© Becoming Minimalist

Joshua Becker, author and minimalism guru, argues for the many benefits of raising kids in an uncluttered, simplified space.

The title of Joshua Becker’s book, “Clutterfree with Kids,” sounds like an oxymoron. Kids and clutter go together like cookies and milk. Add a child to the family and along comes a mountain of toys, diapers, laundry, and countless pairs of shoes. All efforts at minimalism seem to go out the window with kids, who seem to have a knack for spontaneously generating belongings.

As a mother who is increasingly interested in paring down my belongings, I was curious to read Becker’s book after seeing him in the Minimalism documentary. The founder of a successful blog called "Becoming Minimalist," Becker appeared to be a calm and collected father of two school-aged kids, self-described as “your average American family, minus the dog and the stuff.” Could it be true? I ordered his book from the library to find out.

The book is a short and simple 200-page read, divided into three parts. The first section deals with the philosophy behind minimalism and how crucial it is to change your mindset before purging belongings. Organizational skills will not solve a ‘stuff’ problem, Becker argues; we’ll merely find ourselves rearranging within a few days. The key is to own less.

The second section contains practical advice for decluttering with kids, based on real-life stories – how to reduce or manage the number of toys, clothes, artwork, sentimental items, photos, baby items, and collections in the house. Becker makes it clear that the goal is not always to get rid of stuff, but to know how to handle it. Kids benefit from having toys and personal collections, and minimalist parents should not take that pleasure away from them; however, healthy limitations can be applied.

The final part of the book digs deeper into how to maintain momentum, how to work with a reluctant spouse, how to save money (hint: tailor your lifestyle to a single income and save the second), and, most interestingly, how to raise kids who are conscious consumers. Much of Becker’s outreach work focuses on working with teenagers, which he sees as crucial to breaking the cycle of consumerism:

“There are significant challenges in reaching teenagers with the message of simplicity. The world around them grows increasingly materialistic. Teenagers value acceptance and conformity with their peers. Advertisers target their message to the young adult demographic…. But we find great motivation by also recognizing the benefits of reaching teenagers with this message.”

These benefits are that teenagers are not yet in debt, “held captive under the weight of creditors,” nor are their spending habits formed. “They are definitely being shaped, but not yet fully determined.”

I enjoyed the book, though it was repetitive at times and a bit too heavy on the intentional parenting side of things. I expected more of a cleaning-type book than a parenting philosophy one, but I suppose that Becker’s right when he says it goes hand-in-hand with decluttering. One does need to embrace the mentality for lasting success.

Clutterfree with Kids: Change Your Thinking, Discover New Habits, Free Your Home was published in 2014. You can order it on Amazon.