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How lack of furniture and mp3s can enhance your life

March 29, 2012

Passing trays of unknown items – Saya thought forceps, Allie thought eyeglasses – back and forth at Fear Experiment

When I first heard about The Minimalists (Ryan and Joshua), I was intrigued as they focus on how we can add value to our lives via relatively simple ways, one of my passions.  They  choose to add value to their lives by getting rid of TVs and paring down iTunes libraries; I choose to add value to my life, in the spirit of being challenged and scared, by doing an improv scene in a gynecologist’s office, in front of 700 people, when the audience suggestion was in fact “optometrist” and Nervous Saya misheard said suggestion.  But regardless of how we exist fully, the overarching theme of living an enriched life is the same for both.  So I dug a little further to learn more about Ryan and Joshua.

I stumbled upon their post Quitting Your Job is Easy.  As someone who has drunk the entrepreneurial kool-aid and can’t imagine ever ever ever going back to 9 to 5, I began clicking link after link of theirs.  I was hooked.

Next logistical step?  Interview Ryan and Joshua of course!  Check out their story and mantra below, and see if/how what they say can relate to your life.  Would love to hear steps you’re taking to add value to your life, big or small — they’re all moving forward, and that’s what counts! 

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Give me the skinny on you guys. Where you’re from, where you live, where you went to school, your age, any data points that’ll make you more of a person and less random internet guy.

Answer: We’re both 30 years old. I was born in Knoxville, TN but have spent most of my life in the Cincinnati and Dayton regions of Ohio most of my life. Joshua has been in Ohio his whole life. We both graduated from Lebanon City Schools which is a small town smack dab in the middle of Cincinnati and Dayton. Joshua and I both reside in Dayton, OH. He lives in the city and I live in a suburb of Dayton.

What is “minimalism”?

Answer: Here’s my minimal answer: Minimalism means living with less. What I mean by that is minimalism is living in a more intentional way, avoiding the clutter of life so you can focus on the important things in life.

What brought you to minimalism?

Answer: This is a very long story, but I will try and sum it up in a few sentences. Joshua and I both reached a point in our life where we started wanted more than a fancy paycheck. We realized the old cliche of “money doesn’t bring you happiness” is true. We weren’t happy with ourselves even though we had everything society told us would make us happy. Once we realized this, we were unsure of what the important things in our lives were. Then we found minimalism. We saw it as a tool to use to help us prioritize our lives.

Any surprises along the way?

Answer: The biggest surprise was the amount of difficulty it was changing our routine from having to wake up and go to our corporate jobs to waking up and being our own bosses. It took us longer than we had originally anticipated to get comfortable with our new way of life that didn’t include any particular routine.

Why should I strive live a minimalist lifestyle?

Answer: When people ask me this questions I like to preface it with saying that minimalism is not necessarily for everyone. You can throw out all of your possessions and still lead a very miserable life. Minimalism is a tool that can help people focus on what is important. Its too often in our busy lives we let the important things (i.e., health, relationships, etc.) slip and loose focus. Minimalism can help you gain focus back in your life where you need it most. Plus it helps you to be way more appreciative of the things you do have.

You mention you “were fortunate to establish an audience of more than 100,000 monthly readers in less than a year.” Why do you think your words resonated with so many?

Answer: I think we were successful in obtaining a large audience in such a short amount of time because of our authenticity, our writings where we’ve never published anything we wouldn’t want to read ourselves, but the most important thing we did was add value to peoples lives. Ultimately we knew that if we didn’t add value to peoples lives we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

I’m already pretty darn happy in life and don’t feel like I need a change.  What can I get out of minimalism?

Answer: I think minimalism can only increase the happiness in one’s life. This doesn’t mean you can’t be happy with applying minimalistic principles in your life, but it does mean that applying these principles in your life can help you have even a deeper appreciation for the things you have.

What’s a typical day for you?

Answer: This is a question we get asked all of the time and we don’t have one specific answer. We wake up and take care of what we need to each day regardless if that means doing website stuff, responding to readers questions, running errands etc. We have no specific routine.

What’s been the hardest thing to give up?

Answer: For me it was T.V. I had no idea how much I relied on it for an escape until I went without it. For Joshua it was his identity associated with the big corporate title. Getting rid of it was difficult for him because we live in a world where people continuously ask you “what do you do?” Based upon the answer you give them they will generally make predetermined judgements, especially when the answer includes words like “director” and “senior manager.”

What was the best financial decision you made?

Answer: Getting rid of as many loan payments as possible. I sold my new car for a used one and rented out my condo (only because I wasn’t able to sell it).

How do you make money now?

Answer: We published three books last year, we do speaking events, and we also get donations here and there. We don’t make nearly the amount of money we used to with our corporate jobs, but the cool thing about being a minimalist is having fewer bills.

You’re partners with your best friend.  Pros/cons to a) having a partner and b) having your best friend as a partner.

Answer: Crazy thing is we don’t have any issues working with each other. There are only pros. Joshua’s a little OCD, I’m a little ADD, we balance each other out well. We pick up the slack for each other. I wouldn’t be able to do this with anyone else. Joshua is the best guy I know, and our friendship over the last 20 years has grown into a family relationship where we feel more like brothers. We work great together. I’m not sure either of us would be able to handle criticism (helpful of course) as well from anyone else. Keeps us honest and helps keep our content meaningful

Do you have romantic partners?  If so, are they minimalists too?  How does being a minimalist affect your love lives?

Answers: Yes. I met my girlfriend of three years before I dived into minimalism and there was a growing period for us. We’re still growing together, and I didn’t give her the ultimatum of choosing minimalism or else. Joshua has no comment (he’s way more reserved than I am).

If you’re single and someone reading this blog wants to get in touch for the purpose of wining and dining you, what sayest thou?

Answer: Taken, sorry.

“Can’t Live Without” Resources –

Answer: Food, hygiene products, roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, internet connection, electric, and coffee.

What’s next for you?

Answer: Currently Joshua is getting ready to teach a writing class and I’m working on a book club type program designed to help improve ones happiness and help people live a more meaningful life.

Many folk in the Mac ‘n Cheese network are considering going out on their own, which can be a very scary thought/action.  What advice do you have for them?

Answer: Have a Plan. Don’t just quit your job and start blogging. That’s silly. Recognize there is going to be a transition period and its going to be uncomfortable as hell, but that means your doing the right thing. Also make sure to set yourself with the right expectations. Not every blogger becomes millionaire.

Mac ‘n Cheesers are always looking for new ways to challenge themselves and to make new connections.  Suggestions for how to meet people (professionally, socially, romantically) that are perhaps a bit off the beaten-path (not online dating, not traditional networking events, etc.)?

Answer: Twitter. Seriously. Another place is local coffee shops.

Any parting words to share?

Answer: Keep it simple, don’t live outside your means, and be true to yourself no matter what.

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