story behind the book | kate tuttle

Decluttering expert Joshua Becker is here to clean house

david wilson for the boston globe

One Memorial Day weekend more than a decade ago, Joshua Becker and his wife were doing spring cleaning. A neighbor doing yard work watched him pull everything out of his garage and mentioned that her daughter was into minimalism. “I remember looking at the pile of things in my driveway,” Becker said, “and then I could see my five-year-old son swinging alone on the swing set in the backyard.”

Becker suddenly realized that his possessions weren’t making him happy. Not only that, “All the things I owned were taking me away from the very thing that did bring me happiness and love – and not just happiness, but joy and purpose and significance and meaning and fulfillment.”

He started a blog that Monday, writing about his personal quest to remake his home and life. Eleven years later, he’s published five books on the subject, the most recent of which is “The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life.”


Minimalism isn’t a one-size-fits-all philosophy. “What minimalism looks like is different from one person to the next,” Becker said. “The book is very purpose-based and it encourages people to think through, ‘What is my purpose in life?’ And then to ask, ‘What is the purpose of my home?’” Focusing on the life we want to live can help break the grip of too many possessions. 

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“We live in a culture and society that praises excess,” he added. “You’ve got marketing and advertising messages everywhere you turn, and they’re all telling us that we’ll be happier if we buy their product. These external forces seem to feed into that inner discontent we have. And it leads to a life where we're spending our money and time on things that don't actually matter.” 

Becker reads Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Brookline Booksmith.

Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at