Are There Mental Health Benefits to Living in a Small Space?

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Living in a small space has benefits and drawbacks for your mental health. If you perceive your environment to be clean, orderly, and comfortable, you will do better in a small space. If you feel crowded and not comfortable at home, you will do worse

This article will explore why people are living in small spaces, the adverse effects it has on your health, the impact of crowded homes on children, and the positive mental health effects of living in small quarters. Also, learn how to optimize small spaces for mental health.

Why People Live in a Small Space

Your environment affects your mental health. Factors that might make you love or hate your home include its aesthetics, the space, privacy, perception of density, the people you live with, culture, and finances.

Micro-sized apartments in cities have become more popular as people value having smaller commutes. Tiny homes have also become more popular for singles and couples. People are going tiny for sustainability reasons, the ability to travel more, and financial freedom.

Meanwhile, some people don’t have a choice but to stay in their imperfect spaces. For example, some people must have roommates out of necessity. And some families are forced to live together in close proximity due to economic reasons. Others are living in small spaces due to recent inflation and the escalating prices of renting and buying a home.

Negative Mental Health Effects of Inhabiting A Small Home

Living in cramped spaces can pose health risks. If your perception of your home is that it’s a busy or lonely, negative, dark, and cramped space, you might feel increased stress and anxiety.

Living alone in a small space can elicit feelings of confinement or that you are trapped. If you isolate yourself away as a reaction, that might lead to loneliness.

Yet, perceiving you’re in a crowded, tight space also has adverse effects. You might be interrupted by what’s going on around you. Noise pollution can include the sound of the TV, people talking loudly, or the whirring of the blender. You can become distracted and end up unable to concentrate on work. Soon you’re in a bad mood.

If there’s clutter all around, that leads to feelings of overwhelm. Clutter comes at a cost.because it occupies space in your home, but it also affects your brain. With multiple piles, too many possessions in each room, and seemingly chaos all around, you’ll visually scan the area first. Meanwhile, your brain has to struggle hard to focus on what you need to do.

Having too many possessions or a disorganized environment takes a toll on your well-being. Decluttering and tidying up not only reduces stress, but restores a sense of control.

What Happens to Some Kids in Crowded Homes?

Crowded housing can harm children’s behavior, school achievement, and also physical health. 

According to a study that analyzed the effects of crowded residential housing on children, multiple aspects of children’s well-being suffered due to their living conditions.

The scientific findings show that children in crowded dwellings who perceived they were in crowded spaces had elevated blood pressure, loneliness, depression, and lower academic performances.

Positive Mental Health Effects of Inhabiting Small Homes

Assuming that the space isn’t dirty, over-run with possessions, or in disarray, one of the advantages of living in a small space is that it’s calming. Like a nest, you might very well feel cozy and comforted.

Without having to focus on the minutiae that comes from having many rooms in a bigger home, those embracing minimalism are happier. With no need to spend hours cleaning up a vast residence or working an undesirable job in order to be able to pay a mortgage on an oversized space, small-home dwellers are able to be self-sustaining and still have time for hobbies and adventures.

One of the best reasons to find out more about living in a small space and choosing a minimalist life? Scientific studies have proven how it benefits your health.

Minimalism

Minimalism as a lifestyle contributes to well-being. In a recent study,scientists focused on minimalism and its effect on people’s emotional well-being.

Researchers developed and tested a model that depicted the effects of minimalism on positive emotion (flourishing) and negative emotion (depression). The outcome of the research showed that minimalism enhanced flourishing and also alleviated depression.

Optimizing Scaled-Down Spaces for Mental Health

There are a number of ways to make the best use of the space you’re in, even though it’s small. If you’re thinking of moving or want to optimize living in a small space, here are some things you can do to improve the space while keeping in mind at the same time these ideas will enhance your good health:

  • Purge regularly. Too much clutter can create a dysfunctional home and an overwrought mind. Take time to give away even more of the stuff you don’t need. We are saddled with possessions and might not realize we are accumulating too much unless we clear out stuff regularly.
  • Clean regularly for the sake of your mental health. Messiness can lead to confusion, tension, and irritability. By cleaning and tidying up, you are not only creating a healthier environment for your body to function in, but you are also creating an orderliness and healthy mind.
  • Be sure to have a window view of nature’s green spaces. In a recent cross-sectional study, scientists explored participants’ risk for anxiety and depression if they had views from their home of green spaces. Results showed that the adults with these views had a reduced risk of both anxiety and depression.
  • Get outside. If having a window view of nature is not possible, as it might not be for those in cities or with restricted funding for their apartments, be sure to turn to nature therapy. This type of therapy focuses on using nature to help us heal, especially psychologically. Take a walk through a lush park as a meditative experience
  • Add plants to your home. If you don’t have access to green space and can’t get out due to obligations, bring in the plants. Plants can positively impact your mood. Or decorate your small home with photos that depict nature so you can view them during the day. Or listen to nature sounds as a relaxation aid.
  • Give yourself more privacy. If you’re in a space with many people, add a divider or do your work outside. Privacy doesn’t just allow you to better focus on your activities. It also gives you time to self-reflect, which is especially valuable if you are living within the constraints of a busy household within a small space.
3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rollings KA, Evans GW. Design Moderators of Perceived Residential Crowding and Chronic Physiological Stress Among Children. Environment and Behavior. 2019;51(5):590-621. doi:10.1177/0013916518824631

  2. Kang J, Martinez CMJ, Johnson C. Minimalism as a sustainable lifestyle: Its behavioral representations and contributions to emotional well-being. Sustainable Production and Consumption. 2021; 27:802-813.

  3. Braçe O, Garrido-Cumbrera M, Foley R, Correa-Fernández J, Suárez-Cáceres G, Lafortezza R. Is a View of Green Spaces from Home Associated with a Lower Risk of Anxiety and Depression?Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(19):7014. Published 2020 Sep 25. doi:10.3390/ijerph17197014

By Barbara Field
Barbara is writer and speak who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.