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Creating a Relaxing "Renter-Friendly" Living Space for Good Mental Health

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Our surroundings affect our mood, for better or for worse. Just think of the calm you feel in a quiet, leafy park compared to the annoyance felt when you’re in a noisy, crowded space. As we change our surroundings, our state of mind changes, too. However, there’s one place that holds a lasting impact on your mood and mental health: your home.

Americans today spend more time at home than ever before, with an average of 18 hours per day, according to the latest IPA TouchPoints 2023 research. So if your home is sucking the life out of you instead of giving you that much-needed recharge, that’s a problem. Renters, restricted by lease agreements and rules, might feel even more helpless about this lack of complete control over their own space.

But guess what? You don’t need to be a homeowner to create that relaxing living space you deserve. With our eight renter-friendly tips below, you’ll be on your way to creating a cozy home that nurtures your mind and body. Let’s get into it.

8 Ways to Optimize Your Rental for a Mental Health Friendly Space

  1. Declutter Regularly

Mental Health America says that while your house doesn’t need to be spotless, clutter can be bad for your mental state and can contribute to depression, cause trouble focusing, and lead to stress. From impulse buys to sentimental keepsakes, we often accumulate more than we need or can comfortably fit in our living spaces. But why do we do it? Part of it is human nature, we like to seek out new experiences and possessions. The constant barrage of ads and pressure to keep up with trends certainly doesn’t help either.

Fortunately, there’s a growing movement that’s all about simplifying our lives. Parting with possessions isn’t easy, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to decluttering. Start slowly and experiment with a technique that resonates with you. 

Here are some of the most popular decluttering movements you can try:

  • KonMari Method: Developed by Marie Kondo, the KonMari Method is based on the principle of keeping only items that “spark joy.” Kondo emphasizes the importance of mindfulness and gratitude in the decluttering process, encouraging individuals to evaluate each of their belongings and let go of those that no longer serve a purpose or bring happiness.

  • Swedish Death Cleaning: Swedish Death Cleaning, or “döstädning,” is a decluttering concept popularized by Margareta Magnusson. Despite having a somewhat concerning name, the concept itself is a positive one. The general idea is to edit and organize one’s possessions throughout life, to ease the burden on loved ones after we’re gone. It allows people to reflect on their belongings and consider what they truly value and wish to pass on.

  • The Four-Box Method: The Four-Box Method involves sorting items into four categories: keep, donate, sell, and trash. It helps you systematically sort out things you no longer need and make decisions about each item right away, instead of letting them take up space in your home.

  • The FlyLady Decluttering System: Founded by Marla Cilley, this system breaks down decluttering tasks into small, manageable baby steps. Tips include starting with easy-to-manage tasks such as setting a timer for short decluttering sessions, and sprinkling things such as organization and decluttering into your daily routine.

  • Decluttering Challenges: Love playing games? Then decluttering challenges might just work for you. Challenges like the 30-day minimalism game or the 10x10 wardrobe challenge provide structured frameworks for reducing one’s possessions. They often involve gradually reducing the number of belongings over a set period of time, encouraging minimalist habits and mindset shifts.

  1. Let There Be Light

Ever noticed how a sunny day instantly lifts your spirits, while a dimly lit room can leave you feeling a bit blah? That’s the power of natural light. But for renters, getting that perfect lighting setup isn’t always easy. Units with tiny windows or those on lower floors or facing north may receive less natural light throughout the day, making the space darker and gloomier.

If you have natural light sources, make the most of it. Keep your windows unobstructed and choose light-colored curtains or blinds that let the sunshine in. Don’t forget to arrange your furniture to maximize light flow. Adding mirrors in the right places can bounce light around and make your place feel brighter and more open, even on the darkest days.

Not enough natural light? That’s where artificial lighting comes in. Consider investing in light bulbs or lamps that mimic daylight, it’s like having a little slice of sunshine right in your living room. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your lighting setup. There are endless (and often affordable) lighting options to brighten up your space and your mood.

  1. Use the Power of Color

Colors are sneaky. They shape our perceptions and emotions in subtle, yet powerful ways. For example, red stimulates the senses, adding a vibrant burst of energy to any room. Yellow energizes and uplifts, infusing spaces with a sunny disposition. Blue and green evoke nature and a tranquil atmosphere, perfect for unwinding after a long day.

Painting aside, there are plenty of ways to incorporate colors throughout your space without breaking any lease agreements. Start with accessories like throw pillows, rugs, curtains, and artwork.

If the boring walls in your rental are wearing on you, remember, you can always ask your landlord for permission to paint. Approach your landlord with a polite request, explaining your desire to refresh the space. You can sweeten the deal by offering to cover the costs or return the walls to their original color upon moving out.

Get on your landlord’s good side with these tips: How to Be a Great Resident.

  1. Create a Sleep Wonderland

Getting enough shut-eye can make all the difference in how you feel throughout the day, and experts (and countless scientific studies) back this up. Elizabeth Blake Zakarin, assistant professor and clinical psychologist at the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, says “Just like our electronics need to be charged, sleep may recharge or reset the brain to optimize functioning.” 

First, let’s talk about your bed set-up. A supportive mattress that cradles you in comfort all night long and high-quality bedding is a game-changer when it comes to getting great sleep. Let’s also not forget about pillows! Go for ones that provide the perfect balance of support and fluffiness to keep your neck and spine aligned while you snooze. 

A cool room temperature of around 65 degrees fahrenheit is the ideal bedroom temperature, as it can promote deeper, more restful sleep. Blocking out unwanted light is another way to help you drift off to dreamland easily. Swap out regular curtains for blackout ones to effectively darken a bedroom. A comfortable sleep mask is another affordable way to shield your eyes from light and help you achieve a more peaceful night’s sleep.

  1. Turn Down the Noise

You’re trying to unwind after a long day, but all you can hear is the never-ending symphony of noisy neighbors, traffic outside your window, or that incessant barking dog down the hall. Noise pollution is a real mood killer, and it can seriously take a toll on your mental and physical health.

Consider investing in noise-canceling earplugs or a white noise machine to drown out any unwanted sounds and help create a more serene environment. You can also add some soft furnishings like rugs, curtains, and upholstered furniture to help absorb sound and reduce echo in your space.

For pesky street sounds that just won’t quit, consider window treatments like soundproof curtains, which can block anywhere from 20% to 50% of incoming noise. 

Are the neighbors your main noise problem? Open up a friendly discussion about it with them. Sometimes, a polite reminder is all it takes to make a big difference.

Moving out? Read our Tips for Tenants Moving to a New Area.

  1. Clear the Air

It’s time to clear the air- literally. The Harvard School of Public Health found that indoor air quality can contribute to feelings of tiredness, and irritability, and may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. On the other hand, clean air promotes better oxygen flow to the brain, improving energy levels and overall mood. 

If your rental unit feels stuffy and stale, the usual culprits are dust, mold, and an accumulation of pollutants from smoke or chemicals. Open windows and doors whenever possible to allow fresh air to circulate throughout the space. Regular cleaning is your secret weapon against dust and allergens. And if you really want to level up your air quality, consider getting an air purifier. Depending on the type of air purifier you have, these can filter out dust, mold, dander, and even viruses from the air.

Mold and mildew love to hang out in damp, dark corners like your bathroom or kitchen. Tackle these intruders by keeping moisture levels in check. Use exhaust fans and open windows when you’re cooking or showering. If you spot any mold or mildew, don’t wait! Be sure to deal with it head-on with good scrubbing and a little elbow grease. Also be sure to give your landlord a heads-up about any mold problem you detect.

  1. Carve Out a Cozy Corner

Dreaming of a cozy corner where you can retreat to, even just for a few precious minutes each day? Don’t let a small space stop you. Look for underused spaces in your rental, such as a living room corner, a window alcove, or a hallway section. These areas can often be transformed into cozy nooks with a little creativity.

Consider how you can use your spot for various activities. Be it for reading, relaxing, or just enjoying a cup of your favorite beverage. Choose versatile furniture pieces and accessories that can easily adapt to different uses throughout the day. Next, infuse your personality into your spot by decorating according to your interests and style. Personal touches like framed photos of loved ones or keepsakes can make a space feel truly your own.

  1. Bring In Some Green

Does your rental feel like it lacks life? Maybe it does! But a touch of green might just be the answer. Aside from the aesthetic benefits, exposure to indoor greenery can reduce stress, improve concentration, and even boost our overall mood. One study even shows that even just looking at pictures of plants has a positive impact on stress levels.

For renters, things like limited sunlight or space constraints can stand in the way of cultivating an indoor green oasis. The good news is that there are low-maintenance plant options like snake plants or pothos that thrive in low light and require minimal care. Take advantage of extra spaces in your unit by using hanging planters or choosing miniature plant varieties. Look for plants with trailing or compact growths, such as succulents, air plants, or small ferns. Aside from taking up next to zero floor space, these plants also require minimal maintenance.

Mental health matters. It affects how you enjoy life and your relationships with the people you love. A relaxing living space is a good starting point to feeling your best, physically and mentally. You might not be able to do major overhauls as a tenant, but there are plenty of smaller, renter-friendly modifications you can do to improve your home and make it your own.

Your dream rental home is just a few clicks away. Have a look at available Renters Warehouse listings in your area. With customizable filters, you can pinpoint the ideal property that aligns with your needs, so you can find the rental home that’s perfect for you.

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