The Midwest and South Are Home to Clusters of Minimalism-Oriented Cities but Salt Lake City Is the Nation’s Minimalist Heaven

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  • Salt Lake City is the best US city for minimalists, followed by Arlington, VA, and St. Paul, MN.
  • Most cities that provide the right mix of amenities for people interested in minimalism are located in the Midwest and the Southern US.
  • Interest in the minimalist lifestyle increased in the US over the past few years, from an average of 194K minimalism-related monthly Google searches in 2019 to 239K monthly searches in 2022.

Minimalism is a notion that can wear many hats: it can refer to art, be adopted in architecture and interior design, and not least can be incorporated into our daily lives. The trend, which has gained traction in recent years, is generally characterized by beautiful simplicity, utility or even spareness – all of which allow us to live our best lives clutter-free and enjoy the things we most value.

Essentially, when it comes to applying the concept to our daily routines, leading a minimalist lifestyle involves limiting your possessions as well as choosing free or less-expensive options for everything, without losing sight of the more appealing and elegant sides of life. It can mean switching to a smaller, cozier home that requires less upkeep and fewer things in order to be fully functional, turning to public transportation instead of heavily relying on car travel, jogging in a park instead of paying for gym access, choosing practical gifts or experiences over flashy trinkets, and the list can go on.

The benefits of adopting a minimalist lifestyle can be significant: not only can fans of minimalism spend less money on day-to-day stuff – thus being able to save more easily for attractive goals, including traveling, buying a vacation home, or early retirement – but they can also focus more on the enjoyable aspects of life all while embracing sustainability.

There’s much to gain from minimalism from both a wellbeing perspective and an environmental standpoint, no doubt. But aside from the personal choice of whether this is the lifestyle for you, where you live can make it easier or downright difficult to stick to your decision to go small.

Starting from the premise that minimalism involves limiting the consumption of resources, we’ve ranked 96 cities – those with populations of over 200K – to see which best support the adoption of a minimalist lifestyle. We’ve considered important aspects such as the following:

  • Home sizes, as living in a smaller home most often entails owning less stuff.
  • Electricity bills as an indicator of the local consumption of natural resources.
  • Embracing of eco-friendly practices such as biking, walking to work and using public transit, plus working from home, which helps reduce the need to buy office clothing and accessories.
  • The natural landscape, which has a say in how many things we need to own in order to live well, including the local climate and access to parks and beaches.
  • Google searches related to minimalism in each location as an indicator of resident interest for this type of lifestyle.
  • Access to self storage, as a place for keeping the things you need but don’t use so often, can be extremely useful for enjoying a clutter-free home.

As it turns out, there are beacons of minimalism across the country – mostly mid-sized urban hubs such as Salt Lake City, UT, Arlington, VA, St. Paul, MN, and Atlanta, GA. Overall, it’s the Midwest and South that shine brightest as they fill most of the top 20 list of places that brim with opportunities for leading a simpler life.

Outdoor lovers' paradise Salt Lake City, UT, ranks first nationally for supporting minimalist lifestyles, followed by Virginia’s Arlington

In addition to being a hotspot for tech jobs and outdoor attractions, Salt Lake City, UT, emerges as the best city for minimalists. The city was propelled to the top by a combination of factors including the strongest interest in minimalism in the country based on Google searches, an active biking scene, easy access to small-home living and a rapidly growing public transit network. Biking to work is also very popular in Salt Lake City, while the commute time, at under 18 minutes, is the third shortest among the country’s major cities. The relatively low electricity bills, the large population working from home – roughly 25% – and a high share of people who walk to work only add to the city’s friendliness toward a lifestyle that reduces extra consumption of resources.

Landing the second spot nationwide, Arlington, VA, also presents a great set of amenities that facilitate a minimalist lifestyle. The work-from-home scene is particularly strong in Arlington, allowing residents to reduce car dependance for daily commutes and limit the need for stuff including office outfits and accessories. Largely supported by a well-performing public transit system and the city’s overall walkability, only 38% of residents use their car for daily commutes. Finding a small home or apartment in Arlington shouldn’t be a problem either – almost 69% of the local housing stock is made up of two bedrooms or less. With 766 square feet of park space per capita, Arlington residents can exercise outdoors as much as they wish, and don’t necessarily have to spend money on gym memberships.

Another city in Virginia that makes a good destination for those interested in a minimalist lifestyle is Richmond, ranking 10th nationally, due to solid scores across the board in terms of public transportation, walkability, commute time, and work from home opportunities. More than half of the houses in Richmond have 2 bedrooms or less, and the residents show a high intent toward minimalism, based on Google searches.

The Midwest is turning minimalist

Several cities in the Midwest are well suited to minimalist living, due to an urban model that favors walkability, small homes and outdoor spaces where residents can enjoy nature and various activities free of charge.

Minnesota’s St. Paul ranks third in the country in terms of suitability for a minimalist lifestyle, surpassing its twin, Minneapolis, by two positions. Both cities perform well for metrics such as public transportation, walkability, and commute times. However, St. Paul offers more park space per capita – 787 square feet vs. 631 square feet in Minneapolis – which also results in better air quality for the former. Minneapolis, on the other hand, has slightly more homes with two bedrooms or less: 62% vs. 55%. All in all, it’s safe to say that the Twin Cities provide the right environment for Americans interested in a minimalist lifestyle – so much so that it balances out one of the area’s main downsides, the climate.

Located in neighboring Wisconsin, Madison manages to rank as the fourth-best city for minimalists – and its walkability and biking infrastructure are among the strongest attributes working in its favor. Almost 3% of Madison residents go to work by bike, the highest share among the cities analyzed, and an additional 8% walk to their jobs. The commute time is under 19 minutes, the fifth best overall, while more than half of the homes in the city have two bedrooms or less. Public parks are plentiful – the city’s residents enjoy 887 square feet of park space per capita, ensuring easy access to free outdoor activities for families.

With its chill and friendly vibe, Des Moines, IA, is becoming a true hotspot for young people, due to relatively low housing and living costs and an expanding job market focused on the insurance, financial and publishing industries. The average age in the city is around 34, compared to the national average of 38. Not only is Des Moines a great destination for young professionals, but it should definitely be on the moving home radar for those seeking a favorable setting for a minimalist lifestyle. Residents will get access to a great environment that fosters a simpler way of life, including a lower cost of living and engaging outdoor spaces. The commute time here stands at a more than reasonable 18.7 minutes, and the average monthly electricity bill, of around $135, is one of the cheapest among the cities analyzed. Des Moines excels in terms of public parks, with an impressive 1,385 square feet of space per capita.

Similarly, Lincoln, NE, which comes 13th overall, offers a low cost of living and plenty of outdoor space fit for supporting an active, experience-oriented lifestyle. The average monthly electricity bill in Lincoln is the fifth lowest among the cities analyzed and the city has the third-shortest commute time overall. Those who are intent on keeping living space to a functional minimum will have no problem feeling at home here as almost half of the local housing inventory consists of two bedrooms or fewer. Additionally, Lincoln is surrounded by gorgeous state parks that provide ample opportunities for great and inexpensive Midwestern fun, such as hiking, fishing and camping.

Cincinnati, OH, rounds out the Midwestern cities that made it into the top 20 of the best cities for a minimalist lifestyle, with a mix of features that include a good public transportation system, high walkability and small homes. Almost two thirds of the housing inventory in Cincinnati consists of houses that have two bedrooms or fewer. The average monthly electricity bill is quite affordable too, at around $140, while the amount of park space per capita is almost 820 square feet.

Atlanta is the Southern capital of minimalism – but other cities in the area score high as well

Southern cities have an extra advantage when it comes to minimalist living – the climate is generally milder in the South. There’s no need for a lot of winter clothes or home equipment such as snow blowers taking up closet and garage space, and the outdoors here is a reasonably pleasant environment, so many of the things we love doing can be taken outside. Although there are hot summer days when using the AC is a must, the costs related to heating up and cooling down a home are generally lower than in other locations.

The best-placed Southern city in the minimalism ranking is Atlanta, GA, landing on the fifth spot. Almost 40% of the employees residing here are working from home, which means that newcomers shouldn’t have major difficulties in finding a job that allows them to skip the office and the associated commute and professional outfits. And, speaking of getting to work, the average commute time in Atlanta is around 25 minutes, while about half of its residents make do without a car on a daily basis. Finding a cozy home shouldn’t be an issue either: 60% of the homes in the city have two bedrooms or fewer.

New Orleans, LA, ranks 7th among the best cities for minimalists, with cost of living and the weather working on its side. Temperatures in New Orleans tend to be moderate (between 60- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit) allowing people to be outdoors and keep their AC and heating systems shut down for a good portion of the year. At around $102, the monthly average electricity bill is the second cheapest among the cities considered for this research. And, even if working from home is not yet widespread in New Orleans, the commute is a reasonable 22 minutes.

Durham, NC, is well recognized as being one of the best mid-sized cities in the US, with its thriving job market, its top-notch educational system and its hip and cool vibe, enhanced by the presence of college students and young professionals. Durham is a good destination for those who prefer living simply as well: working from home is definitely a popular option here, and even when this is not possible, the daily commute time is under 22 minutes. About 45% of the local housing inventory is comprised of small homes, and there are many fun activities to do around the city that don’t involve spending money. The 22-mile-long American Tobacco Trail that goes through Downtown Durham and a couple of neighboring counties is a great spot for hiking and biking. The Duke Forest and the spectacular neo-Gothic campus of Duke University are ideal for leisurely strolls as well.

Another North Carolina city ranking high for a minimalism-oriented lifestyle is Raleigh. A third of the employees here work from home, the friendly climate reduces costs associated with heating, cooling and shopping for clothes, while the over 1,100 square feet of park space per capita ensures that residents always have something agreeable to do outdoors.

Austin is the only Texan city that makes it among the top 20 best cities for minimalism. What propels Austin to the top is working from home opportunities (almost 40% of the employees living here work from home) and the relative ease of living without a car (almost half of the residents don’t use a car for their daily commute). Small homes should also be easy to find, as 57% of the available housing inventory falls under the category of two bedrooms or fewer.

Minimalist bedroom

Residents of Orlando, FL, are very interested in minimalism, if we’re to judge based on Google searches. Residents of this city, which ranks 17th overall in the list, are the second-most interested in finding out more about this lifestyle, with an average of ten searches focused on minimalism per 1,000 residents. Other advantages of Orlando include moderate temperatures throughout the year, good air quality and a consistent stock of small homes.

Portland carries the minimalist torch on the West Coast

Four cities on the West Coast managed to land among the 20 best minimalist cities. Portland, OR, gets major points for biking and its share of people working from home. Also, with its mild weather, Portland makes it easy for residents to cut utility bills and enjoy outdoor activities – speaking of which, with several national parks located nearby, Portland is one of the best minimalist destinations for nature lovers among the top 20 cities.

Seattle, WA, scores very well across the board in terms of public transportation, biking popularity and walkability. On top of that, almost half of the local employees work from home, and almost two-thirds of the residents are not dependent on cars. Spokane, WA, is a friendly destination for minimalists as well – and one that’s less expensive than Seattle. There’s great local interest in outdoor activities in Spokane, so minimalists looking for simple and inexpensive ways to exercise and have fun will definitely appreciate this city.

San Diego, CA, rounds out the top 20 of cities where it’s easy to follow a minimalist lifestyle. Remarkably for a city of its size, the average commute time in San Diego is a little over 22 minutes, while over a quarter of the local employees are actually working from home. San Diego also scores some serious points in terms of climate, and home sizes – 55% of the houses in the city have two bedrooms or fewer.

Self storage can support a minimalist lifestyle

Minimalism emphasizes the idea of owning only practical things. But even if we hold on to this principle, there are things that can still clutter a small home. That’s where self storage comes in, for keeping the things we need without taking up important living space in our homes. Moreover, self storage can prove particularly useful for some categories of people, including young families who plan on growing their households, empty nesters who want to pass some of their possessions to children and grandchildren, or digital nomads who travel for months at a time. In such cases, using self storage can protect against extra expenses, while also allowing people to live comfortably in a small, minimalist home – or it can allow them to give up an apartment lease for the duration of their travels, by using a self storage unit to keep their essentials in instead.

Naturally, the costs and availability of self storage vary across the country, so here’s how the cities we analyzed for this article fare in terms of self storage:

Self Storage Rates and Availability

CitySelf Storage/
Capita
(sq. ft.)
Self Storage
Street Rate*
Salt Lake City, UT3.2$119
Arlington, VA1.1$244
St. Paul, MN1.0$156
Atlanta, GA4.6$143
Madison, WI4.1$117
Minneapolis, MN2.1$112
New Orleans, LA4.4$133
Portland, OR4.3$143
Des Moines, IA4.4$90
Seattle, WA3.7$200
Honolulu, HI2.8$277
Richmond, VA5.6$107
Austin, TX7.7$123
Durham, NC8.8$101
Orlando, FL6.6$124
Lincoln, NE6.4$99
San Diego, CA3.7$186
Spokane, WA7.0$121
Irvine, CA4.6$170
Raleigh, NC7.1$96
San Francisco, CA2.1$271
Oakland, CA2.4$201
Cincinnati, OH3.9$98
Denver, CO3.4$137
Miami, FL3.5$180
Pittsburgh, PA3.5$110
Fremont, CA3.4$176
Boston, MA0.7$188
Rochester, NY3.3$126
Nashville, TN6.7$123
Tucson, AZ7.7$121
Tampa, FL6.6$123
Sacramento, CA4.9$147
Washington, DC2.1$157
Norfolk, VA5.0$103
New York City, NY2.4$390
Virginia Beach, VA10.5$112
Columbus, OH4.3$92
Tacoma, WA4.2$157
Anchorage, AK6.2$180
Lubbock, TX14.5$91
San Jose, CA3.8$175
Scottsdale, AZ7.0$176
Los Angeles, CA1.8$256
Anaheim, CA1.3$192
Little Rock, AR10.4$86
Greensboro, NC9.6$93
Charlotte, NC6.9$103
Long Beach, CA2.1$193
Albuquerque, NM7.6$104
Omaha, NE6.7$87
Baton Rouge, LA11.2$102
Buffalo, NY1.8$129
Reno, NV14.9$122
Winston-Salem, NC6.49$90
Fayetteville, NC10.7$113
Baltimore City, MD3.4$124
Chicago, IL3.4$132
Augusta, GA9.0$89
Dallas, TX5.0$116
Indianapolis, IN6.7$87
Colorado Springs, CO10.8$110
Columbus, GA11.5$98
Kansas City, MO4.1$110
Houston, TX6.6$98
Tulsa, OK8.7$81
Santa Ana, CA1.6$186
Huntsville, AL9.2$90
San Antonio, TX8.6$114
Jacksonville, FL9.5$115
Cleveland, OH2.2$114
Chula Vista, CA3.4$181
Irving, TX7.3$97
Milwaukee, WI3.4$102
Fort Wayne, IN6.7$101
Philadelphia, PA2.7$146
Phoenix, AZ4.8$125
Louisville, KY7.4$94
Mesa, AZ5.8$110
Wichita, KS6.5$85
Corpus Christi, TX10.3$100
Oklahoma City, OK8.3$79
Toledo, OH4.1$93
El Paso, TX5.9$103
Memphis, TN7.3$90
Detroit, MI1.1$158
San Bernardino, CA3.2$108
Hialeah, FL2.1$173
Las Vegas, NV7.0$124
Fresno, CA7.2$116
Oxnard, CA4.8$168
Bakersfield, CA8.9$84
Modesto, CA6.1$132
Fort Worth, TX6.0$100
Arlington, TX5.8$99
Stockton, CA6.1$131
Source: RentCafe analysis of U.S. Census Bureau and Yardi Matrix data
*The average self storage street rate is for a 10'x10' non-climate controlled storage unit.


Living a staunch minimalist lifestyle might not be for everyone – however, it definitely pays off to take some of its principles to heart. Reducing the amount of stuff you own, focusing on practical living and finding ways to enjoy your free time without spending money sets you up for better financial and mental health. And, considering the current global challenges we are facing related to the availability of various natural resources, living a simpler, less consumerism-oriented lifestyle might be just what we all need.

Check out how all the 96 cities in our analysis rank in terms of overall and individual metrics:

Expert Opinions

Mia Danielle, Home Organizing Influencer

What types of people does minimalism appeal to today?

Whereas minimalism may have started out as somewhat of a millennial interest, today it appeals to a broader demographic of people with a common interest in conscientious living and productivity.

What advice would you give to someone looking to embrace minimalism in their homes?

You likely don't need as much as you think you do. In truth, most of us don't even want as much as we think we do – it's more a matter of adhering to our personal status quo. A practice of letting go often proves to be a cathartic and surprising experience of realizing what you truly need and want in your space and in your life.

What are the main benefits of leading a minimalist lifestyle?

A minimalist lifestyle isn't a decor trend but a solution to many of today's top concerns, including environmental and social issues. Conscious consumption aids in financial health and reduced waste while living with less clutter offers relief from overwhelm caused by the typically busy and over-stimulated lifestyle.

Doug Ressler, Business Intelligence Manager, Yardi Matrix

What are the main benefits of leading a minimalist lifestyle?

While the US is experiencing significantly higher interest rates, inflation and job layoffs, overall, the economy is stronger than in most countries globally. Americans are likely to seek more leisure time and lifestyle changes due to reduced spatial needs in housing units which will also allow for an economic advantage in their housing costs.

Methodology

This analysis was done by RentCafe, a nationwide apartment and storage unit search website.

The report aims to identify the best cities for a minimalist lifestyle. We analyzed the cities with a population of over 200K residents, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, but excluded cities where we had insufficient data.

We ranked these cities based on a series of metrics including transportation (public transportation, commute time, share of people walking and biking to work) prevalence of working from home, size of homes in a city, climate and environmental factors, population density, access to parks and beaches, electricity bills, self storage availability and costs, among others.

All the metrics had equal weighting and the score was calculated as an average of individual rankings. These are all the metrics and their sources:

Fair use and distribution

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.

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Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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