Big City to Small Town: Making the Leap

Recent moving industry studies have revealed that more people than ever are trading the big city for the more “livable” lifestyles found in suburban and rural areas. In fact, 2021 was the first year ever that people relocated more for personal reasons such as family and lifestyle versus professional reasons, like a new job or promotion. And overwhelmingly, they chose to opt out of major metropolitan areas. 

In short, many people are fleeing big cities and embracing a life less harried. Case in point: research by New York City’s Office of the Comptroller revealed that the number of change-of-address requests for move-outs from New York City addresses increased 36 percent to 837,404 in 2020. 

It’s a big decision to make, and not everybody will adjust without encountering a few bumps and surprises along the way. Assuming you have already decided to make the leap away from the big city, here are a few tips and insights that will help you land smoothly. 

Your Home is Your Castle, not a Jumping-Off Point 

Finally, you can spread out and relax! No more noisy neighbors, sirens and street noise to deal with. Your appliances are full-sized and there’s distance between you and your next-door neighbors. Plus, there’s plenty of storage space— even a garage. And when you look up at night? You can actually see stars.  

In a big city, your home functions more like a portal to the outside world rather than a destination unto itself. In a small town, it’s essentially the opposite. Perhaps for the very first time, you will be selecting furnishings and fixtures for their aesthetic appeal instead of whether or not they’ll fit into a cramped apartment. You may even find yourself prioritizing patio furniture over theater tickets, curtains over nights on the town. And if space prevented you from pursuing an interest or hobby before, there is no stopping you now!  

Turning a house into a home can be a liberating experience; however, you need to have a plan in place to pull it all together. If possible, get or sketch the layout of your new space before making any big purchases. Think about how you want to express your personal style — but don’t try to do too much at once. 

The Pace is Slower 

Life in small towns and rural areas moves at a different pace. This is a good thing; however, you may be a little surprised when a five-minute trip to the pharmacy now can take you 15 or 20. Relax. While the pace of small-town life is slower, remember it’s also one of the reasons you moved away from the hustle and bustle in the first place.  

Instead of rushing through your day, strike up conversations with local business owners. Smile and say “hi” to fellow shoppers. Above all, don’t become impatient or upset. You’ll soon adjust and be happier for it. 

More People Know Each Other 

City dwellers enjoy a certain degree of anonymity; in smaller communities, residents can run into each other over and over during a typical week. Meeting your new neighbors is a must — and don’t be surprised if someone walks up to you and shakes your hand. Your neighbors are not only a vital social connection, they are also a reliable source of information about the best mechanics, vets, markets and other features of the area. And they are usually more than willing to help you settle in.  

People and Opinions Will be Different 

In a big city, it is often all about making yourself stand out. In a smaller town, it tends to be more about fitting in. Being a part of the local community is one of the best things about moving to a small town. However, as you get acquainted with your new hometown and neighbors, it might be wise to listen more than you speak, at least initially.  

Be friendly, be yourself, but at the same time try to avoid topics that could raise eyebrows until you know your new neighbors a bit better. You’ll soon find your circle of friends and confidants and feel right at home. 

Sidewalks Roll Up Earlier 

If you are accustomed to dining out at 9 p.m., you could be in for a surprise. In smaller towns, a lot of businesses close by 5 or 6 p.m. — in some cases, even bars and restaurants shut their doors by 9 or 10. Get to know the cadence of your new community. Settle in and learn to enjoy the less harried (and more human) pace of small-town life. 

You DIY More Than Before 

In a large city, most large outdoor space is maintained by others. Even after a blizzard, the sidewalks are clear, the streets are plowed, and by 10 a.m., life goes on as usual. In smaller communities, activities like mowing the lawn or getting the living room painted often fall into DIY (or hire some help) territory. And if you’re used to having the local laundry deliver your clothes washed, dried and folded, it’s time to get acquainted with those machines in the basement.  

In short, a move out of the city means a notable change to your weekly routine. Come up with a daily list that lets you get what needs to be done, done while still allowing time to enjoy the best things about your new life. 

Food Shopping Requires a Whole New Strategy 

Strange as it sounds, one of your biggest adjustments to small town life could be how you stock your pantry. In a big city, the quantity of food you buy is often determined by how much you can carry. Then it’s time to hit the grocery again. With a car, ample storage, and a full-sized refrigerator, it is much more practical to shop once a week (or even less). Plan out your grocery shopping in advance and make a list of items you need to carry you through, especially since stores may be a distance away. 

Think in terms of what you need on hand to make at least three days’ worth of meals. With leftovers, depending on the size — and appetites — of your family, that should get you through a typical week. Remember also that weather conditions (such as a snowstorm) can impact even the best plans, so do stock up on essentials — as well as dry and canned goods — ahead of time. 

Most Everything’s Still Available — it’s Just More Spread Out 

A move to a small town means a trade-off between space and spontaneity. Learn to organize and plan your itinerary since you may find yourself making fewer decisions on the fly. You’ll most likely need a car to do your shopping, dine out or attend local events. If you have kids or teens, extracurricular activities are another thing to keep in mind.  

Learn to combine trips and reach out to neighbors for info about carpooling and other ways to share the ride. Let a neighbor know if you’re going to the mall and see if she wants to join you. You’ll not only save time (and gas), but you will also have a chance to build new friendships and goodwill along the way.  

Be sure to check out our other blogs for moving tips, packing advice, city guides and a wealth of other information to help you settle in. 

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