A skeptic’s guide to minimalism – In which we grill a minimalist guru


Minimalism, or the concept of ‘living with less,’ can be intimidating and hard to grasp. The word brings to mind images of monks and bare rooms, none of which the average person aspires to become or own. But experts say minimalism can be tailored to just about every lifestyle. Joshua Becker, a modern minimalist guru, is on a quest to debunk the myths around this movement.

I played devil’s advocate and asked him some challenging questions to test his arguments. Responses were edited for space and clarity.

  1. What’s the difference between minimalism and decluttering?

There are many similarities. Both include removing excess possessions and choosing to live with less. Decluttering is about removing the things we don’t want, while minimalism is about discovering how little we actually need.The greatest freedom is found not in simply decluttering, but in fashioning a new life around greater pursuits than material possessions.

  1. What if I don’t wanna get rid of 60% of my stuff like you did?

Well, then you don’t have to. Everything we own burdens our lives a little bit and every increased possessions adds anxiety onto our lives. The things we own require time, effort, energy and money to clean and organize and maintain and repair and replace. And most people do not fully recognize the burden that their possessions have become until they begin to remove them.

  1. I just don’t see how can downsizing a shoe collection or the kids’ toys can have a tangible impact on my life. Are there any studies backing this up?

I once received an email from a lady who asked a similar question. She said, “I just don’t understand how having an extra set of dishes in my basement is harming my life.” My response to her” “If the only thing in your basement is an extra set of dishes, removing them probably won’t impact your life much. However, most people have more than an extra set of dishes in their basement. They have boxes and boxes of stuff in their basement.. and in the closets… and in the garages… and their cabinets and drawers. And it is the cumulative effect of all these possessions is keeping us from freedom and our greatest passions in life.”

What kind of studies are you looking for exactly? Studies about how our houses are 300% larger than 50 years ago and still 10% of us rent offsite storage. Or how the self-storage industry is that fastest growing segment of commercial real estate in our country?

  1. I am not into the who “meditation-mindfulness-zen life” shebang nor am I religious. Can I still do it?

Oh, heavens yes! The notion of owning less and living more attracts people from every background and worldview. Some people embrace minimalism so they can incorporate more of the meditation, mindfulness, zen, and spirituality into their lives; but not everyone does. You get to decide what you do with your excess time and energy and focus.

  1. Do I need to give up my hobbies and the tool or gear that comes with those? Baking/biking/sculpting.

Definitely not. Some even embrace minimalism in the other things that they own precisely so they can do more of their favorite hobby! Think of it this way, if you’re buying less junk, you can spend more on the hobbies and pursuits that do bring joy and value into your life.

Minimalism isn’t about sacrificing the life you want. Just the opposite, it’s about removing distractions so you can fully embrace the life you want.


 Most people do not fully recognize the burden that their possessions have become until they begin to remove them”




  1. I’m afraid people might think I’m weird.

In a society built on consumerism, minimalism is countercultural, for sure. But it’s counter-cultural in a good way. As you begin owning less and experiencing the benefits of more time, more money, more energy, you’ll find people asking you how they can experience what you are experiencing.

  1. I have a big family. There’s no way I can get everyone on board.

Children may make minimalism more difficult, but they also make it more important.

Kids watch us. And if they see us as parents focused intently on buying more and more and never finding contentment in our circumstances, they will have a harder time breaking the cycle of consumerism in their lives as well.

  1. So how can a guy with over 50,000 followers on Twitter also be a minimalism wiz?

It would be a mistake to assume that minimalism needs to be applied in any and every regard.

In the same way, minimalism is not about removing ourselves from society. I think that each of us should be pursuing with passion the most significant life we are called to live. Some may measure that significance in terms of breadth (i.e. number of Twitter followers).

It’s a short-sighted application of minimalism to use it as an opportunity to remove myself from providing the greatest benefit that I can to the people around me.  

  1. Minimalism is for rich people.

Minimalism is essentially about buying and owning fewer possessions. You don’t need to be rich to own less — you need to be rich to own more. I think it is a lifestyle that holds benefit for all — regardless of race, religion, or social class.

  1. Minimalism makes me feel restricted.

Actually, just the opposite. Minimalism is about freedom. It is about removing the burden of unnecessary personal belongings precisely for the purpose of freeing up our lives to pursue other things — whatever we desire them to be. That’s not restriction. That’s freedom.

Snack On This:

Watch Becker explaining how minimalism can change our lives for the better.

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