by Susan McCarthy
At some point in junior high, I remember that several of the girls started carrying purses. At age 12, what’s there to carry but for a pen, lip balm, and maybe the key to your house, but it was a thing, and I wanted a purse.
In response to my request, my mother pulled out one of her old purses, a structured brown object that was the furthest thing from the carefree boho bags of the 1970s. My pen and Bonne Bell lip balm rattled around in the boxy shape. I was…disappointed. However, since I’d told my mother that I needed a purse, I used what felt like an old-lady handbag. Thus, began my ambivalent relationship with purses.
I swayed from using bags barely large enough to hold my housekeys to those could have done double-duty as an overnight bag.
After I went on a day trip with a friend to New York City, I became enamored of her backpack that seemed to contain everything we could possibly need. She was so prepared that I felt like a slacker…I didn’t even have an aspirin with me (and I suffered almost daily headaches).
So, when I got home, I pulled out my backpack and filled with items that I might need because they seemed useful and practical. And even if I didn’t need the items, perhaps someone in my vicinity would and I’d come to the rescue!
Seriously, I carried a shawl, mini umbrella, a notebook and a couple of pens, lip balm, hand cream, mints, a small bottle of acetaminophen, a book, a pen knife, several Band-Aids, my wallet, a mangled meal replacement bar, my phone, hair comb, one of those windbreakers that fold up into their own pocket and come out with so many wrinkles that my students were embarrassed to be seen with me and wondered if I was really that cold to need such a horrible jacket.
Of course, I couldn’t carry this bag into stores without worrying someone would think I was planning to shoplift. Or risk turning around and banging into those displays they insist on setting up within aisles. So, I’d pull out my wallet and keys and phone and juggle them in one hand while I shopped.
After far too much time passed and I nearly had a permanent dent in my shoulder from the weight of the backpack, I realized that for as useful as all this stuff was, I never used 98-percent of it.
I shifted back to a handbag large enough to hold my wallet, phone, mints, lip balm, and a small bottle of pain reliever. And a couple of bandages because I had the bad habit of biting my cuticles until they bled.
Then my father was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia and I found myself trudging from lawyers to doctors to banks trying to straighten through much disorganization. I quickly learned that everyone wanted to see the same series of documents, so I filed them into an accordion-folder and fit them into the tote bag that became both purse and home office for about a year and a half until I realized that everyone had stopped asking for health proxies, copies of the doctor’s diagnosis, and other such information.
With all that waiting to speak with people, I learned to carry crochet with me, so I’d have something to do. A crochet hook, scissors, and tape measure took their place next to the mints and aspirin in my new, smaller (but not small) bag.
Then my husband’s health issues meant that he’d have to retire at age 52. To get disability, we met with the retirement board and multiple doctors. Out came the tote bag. When one doctor was looking around the exam room for a tape measure to measure Mac’s neck, I pulled mine out of my bag and handed it to him. The doctor gave me a perplexed look until I pulled out the project I was crocheting.
I’m sure if I’d had kids, the contents of my handbags would have changed with my kids’ ages. As it is, my handbag – and perhaps more important – the contents of that handbag, has reflected both my life as well as my expectations for my life.
As it probably does for you as well. How much of that stuff in your purse do you use? Do you carry around a host of ‘just in case’ items?
Decluttering Your Handbag Is Simple Self-Care
If you use a handbag, you know how quickly it can get filled with receipts, change, and other items that you collect when outside your home.
Unfortunately, this means your bag, for the space involved, is likely the messiest place you deal with on a regular basis. Chances are your stress levels have shot up while you pawed through your purse looking for your keys or wallet or ATM card which you know much be someplace in there.
Decluttering your handbag won’t take long. You can probably do it while watching television. Not only will you reduce the weight of the bag (no more mystery neck pain!) but you’ll create a calm, organized, functional space.
This is an act of self-care that will repay your efforts.
I’m not going to list “10 handbag essentials” because there were times when I had no clue what I found necessary for my life and I won’t pretend I know what you need.
Hi, I’m Susan.
And I’m here to help you clear the things cluttering your life so you can do and have more of what’s important to you.