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Remove, focus, thrive: Minimalism expert coming to Halifax this week

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Joshua Becker might be the world’s most famous minimalist, but that doesn’t mean his house is empty, bleak and totally lacking in personality.

“It’s all about removing what we don’t need so we can focus on what we do want to do,” explains Becker, the best-selling author of Simplify and The More of Less, and founder of the Becoming Minimalist online community.

“The goal isn’t to own as few things as possible. It’s to be able to have the space and time to focus on what you’re passionate about.”

As a writer who makes his living online, Becker says he invests in an excellent computer and spends more than the average person on gadgets like phones, cameras and microphones.

He has friends who own very little clothing and housewares but have an extensive collection of biking gear because they love cycling. Crafters don’t have to give up their collection of tools and supplies, but may find themselves dramatically paring down their kitchens and bedrooms.

Becker believes society’s “incessant pursuit of accumulating items” is distracting us from what actually matters in life, and the things that truly bring us happiness.

“Our possessions take up our time, our energy, our space and our money. They’re a distraction, they bring stress into our lives and they become a burden,” says Becker. “Owning less stuff frees up our life for other things.”

Becker will be travelling from his home in Phoenix, AZ to Halifax this week to share more about his minimalist lifestyle. He’s going to be the keynote speaker at the Nova Scotia Mobius Awards of Environmental Excellence, hosted by Divert NS, which will take place on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.

Winners will include G-Man Waste Removal in Millbrook (2018 Small Business of the Year), IKEA Halifax (2018 Large Business of the Year), YACRO Social Enterprise The Store Next Door in Yarmouth (2018 Community Project of the Year), Department of National Defence, 14 Wing Greenwood (2018 Institution of the Year), Oberland Agriscience (2018 Innovator of the Year), Kate Pepler of Halifax (2018 Emerging Environmental Leader) and Gert Sweeney of Cape Forchu (2018 Hall of Fame).

The Mobius Awards recognize and celebrate Nova Scotia’s environmental champions from businesses, government, academics and communities across the province. Divert NS CEO Jeff MacCallum says “reducing” is this year’s theme.

Becker says he became interested in minimalist living because he felt his possessions were pulling him away from his family — and the places where he found happiness and purpose — but says he now sees the environmental benefits as well.

“I’m purchasing less, so I’m consuming less on the front end and have less to discard on the back end,” says Becker. “I never want people to look at it like they’re sacrificing joy in order to consume less to help the environment. There are very practical reasons to how owning less will make your life better today, on a personal level, as well as a global level.”

Sometimes when people think about minimalism, Becker says they immediately think, “Oh, I could never part with my books!” or what an overwhelming task it would be to tackle their messy basement. He believes it’s best to start with easy, winnable steps.

“Start in your car by removing all of the junk you don’t need, and you’ll feel great the next time you get in,” says Becker. “When you start small, you build up your motivation to conquer larger areas.”

He also doesn’t believe parents should start with their kids’ toys, no matter how many dolls and LEGOs are driving them crazy.

“Parents need to tackle their own stuff before asking their kids to do the same, but it’s an incredibly important lesson for kids to learn,” says Becker. “Kids need to learn about boundaries — that we all have limited time, money and space, and it’s what we choose to do with our time, money and space that makes a big difference in how we lead our lives.”

His own children are 12 and 16, but they were just two and five when he started his minimalism journey, and he’s written an entire book on children and minimalism, Clutterfree with Kids.

“If you’re a single 23-year-old, it’s pretty easy to practise minimalism. It’s more difficult when you have a family, but I’d argue it’s also more important,” says Becker. “There are so many more things that require your time and attention, as opposed to focusing on accumulating stuff and caring for stuff.”

He’ll be talking to his audience in Halifax about the simple ways he and his family have been changing their lifestyle over the last 10 years, like giving away one item every day, halving decorations, managing junk mail, storing toys and clearing flat surfaces.

He’s in the middle of walking about 10,000 people through an online course on minimalism, which includes weekly challenges like walking around the house and not stopping until you’ve filled a bag. He says one of the unexpected byproducts of minimalism is generosity, which is why there’s an emphasis on donating items you no longer need or want.

“It’s highly motivating for people to see how their excess can be a blessing to someone else,” says Becker. “Sometimes it’s exactly what you need to get started.”

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