Is Your Bag Too Prepared?

Photo by Valerie Reneé

This month we’re focusing on ways to be more prepared and organized.  But I have to ask, is your bag too prepared?

  • Do your friends tease you for having a bag that looks like luggage?
  • Does it weigh so much your chiropractor is thinking of adding a deck?
  • Are you known for toting a mobile pharmacy?

Handbags, tote bags, work bags, school bags, diaper bags, oh my.

It’s a nice, secure feeling when you’ve got everything you need with you.  I think carrying a big bag can even make you more productive.  It lets you take advantage of lost minutes in the day if you can pull out a paperback or write some notes.  I also like being able to carry a snack or bottled water.  And do we need to mention having a big bag to take to movies?

Even so, most of the time I’d rather travel light.  

What’s in my daily bag: wallet, phone, keys, baby nail clippers, pen, lip gloss, sometimes my camera.  What I need to add to my bag:  a recent printed photo of Lane in case she gets lost.  

Let’s give our backs a break!

Clean out any trash, toss the crumpled receipts, and shake the crumbs out of the bottom.

Don’t let spare change weigh down your bag.  Put most of it in a change jar.

Could some items go in your car instead?

How many credit cards do you normally carry?  Two should be plenty, and safer.

Keep most of those business cards or store discount cards at home.

I wonder who can set the record for number of lipsticks?

What else can you do to lighten your bag?  Any advice or surprises?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. beautiful. you know what makes your blog my favourite, you talk about smallest possible things of day to day life and I can’t resist but think. :)

    Well, I generally carry wallet which have some currency (I too avoid carrying coins). There will be one lip gloss, one pen, one comb and my husband’s photo (in case I miss him too much) and yes my mobile charger.

    I don’t have a credit card, so I only carry my licence, and my debit card with me.

    I guess a long list, hmm!

  2. I carry a wallet, which holds a few cards and a few folded up bills, my cell phone, keys, work badge, ipod, eye drops, chapstick, a pen and sometimes my checkbook. My purse is smaller than a lunch box. I always choose smaller purses because they force you to only take the essentials.

    I don ‘t carry around much cash, and I primarily use my bank card so I don’t really deal with change. My phone serves as a camera if needed. Chapstick can be used in a pinch as a balm for dry skin or cracked cuticles.

  3. Yikes … I’m definitely guilty of carrying too much. I have a bag with two million pockets on the inside, so most of it is hiding. I’m going to go through it this weekend, though, and get organized! Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I just changed “purses”. I swear chaning purses makes me re-evaluate all the things I put in there.

    I carry a small backpack with lots of pockets for easy organization. I love pockets! The actual interior of the pack I use mostly for light projects (language flashcards, small knitting projects, camera etc).

    I try not to carry things just for others. Exceptions are things like taking children to the doctor’s office and needing to bring a small toy or two. But so far I’ve avoided carrying things for hubby. (He always wants me to carry toothpicks for him. He can carry his own backpack and I teasingly offer to buy him a fabulous flowered one.)

    What’s in the pack…cell and charger, flashdrive, pen and pencil, idea notebook, small child id kit, sticky note flags, ring of store rewards cards, coin purse that I use for my credit, insurance and library cards and a little cash, checkbook (I’ve been thinking about leaving it home), bandaids, hand sanitizer and sanitizer wipes (I hate shopping cart handles and wipe them down), chapstick and keys.

  5. I keep my purse very light, no worries there. Just don’t look in my trunk! I figure I’m usually not that far from my car so I can always go back if I need to!

  6. Thanks for making me laugh – about two weeks ago I lost (misplaced) an item from my hand-bag, it is a small change purse in which for years I have kept a nail clippers, an uncle bill’s tweezers (sliver gripper – the best for splinters and ticks), a flat, lightweight mirror (great for dust in the eye moments) and a little go-go for my hair for unplanned swimming (YES, it does happen! shorts and teeshirt moments).
    I looked in the usual places – in my bag, in my jeans pockets, in the glovebox and on the dasboard of my van and even in all the camping and swimming bags I have used lately – with no luck.
    I dreamt that it was in a small pocket in my handbag which is for my business cards and forgot the dream – yes I am that disorganised!
    Guess where I (accidentally!) found it this morning???
    I think that I need to clear out my bag!

  7. Even with as big and heavy as my wife’s purse is, unfortunately, I think I still have her beat. I have four bags of which I generally always have at least two with me, at least as close as the car. First is my laptop bag, which has pretty much anything I need to work, including contact solution, glasses, water bottle, books, notebooks, and typically about a dozen different pens. The second bag that I always have with me is what I call my tool bag. It has pretty much anything I need to work on computers, networks, even stuff to pull data off of hard drives and passively tap ethernet. That bag is ridiculously heavy, the leather strap is about to tear off. I even had to add another baby tool bag to hold some overflow stuff. My third and fourth bags are a gym bag and messenger bag. The gym bag is pretty straightforward. My messenger bag usually has a selection of notebooks from Black n’ Red, Moleskine, and Rhodia, as well as a couple dozen pens, pencils, watercolors, etc… It’s pretty much my ‘creative escape’ bag when I want to ditch all the tech stuff and relax.

    As for what I typically just carry on me, usually a pen, pocket knife, keys chain including a usb memory key and leatherman multi-tool, wallet, chapstick, eyedrops, blackberry, and usually a notebook.

    Carrying too much stuff has always been a problem for me. Even back in school I always tore up backpacks with all my extra books and stuff I would carry. I don’t even want to think about when I travel. I’m so indecisive and panicky that I just take everything that I could might possibly need.

  8. I hate carrying big bags and always opt for the bag with just the wallet, keys and phone. Unfortunately that means I often get caught out without something I need and have to jet into a store to buy a whole bag of diapers… well, I am working so solve this and I’m sure keeping diapers in the car is a good idea but this is where I give myself grace ;)

  9. In addition to the things on your list (except for baby nail clippers), I usually carry my daily list of things to do and buy, coupons, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, a small comb, and breath mints. Everything in my purse seems necessary, yet it also feels like too much.

  10. I’ve found a happy medium – I carry a very well stocked diaper bag and a very small purse. The purse fits in the diaper bag when I know I’ll need baby stuff and if I’m just running in to the grocery store, post office or etc… I leave the diaper bag in the truck and just take the baby and my purse – it’s wonderful!

    When I quit carrying a diaper bag I’m still going to have to carry a bag because I can’t leave all that “extra” stuff I might need home so I’ll just do like I do now and leave the big bag in the car and take the small one with me. It’s what I did before I had a baby and it works for me. I usually only carry that big bag from the house to the car and from the car to the house, but when I do need it – it’s a blessing to have it!

  11. My purse is normally pretty light. Once a week I clean it out of garbage (old receipts or gum wrappers) I normally do this while I’m waiting somewhere… ie. picking up the kids or at a doctor’s office. I also clean it when I’m on my 15 minute break from my part time job.
    I also carry a pull up – just in case Elijah has an accident.

  12. Slackerjo says:

    Many years ago, back in 1978, when I was 11, my mom and I went to visit friends in Cupertino, CA. It was a very long trip involving three airports. My mom was convinced that Air Canada would lose our luggage (they did not) so she made sure I had several changes of clothes in my carry on bag. She also insisted I be a proper lady and carry a purse. So there I am struggling through the Calgary airport desperately trying to find a cart. Loaded down with a gym bag crammed with stuff, a purse crammed with stuff and another carry on bag, yup, crammed with stuff. The carry on bag and the purse were slung across my neck, rubbing my skin raw and practically choking me. I’m pretty sure the Allied paratroopers carried less when they invaded France during WWII. I was 11, I don’t think I weighed 100lbs but the stuff I was carrying sure did. It was during that trip that I decided that a) I would never let my mom pack for me ever again and b) that I WILL NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER CARRY A PURSE.

    Here I am 30 years later, and still purseless. Woo hoo! And yes my mom still thinks I am some sort of heathen for not carrying a purse.

  13. I had to downgrade my bag this spring. Went to the doctor with neck pain, and he asked me to hand him my purse (giant leather shoulder bag, crammed full) and pretty much told me that was the problem. Now I have a canvas messenger bag, with my wallet, sunglasses case, small knitting project, notebook and a pen. Lighter and distributes the weight better.

  14. Avlor, I try to avoid carrying other people’s stuff too. Lane has a purse that she likes to take with her. It hold 3 rocks and 2 blue nasal aspirators!

    Yes! Keeping a couple of diapers and travel wipes in the car can be a life saver, because I rarely think to bring a diaper bag with me.

  15. Among other things, I have to carry around a yearly calendar in my purse for work. I don’t have a car, so to lighten the load I’ve cut out all the old calendar pages. Now I’m only carrying August-December, instead of January-December! I leave all the old pages in an envelope at work in case I need them for past reference. Every little bit makes a difference, you know!

  16. I recently went through a phase where I was obsessed with purses (honestly, I am not quite through with the phase yet). I think it comes from carrying a diaper bag for a couple of years and not being able to carry just a regular purse. Now that my daughter is potty trained, I find that I carry my smallest purse and all it has in it are my wallet, my cell phone and my keys (and occasionally my glasses). I do keep a backpack in the car with a change of clothes and wipes, just in case. Also, in the console of my car is a small first aid kit (band aids, cleanser and the like). After carrying around diaper bags for a few years that had all sorts of things in them “just in case” I find that I don’t want to carry any more than I absolutely have to. That is why I stick with my very smallest purse so that I am not tempted to throw anything else in there.

  17. Very nice post. And beautiful bag in that picture! Yes, mine is guilty of being too full and I never use half the things in it but I’m convinced I need them.

  18. God's Dancing Child says:

    When I was a younger teenager, I remember watching an episode of “Mad About You” that has always stuck with me about what to carry in my purse/tote. She always had safety pins, gum, nail polish (for runs in her stockings) and a pony tail holder. It was a really funny episode, but it’s always guided me in my bag-holding.
    I have two little pouches that go into any of my purses (I admit it, I love purses), one with small stuff and one with bigger stuff.
    My small pouch always contains: two pens, three bandaids, a thermometer, a ponytail holder for myself and my daughter, a tiny pad of sticky notes, matches or a lighter (even though I don’t smoke, they’ve come in handy too many times to count!), some homemade pastilles, and my keys.
    The bigger one always contains: a small clock/calendar/calculator/alarm, my wallet, a pen, a brush/mirror combo, and an Altoid tin (that contains an eyeglass repair kit, safety pins and a small manicure set).

    All my friends know in a pinch, I’ll usually have something handy when we’re out and about. :) But not excessive. It’s all small and put-together. No kitchen sink for me!

  19. Hmm…wallet, keys, phone, sunglasses, notebook and pen, Bible, sometimes camera, maybe a Burt’s Bees lip gloss. Easily switchable to whatever bag I feel like carrying that day.

  20. Great post. I’ve never carried a diaper bag. I keep a diaper, a pack of wipes, a tiny first aid kit, and little pack of kleenex, plus maybe a toy or sippy cup and a couple of crackers in my purse (the Overland Donner bag….it’s PERFECT!)–for my full-time care of three children, 5, 3, and 10 months. Anything else I need I keep in the car (extra diapers, more wipes, some water, more crackers). I just hate carrying anything much around–it was a stretch for me to even carry a purse : /

    The thing that cracks me up is that my wonderful husband is never without his backpack–laptop, work info, altoids, a spare decaf green teabag, nail clippers, iPod, calendar, notepads….goodness! All for one man!

  21. My handbag is frightening: checkbook sized Wallet, keys, diabetic supplies, reading glasses, sunglasses, breath mints, 5×7 sized organizer, cell phone, blue tooth ear piece, verizon wireless USB modem, IPod/headphones, small moleskine notebook, assortment of pens/pencils, at least two lip glosses and…

    an ultraportable laptop.

    (delurking to comment…love your site!)

  22. when you get older==and you will……try to use a small colored purse with a wide strap and yes, only carry what you really do use-(black is too hard to see into and find stuff)
    purses have a way of collecting things and the bigger the purse, the more ”stuff”.
    and try to stay away from ”the queen” style purses ( that u have to hang on your lower arm or worse yet- use one hand to carry )- – and forget matching…….. with your shoes anymore….
    I can say these things now that I am”older” and learned by experience ==meme16 who has returned to plain and simple

  23. hi, thanks for the comment, pam!

    good advice, meme.

  24. Great post!! But what I really want to know is WHERE CAN I GET THAT BAG!? Just what I need for Fall.


  25. We are still having to carry wipes and a pull-up with us anywhere we go for Owen, but I am gradually downsizing my handbags – one size at a time! It started off with a (what seemed like) huge nappy bag and handbag, down to just the nappy bag with my wallet etc fitted in as well, then to a large handbag that fitted snacks, water, nappy, wipes etc and now I’m down to a ‘normal’ handbag that will still fit a water bottle, my stuff, a spare pull up and the ever needed wipes. Fortunately I seem to collect handbags, so anytime I want to downsize, or go back up a notch I’ve got plenty of choice right in my wardrobe!

    We have always kept an emergency stash of nappies, wipes, nappy bags, spare change of clothes etc in each of our cars and will continue to do this for a while yet. It was something that my very practical cousin told me to do, and it has come in handy quite a few times.

    And I have just found the yummiest nappy bag (see our blog) to upgrade to when Number 2 comes along in October… I might have to sell a body part to get it, but it may be worth it! This time round I will not carry so many extras of everything though. Just because you can fit it in your bag, doesn’t mean you need to carry it!

    And lastly, I prefer black or brown bags as an everyday thing, but if they have a bright lining it is so much easier to find things in the black hole that becomes my handbag :)

  26. Hiya Rachel!

    Ya know, when I read your headline I nodded my head and said: “unfortunately, YES!” I say unfortunately because most of the time, I’m carrying one too many things in my backpack or briefcase :-/ I never use most of what I’m carrying around. Something in me just keeps telling me, “oh, I’ll need that!” Hehe…

  27. i’m gonna win the lipstick contest. i bring at least 4 different shades, but always end up using the same thing anyway.

    everyone says watching me change purses is a pain. tissue, wipes, compact, blotting paper, wallet, phone, earphones, thumb drive, pens, notebook, notepad, glasses, gum, cologne, brush, alcohol… my bag is a girl’s bag indeed. whew.

  28. Too funny, glorydee.

  29. Yes, yes, I am the girl with the most stuff, but I’m well organized!

    My wallet is in there, and a moleskin. In the zippered compartment I have keys and pens and earbuds and and a lip balm. There is a mobile phone pocket for my phone.


    I use see-through cosmetic pouches inside my purse
    1. for work stuff (I’m a computer tech) so I have my Swiss Army knife, and a small notebook, tiny pen, and my work keys in the pouch. If I am at work, I just put my mobile in that mini-bag and go.
    2. stuff I MIGHT need – maxipads, two lipsticks and a fancy lipgloss, a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, a Tide To-Go pen, medicine, sample-sized compact, and hair clips, elastics. Excessive? Maybe, organized in a small space? Definitely.

    When I change purses I only need to take the bigger pouch and my keys, wallet and a pen and phone.