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Minimalism is a State of Mind

For the last year, I’ve been interviewing authors about simplicity, location independence, financial freedom and more. Today’s interview is with Chris O’Byrne.

I’ve been in Minnesota for the last few days hanging out with Chris, his lovely wife Mara and family. If you have a chance to visit the lovely state of Minnesota, do it. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Enjoy the interview peeps!


Tammy Strobel: Chris, you’re a location-independent editor and e-book converter. What made you decide to take the plunge and start your own business?

Chris O’Byrne: Basically, I’m a lousy employee. I worked as a chemical engineer and then a high school teacher for several years. Even when I had figured out more effective ways to do my job, I was tied to the existing way of doing things and change came very slowly. I was more interested in my work than in pleasing the power structure, and working for myself was the logical next step.

Tammy: What are some things you love about being location independent?

Chris: I have found that there is so much more to creating a living that is location independent than just the geographical benefits, which are wonderful.

1. I can work wherever I want. I like to drive around the country, going at my own pace, and stopping as often as I want. I can spend a few weeks or months exploring or I can pick a place to settle down for a few months and enjoy the benefits of staying put. I can work in a coffee shop or in the middle of a national park or in the living room of a friend’s house.

2. I’m able to set my own hours and work at my own pace. I’m usually at my most creative early in the morning from around 6:00 to 10:00. I sit and drink coffee and the wheels keep turning. If I have a big project that needs a lot of attention, I can focus on that. I can work a lot and then take time off. I always wanted to create a living where I could work hard, then take a mini retirement, then work hard, et cetera.

3. I’m in control. On one level we’re really not in control of anything, but that aside, being location-independent puts me in almost complete control of every aspect of my work. That produces an amazing amount of confidence that leaks over into every other area of my life and I feel on top of the world.

4. Most important, I get to spend as much time as I want with my family. Two daughters live within a couple minute’s walk and my second grandchild is due soon. I’m so happy that I can be here to experience all of that.

Tammy: You’ve started a new online venture, can you tell us about that?

Chris: I looked at all of the skills I had learned in the last few years and realized I could combine all of them and start my own publishing company. Instead of simply providing publishing services, I decided to start a traditional publishing company where authors submit their work for review. The authors I publish do not pay for anything and I not only provide marketing, I also give 50% of net royalties. I publish both in e-book and print formats. There’s more information about Red Willow Digital Press at www.redwillowdigitalpress.com.

Tammy: What is your definition of minimalism? And do you have any minimalist goals?

Chris: Minimalism is a state of mind, but the synergy between that state of mind and your physical state is incredible. I first started clearing the clutter in my mind and then started clearing my physical clutter, which led to an even clearer mind. I am now very sensitive to physical clutter and its effect on my mind. I often step back and look at my current possessions and give away what is no longer needed or wanted.

I have less than 10 personal items that I consistently hold on to. My long-term minimalist goal is to live an extremely simple life out of a backpack. Technology has made this possible and even now I only use my laptop and my iPad. I am inspired by Peace Pilgrim and imagine living a life similar to hers.

Tammy: What book(s) are you always telling people to read?

Chris: One of my all time favorites is Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. Another highly recommended spiritual book is Loving What Is by Byron Katie. My three favorite writing books are Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, Story by Robert McKee, and Developmental Editing by Scott Norton.

Tammy: What do you have planned for the next five years?

Chris: My beautiful new bride, Mara, and I are moving to Puerto Rico this winter along with two of my daughters, my son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Beyond that, we’re simply staying flexible and open to what comes along and are loving what is.

Tammy: Everyone has unique skills; skills that I call superpowers. What are your superpowers?

Chris: I’ve been playing bluegrass guitar for 36 years. I also have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and have practiced Zen meditation for many years.

Thanks Chris!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Caroline May 23, 2011, 4:57 am

    Thanks for a lovely interview, Tammy & Chris!
    Particularly liked the line, “Minimalism is a state of mind, but the synergy between that state of mind and your physical state is incredible.” Just this weekend I was checking out your (Tammy’s) list of 72 things…and thinking about the kind of mental (& physical) freedom having just 72 things could bring!
    Chris, congrats on your marriage & upcoming move!
    Caroline 🙂

  • Cgirl May 23, 2011, 5:30 am

    Thanks for the lovely pictures of Minnesota. They made me a bit homesick, luckily I’m going up in a month or two.

  • Tyron May 23, 2011, 10:49 pm

    Lovely interview! Chris is a bit of a hero of mine, his writing on Tiny Simplicity had a big effect on my life. It’s weird how someone on the other end of the world, that you’ll never meet can inspire you.

    Thanks for the interview 🙂

  • Chris O'Byrne May 24, 2011, 8:09 am

    Aw, Tyron, you’ve been just as much an influence on me. Thank you for the kind words. I actually have a new blog post idea for Tiny Simplicity called Tiny Spirituality that I might write soon. Maybe I’ll take slow blogging to an extreme and post once a year. 🙂

  • Greta Sutherland May 24, 2011, 9:52 am

    Trying to make the transition to minimalism. Have so far to go but with every step, we gain more freedom. Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Mark Powers May 24, 2011, 9:32 pm

    Yet another inspiring post, Tammy! Thanks for sharing Chris & Mara with the rest of us 🙂

    • Tammy May 25, 2011, 6:25 am

      Ahhh thanks Mark! 🙂 Chris and Mara are awesome peeps!

  • Great interview, Tammy! And “Peace Is Every Step” is one of my own favorite books too. If I had to pick a pile of the only 10 books I would keep, that would be one.

  • Kimberly Sea May 29, 2011, 8:38 am

    I’m also on the path to minimalism and hopefully the end result will be freedom from the traditional 9 to 5. Thank you for this post as it was just what I needed to read this morning. Minimalism is so foreign to those around me, so I greatly appreciate the inspiration from you, Chris and your blog. It makes me want to go declutter my closets again. 🙂

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