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.
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