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The everyday bag dilemma, or how to pack like a man

Categories: accessories

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Lori is having a bag dilemma.

I’m in grad school, so I regularly have books, notebooks, and papers to take to campus. For that, I bought the Ellington Eva Messenger bag. I have a more industrial messenger bag from LL Bean for days I have a lot of books to carry. I bring my lunch because I’m on campus all day. Lunch isn’t going to fit in my Eva bag. I also carry a purse because I generally need that smaller bag for running those inevitable errands and it transitions me from campus to off-campus. My purse has my wallet, on-the-go makeup-y things (chapstick, lipstick, mirror, handkerchief, nail file, spare hair ties and pins), mints, a small notebook, my planner, some pens. I’m one of those nerds who makes it a requirement that my purses can fit a book, so most of my purses are mid-sized, but not HUGE. Naturally, I feel ridiculous carrying a messenger bag, lunchbox, and a purse. Do you have any sort of suggestions?

I’m sure it’s a matter of reassessing and reorganizing, but everything feels vital to me. An outsider’s opinion would probably help.

This is a pretty common dilemma; when we leave the house, we feel like we need to take everything with us, all the time, because we never know what we might need, right? Here’s the thing: men manage to go all day without carrying six bags. What do they know that we don’t?

They know what to leave behind. Simple.

Instead of packing a bag that could take you through a week in the Himalayas every time you leave the house, think about taking only what you will actually need while you are away from home. How do you know what you need? Pay attention to what you actually take out of your bag and use, for an entire week. I used to carry half a dozen lip glosses with me everywhere I went — and then one day I realized that I was only ever wearing one of them. The other five live in my makeup bag now, and I swap them in and out — one at a time — according to my mood.

Paring down means planning for specific worst case scenarios, rather than preparing for every possible problem. I always have a couple of tampons in my bag (because you never know when those will come in handy — seriously) but honestly, only a couple; I can replenish my stock if those two get used up. Also, there’s a Walgreens on every corner where I live, for a real emergency. Think about what can live in your car, rather than your bag (extra hair ties, for example) and what you can just live without (a mirror).

Once you’ve weeded out some of the small things, look for ways to make your technology work for you to help eliminate the bigger things. Instead of carrying a separate paper planner, use your smartphone — you can transfer appointments or notes to your planner when you get home. I’ve stopped carrying my laptop with me to conferences and meetings — instead, I take my iPad, which is lighter and easier to tote. I use the Penultimate app to take notes; I have an inexpensive stylus so I can write rather than trying to type, which works better for me. A tablet computer — or even a laptop — will take up less space in Lori’s bag than separate notebooks; she can still organize her notes by class or subject without dragging all that extra paper. My friend Rachel uses a wireless keyboard with her iPad, which is a terrific solution if typing is your thing.

But what about the purse/lunchbox dilemma? I say ditch them both. Opt for a simple structured carrier for lunch — the Munchbox is the perfect size and shape for a messenger bag — and consolidate everything from the purse into a sleek wallet or clutch (I like eShakti’s bow wristlet). The bottom line is to pack like a guy: only take what you need, make your tech work for you, and don’t worry about the stuff you’re leaving at home.

Your turn: What can Lori do to streamline her bag(s)? How do you leave the house every day without a baggage wagon? Let’s hear your strategies.



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One comment so far...

  • I’m a book nerd myself, but now I read ebooks on my phone or iPad instead of carrying print books with me (most of the time, anyway) and that has made a big difference in the size of the bag I need to carry and the weight. I never thought I’d be an ebook reader, but the convenience factor made me a convert (and if cost is a concern you can check out lots of ebooks for free from many local public libraries).

    I also use my phone instead of a paper planner, and downsized my paper notebook (sometimes you do need to quickly jot something down) to a very small one.

    I carry minimal make-up and toiletries - I use my car and a desk drawer at work to hold additional stuff that I want to have nearby but won’t likely need very often.

    Pretty much every time I decide to stop carrying something with me, it ends up being the right choice. There was a little bit of a habit shift when I started using my phone as my planner, but I adapted quickly and now I love it. There’ s nothing I miss about carrying more stuff!

    Genesis  |  March 12th, 2012 at 11:48 am

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