Meet Raymund Tamayo
Today’s post is an interview with Raymund Tamayo, writer and minimalist.
When and how did you first become interested in simple living? Was your wife, Denielle, on board from the beginning?
We started simplifying our lives in January 2010. I talked with Denielle first and she was maybe about 70% on board when we began.
For a typical Filipino middle-class family, we did have a lot of excess back then. There was too much stuff that we don’t use at home, I had too many things to do, we ate and spent unconsciously. We didn’t have a budget, and we didn’t know about saving and investing. Everything was on the spur of the moment, and we’d developed a lot of unhealthy habits.
Until that day when something happened about my health that made me reflect on what was happening in our lives as a family.
Simplifying was a gradual process. It began with my wardrobe and personal possessions then to the items we use in the house, then to the kids’ toys, then to the food we eat. It’s still an ongoing process.
You have two young children, a daughter who is seven years old and a son who is 1 year and 11 months old. What challenges have you experienced trying to simplify with kids?
When we started simplifying, our daughter was four years old, while our son was born in the middle of the process. One of the challenges in simplifying with kids is that people tend to presume that we are not providing enough for them.
When we say that we don’t need that toy, they think we’re depriving our children. When we say that we don’t need cable TV, they say, “How are they supposed to watch Disney Junior?” Something like that.
Yet, they are external in nature, so we learned to ignore the side comments. What’s important is that we understand what we are doing as a family, and everyone’s on board.
Has your daughter noticed her family doesn’t have as much “stuff” as some of her friends’ families do? If so, how does she feel about that?
Maybe she does, but she never mentions it. We can clearly see that she is happy with the amount of toys she has versus the amount of time we spend together as a family.
We have this rule that when you acquire a number of personal possessions, or toys, you must also discard that same number from your existing ones. That goes for all of us. If somebody gives me a new shirt, I have to discard or give away one of my existing shirts.
It’s the same for the kids. Our daughter is always willing to give away her toys or clothes whenever she has a new one.
Several months ago, you quit your corporate job to follow your passion, writing. Do you ever regret it?
In the beginning, I thought I might have. After a few months, I thought that I would have to go back to another corporate job. But answering right now, I can definitely say No.
I’m so happy and healthy now that looking back I couldn’t believe I let myself stay in that situation for so long. Right now, I love what I’m doing! I get to do my passion of writing every day, and the best part is that along with it I inspire and help a lot of people live meaningful lives in the process.
You recently published a book, Simplify Life… and Make it Count. One of the things I really like about it is that, unlike many minimalist authors, you don’t just focus on how we can make ourselves happier, but on how we can improve others’ lives as well.
Yes, that is correct. I’m a firm believer that happiness is the consequence of a meaningful life, not the objective of it. I believe in living our life purpose and making a lasting impact. For me, a way to do that is to help others grow as well. To make others realize that they have greatness within themselves and to help them unleash it.
We aren’t in this world for nothing. We are here for something. For a purpose. Happiness automatically comes when we know we are fulfilling that purpose.
You’ve said that for you, minimalism is a spiritual journey. Can you explain what you mean by that?
At first, the goals I had in mind were to pare down and organize my time and stuff, and to save money and spend more time with family.
Being a born again Christian, it dawned on me that a lot of the teachings of Christ actually talked about focus and simplicity. He just never mentioned the word minimalism, but I noticed it’s the same thing. And I’ve come to embrace that philosophy. Loving God above all, and loving others as I love myself, that’s the focus.
If God wanted me to grow and improve as a human being, then I might as well help others do the same. It’s all about love.
For you personally, what have been the three biggest benefits to simplifying your life?
There are so many, but the biggest three for me were having less stress, more freedom, and a life of meaning and impact.
Have you found any downside to being a minimalist?
People sometimes think you are weird for not wanting to have more. Saying no to that last slice of pizza, or not accepting a token give-away from a friend’s wedding, typically Filipinos don’t say no to anything. We have that scarcity culture or mindset as if nothing is enough for everyone. So there’s always chaos when there is free stuff.
So when I say “Thanks, but I’ll pass,” people stop and think of me as weird.
You live in Olongapo City, Philippines. Is there a simplicity movement in your city or elsewhere in the Philippines?
To simply answer that question: None that I know of.
It’s quite complex because, to be honest, most of the people here are already living a pretty tough life. So, ingrained in the general population is the outlook that having more means a better life.
No, there are no big simplicity movements going on here that I know of, other than the one our family is doing, because most of the families here are already living “simple,” insufficient lives, if you know what I mean. They are having a hard time imagining a good life with less stuff.
We try our best to display and impart what we know and believe in our limited capacity, but we found it harder to preach simplicity and living a life of purpose locally than to the wider audience online.
What do your family, friends and neighbors think about your decision to simplify?
The ones close to us let us be. I can see they are amazed, but they let us be. The neighbors and other acquaintances, they think we’re crazy. Some people think I’m crazy for having only 28 items in my wardrobe, including shoes, but I don’t care.
What tips do you have for readers who are just beginning to simplify?
Renew your mind and start slowly. Simplifying is going against the normal flow of society, so if you don’t have the right mindset and the right motive, it’s going to be very difficult to sustain what you’re doing. Start small.
Start with a drawer or a small closet. Start with the number of times you drink coffee in a day. If you start with everything all at once, it will be too overwhelming and you will eventually give up.
Have a willingness to fail and start over. No matter how many times, nobody said that you couldn’t begin again. If one process doesn’t work, take a different approach until it works. Come in sideways if head on couldn’t work. It’s a lot of fun.
Want to learn more about simplicity and spirituality?
Raymund Tamayo writes at Minimalist on Purpose and Plain Haven. He is the author of the book Simplifying Life…and Make it Count, where he shares about simplifying life to live one’s life purpose and how to sustain it.