'The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life' by Joshua Becker (Book Review)

©. Penguin Random House (used with permission)

Becker's latest work is not only a how-to guide, but an invitation to reevaluate all aspects of your life.

Six months ago I received a message from Joshua Becker, asking if I would consider reading his newest book and writing an endorsement for it. As a fan of Becker's influential blog, Becoming Minimalist, I did not hesitate at the chance to get a sneak preview of his latest project.

The e-book arrived shortly after, titled, "The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life." My initial reaction was skepticism. A step-by-step guide to decluttering? Hadn't this been done a hundred times before? I wondered what Becker could possibly add to a basic process that, I thought, amounted to little more than "see, grab, toss." I shouldn't have underestimated him. As usual, Becker has managed to tackle a subject that is deceptively simple and then reveal the deep complexity within it – the very same complexity that makes it so incredibly hard for people to let go of their stuff.

In the first chapter he outlines 'the Becker method' for decluttering. His focus is on the home as a whole, which requires family participation, so the entire process needs to begin with a group discussion. Together you set goals for your home and life and talk about how minimizing will help you get there. The actual process of decluttering is straightforward. Becker recommends holding each item (reminiscent of Marie Kondo) and asking, "Do I need this?" Crucial to this process is not stopping: "Don't quit until the whole house is done." Becker offers a list of rooms and spaces in order from easiest to hardest to declutter.

Subsequent chapters focus on specific rooms and how to tackle the clutter commonly found there. Becker uses these chapters to explore other related topics in more depth, such as embracing green DIY cleaners for the bathroom, the problem of fast fashion and the practicality of capsule wardrobes, creating a bedroom that's conducive to sleep, managing the influx of gifts, and which kitchen tools are essential.

Becker addresses the issue of landfills, which will be of particular interest to TreeHugger readers. Often, when I'm doing a closet purge, I'll find something that's too shabby to donate, impossible to recycle, and yet I don't want to throw it in the trash, so I push it back into the closet, which is not a good solution. Becker's words felt liberating:

"The undeniable fact is that every object in your home already exists. The resources have already been pulled out of the earth and manufactured into something. If you can't recycle it, presumably it's never going to become usable raw materials again. So then the question becomes, Where is it going to exist? It is already taking up space somewhere on planet Earth, namely inside your home. If you send it to the landfill, it will be taking up an equal amount of space in a location that the authorities in your area have designated for disposal and are managing in a way designed to protect the public well-being."

The wiser choice is to get rid of it, free your home and mind from its burden, and learn the associated lesson.

Becker's book is so much more than a decluttering guide. It could almost be categorized as a wellness/lifestyle read in the way it convincingly relates mental health, time management, parenting, and the pursuit of dreams and goals to getting rid of superfluous stuff. It is practical and inspiring. I said it in my endorsement and I'll say it again:

"His enthusiasm is addictive; it's impossible to read this book without tackling your own home – and then you won't want to stop, because as your rooms open up, so will your entire world."

You can buy "The Minimalist Home (US$19.99) in various locations.