The power of saying no: why parents should embrace minimalism


Joshua Becker, creator of, and husband and father of two, recalls the moment, back in 2008, that changed his life.

He was busy cleaning his garage, but his son, then 5, wanted him to play. Becker felt compelled to finish the job first.

Hours went by as he and his neighbour joked about the work required to maintain a home. The neighbour mentioned to Becker how her daughter, a minimalist, had told her she didn’t need to “own all this stuff.”

When Becker heard this, he looked at his overflowing driveway and his son playing by himself.

“Everything I owned wasn’t making me happy, but even worse, everything I owned was actually taking me away from the very things that did bring happiness and purpose to my life.”

So began the Becker family’s journey into minimalism and “saying no” to buying, storing, cleaning and organizing unnecessary things.

Getting rid of everything they didn’t need quickly brought unexpected benefits like more time, energy, money, and freedom as well as gratitude for what they did have, he says.

Becker defines minimalism as “intentionally owning less stuff, so that we have more time and energy and money for the things that actually matter.”

And he says minimalism has made him a better parent. “I became a better example for my kids about what is important.”

He has tips for parents who want to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle.

Start with this question: “I want to own less so that …” Typical responses might include: spending less time cleaning and more with family, reducing a hectic schedule, or eliminating debt.

And he suggests parents start with their possessions.

“It’s unfair for any mother or father to expect our kids to start giving up a lot of their things unless the parents have already done it with their own things first.”

Minimalism, like any other value, requires that parents “model it, encourage it and try to look for opportunities to talk about it.”

Parents should look for early successes by de-cluttering their easiest place, such as a drawer, living room or car. When you’re done, he says, “notice how that room feels” and “use that momentum to tackle harder places.”

“People just have no idea how much of their time and energy is being consumed by their possessions until they begin to remove them.”

And in his books, Becker argues that a minimalist lifestyle is more than just getting rid of things.

By saying no to consumerist and busy lifestyles, he writes, we can say yes to using our time and energy for family, self-care and pursuing our passions.

Joshua Becker is the author of The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own and Clutterfree with Kids. The Becker family was also featured recently in the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.