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How to be an adult: Things every grown-up should own

You don't have to get rid of your old stuff, but these additions will make you feel more grown up instantly

An adult man
Serhiy Hipskyy / Unsplash

One of the defining characteristics of the millennial generation is that it was a bit slow to grow into adulthood. The word “adulting” entered the lexicon to describe any circumstance where a young person was required to perform a typical grown-up task, and it was occurrences like this that made many people wonder whether young people would ever learn how to be an adult.

These days, it seems generally accepted that adulthood is less of an age than a lifestyle. It’s something that is attained by living a certain way and owning certain things. To that end, here are a few things that every grown-up should own.

Garmin Venu Fitness Smartwatch for Men with side view.

9 essential products for ‘adulting’

A good watch

These days, few people wear a watch to tell time — that’s what phones are for. Instead, modern watches are style accessories, multifaceted tech tools, or both. I think the best men’s watch is one that also tracks and supports greater health and fitness, two key considerations all adults should make. With this in mind, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus is an outstanding watch thanks to its combination of sleek design, accurate fitness tracking, and solid smartwatch versatility.

VaultSkin Manhattan Card Wallet
VaultSkin Manhattan

A reliable wallet

When I was in my early twenties, it seemed like I was constantly paying for things with handfuls of crumpled bills that had been wedged in my pockets. Once the time for “adulting” hit, I knew it was time to get more organized — not only to make my cash less chaotic but to corral the growing number of credit cards I was accumulating. The best wallets include RFID protection to prevent identity theft, so I suggest the Vaultskin Manhattan men’s wallet. It’s slim, durable, well-organized, and protective.

Salvatore Ferragamo cap toe oxfords.
Salvatore Ferragamo

Sleek dress shoes

Sneakers and flip-flops will forever have their place, but sometimes a grown-up needs to look the part, and that means having a pair of quality dress shoes. The best dress shoes are versatile enough to wear in a variety of situations, from business meetings to weddings to nights out on the town. A pair of quality Oxfords will do the trick, and the Plain Toe Oxfords from Salvatore Ferragamo are about as good of a pair of men’s shoes as they come.

Reebok Nano X2

Quality trainers

Proper grown-ups pay attention to their health and fitness, particularly as they get older. Ideally, that means hitting the gym and getting in regular cardio. A pair of quality training shoes will suit both purposes, and the Reebok Nano X2s deliver. While they’re primarily geared toward weightlifting, they provide the versatility you need for running, a variety of sports, or even just walking around town.

Arlo Skye Zipper Carry-On Max with Front Pocket against a white background.

Versatile luggage

When you’re packing for a trip, you can just throw everything in a duffle bag or use the same old softshell suitcase you’ve had since you were too young to fly on your own, but when you’re a grown-up, style and practicality matter. That means getting a modern suitcase that boasts a sleek design and smart features. I think the Arlo Skye Zipper Carry-On Max is the best carry-on suitcase ever made. It looks fantastic, is super durable, has plenty of solid organizational features, and even has a removable power pack for charging devices on the go.

Stuart & Lau Regime Gym Bag.
Stuart & Lau

A more mature gym bag

A quality gym bag will not only help to address the aforementioned grown-up inclination toward health and fitness, but it’s versatile enough to be a stylish around-town bag for pretty much any purpose. The Regimen bag from Stuart & Lau is about as great as a gym bag gets. Not only does it look great, but it’s also got a slew of smart design features like a built-in shoe pocket, a locker hook, plenty of pockets, and a cavernous main compartment. Plus — and yes, it’s worth mentioning again — it looks amazing.

Three The Classic tees.
True Classic

T-shirts that fit

T-shirts are ubiquitous in men’s fashion, but we tend to wear oversized, ill-fitted shirts with images on the front that were better left in high school and make us look like slobs. A well-fitted T-shirt, on the other hand, looks great and can be worn in an extremely wide variety of circumstances. We think True Classic makes the best t-shirts money can buy. Not only do they have an outstanding fit — particularly for muscular builds — but they’re also super soft and available in a rotating selection of slick colors.

Calvin Klein slim fit dress shirt.
Calvin Klein

Dress shirts that fit

Here again, we can’t overemphasize the importance of wearing clothes that actually fit your body. When it comes to dress shirts, that means knowing which dress shirt styles work for your head shape and making a solid brand pick. We’re going with the Calvin Klein Men’s Slim Fit Dress Shirt, which has a classic yet updated cut, fits well, and is wrinkle-resistant.

Home Hero knife set.
Home Hero

A trusty set of kitchen knives

Adults know how to cook for themselves, and accomplishing any form of quality cooking requires a great kitchen knife. A single kitchen knife will only go so far, though — you need a set of kitchen knives that offers the versatility and sharp edges you need to be a culinary master. Check out the Home Hero kitchen knife set. Not only is it equipped with quality knives at a reasonable price point, but the set also will look great on your kitchen counter.

People cooking Blue Apron meals
Blue Apron

More adulting essentials

While the products on our list are essential for every grown-up, there’s much more to adulting. There are basic skills that every adult should know. In fact, these have been called “the seven pillars of adulting:”

  1. Learn some basic cooking skillsSure, takeout is great, but you can’t eat it every night. Every adult needs to know the basics so they can feed themselves. Learn some simple recipes and techniques to start and you can work your way up to gourmet dishes as you get comfortable in the kitchen.
  2. Learn to manage your finances: Everyone should be able to develop a personal budget, understand credit card interest rates and credit card debt, how to save money, and how credit ratings work. You can’t live your best life if you’re in debt.
  3. Learn how to properly manage your health and wellness: This is about more than just going to the gym. As you get older, you’re going to need to pay closer attention to your health, it’s just a fact of life. Learning to navigate the health care system, advocating for your own care, and managing your stress and mental health are vital.
  4. Learn how to be handy: Every adult needs to master some basic household skills like keeping your house clean, doing laundry, and how to use simple tools like a wrench and a screwdriver to make basic home repairs.
  5. Learn to be organized: Let’s face it, being an adult means there are more demands on your time. Learning to keep an appointment calendar and some basic time management skills is crucial. Keeping your workspace and home organized will help make your life easier as well.
  6. Learn career skills: This doesn’t mean you need to start training for a new career, but improving your problem-solving, computer, and analytical skills will definitely give you a boost in any field.
  7. Learn communication skills: This is something that will help you out both personally and professionally. Developing good listening skills and being able to negotiate and motivate friends and colleagues is an essential adult skill.
Nick Hilden
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nick Hilden is a lifestyle and culture writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Afar…
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