A Defense of Schlepping

Tess Wilson has a great article at Apartment Therapy that points out the benefits of schlepping stuff around the city. Her post focuses mostly on the fact that schlepping is good exercise, which it is; but I'd argue that it's even more than that. It's a seeming inconvenience that has plenty of unintended benefits.

Take grocery shopping for example. There are plenty of people who will argue until they're blue in the face that grocery shopping without a car is an unacceptable burden in life. I wouldn't take it that far, but I would agree that it's less convenient and more challenging to do than if you have access to a car.

(from william couch on Flickr)

I don't have a car, so when I do it, it means I have to make strategic shopping choices. I don't buy whole watermelons or 12-packs of Pepsi because those things are really heavy and bulky and difficult to transport without a car. To some people this is a great tragedy.

What would life be without sugary soda and 15 pound melons? To me, it's a blessing in disguise. Schlepping means I keep fresher food in the house, because I'm not tempted to "stock up" on junk that keeps indefinitely in the pantry. It means I have less waste because I don't overbuy.

No, this isn't for everybody, and I've heard dozens upon dozens of reasons why it's impossible for many people and many families. But that's not the point. The point is that sometimes when you look past what seems obvious, and you move beyond seeking out convenience at any cost, what you find might not be quite as bad as you might think. It could even be a blessing in disguise.


    Yeah, I think a lot of it is people resisting change, more than any fundamental issue.

    Of course it also depends on environmental factors. People who live in car-dependent exurbs where the grocery store is nowhere near their home or work, are obviously going to have a harder time than people who live in urban areas, where there tend to be many more, often smaller, food stores, much more conveniently located.

    I don't think I've ever lived anywhere where there hasn't been multiple grocery stores conveniently located on my route home, so I'm very used to doing grocery shopping on the spur of the moment ("What do I want to eat tonight") rather than building a massive stockpile of food in my house (as seems to be the American norm).

    I'm single (so it's easier for me), but I'll note that the vast majority of families with kids I see shopping around here leave on foot or on a bicycle... (the bike parking area is much bigger than the car parking area)


    My bike has 70 litre Basil panniers, rear rack, detachable front basket and handlebar pegs to hang shopping bags on. I can carry far more than a standard size supermarket shopping cart.

    Then when I'm not hauling groceries, I simply take off the front basket and its just an ordinary bike. It is just so easy.