Traveler Wellness

The Art of the Travel Nurse Means Freedom from Clutter

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How many items of clothing do you own? 400? 500? If we add shoes to that list does it double your count?

If you’re considering becoming a travel nurse, either you’ve already thought about embracing minimalism (though you may not have called it that), or you’re trying to figure out how you will manage your personal belongings – an exercise that inevitably leads one to question how they ended up with so many possessions.

You are not alone.

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution led to falling prices on many consumer goods, notably clothing, Americans have had a voracious appetite for consumerism. Fast-forward to a new millennium and we’ve become a nation of unrepentant hoarders. According to IBISWorld, a global market research firm, annual self-storage revenue was estimated at $32.7 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.5 percent over the next five years. We love our stuff.

There’s a movement afoot

Whether it’s the tiny house movement, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Mark Zuckerberg’s wardrobe philosophy, or the desire for a more mobile and flexible lifestyle, minimalism has found its place within the American psyche and it’s likely to continue as people embrace the freedom that comes from having fewer possessions.

But if you want to feel real freedom, live for several months with only the items that you can fit comfortably in your car.

Enter the travel nurse.

Very few professionals have embraced the less-is-more concept like travel nurses. This nomadic lifestyle makes it impractical to haul copious amounts of personal possessions from assignment to assignment. Yes, some opt to go the storage route with the intention of settling somewhere on a more permanent basis, but there are many travel nurses who downsize by selling or giving away all but the essentials and a few prized possessions.

So, how do they do it?

We asked one FlexCare travel nurse, Victoria, who is currently on assignment in San Francisco, how she manages her possessions. If you have any desire to embrace the life of a planful wanderer, consider how this travel nurse makes it work.

Does being a travel nurse impact how you accumulate possessions?

Up until this assignment, I traveled with what I needed in my tightly-packed Toyota Corolla,” said Victoria. “If I were to acquire anything new, I would have to make sure it fits in my car.”

Did you downsize your stuff or did you have to put everything in storage when you decided to start traveling?

I did downsize a lot when I knew I was going to do travel nursing. It was hard at first, because we are so used to having so much ‘stuff.’ Once I downsized, it felt great. I placed the stuff I wanted to keep but couldn't travel with in storage. I packed my car with what I would need to travel to my future assignments.”

How long would it take you to pack everything you own?

“I have stuff in storage, too, but I've lived off what I can fit in my car for the last two and a half years. It usually takes me two to three hours to pack my car.  I strategically pack it so it takes a little longer. I pack stuff I need to get to easily up front and everything else in the rest of my car. I always keep important documents, etc. with me. I never leave them in my car. I also pack it kind of messy in a way so it's not as appealing: clothes, sheets in plastic bags on top.”

What is your philosophy about acquiring things?

“Most of the stuff I've acquired from traveling is, of course, the memories and all the pictures. I like little souvenirs from my experience as well. I like little pieces of art work, jewelry that's particular to a certain place, etc. I have also purchased some shirts from places like Yellowstone or Zion. I keep my souvenirs small and it's usually something that's a reminder of my experiences.”

The one possession I could not live without is my…

“I always carry photos of my family, but realistically, one item would be my phone. It's where I check emails for work, do last-minute tests, and of course my GPS on my phone helps me navigate to various places across the United States.”


As you can see, Victoria has made her possessions fit quite nicely with her career as a travel nurse. She uses a combination of long-term storage for important things, then travels with what she can fit in her car. Any new possessions that she accumulates along the way are small and easy to incorporate into her mobile lifestyle.

Whether you’re preparing to take off for your first travel assignment or you’ve been paying $90 per month for over a year on a storage unit and you’re ready to save some money, downsizing your possessions can be a huge budget and time saver.

Try hacking your way out of clutter

Still not sure how to make it happen? Take a cue from Leon Ho, the founder of, a site that seeks to make life a little easier for all of us (who doesn't want that?). He has a declutter formula called RFASR. This formula helps you focus on the things that are the most meaningful so that you can free yourself from having too much, as nurse Victoria so aptly put it, “stuff.”


Image courtesy of

Easy peasy! Okay, maybe not, but definitely worth a try. 

When you stop and consider all your possessions, from clothing and shoes to knick-knacks, kitchen paraphernalia, photos, personal care items, exercise equipment, tools, and everything in between, it’s likely an exhaustive list. It’s also likely that most of it goes unused forever! So if you’re ready to try traveling, or you’re just ready to jump into a more minimalist lifestyle, go for it! You'll free not only your space, but your time and your thoughts for bigger and better things. 

Happy downsizing!