This is a guest post by Zack – an entrepreneur and blogger at FreeUp.  He and his wife lived in a camper for 11 months to pay off $50k of loans and minimize his life. His blog is focused on helping millennials get out of debt so they can do more of what they love.

The term “minimalism” has so many associations that come to mind when I hear it.

I think: tiny house, intentional living, decluttering, small things, and less stuff…

The minimalism that I want to talk about today does not have to fit a particular mold but rather challenge you in a way that improves your life on your own terms.

First, I want to share my wife and I’s story with you so you have context. My wife and I got married in June 2014. As a young married couple we did all the normal things: had a wedding, went on a honeymoon, moved in together and combined our lives.

One of the things we realized early on was that we were also combining our debt. This hadn’t been much of a thought up until this point because, well, we’re millennials. We try to avoid the feeling of debt because of what it does to hold you back.

We realized this bias towards inaction when it came to our finances about 4 months into our marriage. We sat down and talked about what it would look like to minimize our lives in such a way that we could become debt free. That was the goal.

To do this we explored all kinds of crazy ideas…. The funny thing is, we landed on a pretty crazy idea that we ended up moving forward with.

At the time we lived in a simple apartment downtown Oklahoma City. We decided that we would scrap the apartment living, purchase a camper, minimize our lives, and focus on paying our debt off and living more simply for a year.

So we did that. For 11 months.

Here are 3 things we learned that changed our life during that process.

1- You don’t realize how cluttered your life is until you face it head on

When I say this, I mean the actual clutter (papers, old books, toys, junk drawers, and clothes) but I also mean the things that you don’t traditionally think about.

We realized that we had a dependency on the convenience of showering for 20 minutes with hot water. In the camper that we lived in for 11 months, the hot water heater had only 5 or so minutes worth of hot water in the tank. You do the math, for two people, that isn’t much!

My point is, we take for granted the simple things that you will never realize you have until you go without them. Clean water. Heat and air conditioning. A dishwasher 🙂 and more. These are all things that millions of people go without all around the world.

2 – You learn to live without

In the same way that you realize how many things you have, you also realize how many things you don’t need to live a happy and fulfilling life.

For example, if I asked you to write down your top 3 priorities in life, your list might look something like this:

  1. Taking care of your kids or family
  2. Loving those who are closest to you
  3. The basic necessities (roof over your head, food on the table)

At the end of the day, we are still pretty simple creatures. This is what we discovered.

During our process of moving into the camper, to make some extra money and get rid of stuff, we sold a lot of things on Craigslist and Ebay. We probably made $1,000 just selling stuff that we didn’t want or did not have room for. We donated half our wardrobe. We put the rest in a storage unit until we were ready to move out of the camper.

Getting rid of stuff is now refreshing because it means there is more room for new stuff.

More so, we learned that while living in the camper, not having a high-speed internet wasn’t the end of the world as we knew it. In fact, it was the beginning of a new one.

3 – We found time for more of what we love

The more you cut out of life, the more you find to ADD into life that is meaningful to you. Minimalism is not just about taking things out of your life. To me at least, the goal is to strategically take out and put back in. This meant that for us to reach our goal of becoming debt free, we needed to cut back on some things in life.

As a result of taking things out of our life, we had more time for things like visiting the library to rent FREE books! Yes, did you know Amazon isn’t the only way you can get books? I didn’t. 🙂

We spent more time outside, spending time with family, and cooking food at home.

My point is, these were our top priorities all along, the only difference is that when we didn’t have cable, internet, separate rooms with TV’s, or other distractions (of which we often enjoyed) to keep us from doing them more.

The great thing about practicing minimalism is that there is no single way you have to do it. It is a practice that needs to be explored, tweaked, and adjusted for your lifestyle.

So, no, we don’t suggest that everyone move out of their home, declutter their life, and practice minimalism by living in a camper. Although, I speak to families and mothers that have absolutely made that their goal! More power to them.

What I hope to share is that you can practice your own form of minimalism. The key is to strategically take away so you can add more of what you really value. Just do that and you’ll find a whole new world of opportunities to do more of what you love.

Zack is about to launch a new course on FINANCIAL FREEDOM designed for anyone who wants to improve their financial life. If you feel stuck with your finances, not sure what to do next when it comes to paying off debt, creating a budget, saving or investing… then this course is for you!

Pre-Registration is now open for FreeUp Camp – Millennial Money Course – (VIP list members will get access to discounts and other specials like one-on-one mentoring. Check it out here! Check it out here!)  

3 life changing benefits of minimalism