The Greatest Cities for Minimalists

The Best Cities for Minimalists

Minimalism has become a popular catchphrase in recent years. Call it that or “simple living” — the idea is that a simpler life is a happier one.

For some, it could mean discarding possessions and keeping only the ones that “spark joy,” as the popular “tidying up” guru Marie Kondo puts it. To others, it’s a lifestyle that rejects capitalist ideals and cherishes more free time and communing with nature — forgoing demanding careers, long commutes and expensive homes and cars, in favor of working from home, living in smaller, more efficient homes and using public transportation, a bicycle or one’s feet to get around.

While a simpler, less stressful life is appealing, few can quit their jobs and live off the land. But a degree of minimalism can be practiced almost anywhere. A recent study by RentCafe examined data across 10 metrics in U.S. cities with populations over 200,000 to find where a minimal lifestyle was most and least feasible.

Among the categories considered for each locale were the share of smaller homes and the use of public transportation, biking and walking as alternatives to driving a car; commute time; and the share of residents working from home. Nature was valued in the rankings with points for air quality, days of sunshine, milder temperatures, public parks and low energy use. Population density and the preponderance of minimalism-related Google searches were also taken into account. Finally, for minimalists who can’t quite give everything up, the availability and price of self-storage was considered.

Residents in Salt Lake City searched “minimalism” most online, and the popularity of cycling, short commutes and access to small homes put the city on top. But because the Great Salt Lake is drying up, toxins threaten to pollute the city’s air. (Perhaps consider Arlington, Va., ranked next-best, as a better long-term alternate.) Otherwise, Midwestern and Southern cities dominated the top 10, with Atlanta, St. Paul, Minn., and Madison, Wis., among them.

Stockton, Calif., ranked last, dragged down by poor air quality and high energy bills. The Dallas satellites of Arlington and Fort Worth, Texas, were sunk by poor air quality and a high reliance on cars. Bicycle use was measured at zero in each of the three lowest scorers.

This week’s chart shows the 20 highest and 20 lowest ranked cities for minimalist living, according to RentCafe.

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