A Minimalist Lifestyle Could Be the Key to Getting Rid of Your Debt


It seems like every week, there’s a new article on the virtues of minimalism and how people are living with less. While people are ditching their belongings and moving into tiny houses, it can leave you scratching your head, wondering what this fad is all about.

Minimalism, at its core, is a back-to-basics lifestyle where you focus only on the things you love and value, and ditch all of your unnecessary stuff. According to The Minimalists, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important — so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

Face it: As we grow into adulthood and get that first paycheck, that first new apartment, and that first new car, we are eager to fill up our lives with all the things.

Many people that subscribe to minimalist living claim they feel happier and enjoy their life, unencumbered by possessions they don’t actually need. But aside from all of those feel-good vibes, living with less could actually help you pay off debt. Here’s how:

Turn your extra stuff into cash

We accumulate a lot of stuff in the normal course of life. Books, computers, TVs, clothes, kitchenware — the list goes on. But how much of that stuff do you actually need? More importantly, how much of it do you use on a regular basis?

Approaching a minimalist lifestyle can help you re-evaluate the stuff you have. But instead of just trashing your old stuff, you can sell it to make money and pay down debt. Remember, another person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

To start, look at your belongings and ask yourself:

  • Do I need this?
  • Does it provide value in my life?
  • Have I used it in six months?
  • Do I already have something similar to this?

Answering these questions can help you decide what should stay and what should go. When you’ve created a “go” pile, it’s time to sell it! You can do that in a number of ways:

If you’re selling at a garage sale, make sure to give yourself enough time to promote the event. If you’re selling online, add as much detail to your post as possible before snapping some well-lit photos of your stuff.

Selling your old stuff can help you jumpstart your debt repayment and inspire a minimalist lifestyle. It did for Claudia and Garrett Pennington, the husband-and-wife team behind Two Cup House.

“Minimalism is our number one strategy for eliminating debt. When we started looking around at all the stuff we owned, we realized we were surrounded by stuff we never used,” says Claudia.

“Incidentally, we also had more than $200,000 in debt, of which $35,000 was student loan debt,” she adds. “So we sold all of the stuff we didn’t use and started paying off our debt.”

Minimalism can change your money mindset

When you decide to live with only the stuff that you need and that bring value to your life, your relationship to stuff starts to change. Retail therapy no longer feels as fun after a hard day at work. Bringing home random stuff from a conference or event no longer seems appealing, and the urge to buy the latest and greatest gadgets wanes.

This is where a minimalist lifestyle really holds its power. Minimalist living can transform your money mindset, including your relationship to money and how you spend it.

“After getting rid of thousands of things from our home, I had a completely different perspective on stuff. I used to swipe my credit card without thinking, bringing even more stuff home that we didn’t use often,” says Claudia.

“When we started going through the exercise of listing things on Craigslist and eBay, it completely changed my mindset. Selling our stuff took months and it was a great one-time exercise, but it’s not one we wanted to repeat,” she explains.

Downsizing is cheaper

Once you realize how to live with less, you may also realize that the other things in your life are no longer needed. For example, after getting rid of all of your stuff, do you really need a big place? Or two cars?

For Claudia and Garrett, they realized downsizing their life was a natural next step on their debt-free journey. They sold their 1,500 square foot house with a two-car garage and moved into a cozy (536 square foot), more affordable home.

“We kept about 20 percent of the items we had in the other house, but we find that there are items here and there that we no longer need.  We’ve also eliminated a significant portion of our debt since we sold the other house,” says Claudia.

The effects of minimalism

Through minimalism, it’s possible to sell your belongings, pay down debt, shift your money mindset, and downsize to a more affordable lifestyle. Additionally, getting rid of your stuff can declutter both your physical and mental spaces, making room for more energy and ideas that can go to side hustles.

If you’re interested in minimalism, start slowly by evaluating what items you enjoy regularly in your life, and what things are just taking up space.

If you’re already rocking your debt repayment and taking cost-cutting measures, you may already be living a minimalist lifestyle by default. But if you’re feeling crowded by unnecessary clutter and are overwhelmed by stuff, minimalism could be a good way to reinvigorate your debt repayment journey.

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