Portland’s Simple Savvy Minimalist – RJ Dannemiller

I went to a fun Meet-up hosted by Northwest Veg where RJ Dannemiller was the speaker.  He told us about simple vegan meals, how to travel as a minimalist, and he even prepared a wonderful raw chocolate truffle for us!  Today I am fortunate to have time to chat with RJ from Simple Savvy Holistic Living and to find out more about him.

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RJ Dannemiller at Portland VegFest 2014

Kathy:  When did you first call yourself a minimalist?  RJ: I originally set out to call myself an “eco-concierge” about a year ago, but in fine tuning things in 2014, I realized I actually was a minimalist.  I see myself as a voice for the minimalist lifestyle.

What is the path that lead you to minimalism?  I grew up in Ohio on a dairy farm sharing a room with my brother.  It was on that farm that I acquired a love for nature and simplicity.  I’ve never owned a home by choice, in fact I’ve always lived in a studio or rented a room.  So in some ways this has been my life, my whole life.  Downsizing, de-cluttering, and organizing is something I am wired to do.  I climbed the career in higher education ladder and got promoted to a job that was all-encompassing and realized how stressful that life was, so I have actively worked to create a life that is more meaningful to me.  I’ve also made several moves and with each one, I’ve gotten rid of more and more stuff.  I’m still learning.

What is your educational background and experience?  I earned a master’s degree in sociology from The University of Toledo, worked over fifteen years in higher education and became a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner.  While in the field of higher education, I was a sociology instructor, academic advisor, administrator and disabilities services case manager.  Each of those roles, along with my own private consulting/coaching work and life experience (as well as my nature bent for organization) has given me significant insight into the human condition and related challenges.  This insight has given me a very unique perspective to become the minimalist lifestyle expert that I am today.

Tell me about your choice to be vegan.  The number one thing you can do to minimize your carbon footprint is to become vegan.  I’ve been vegan for a few years, after being vegetarian for five years and following a Mediterranean Diet most of my adult life.  Insomnia and some other minor health issues lead me to look at how to invest in my own health.  I also had a Dad and a step-brother die at age 53 from cancer.  That made me more aware of my own mortality and health and desires.  I attended a raw vegan support group in 2010 not intending to become one, but just for the support.  We had potlucks and shared information and had discussions as well.  Right now I’m about 95% raw vegan.

Does veganism and minimalism have any connection for you?  Absolutely.  When I went through the transition to vegan, I eliminated my health issues and have since experienced vibrant health and became more connected with my own inner self.  It’s made me more aware and with that minimalism has made sense for me.

What does your home look like?  I live in a one room apartment with a bed, refrigerator, some shelves, a sink and mirror, and a nice oriental wall hanging of the 5 elements.  I have a small rolling island with a blender, kitchen utensils, water filter, a closet with a big suitcase, my clothes on hangers and a couple of boxes.  There is no stove, which goes well with being a raw vegan.  I also keep some key items at my Mom’s back in Ohio such as a black suit, family photos, and a few important items.  What I own is so simple it fits on 3 index cards when I write small.  I also can be ready to move within about 20 minutes as I don’t own many material possessions; instead, I secure the money that I save in a my investment portfolio for my financial independence.

How many things do you own as compared to a non minimalist?  I was an image consultant in the past, so I’m pretty into clothes and shoes.  I sold almost all of that as my values shifted and I don’t miss it.  What I do have now are things that I love.  I shifted with my values and I love it.  I don’t own an ironing board, but I do have a traveling iron.  I don’t own a car or a bike.  In fact I sold my car at the price I was asking in cash the night before I left Ohio.  It was perfect timing which seems to happen often when you live from your values and trust the process.  I prefer walking versus biking.  I own some Keens shoes and Brooks walking shoes for all the walking I do.  While I don’t own much materially, I enjoy the freedom that it affords me.

What are some of the challenges of being a minimalist?  I want to get down to having all of my possessions fit into 1 backpack and 1 carry on bag.  I am moving towards that, so I can travel and be a digital nomad in the future.  Rolf Potts is famous for his book Vagabonding.  Potts is from Portland and I hope to run into him someday.  It’s about world travel as a minimalist.  He’s lived the life I aspire to.

What are the benefits you find in the minimalist life?  The benefits are having more time, money and energy which correlate with having more clarity, peace and joy.  My goal with clients is to inspire and empower them live purposeful intentional lives and it starts with me doing that for myself first.

I love that you work 3/4 of the year and have plans to travel each winter.  What do you hope to accomplish on your trip this winter?  I’ve been invited to celebrate my birthday, Christmas and New Years in Trinidad and Tobago where I served as a missionary 18 years ago.  I’ll be getting to meet all these wonderful people who were kids then, who are now married with children.  One of the boys who was 10 then, is picking me up at the airport at midnight.  I just love the graciousness and sincerity of the people there.  I’ve said, if I do ever get married, I plan to honeymoon on Tobago with my wife.  Who knows, I might meet her there.  In the meantime, I am enjoying this opportunity as well as going to South America.  My itinerary is not yet final, but I hope to see Chile and Patagonia.


Does your family understand the path you’ve chosen?  I feel like I am wired differently, so my siblings love me, but none of them want to live my life.  They respect me and are rooting for me.  They get the eco-piece as we share that interest, and they appreciate my health habits, preparing food for them and that I’m taking good care of my body.  They do however think I am extreme, while they also can see I’m happy when I’m living on purpose, and that I have a sense of fulfillment that shows.

Where do you see minimalism going in the next 2-5 years?  I think it’s a trend that’s going to continue.  Portland is a great example of leading the forefront on this.  I love the eco-villages that are popping up.  After attending an intentional community conference last Fall, I can see myself traveling around the world and then coming back to an intentional community.  I see more people adopting this lifestyle for different reasons, some it may be motivated by finances, others by the health benefits, and some just don’t buy the image of “bigger, better” and owning the most toys as being the one who “wins.”


How will you celebrate your 54th birthday, seeing how your father and step-brother did not live beyond age 53?   We’re not promised tomorrow.  I’m living my life this day, in this moment.  I often ask myself “If you had a year to live, is this the life you’d be living?” and right now my answer is “yes.”  Hopefully I can celebrate in some neat exotic place internationally with a wonderful group of people who celebrate me.


If you’d like to learn more about RJ Dannemiller and his business helping others move towards minimalism, visit him at http://www.simplesavvyholisticliving.com

A Simple Year Prepares to Celebrate it’s First Birthday!

I was fortunate to see a post last December that announced a new year-long course called A Simple Year.  It is all online and each month has a theme, such as January was all about clutter, March was about simple travel, and April was about how to simplify in our kitchens.  I can’t wait for December when we talk about how to simplify for the holidays!  We have monthly live webinars with the experts, short reading assignments, and simple engaging homework assignments that help us explore the topic at hand.  There’s even an online community via Facebook that one of the participants created for day-to-day questions and support.



Taking A Simple Year course has been one of my favorite things in 2014, so I set out to interview Courtney Carver, the person behind this great course.  Courtney Carver is the brainchild behind Project 333, the Be More with Less blog and several amazing Micro Courses.  She got into minimalism when a health challenge caused her to stop and assess how to reduce the stress in her life.  Less stress for Courtney looked like; a more whole foods diet, paying off her debts and moving from a 2,000 square foot home into a 750 square foot apartment.  I am really glad that Courtney is able to join us today!


Courtney Carver

Kathy:  Tell us about your course.  Courtney:  A Simple Year (ASY) is a year-long course about simplifying every aspect of life and work.  I wanted to create something that would support momentum and motivation for a simple life. So often we try something and then lose interest after a few weeks, but with A Simple Year, members can re-engage each month with a new topic.

How did you put the program together with topics and speakers each month?  I reached out to some of the best simplicity bloggers and authors and asked them to participate. We brainstormed topics and then each member created a month of written content, homework assignments (with surprises for completing) and hosted a live webinar for member questions.

Oh yes, I must say I love those surprises!  It’s fun to be rewarded for doing the assignments.  Those rewards help push me to get the assignments done sometimes when life gets busy.  

What do you see as the goal for ASY course?  My intention from the start was to make this a meaningful program for both members and contributors.

What is one of your favorite things about ASY so far?  My favorite thing with ASY and my other work is helping people and creating something where people can learn and engage at their own pace and comfort level. Some people love the live webinars, while others prefer to email questions or work on their own.

Where do you see minimalism going in the next 2-5 years?  Minimalism has been around for a long, long, time, but with more people realizing that they can create a minimalist lifestyle that works for them, instead of following a certain formula, I think more and more people will discover the benefits.

What is your biggest challenge with being a minimalist?  My biggest challenge is restraint. Living with less has come with so many positive benefits and I’d love to pare down even more.

How can I and others support you with sharing about ASY?  Testimonials from course members are so helpful. They really let people know what to expect and give them more information when they are considering the course.

One of my biggest changes from taking the course happens to be a very simple assignment that Joshua Becker gave us in the first week, which was to clear off the main surfaces in your home.  I cleaned off my kitchen table and entry table, so when I enter my home it was amazingly clean and un-cluttered.  That later inspired me to move furniture around a bit, so it totally opened up the room!  I will share that nothing on those surfaces looked a bit bare, so I now have a lovely Buddha and some inspiring cards for people to draw that provide a bit of personality.  But, that is the cool thing about minimalism, it doesn’t have to look a certain way.  This was a simple assignment that took all of 5 minutes, but it has become a way of living for me.  And because my home is now so serene and inviting, I have invited more people over to enjoy my home with me.  

I’m grateful that this hasn’t been a quick course where things might soon be forgotten.  It is a whole year of looking at your life and seeing how you can create a life that is intentionally what you want and less of what you don’t want.  That’s powerful!  

What would you like to see for ASY in 2015?  I hope we attract an engaged, vibrant, thoughtful community like we have in 2014.


Courtney Carver and Kathy Peterman

If you would like to be a part of A Simple Year 2015, including discounted rates for early registration, follow this link to be informed.

ABCs of Airbnb


I jumped into Airbnb full force in July and I’ve been learning new things both as guest and as host.  It is a great way to meet new people, make someone’s day, and to help pay the mortgage too.  I am excited to say I got an article in Swell Magazine.  So I am posting it here so you too might find the pleasures of Airbnb as guest or host.

Swell Magazine article on the ABCs of Airbnb.

Simple Spice

When I became vegan, I got more into food.  With that, came more shopping, cooking, and preparing homemade meals.  Herbs and spices are an important part of a healthy kitchen, so I got quite a collection going.  As I am learning about new ways to be more green and to care for our earth, I have a nice glass jar collection going while using less plastic.  These two things led to a spice cupboard needing a bit of a makeover.


Spice cupboard BEFORE photo. Lots of spices, but not easy to find and a bit cluttered.

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Tech-Free Tuesdays

Each year I take some time on New Years Day to savor the year that has passed and reflect upon what I want to create in the year ahead.  This year I started January 1st by taking a full day to do spa treatments and to “unplug” so I could do some serious reflecting without all the distractions.  I turned off the TV, my computer and my Smartphone to quiet the hum that they create, not necessarily audibly, but definitely with where my attention goes.


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Our Relationship with Money

One of the biggest hurdles we all have to overcome in this life is our relationship with money. My own encouragement would be to tackle it head on from wherever you are at, and preferably to do so before retirement. I will share my own journey and how money and me get along, just to help you have a reference for your relationship with money. None of this is about right and wrong, so I’d encourage you to leave that notion at the door. I also think money is a more touchy subject than sex, at least here in the United States.  And, because we don’t talk about it often enough, it can be controlling us, versus allowing us to be in the drivers seat.


Some of the important parts of having a quality life

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What I Took On My 6 Day Trip

I was fortunate to have a fun 6 day trip to Seattle, San Francisco, Monterey and Santa Cruz a couple of weeks ago.  I just wanted to share what I took on the trip as I seek to travel as lightly as possible, while also having what I need.

Here’s what I took (with items I could have left behind crossed off):


Clothes: Jeans, black skirt, fuchsia sweater, black jacket, 4 tops – 1 black long sleeve Flash Dry, 1 gray 3/4 sleeve, 1 blue tank and 1 black and white sleeveless. For sleep 1 pair of cotton shorts and 1 tank. Birkenstocks, socks and 1 extra pair of underwear.

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What Do You Get a Minimalist as a Gift?

A few weeks ago, as my birthday was approaching, my daughter Myra asked me…

“So Mom, What do you get a minimalist for her birthday?” IMG_8173

The quick answer is give them experiences, not things.  Most minimalist will be happy with this.  Of course, to ask the person is key, as minimalism is not a one size fits all way of being.

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Make Each Salad a Religious Experience!

Today as I was making my salad it hit me!  I should make each salad (or any dish really) a religious experience.  By that I mean, to be mindful, to notice the choices I have and put them together to create a tasty, nutritious and beautiful dish.  To have it be a salad that delights the eyes at first glance and pulls you in.  So here is today’s mandala salad for your enjoyment:



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Project 333 – Summer Edition

I took a month off between my first 3 months of Project 333 and June to just wear what I have and see what would work for my summer wardrobe.  For those who are new to this, Project 333 is where you take 33 items of clothing to wear for 3 months.  Underwear, socks and workout clothes don’t count.   I made my own exception for the 3 pieces of jewelry that I never take off.  The goal is to see how fewer choices make life easier and to experience what it is like to live with less.  We always think that more choice is a good thing, but there is a tipping point at which more can suck our energy too.


My Summer 2014 Wardrobe

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