How a Minimalist Lifestyle Can Improve Your Mental Health

Written by Cora Gold, Editor-in-Chief of Revivalist

Consumerism is at an all-time high. Before you realize it, you may be drowning in unnecessary belongings you no longer want or need. Overwhelming feelings — about finances, the environment or low productivity — drive many people to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, only bringing the most intentional and critical items into their living spaces.

So, how does minimalism create a more peaceful environment for your mental health, and how can you adopt a minimalist lifestyle for improved well-being?

Minimalism and Mental Health: A More Peaceful Home

Following a minimalist lifestyle means living with less and finding contentment in a simplified life. More studies have shown how clutter can cause the body to produce more cortisol — the stress hormone. It’s essential to remove clutter from your surroundings to negate this event.

For example, it becomes increasingly difficult to concentrate and meet deadlines at work when one’s desk is full of papers. You might also struggle with falling asleep when clothes and other possessions are left strewn across your bedroom floor. Others worry about how their consumerism habits affect the planet, as new Google data found a 4,590% increase in search terms rooted in climate anxiety from 2018 to 2023.

The stress and frustration derived from these circumstances can bring anyone down. According to research, middle-aged adults with a median age of 54 demonstrate lower life satisfaction amid clutter.

In another study, participants associated a minimalistic lifestyle with the following positive benefits for optimal well-being:

  • Freedom from possessions and greater alignment with one’s values
  • Having greater control over one’s surroundings and situations
  • Feeling less anxious and stressed
  • A greater ability to reflect and preserve mental energy
  • Heightened awareness
  • Feelings of joy and tranquility
  • An easier time adopting eco-friendly behaviors

Perhaps most profound was the importance of altering behaviors toward minimalism to enhance one’s sense of self. Before adopting the lifestyle, participants claimed they felt stuck or burdened by their belongings, particularly when receiving gifts from loved ones.

Whether a tight budget has you on edge or you’re caught up in needing or having more, the science says reducing your consumption could be the best path toward happiness.

Bedroom with a balcony - How a Minimalist Lifestyle Can Improve Your Mental Health

6 Tips to Adopt a Minimalist Lifestyle

Are you ready to create a calming living space and boost your mental health? You may have realized you have more things in your household than you need. Here are six strategies to make minimal living the norm.

  1. Declutter by Room

Transitioning to minimalist living should reduce stress, not create more of it. So, avoid trying to declutter the entire home in one day. Set aside a few hours on specific days of the week to tackle each room.

Begin with a few realistic goals and create “keep,” “trash,” “donate” and “sell” piles. Using containers and compartmental furniture will also help you organize things efficiently. This is also an ideal time to replace bulky furniture with sleek, multifunctional pieces for more space.

  1. Discard Items by Category

As you work on decluttering each room, discard items by category. For instance, go through your clothes first, then books, documents and electronics. This approach allows you to regard each belonging’s purpose and whether you can live without it. It also helps you stay on track if you’ve given yourself a deadline.

Consider whether you’ve used each item recently or if it could hold a purpose in the future. How you discard it is equally important. For example, you could donate possessions to a charity or secondhand shop, recycle goods, or give old books to schools and libraries. Just remember to shred once-important paperwork to avoid spreading sensitive information.

  1. Consider the Item’s Meaning

Marie Kondo’s KonMari method sparked a new way of decluttering and organizing, especially when sifting through and eliminating special items. Her approach underscores the importance of giving thanks for how an item enhances one’s life before letting it go, creating a smoother transition toward minimalism.

The younger you are when practicing gratitude, the better your mental health will be. For instance, teenagers 14-19 who express gratitude have greater life satisfaction, help improve their communities and deepen their engagement in their education and activities. Teaching your kids to appreciate what they have, rather than constantly lust for new things, can help them lead a happy, minimalist lifestyle.

  1. Embrace the One-In-One-Out Rule

Once you’ve cleared your household of excess clutter, the one-in-one-out rule may be a more effective strategy for maintaining a tidy home. Many minimalists use this approach to prevent bringing too many possessions back into the house.

Essentially, you must eliminate something whenever you buy or obtain a new item into the space. This strategy helps you take stock of what you have and avoid once again accumulating more than you need.

  1. Choose Quality Over Quantity

While a closet full of fine clothing may cost more — and leave you with fewer items to choose from — you can rest assured your minimalist wardrobe will last longer after multiple wears and washes. Unlike cheaply made clothes, quality counts in materials used and manufacturing processes.

Clothes are also an area where minimalists can reduce their carbon footprint and encourage more equitable working conditions in global factories. About 53 million metric tons of clothes go to waste annually, much of which ends up in overflowing landfills. Additionally, only 2% of the 75 million factory workers in the textile sector earn a livable wage.

  1. Prioritize Experiences

Souvenirs may be a thing of the past. According to a 2022 Microsoft survey, 73% of millennial adventurers are more interested in experiences when creating travel memories — a trend budding minimalists should note.

By prioritizing experiences, you avoid accumulating material possessions and save money for vacations, concerts, classes or thrill-seeking activities. Memories are longer lasting than tangible items, anyway. Likewise, experiences cultivate personal growth and discovery, leading to greater happiness, confidence and enrichment.

Embrace a Less Is More Attitude for Mental Well-Being

If too much stuff brings down your mood, cleaning out unnecessary items from your house may be a good idea. You may not be ready to lead an entirely minimalistic lifestyle. Nevertheless, decluttering each living space and learning to live with less may have the mental health benefits you’re after.

Cora Gold

About the Author

Cora Gold has a passion for writing about life, happiness and sustainability. As Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist, she loves to share her insights and find inspiration from others. Follow Cora on FacebookPinterest and Twitter.