Editor’s Note: Popular minimalist blogger and author Joshua Becker provides methodical instruction on how to turn your home from a storage unit into a place of peace, contentment and purposeful living. His new book, The Minimalist Home, helps you to declutter your home and learn how to address the underlying issues that contribute to over-accumulation in the first place. We are delighted he provided us with more insight below!
Why did you write The Minimalist Home?
I’ve been writing my blog (Becoming Minimalist), teaching minimalism, and speaking about the joys of owning less at conferences around the world for a decade now. And I’ve seen repeatedly, more times than I can recall, that there is an almost magical effect when people right-size the quantity of their possessions—in the process, the people themselves are changed in positive ways. Owning less creates opportunity to live more. I wrote The Minimalist Home to give people a practical guide to help them experience that. At its best, minimalism is about transforming your home so you can transform your life.
What exactly do you mean by “minimalist”?
Maybe the first thing I should say is what I don’t mean by minimalist. I don’t mean a style of interior design or architecture. People often have a misperception that minimalism is a style of home, usually a white boxy house with almost nothing in it—and if you do happen to find a chair or a sofa somewhere, it’s going to be both really expensive and really uncomfortable.
People also sometimes think of minimalism as a kind of doing without extremism—that they’ll have to get rid of everything and live in a tiny home or wander the world living out of a backpack. I’m not talking about that either.
The way I define it, minimalism is simply the intentional promotion of things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them. Minimizing is actually optimizing—reducing the number of your possessions until you get to the best possible level for you and your family. I often tell people it’s a makeover you can do on your own just by getting rid of stuff.
Minimizing an entire home sounds like a lot of work. Any advice for how to keep from getting overwhelmed?
In the book, I have specific guidelines for each room of the house, but the first step is the same for every room—identify the goals you have for that room. What do you want that room to accomplish? It’s important to be clear about your goals because your goals become your guidelines. You use them every time you ask, “Do I really need this?”
For example, in the master bedroom, does the television on the dresser promote rest or intimacy, or does it detract from these goals? In the kitchen, does the drawer crammed with specialty kitchen gadgets help you to cook meals without a lot of fuss, or frustrate you when you can’t find what you need? Do the stacks of paper, mail, and file folders on your home office desk help you to feel focused and productive or distracted and avoidant?
Having clear goals reduces the stress because it makes decisions like these so much easier. You can also keep things from being overwhelming by enlisting help—make it a family project, if you live with family members, or ask a friend to join you. And have fun with the process. It doesn’t have to be drudgery if you celebrate your progress and focus on the benefits as you go.
In the book, you talk about the difference between minimalism and mere tidying up. Could you explain that for our readers?
There’s nothing wrong with tidying up, it just doesn’t achieve the objective of a minimized home. A minimized home is fundamentally purposeful. It’s not just about freedom from clutter; it’s also about freedom for a better life. Just because a room is tidy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s uncluttered or serves its purpose.
What are some of your practical how-tos for minimizing a room?
Probably the biggest one is to be methodical. Here are the steps I recommend:
- Start with easier spaces and then move on to harder ones.
- Handle each object and ask yourself, Do I need this?
- For each object, decide if you’re going to relocate it, leave it where it is, or remove it. If you’re going to remove it, decide if you’re going to sell it, donate it, trash it, or recycle it.
- Finish each space completely before moving on to the next.
- Don’t quit until the whole house is done.
In The Minimalist Home, I talk more about how to develop goals, navigate relational issues, and tackle the unique challenges of different rooms, but these are steps anyone can do, and they pretty much summarize my strategy for minimizing a home with purpose.
Any closing words of encouragement for the would-be minimizers out there?
Yes! You can give yourself the dream house you’ve always wanted because you’ve already got it. It’s just hidden underneath all your stuff.
You don’t have to have an interior designer to create a house you love coming home to.
You don’t need a demo-reno team or real estate agent on your side.
You don’t need a big budget—or any budget, really—and the investment of time you make up front is something you will recoup many times over in years to come.
Don’t wait any longer to give your home the makeover it deserves.
Joshua Becker is the founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist, a website and blog that inspires more than one million readers each month to find more fulfillment in life by owning less. He is the co-founder of the popular digital publication Simplify Magazine and the bestselling author of several books, including The More of Less and Clutterfree with Kids. He and his family live in Peoria, Arizona. Joshua’s new book, The Minimalist Home, is available on HPB.com and at Half Price Books stores while supplies last.