Ellen- So true that the bottomline comes down to less = more. Thank you for the anniversary congrats on interview series. It's been so much fun!

@Leslie- You're going to LOVE Joshua's new book. I couldn't put it down once I began. I know you'll find strong connections between his ideas and the work your doing with families and students.

@Diane- I'm with you 100% on the gifts of doing and being together. Less stuff translates into deeper connections with our loved ones.

@Seana- You're so funny. Consider yourself introduced :) Love your "selected complexity" term and the purposeful way you choose what gets included in your life.

@Deb- What a powerful statement…"Owning less can also help us realize that we really do have more than enough to be happy and content." Know it's hard to resist those tech tools…especially as the author of your new ebook. Yet always worth asking: When is enough, enough?

Thank you all for being the awesome people that you are. Love the conversation!

January 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, Thanks so much for featuring Josh on your blog. I don't recall when I was introduced to his ideas, or by whom but I can tell you I have an appreciation for them.

I especially appreciate his description of minimalism as the ‘intentional promotion of everything I most value and the removal of anything that distracts me from it.’

What I so love about it, is that for me it takes the idea of minimalism beyond the boundaries of stuff. In this year, where I am minimizing my commitments I think I have found a new new mantra to add to my best practices as a reminder of what I am up to ~ "I am the commitment to the 'intentional promotion of everything I most value and the removal of anything that distracts me from it." Josh, thank you for sharing this. : )

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

I was a shopaholic, well, I am a shopaholic because same way an alcoholic never gets rid of the disease, shopaholics always must think in ourselves in the same terms. Now I'm not buying for impulse since 2010. At that time, I never thought my behavior was dragging me down until I realized how harmful was that from a financial perspective and most important for my mind and soul sake. I try to fill voids with stuff rather than fill them with experiences and joy for life. It was a mask, a happiness mask to cover my true dreams, my true desires and my true self. Now I learned that having stuff doesn't make you happy, stuff is a chain that prevents you from fly and see the world in all its splendor. I learned that having the things I really need and not the things tv tells me I need is the way to be more relaxed and happy because I found happiness within me.
As Joshua says minimalism is journey not a destination and de-owning things will lead us to look for happiness and balance within ourselves and not in things; at the end, the things are just that, things and have no souls or magic recipes to bring us joy, happiness or even make us feel loved, well is my point of view.
Surely I'll look for Joshua's book because minimalism is a journey I'll definitely take in my life.
Thanks Linda and thanks Joshua for sharing this interview with us, really enjoy it.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Linda thanks for introducing us to Joshua. Really wonderful process that he went through. I absolutely agree with his take on toys. Looking forward to this series Linda.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Dennis

It's a party. Love hearing your wonderful voices!

@Cam- Being the extraordinary coach you are, I am especially moved by your response to Joshua's ideas. He DOES make a compelling argument (rational & sensible one too) for change.

@Andrea- Sounds like the timing of yours and Joshua's ideas finding one another was just right. Love how you are adding something more to your "best practices" and "mantra." It's going to be an outstanding year for you! I know it.

@Nacho- Thank you for opening up and sharing your journey with us. It's a powerful one. Love what you said that things, "have no souls or magic recipes to bring us joy, happiness or even make us feel loved." We often are under the impression that "stuff" can bring joy, but instead discover the weight and burden of over-owning and taking us farther away from what's truly important.

@Melanie- Like you, I totally delighted in Joshua's process and take on toys. So excited to be at the start of our third season of this series. Many more inspiring conversations to come. Join us anytime!

January 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you so much for this interview, Linda. Joshua's ideas are powerful and inspiring!
What resonated most with me are Joshua's thought on not finding more storage solutions to things, but actually having less. We can spend a lifetime "managing" our things.
Personally, clutter problems happened to me when our twins were two and I found every inch of our small home taken over by toys and stuff, and a garage filled with bins "in case I needed for my future baby". That was the first time I decided to let go of most of it and felt an amazing feeling of freedom, while yes, going through those painful but needed questions he lists.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

I have less than 20 pages remaining and I don't want the newly released, Clutterfree with Kids to end. It's a fabulous book and this is a fabulous interview.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGeralin Thomas

This is a wonderful interview. The first time I heard of minimalism was when I started my organizing business and offered to help a friend's family in order to gain some hands-on experience. She told me they really didn't need help because they were lived a fairly minimalistic lifestyle. I was stunned. I'd never heard of anyone who didn't accumulate possessions, unless they were poor, which she wasn't. Since that time, I've made many changes in my own life - not to the point where I'd call myself a minimalist, but I'm definitely much choosier about what I buy.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

So happy you've joined the conversation! I always love hearing your ideas.

@Helena- As organizers we are always so excited for the latest, most clever storage container, but the idea of having "less," also means we might not even need those containers…or at least not as many. Love how you describe the feelings around letting go, "amazing feeling of freedom." Just beautiful.

@Geralin- Know just what you mean. I didn't want Joshua's book to end either. I really identified with his life philosophy of less stuff yielding more life.

@Janet- The ideas of minimalism keep showing up for me too. It's becoming more fascinating and compelling as I learn more. It certainly informs the work we do as organizers in so many ways. Love how the minimalist lifestyle you encountered has informed some of the changes you're made.

January 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

As a (visual) artist, one of the first things that comes to mind when I hear the term "minimalism" is a challenge most of my artist friends and myself face. It is this dichotomy of wanting & needing clean, blank spaces in which to create, and the practice of collecting (supplies / inspiration / art).

I'm often torn between the desire to streamline my spaces, but then once I have relinquished certain materials, not feeling as prepared or inspired to go back to making. Without having separate live/work spaces, do you have any suggestions for the want-to-be-minimalist artist?

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Samuels

@Ellen—I agree entirely. We don't even realize how much weight and burden our possession become. Their impact is very subtle…but begins to build. Because we add them slowly, the burden just feels like a new normal (or how it is always going to be). We don't experience the freedom and don't recognize the full weight upon we start removing them.

@Leslie—Our society is one that rarely considers the benefits of owning less. I read recently that the average person sees 1million advertisements before their 20th birthday. And each one is designed to stir discontent and a desire for more. But when someone takes a step back and begins considering the obvious benefits of owning less (more time, money, energy, focus, freedom, opportunity), I think they are quickly recognized. We just need to give permission to people to own less.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua Becker

@Diane—Thanks for the comment Diane. Buy less stuff. Live more life.

@Seana—I live in Phoenix. Let me know when you are going to close.

@Deb—Concerning gadgets and technology, I think Patrick Rhone said it best when he said, "Always ask what problem does it solve?" In many ways, technology is wonderful and enhanced our lives. But other times, it clutters them up and steals more time than it offers. Patrick's thought-process of filtering every gadget/technology purchase through the filter of "Is this going to solve an existing problem?" keeps up from allowing technology to create more than it solves.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua Becker

@Andrea—I have found that intentionality in our possessions begins to force intentionality in others. If the goal of minimalism is to remove the items that distract us and keep us from worthwhile pursuits, at some point, we need to define what those pursuits are going to be. And when we discover them, the realization soon begins to impact other areas: time, relationships, commitments, even health.

@Nacho—Thank you for sharing your story with us. Stories have such a powerful opportunity to impact our lives when we can see ourselves in them.

@Melanie—Thanks. I go into a bit more detail in the book.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua Becker

@Helena—Organization is always, only, temporary in nature. By its very definition, organization as better storage solutions will always require additional attention. Someday, someone is going to move that items again (and if not us, someone else). On the other hand, removal is always permanent. Removing an item never has to occur again. And space begins to take its place. It's far better to de-own than declutter.

@Geralin—You are very kind. Thank you. I sure hope everyone reads far enough down this comment feed to notice it :).

@Janet—Minimalism is always going to look different from one person to another. We all have different passions and pursuits—and require different possessions to accomplish what we are designed/called to accomplish while here. I suppose that's why I love the word "Becoming" minimalist rather than "being minimalist." It's a constant journey of intentional refocusing.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua Becker

@Allison- Such an interesting question that you pose! How to reconcile the pull between clear space to work and enough of the "stuff" to inspire, while pursuing a minimalist approach to life. I'm guessing that ultimately, there will always be a certain amount of tension between those two. Minimalism, as Joshua defines isn't a matter of having a stark environment, it's about including just what you need and no more, so that the things of life don't distract from actually living it as you want. As I've had the pleasure of seeing you create since the time you were small, my observation of how you work is that the creative process involves "stuff" and mess, and lots of things around. But the at the beginning, there is clarity and "less," and also at the end. Perhaps the minimalism becomes for you a cycle, rather than a constant state of being.

January 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Joshua- You are the guest extraordinaire! Thank you for your thoughtful responses to everyone's comments.

What a staggering statistic you shared with Leslie that people see 1 million advertisements before their 20th birthday. No wonder the quest for more, better, and bigger is so pervasive.

Also, like your point to Helena about organizing vs. removal. Organizing will have to occur again in some form because the items will need to be handled in the future. Removal, as you said is permanent. Space is reclaimed.

January 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Has the minimalist discussion prompted the most comments? Seems like it.
Lovely irony. The passion of comments leaps off the "page."

Two favorite points: (1) boundaries around toys and teaching kids about psychological/relationship boundaries. Such an important skill and sense to teach younger people. (2) processing emerging feelings- so important to pay attention to this as you let go of things. Great to see this acknowledged in print.

Thank you both for this gift today.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Hey Sue- Commenting numbers are certainly high. And that IS funny based on the topic. However, I'm not surprised either. The minimalist movement is so closely aligned to both the organizing and coaching industries that I can see why there is so much excitement and "leaping off the page" passion coming through in this conversation.

As always, love your ability to take it all in and distill down to the essence. One of your many gifts. Keep 'em coming!

January 29, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Wow...what a great exchange...so happy I stopped by! As both my children have left the nest (at least temporarily) for college, I am entering that new phase of downsizing. It's astounding to me how much "stuff" we have accumulated over the past 21 years in our home. Frankly, it's overwhelming. I plan to read your book, Joshua, for inspiration on divesting myself of "stuff." Thank you, Joshua and Linda.

January 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShar Bass

Shar- New phase. New thoughts. Especially during transition times, it gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate. Children moving on is one of those times. You're in for a treat, when you read Joshua's book. I know you'll be inspired and encouraged by him as you divest yourself of the "stuff." Lovely to have you here. I always enjoy our conversations together be it virtually or in-person.

January 31, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

What a wonderful and treasure-filled conversation. Thank you Linda and Joshua! I love Joshua's definition of minimalism and the distinction he makes between living with less vs. giving up everything.

I remember one Father's Day, years ago, we returned home to a minor disaster in the basement. A pipe had burst and just about everything that was stored in the basement was destroyed. After dealing with the pipe, I went downstairs to evaluate the damage.

When I moved to the US from Greece I brought with me things that, back then, were important to me but as their usefulness diminished I stored them. A lot of what was stored in the basement were things I no longer used but was hesitant to let go of. I was afraid to let go of the physical reminders of a past long gone.

It was indeed time to let go but since I wasn't strong enough, life took care of it. We spent the next three days emptying the basement and with each item that went, I became lighter and lighter. Yes, I could let go of the stuff because the memories that truly mattered and supported my growth were still with me.

So much of what Joshua talks about is what I try to live my life by. And yes, living an uncluttered life is a journey not a destination and therein lies its beauty.

Thank you again you two! xoxo

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Yota- What an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing your journey around letting go, feeling lighter, and how the basement flood incident influences and informs your decisions… A journey, not a destination. Just lovely.

February 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Love the focus on what is gained by minimalism. So often the focus on what we give up can create anxious reaction. Some of my clients have talked about their ideal space being like a vacation cottage: just enough to be comfortable and not too much as to be taxing.

February 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Lee

Denise- Thank you for bringing the positives or "gain" to the table. You're so right that even saying, "letting go" or "giving up" can cause anxiety. If instead we stay benefit-focused, that shift in perspective and transformation is possible.

I had a similar conversation with a client recently who was struggling with overwhelm because of having too much "stuff" to manage. She realized that when she travels and has "less," she's not only fine, but much happier.

February 5, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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