How to Get Clutterfree…With Kids

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1. Family Law Tip of the Week

2. How to Get Clutterfree with Kids

Joshua Becker is one of the world’s “thought leaders” when it comes to minimalism. He is also the founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist. In today’s episode of the Family Law Insider, Joshua talks with us about his recently released book: Clutterfree with Kids.


“Stuff” is Taking Us Away From What Matters Most


Joshua’s story began one day while cleaning the garage. His son was playing ball in the backyard alone while Joshua worked all day. In the midst of his de-cluttering, Joshua and his neighbor struck up a conversation. The neighbor mentioned (about Joshua’s cleaning),


“That’s why my daughter is a minimalist. She keeps telling me, ‘I don’t need to own all this stuff.’”


That moment is when Joshua realized everything he owns wasn’t adding happiness to his life; it was distracting him.


Just start with your own stuff


Couples run into problems when it comes to dealing with the other’s clutter. It’s always easier to see someone else’s clutter than it is to see your own. Find some shared areas that you agree need to be de-cluttered. Take steps forward in that way.


Two Things


“I blame advertising, a lot.”


They say we’ll be happier if we buy what they’re selling, and we start to buy into it. No one really thanks they’re going to be happier because they buy a lot of stuff, but we’ve been told that lie so many times that we start to believe it. Joshua thinks we live in a very consumer-focused society.


Joshua also thinks that internally, there’s a piece of us that gravitates towards selfishness and greed. History tells us the tendency of humans: To want more and more stuff and more and more things.


“Those two things come together and lead us down this road.”


Kids See This And Pick Up On It


“Our discontent is evident in our excess.”


Kids see their parents wanting new things and buying new things. Because of our disposable income, most of us are trying to satisfy our discontent by buying something else. We feed into that with our kids, too.


We don’t want them to be bored, and we want them to keep up with the kids down the street, so we buy them things. Suddenly, they see that this is how it works: When they want something, they go get it, and they don’t even question some of their assumptions they’re making in that area.




When you look at different income levels and different social classes, a lot of the people who come from a families who doesn’t have as much as some of the others come to understand what they can and can’t have. Some of them handle that okay, and some of them really get jealous and struggle with it.


“I think it’s good for kids to see boundaries.”


By example, Joshua and his wife’s daughter has a closet in which she can have as many toys as she can fit into it. Once the closet is overflowing, they go through it and find some things to get rid of. Joshua believes it’s good for kids to know that space, money, and time are limited, and that just getting more and more isn’t the answer. He thinks boundaries  set up a good framework for children going forward for life.


There Are A Lot Of Benefits To Living a Minimalist Life


“One of the greatest ones is we find intentionality…”


When Joshua asks people, “How would your life look better if you owned less stuff?” they start rattling off with “less cleaning,” “less time that you have to take care of your stuff.”


Minimalism gives us more time  because we’re spending less time taking care of our things. We have more money available to us because we’re not spending it on physical possessions. We acquire more time, money, energy, clarity, and focus. There are less things fighting for our attention and less things that are distracting us from “real” stuff that’s going on.


We find more freedom and less stress.


Once Joshua became very intentional about the things he owned, this intentionality began to spill over into other things in his life. He started being more intentional about the food he puts in his body, along with whom he spends time. Minimalism has the power to refocus our intentionality in a lot of ways.




“Let me model this. Here’s the changes that we’re making, and here’s why we’re doing it.”


One of the reasons why Joshua pursued minimalism was to focus more on relationships and make them a higher priority. Not just in his own family, but in his neighborhood.


There’s a lot of people who think, “if I reject consumerism, then my consumeristic friends are going to reject me.” Joshua doesn’t see that to be true in his own life. It’s part of the attitude that we take towards others in adopting a minimalist lifestyle. We shouldn’t be judgmental and bash others, even if they don’t choose minimalism.


Joshua got introduced to minimalism by his neighbor. Now, he lives in a way that introduces others to it. Ultimately, he thinks others will start to see some of the benefits of the lifestyle.


The distinction between financial success and significance


“We live in a world that exalts financial success.”


Financial success and significance are not necessarily polar opposites, but they can become polar opposites. Achieving financial success tends to be defined as the pinnacle of our lives, so people begin pursuing and chasing it. They want to be successful at work, they want to get a pay raise, and they want to get a promotion that leads to more money.


Meanwhile, Joshua thinks there’s another road we can take. One that seeks contribution to other peoples’ lives. One that seeks to help people who need help or mentor people that need to be mentored. One that offers our skills not just because we can get money out of it, but because the world needs what we can offer.


“…[s]top for just a moment and think, ‘Wait! Am I sacrificing significance for the sake of success? Have I confused the two terms, in my life and in my pursuits?’”


For example, Joshua got an email from a mom about how she and her husband was chasing career after career. They’d achieved a certain level of financial success, but their 9-year old son told them one day, “Yeah, but mom and dad, you’re never home.” It struck them that they’d been chasing financial success at the cost of significance in their son’s life and significance in their family’s life.


Start Small


The mindset of “I didn’t collect all this in one weekend, so I’m not going to get rid of it all in one weekend” is a helpful place to start. No one gets up and knows what to do with everything in their home on the very first day. Start small.


We gain some victories, we gain some momentum, we start to see that we can do this and we get to the goal eventually. When you talk about de-cluttering, a lot of people throw up questions:


“What am I going to do with my sentimental valuables?”


“What am I going to do with my books?”


“What am I going to do with grandma who keeps giving gifts to her grandson?”


We always run to the hardest things. Don’t go there yet. Just start very easily.


The first thing Joshua did was to get rid of stuff in his car.


It’s an ongoing thing for sure


If we’ve reached a good baseline, a good spot where new things can come in that don’t seem overwhelming, after a little while, things begin to collect. That’d be the time to re-evaluate what you’ve got and make decisions over what is absolutely necessary.


Some Advice for People Going Through Divorce


For many people going through a divorce (and arguing over stuff), they are likely paying thousands of dollars (to an attorney) to fight over 10-year old Ikea furniture. In looking at this behavior of wanting to hold on to things, there’s probably a little bit of “I want it so they can’t have it,” “My identity is wrapped-up in this,” “I brought this into the marriage so I’m taking it out,” “I need these things to feel secure,” and, on top of that, “The more stuff I get out of this marriage, the happier I’m going to be on the other side.”


There may be other issues, too. However, Joshua’s advice is to study your emotions and your thought processes as to why you want the old, Ikea furniture. If you can at least articulate what some of those reasons are, then you’re freed up to remove them (assuming you want to remove them from the fight).


Joshua leaves us sharing an email he received.


“My husband lost his job 2 months ago. We know that our life is going to have to downsize. We won’t be able to afford the lifestyle that we had before. The way you talk about minimalism and the way you talk about the joys of owning less and how it actually frees us up to pursue other things has totally changed my view of my husband losing his job. Now it doesn’t have to be a bad thing that we’re downsizing. It could be a good thing. It could be a freeing journey that we’re going down.”


Joshua’s home base is at his website where he posts 2 or 3 times a week. Clutterfree with Kids, is available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and PDF.


For those interested in keeping a marriage strong, check out the chapter Joshua contributed to Tyler Ward’s Marriage Hacks, 25 Practical Ways to Make Love Last.

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