When we last met, I made the case for a local lifestyle and bragged about its massive benefits. This wasn’t just to make you jealous. I want everyone to live this way.
The hard part is situating yourself strategically to make a local lifestyle possible. In other words, picking up and moving to a better location. But once you cross that task off your to-do list, I’m here with some practical tips and a shopping list.
Yes, I should warn you—my frugal and/or minimal friend—that this may involve buying stuff. But it’s all for a good cause. And that cause is equipping you with the tools you’ll need to thrive while living locally.
So here are 14 essential tools for a local lifestyle. These are what you need, whether you’re already living this way, or plotting to get there soon.
A reacher-grabber is the hottest outdoor gear that you won’t find in REI. It’s exactly what you need for getting active in your neighborhood and… picking up litter.
Imagine a casual stroll around the block or through a local park. But now it’s paired with a small but satisfying act of altruism—litter removal.
A reacher-grabber is also handy if you have a physical disability that makes it hard to bend down or reach things. Your passion for litter removal might fade with time. But you can still keep the grabber around in case of broken legs or old-age.
2. Cat Litter Pail
You need an empty cat litter pail in your life. You could go with a five-gallon bucket with a handle instead, but that pales in comparison to the pail.
I recommend this Tidy Cats litter container. It features durable construction, large capacity, and a comfortable handle.
First, you’ll need to find something to do with the litter. Then you can use the empty container to collect a different kind of litter: Trash that you pick up with your reacher-grabber.
But that’s not all. You can also use the container to collect weeds or anything else you need to carry around your property.
Finally, you can use this as your recycling bin under the kitchen sink. I put stickers on mine to make it look cool. No one would suspect that my super-cool recycling bin also does so much more.
A bicycle allows efficient transportation from point A to B. And it puts a lot more of those “point B’s” within your reach. It expands the zone of what is local to you while you leave the car at home to gather dust, or rent out on Turo.
And if your commute drains your spirit, this is the solution. A bicycle can turn something like a five-mile commute into a joyful daily exercise routine. The same goes for a visit to a grocery store that’s three miles away.
Not only that, bicycling is a fun family activity on the weekend. Yes, a bicycle is a source of fun, exercise, and transportation. And it can be all these things at the same time. That’s why a bicycle is a must-have tool for a local lifestyle.
4. Another Bicycle
Woah, two bicycles? That might sound extravagant. But as great as riding a bike is, it’s even better when you do it with someone else.
The second bike might be your spouse’s bike, or an extra you keep around for guests to ride. Either way, you’d better have at least two bicycles in your stable. And if you have kids, you need even more.
The truth is, you might end up with a whole garage full of bikes. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It sure beats a garage full of Toyota Sequoias.
5. Bike Trailer
Even before I became a parent, I longed for a bike trailer. I liked the idea of hooking up an accessory to my bicycle and making it even more useful.
A bike trailer is perfect for its intended purpose: transporting a small child or two.
You can also throw junk in the trunk. Or just haul things around—no kids needed.
The trailer performs some functions that otherwise wouldn’t be possible on a bike. And it reduces the need to use a car even further.
Some of my greatest hits with the bike trailer include:
- Hauling a boxed-up car seat to a UPS store to return it
- Bringing home a plastic lawn chair purchased at a hardware store
- Loading up heavy groceries
- Transporting my daughter, a stuffed dog, a picnic blanket, and food and drinks for a picnic in the park
6. High Visibility Safety Vest
Instead of buying bright neon jackets and backpacks, you can wear this reflective safety vest over your regular clothes and be visible to drivers.
It’s unfortunate that we have to wear “high viz” out there on the roads to feel safe. But American drivers are dangerous and their vehicles are enormous. Safety comes first, so you might as well wear it. Even if people mistake you for a parking enforcement officer.
This vest is also appropriate attire for picking up trash with your reacher-grabber.
7. Folding Utility Wagon
You’ve probably seen these utility wagons being pulled around by adorable families and wondered, should I own one too?
Yes, you should. Here’s why.
The first use case is toddler transportation (Note: The manufacturer clearly states that it is NOT made to transport children. But I do it anyway.) Let’s say you’re taking your toddler somewhere like the library, or the grocery store, or the park, or wherever. The wagon is a way to make the journey more exciting for your child (“whee, a wagon ride!” ) and more useful for you (“whee, I can carry heavy things!”).
At the grocery store, you’re free to load the wagon up with heavy things that you otherwise couldn’t carry. And the wagon folds up in a second, which means it doesn’t have to take up much space when you’re not using it. Here’s a pro tip: Bring a bike lock with you to lock up the wagon to a bike rack or railing while you shop inside the store.
8. Reusable Bag
A sturdy reusable cloth bag is a must for a local lifestyle. If you’re walking or biking to your local grocery store, the reusable bag makes it easy to carry your haul. Plus you avoid using plastic bags. It’s also handy to carry home your library books. But please don’t fall into the trap of replacing all those plastic bags with just as many cloth bags. You only need a grand total of two cloth bags.
9. Electronic Entry System
Did I forget my keys? Did I lock myself out? Did I drop my keys through a drainage grate again? You can forget about all those worries with an electronic entry system. Install it on your front door, or on your garage, or wherever you want. Then you can mince around your neighborhood without a key in your pocket nor a care in the world!
10. Picnic Blanket
For an old-fashioned good time, have a picnic. On a blanket. Boom. I should drop the mic right there. But I’ll elaborate anyway.
A picnic blanket unlocks wholesome activities for the whole family. Pack it in your bike trailer or a backpack and you’ll be able to whip it out anywhere that seems nice. Lay it out and chow down on snacks you brought from home or some Chipotle burrito bowls.
A picnic blanket is also useful for events like a concert in a park or to make your own backyard seem more idyllic.
You need a decent backpack. How else will you prance around your neighborhood while toting snacks, flying discs, and library books? A backpack allows you to do all this hands-free. It frees up your hands for carrying kids, groceries, and Chipotle. Choose a backpack with a couple mesh beverage holders so you can also bring your own drinks wherever you go.
12. Insulated Lunch Bag
An insulated lunch bag will serve you well for bringing your lunch to work every day. It also pairs well with a picnic blanket for a complete picnic experience. I recommend you get a lunch bag that fits right inside your backpack.
13. Travel Coffee Mug
If you drink coffee as I do, a good travel coffee mug is a must. It will help keep your coffee hot and keep you out of Starbucks. It should fit snugly in the mesh beverage holders on your backpack.
14. Water Bottle
Always bring a water bottle. This way you can avoid issues like buying water and dehydration. Like the coffee mug, this should fit in the mesh beverage holders on your backpack.
So there they are… 14 essential tools for a local lifestyle. You’ll notice that there’s a lot of synergy between these tools. Often, you’re not acquiring one tool in isolation. It’s part of a larger system. For example, a lunch box and water bottle that fits in a backpack. Or a picnic blanket that fits in a bike trailer which attaches to a bike.
You don’t have to get everything on this list, but I do recommend it all. I find this stuff essential.
I hope this quick hit of consumerism helps you live your best local life and inspires you to do more without your car. Now go forth and thrive within your local radius!
Did I miss something? What tools have you found to be essential for a local lifestyle?