I would like to think every post I write and every radio segment I record is life-changing, I would sleep so great at night if it were true! But this past week I actually did record two radio segments that are legitimately life-changing. I know, bold statement. This week I interviewed Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist who, after a life-changing conversation with a neighbor in 2008, turned his life as a typical consumer-driven American around to become a minimalist. He’s great, these segments are great, you’ve got to listen to him describe his lifestyle change and all the amazing things it’s led to.
There is just so much in these segments I’m excited about. But first, let me introduce you to Joshua and his story. On Memorial Day in 2008, Joshua was cleaning out his garage while his son was out back swinging by himself. At one point Joshua’s neighbor came over and Joshua complained about how much work it is to take care for all his stuff and his neighbor said, “Well, you don’t have to own so much stuff.” This small comment was a transformative moment for Joshua. His son, who is Joshua’s first priority, was playing alone while he’s out front messing around with all their crap. It was so backwards. Joshua realized his priorities weren’t reflected in how he spent his time and money.
His story actually reminds me of a concept I use a lot. Most people say their #1 financial priority is their kids’ education/family’s needs, but if you look at your finances you’ll find you are actually spending the most on transportation/consumer debt/possessions. Life isn’t about money and it isn’t about possessions, and this is the realization Joshua had on that day. His family motto became, “Intentional promotion of everything we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” I told you this segment is gold.
To start on their minimalist journey, Joshua and his family started in an area with little emotional value. Starting with your boxes of childhood mementos isn’t a great idea, you’ll get stuck. Joshua started in his car. Cleaning and removing all the junk in his car (ketchup packets, CDs, etc) was easy because it wasn’t all that valuable to him. After the “easy” places were cleared they moved on to the harder areas like the kitchen. By being conscientious about what they actually used on a regular basis they were able to get rid of everything else.
The beauty of all this is the trickle down effect. Getting rid of stuff, whether you sell it, give it away, or trash it, means less distractions from family, friends, and other priorities. It also means you are going to spend less. The more stuff you own means more money and time spent repairing, cleaning, and maintaining the things. For Joshua and his family the effects went even further. Previously living paycheck to paycheck their change in lifestyle meant they were living on less and Joshua was able to quit his job and move into a career as a speaker and writer on the topic he is most passionate about, minimalism. Sure this career paid less, but it didn’t matter because they no longer needed the extra money. Also, they bought a smaller house which meant less maintenance and repairs, and more time for family.
Are you on board yet? This is great stuff. It’s amazing how well it parallels with your personal finances. More stuff equals a bigger financial burden, less stuff equals a lighter load. The point of your life isn’t to accumulate more money and more stuff. You need to determine the point of your life, whether it’s family, travel, and/or charitable work, and from there use your money and possessions to help you work toward those goals. Money and possessions can help you with your priorities, but not if they are overwhelming you.
Loved this segment. Joshua’s a great guy with a brilliant mission. Definitely don’t forget to check out his amazing blog, Becoming Minimalist.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.