If you saw Joshua Becker’s family on their way to school or church—mom, dad, and two kids—they’d look like a typical American family. And they mostly are. But six years ago, while cleaning their garage on a Saturday morning, a neighbor made an offhanded comment about a lifestyle called “minimalism” that would dramatically change the Beckers’ life. In 2008, the Beckers decided to embrace minimalism, which Joshua describes as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” These weren’t idealistic untethered 19-year-olds; these were adults with kids, a mortgage, and jobs.
We asked Joshua to fill us in on how this change impacted the family, and how we might learn more about nurturing generosity in our kids.
How did your children first respond to this lifestyle?
My son was 5 and my daughter was 2, so my son knew more about what was going on at the time, and he responded very favorably. . . . We started with our stuff first, but when we got to his things, he was ready and he was on board, loading up the van to take toys to kids who didn’t have any.
What does it look like for your kids today?
My son is now 12, and he is fine if he has a soccer ball, a scooter, and his friends down the street. That is all he needs. My daughter is 8, and she is much more of a collector. She likes dolls and clothes and arts and crafts. So she brings that personality into our family—which gives me the opportunity for patience and grace. I try to remember I was a collector when I was 8 years old, and if it took me 33 years to figure this out, why should I expect her to understand everything at the age of 8? So that helps a lot.
Is there a connection between generosity and rejecting consumerism?
What I find is the removal of materialism and removal of consumerism just allow us to pursue happiness wherever we think we are going to find it. Some people start traveling the world. Some people retire early. Some people build up a huge savings account. I think all of those things are shortsighted.
I believe most people want to be generous. I don’t think I have ever talked to somebody who said, “No, I don’t want to be known as a generous person.” We all want to be generous, but we don’t even realize how the consumerist bent we have within us is the one thing keeping us from becoming what we actually want to be and what we actually want to do with our money and with our lives—which is God’s will here as it is in heaven.
How do we become more generous?
I always encourage families who are beginning the process of minimizing possessions to donate as much as they can—especially if they don’t need the money. Donating goods is always less burdensome than trying to sell them. We donated a lot of maternity and baby things to our local crisis pregnancy center and gave away most of our household items to a local refugee resettlement charity.