This article was written for the blog that I run with my friend Olivia (originally posted on April 2020). But the content translates so I am cross posting it here.
I was on Libby (the best app in the world to consume ebooks or audiobooks) looking for something to read and decided on The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker. I’ve seen some of his YouTube videos before and decided to give it a borrow.
I personally don’t love his videos. I find him a bit preachy and he talks too slow. So, I was expecting to have bunch of content for the blog, because I expected lots of things to complain about. Because Annoyed/Angry Zoe is the only Zoe that can write articles.
But spoilers: it’s chill. The book was much better than expected.
So let’s get into it.
Joshua Becker is an American author. He has written 5 books about Minimalism, this one being his most recent. Prior to getting into Minimalism in 2008, he was pastor in Vermont. He now runs his website and YouTube channel about Minimalism, as well as being a contributing writer for Forbes. Apart from that, he is a Sagittarius, a father and runs a non-profit that helps foster orphans.
Now that I’ve summarized his Wikipedia page for you, let’s get into summarizing the book for you.
The Minimalist Home is actually a pretty digestible and newbie-friendly book. The book is separated by room, with some interesting facts about clutter and usage in that room (ex: the average kitchen has 330 different items. So including duplicates/sets, it can be over 1000 items). He covers the history of his own decluttering process and there’s also testimonials from other people. These were really a hit or miss. Some of the testimonials/anecdotes added a different perspective or were sweet stories, while others were just bragging and annoying.
Next, there’s a step-by-step list on how to go through the room. Which, after the first few chapters, makes you notice that the steps are pretty much always the same.
The Becker Method goes for the room-by-room approach rather than item category like clothes or books (aka the KonMari Method from Marie Kondo). I think the Becker Method makes more sense, especially if this is the first time you’re decluttering.
If you’ve ever watched people do the KonMari of pilling all their clothes on their bed, you’ll see how they look like they just died inside. This book doesn’t encourage any of that kind of attitude. The KonMari method might make more sense as a second pass when you can more easily tell if you have the same things in multiple locations.
The first step of the Becker Method is pretty much always to tidy up and remove all the stuff that doesn’t belong in that area. After that, you basically go through and decide what you’re using or lines up with how you want the space to be used.
Overall, I found that this book was a quick read. There were some things that I didn’t like, such as encouraging me to Tweet passages that I found inspiring with suggested hashtags. Having hashtags really dates the text; and to be honest, I skipped over it every time it popped up in the book.
I also found the book to be a bit patronizing at times; although not as much as the second half of Goodbye Things. This is most likely due to his background of being a pastor, but his push towards altruism and community service became a bit annoying. He only mentioned God twice if I recall correctly, but was never pushing his beliefs on the reader. It was just an underlying theme that after you declutter you need to do something to serve the community with your new found time.
In the office section, he doesn’t understand the idea of people playing games on their computer. The dude is 45, he knows that video games exist, and is pretty condescending to dismiss them as something that people enjoy playing and would want to spend their free time pursuing. He also makes many comments at his kids’ expenses about trying to get them away from screens and play outside.
Nearly every single Minimalist I know in real life is a massive gamer; they seem to understand the concept of the movement in a way that I haven’t been able to achieve. For example, they don’t buy a million gaming chairs, they do some research and buy one really good one. Or the one PewDiePie owns… But in general, they only own the physical items they want and/or use.
Anyways, now that I went off a really weird tangent… that was all to say that Becker’s personal philosophies are not to my taste, but the actual Becker Method outlined in the second part of this book is really clear and easy to follow. It’s great if you are a bit overwhelmed or are looking for inspiration for Spring Cleaning or getting ready for Yard Sale Season (jk… it’s 2020… yard sales aren’t happening this year).
The last part of the book was for after you’ve decluttered and it mainly focuses on maintenance (aka just putting stuff away when you’re done with them). The second main topic of this section is a large push toward downsizing your home. This part was definitely the most unrelatable portion of the book for me, as a childless renter living with my roommate in a 900 sqft apartment (which is actually quite large for the city).
He talked about the money you’ll save from lower maintenance costs and less gas/electric to heat the house. He also mentions that in 2017, the average mortgage of a home was around $1000. That sentence made me so upset. I wish I could mortgage a full ass house for around $1000 per month. Some of the cheapest places ‘near me’ would be about $1,300 per month and a 1.5-2 hour drive (each way) from my work. That’s without including the mortgage insurance, property taxes and other monthly expenses. I do understand that it’s an average and not the mode of mortgages. Long story short, I got heated because I started thinking about the housing crisis.
Overall whole last part of the book was really tone-deaf, like when he mentioned renting, he makes it sound like it’s something people are choosing to do and not the only option they have for a variety of reasons that I don’t want to get into because it makes me sad and angry. Becker seems to have come from a place for privilege and has been very fortunate in life. He does seem to use that privilege to help others, but there are many moments throughout the book where his limited perspective weakens his message.
Ultimately, would I recommend this book? If you live in a house, this book makes a lot of sense. If you live in an apartment/condo, most of this won’t apply to you. I would say to give it a flip through if you can get it at the library. Then probably skip part 3, my eyes were glazing over for the majority of the time as it’s just a Gen Xer mansplaining homeownership and what it’s like to have goals and aspirations.
I do know I’m not the target demographic for this book, but on the other hand, this book didn’t make my life worse. Especially in the first half of the book and with the checklist format for the Method makes it easy to follow if you wanted to go through your home and declutter.