In the fall of 2014, shortly after my graduation from physical therapy school in May, I found myself driving across the country to begin my first travel assignment. Until I began packing up the car for my trip from New York to Kansas, I never realized how much “stuff” I owned. Over the past four years of working as a traveling physical therapist, I’ve learned a lot of things; about myself, my profession and so many new places, but the most eye-opening revelation over the course of my short career has been the discovery about what is worth prioritizing and the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle.
When you’re forced to fit your life inside of your car, things change quickly. You begin to realize how few possessions you actually NEED to be a successful traveling clinician. Here are a few key concepts that I’ve learned to live by.
Before you begin your first assignment (and every subsequent assignment), take inventory of your possessions. Donate clothing you haven’t worn more than once in the past year. Consolidate books, music or movies you own and consider a subscription streaming service instead. Take anything that hasn’t brought value to your life in the last six months and find a friend or family member who could use it. There is immediate gratification in reducing clutter as well as giving your things to someone who could benefit from them.
With less “stuff,” you will need less space—both in your car and in your living arrangements. I highly recommend doing everything you can to find furnished accommodations in small spaces (studio apartments are ideal, and that means less space to clean up, too!). In my opinion, it’s worth the extra cost over transporting furniture and kitchen equipment. Airbnb is a great resource for this since the hosts are reliable, the places are furnished and include internet/utilities, and sometimes you can lower the monthly price by messaging the host directly.
You will learn quickly that the benefits of travel therapy are not just the flexibility between assignments and higher pay, but the freedom on your weekends to get out and explore something new. When you remove the option of buying a lot of “stuff” because you can’t fit it in your vehicle, you start to either save your money or spend it on experiences that you will remember way more than any big screen TV money can buy. Both methods are incredibly beneficial; the former for paying off student loans and working toward financial security, the latter for making memories that will last you a lifetime.
SPEND YOUR MONEY WISELY
When you do need to buy something, realize the importance of quality over quantity. For example, buy one jacket that fits well and is really comfortable rather than three jackets that will fall apart after a year (I know this sounds kind of harsh, but as long as you look presentable, nobody actually cares what you wear every day). Follow the same mindset with technology, footwear, food and outdoor equipment. You will be happier with your purchase, have less clutter, and save money in the long run.
DON’T GO OVERBOARD
We all have our “collections” that are important to us, and that’s ok! As long as your possessions give value to your life, keep them. I love my scarves from soccer games I’ve attended all over the world as well as my vinyl record collection. But I can say without hesitation that I don’t miss anything I’ve donated or recycled in the past few years, and I’ve definitely gained an appreciation for the few things that I’ve kept.
There is no formula to follow in order to live a more minimalist lifestyle. The important thing to remember is to be selective and place importance on the things that truly matter. By following these principles, hopefully you’ll find yourself living a life that is less cluttered and more meaningful.