The Habits of Highly Effective Small-Town Residents

Updated: Apr 5

Eva shopping local in Julian, CA.

Living outside city limits comes with its own set of challenges. Inconveniences can really disrupt things. We can’t stop the unexpected circumstances that happen. With preparation, though, we can be ready when unforeseen situations transpire. Small-town residents are full of tricks to make life easier. As you settle into your new hometown, you will slowly learn the habits for success. By developing effective habits, you can improve your rural lifestyle.

Community Interdependence

Small towns are not self-sustaining. It takes a dedicated community willing to donate time and money to grass-roots operations. The biggest lesson I learned while growing up in a small town is that what you put into the community is what you get out of it. The sooner you get involved, the quicker you will adjust. Neighborly interdependence is a real thing. We depend on each other for information, help in all forms, and friendship. You will never know when you need a helping hand, so get to know your neighbors and treat them with respect (and maybe some homemade sweets). Getting involved is also a great way to make some great friends and learn their effective habits, and you’ll probably come to love your new hometown as much as the “old-timers” do.

San Diego Backcountry residents can learn about all the local organizations here.

Become a Planner

To protect your sanity, learn to plan everything in advance. Buy a calendar and notepads right now. When the closest grocery store is at least thirty minutes away, you can’t just rush to the store. Keeping running shopping lists is a good way to ensure you won’t forget to buy something. Trust me, every rural resident has returned home from a shopping trip only to discover they forgot something. You will also need to plan errands, prepare for storms, and learn to live among the wildlife.

Shop in Bulk

Bulk shopping dramatically cuts down on time spent driving. Natural disasters, temporary road closures, and living far from stores are just a few reasons you need to buy extra. As COVID has taught us all, having an emergency supply of necessities is critical. At our house, we try to buy enough staples and commonly used items to last at least two to three weeks. In addition to food, this includes things like hygiene items, car oil, and laundry soap. Greeting cards, gift wrap, flash drives, batteries, chargers, and other last-minute and regularly forgotten items that are not sold locally should likewise be included in your stockpile.

Make Driving Time Productive

It doesn’t matter how much planning you do, driving is inevitable. I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks to make the time in the car productive.

Turn Your Car into a Mary Poppins Bag

My car is like Mary Poppins’ satchel. I keep a bin in my truck with commonly needed items including water, snacks, oil, jumper cables, a blanket, a jacket, snow chains, and a flashlight. I also have tissues, Advil and other medications, and a trash bag. Keeping a hidden spare key isn’t a bad idea. Yours truly locked her keys in the car at eight p.m. during a city shopping trip. An alternative option is leaving a spare with a friend near the places where you shop most frequently.

Check Sell-By Dates

In sleepy little towns like my hometown, things move at a slower pace. That includes the merchandise on store shelves. Independent store owners have a tough task trying to keep a large variety of fresh options on their shelves. Out-of-date items often fall through the cracks. (I’ve also received out-of-date items from big box stores, so it’s not solely a Julian thing.) It’s best to get in the habit of checking dates before you buy item