Reader Request: Stylish Schlepping

How to carry everything you need, still look great, and avoid back injury

Reader Eva asked:

How do you schlep everything around while looking cute and not hurting your back? Carry everything in one bag, or more than one bag? Are backpacks terminally unstylish? I mean, once you add laptop, lunch, and book to the normal keys, wallet, phone, makeup, etc, you’ve got quite a haul. What do you do with this, especially if you’re smaller of stature or also need to shop, carry a child, etc.?

A fine, fine question and a tough one to answer succinctly. Especially as we all have different daily tasks, and different stuff that needs schlepping. But here’s how I managed my load back when I worked in an office:



I keep my wallet, keys, phone, sunglasses, business card holder, and makeup bag in my purse. I gravitate toward larger handbags, so I could slip a bottle of water or a novel in there … but I don’t. I reserve my purse for my daily personal essentials. Since your purse is the bag you’re most likely to take just about everywhere, try to cull its contents. No need to drag a can of Sprite and your Kindle and a hair dryer and a spare pair of wellies in there, ya know? (Also see my post on how to change handbags quickly and easily!)



A cute lunchbag is a sound environmental choice and also aids in stylish schlepping. Mine was a solid red one, similar to the one shown above, by a company called Built. It’s flexible, washable, and helps keep my food a wee bit colder than a paper bag. On days when I had nothing additional to carry, I would waltz into the office with just my purse and my lunchbag and feel fabulously chic.


I bought a monster black nylon tote many years ago, and it still gets a ridiculous amount of use. (Mine hails from Amazon and is no longer available, so I’m showing a similar style here.) Pretty much any time I needed to bring anything non-lunchy with me to the office, it went in here. I used it to carry my work shoes when it was too snowy to wear them, the cylinder of oatmeal I kept in my cube for late breakfasts, and just about anything else that required schlepping. My lunch would go inside this bag whenever it got carried, so I kept it to a maximum of two bags at any given time.

There are far more stylish and elegant solutions than this baby, but I love it because it’s big, it’s black, and I can beat the crap out of it without worrying. If something spills in it or on it, I won’t shed a single tear. And although it’s utilitarian, it’s simple and sleek enough to suit my taste.



Now. Here’s where things get tricky.

The bag shown here and in the image at the top of this post is the only laptop bag I’ve ever owned and I adore it. It’s from Diaz Bags, and I get more compliments on it than almost anything else I own. Carrying a laptop is something I started doing after leaving my desk job and becoming a freelancer, so I have the luxury of sticking to a style that can only hold the computer itself and a few cords.

If I worked a job where I needed to bring purse items AND my lunch AND a laptop everywhere I went, I’d definitely invest in a bigger laptop bag that could accommodate some extra items. Since my purses tend to be large enough for me to crawl into, I’d probably put either shoes or lunch in my purse, and everything else in the laptop bag. Diaz has some amazing larger bags many of which convert to backpacks, but eBags is also a terrific resource for stylish-and-roomy laptop bags. I feel like a leather or faux leather laptop bag is a great choice if you’re a leather or faux leather handbag-carrier, since it creates a unified look. Sportier versions are great if your style is more casual overall.



Now, as for the question of backpacks and coolness, at the time of writing leather backpacks are incredibly trendy … but that is likely to fluctuate. Still, if you are prone to back pain (or want to avoid becoming someone prone to back pain!) I say embrace them regardless of the trends. At any given time I can always find modern, chic backpacks that could sub for either the Purse of the Everything Else bag. I owned this red one from The Leather Store for many years, and it was roomy, sturdy, and stylish. Lugging loads of heavy crap around with you, day in and day out, WILL take its toll on your back, joints, and muscles, so if you’ve got a helluva load to bear, consider seeking a stylish backpack.


All this said, I don’t think there’s an elegant solution to carrying everything. Especially if, as Eva mentioned, there may be a kiddo who needs carrying in the mix, too! And whenever someone responds to the cry of, “I can’t find a way to carry all my stuff stylishly!” with “Just carry less stuff,” I cringe. Sure, most of us have an item or two we could leave at home … but inevitably, when we do, that item is the one thing we need most while out and about. We carry what we need, and we each know what we need to have on-hand. So I’ll never tell you to pare down.

But I WILL tell you to try to consolidate. And when you do, make sure your consolidation bag – the one that holds the majority of your carry-ables – is one that is comfortable to schlep, and one that feels like it aligns with your personal dressing style. It may be tough to track down, but search and research for as long as you can. Feeling forced to lug around a massive laptop bag or boat tote that clashes with your vision for yourself will just cause resentment to fester. And schlepping-related resentments are the worst.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details. Sustainable options are either used, handmade, made in the U.S., artisan made in non-sweatshop conditions, or made using sustainable/fair trade practices.

Originally posted 2011-01-05 06:08:23.

Next Post
Previous Post

53 Responses to “Reader Request: Stylish Schlepping”

  1. Rebecca

    I switch around purses all the time (mostly so that I don’t accumulate all that extra crap that makes a purse so inefficient to use). Recently I’ve been wearing a crossbody purse that isn’t very big, so I can only keep the essentials in it. When I have a crap-load of things to carry around with me, my best friend and I both use a variation on this bag from lululemon athletica, the Fast in Flight Tote ( It is big enough to fit laptop, lunch, water bottle, gym or yoga stuff, and with a ton of pockets all over that make stashing your little things really convenient. I have an older version of this style, called the Lucky Tote. It’s a bit bigger, but my BFF (who uses the Fast in Flight Tote) says that even though her bag is smaller it is a bit more functional.

    However, as my Lucky Tote is black and white herringbone, I also have a large purse in apple green and chocolate from the Canadian company ESPE ( for the occasions when I need a brown bag.

    • Kandra

      I second Rebecca’s comment! I purchased the lululemon Fast in Flight Tote in black about three months ago, and it is amazing. I use it every single day to hold my gym/yoga clothes, makeup/shower stuff, lunch, iPad, etc. — I live in NYC so I when I leave my apartment in the morning, I generally bring everything I need for the day with me. With this bag, I never feel like I’m carrying an unwieldy bag loaded with crap. I also used it for a five-day trip as my primary bag, and it was easy to travel/fly with. I have received a ton of compliments and I recommend it to everyone. I’m not a huge fan of lululemon’s clothing, but this bag is awesome.

  2. Tricia

    Well, I don’t know how stylish this is, but as someone who needs to carry a laptop every day during the week, then either a purse or a diaper bag on weekends, here’s how I keep stuff straight. I have a little mini-bag (it’s actually a makeup case I got free from a Clinique promotion – I told you, not particulary stylish) but I keep everyday essentials in that – wallet, phone, a lipstick, comb, etc. It’s small, so it lives in my laptop tote during the week and then gets switched into purse or diaper bag on weekends.

    I’m very much not a purse person, though. I have…one. No, two – one black and one brown. I prefer to spend the money on shoes. 🙂

  3. lyrebirdgully

    Hi Sal,
    I second your two bag system. It took me years to arrive at this approach, but having tried the other options, I will never go back to carrying just one big hand bag. For starters, it’s more ergonomic to carry 2 bags, one on each side of one’s body, rather than the combined weight all on one side in a single bag.
    I do think fashion backpacks are always stylish, and often use my small black or brown leather backpack as Bag #2 both for work and for the weekend. However, speaking as one who used to use only backpacks and nothing else, backpacks also limit your clothing choices – there a lots of upper body garments that don’t look good with back-pack shoulder straps on top, and some coats and jackets simply won’t settle down or hang right if you put a backpack on – even when the pack is small and not heavily laden and worn with loose straps. If you try to put a fair weight into a backpack, you need to tighten up the shoulder straps to avoid straining your back – but this is the very thing that will wrinkle up your top. So when carrying a big weight (in my bigger backpack) I wear looser casual clothes that can handle being rumpled. On work days (i.e wearing business clothes), carrying a big weight for me means choosing the big tote bag as bag #2..
    I reckon your style of tote bag style is just right. I got rid of my shapeless “hobo” tote bag because when filled, this bag banged into my legs when I walked, and what’s more it always fell over when I put it down, spilling the contents onto the floor; whereas a rectangular-structured tote bag with a stable base will fit in easily with one’s stride and will stay upright when you put it down. But I do recall never having enough arms when my kids were little, and I used to use a cross-body bag or bumbag as my purse, so that at the very least my purse (bag #1) would not fall off my shoulder as I bent down to pick up my child. If small children were part of my daily life now, I would once more favour a purse that was attached securely to my body.

  4. threegoodrats

    Thanks so much for these suggestions! Currently I have a messenger bag that carries my wallet, keys, phone, ipod, book, etc. I put my lunch in a plastic shopping bag and shove it inside an unstylish canvas bag from the library along with my work shoes and whatever other crap I’m carrying. I work in a library and generally have library materials to return and end up looking like a bag lady. I clearly need to rethink my system a bit.

  5. Rosie

    As a student who frequently has many big text books and binders to carry as well as all my everyday essentials, I use many bags. I have a medium sized purse that I can wear on one shoulder or sling across my body, and I use it to carry stuff like my agenda, pencil case, make up, phone, ect that I use all day. I use another, smaller, purse as a lunch bag, because it’s just the right size for what I eat. My third bag is a reasonably large, vintage, leather back pack. It’s pretty shapeless and expands beautifully, so I can usually get most of my stuff in it. I also keep a small canvas tote bag in my purse for days when I just have too many books for my back pack.

  6. deja pseu

    I try to avoid shoulder bags these days, and alternate between hand-carried and cross-body. I LOVE that cross-body bag in the top pic!!

  7. Jennifer

    As a working mom with a toddler it took quite some time to master the schelp and all the various stuff I have to carry. Especially when the breast pump was involved.

    I always carry a large structured handbag, with short handles and a shoulder strap. That holds wallet, keys, cell phone, small make up bag, reading material and portfolio with work items. I also put a small clutch inside. I use the shoulder strap when I have the baby and carry it by the handles when I’m going into work. At lunch or for quick runs into the drug store I use the clutch and only carry in what is necessary.

    Everything else goes into a huge tote bag. Mine is a bright canvas that I can fold and stash if necessary. It’s also pretty light and has long handles. But I’ve seen some very nice leather ones if you are concerned about looking more professional. So the tote bag contains: diaper bag, baby’s lunch, my lunch, shoes, newspaper, mail, the bread I was meant to pick up for dinner, etc, etc.

    That being sad, carrying all that stuff up the steps every night is the worst part of my day.

  8. Jill

    I love my giant messenger bag, but would also do almost anything to get my hands on the one in the first pic? Where’s it from? How can I get it?

    I generally follow the two bag rule, too. Except I also have a laptop case, too. Which I don’t really count.

  9. Amy

    I use a larger LLBean tote for my lunch, coffee, book, etc. and use a smaller purse with essentials. I just pop it into the tote and only need to carry one bag! It works really well.

  10. Bubu

    I switch bags a lot because i carry a big tote to work (along with a lunch bag), then switch to diaper bag for most of my off days, plus a smaller purse if i’m running errands or going out without kids on weekends. I keep each bag stocked with a set of eyedrops, contact case, gum, kleenex pack, chapstick/liptsick and mini lotion, so i don’t have to move them around. When I switch bags, i just move my wallet, sunglasses, phone and ipod, and glasses (i have been caught with a bad contact lens reaction too many times, so i always need to have my glasses and a case with me just in case). For diaper bag, I swear by the Skip Hop bag – I had one for each kid and they are sturdy through three years of shlepping. It looks like a messenger bag (so hubby is fine using it). I got the multi-color striped one – but they have a zillion kinds. It has a big flap over that connects with magnets – pure awesomeness- because it if gets knocked over it has a good chance of not all falling on the floor, but you don’t have to think about closting it each time. Multiple inner and outer pockets to organize stuff, and inner straps that make it easy to attach to any stroller regardless of size or design. If you google “skip hop” you can find all kinds of versions of it.

  11. Barbara

    I wish I had carried a backpack more when I was in baby mode. I spent entirely too much time with a baby on my hip and bags on my shoulder. I am paying for it now in chronic back and hip pain (dislocated my sacroiliac joint when the last one was a toddler), so I encourage you younger women to be kind to your backs while you are being kind to your babies!

  12. Martha

    As a mama of a 5 year old and a freelancer, I have a lot of crap to haul around. When Vivian was wee, I started using Lands End totes for a hybrid purse/diaper bag, and they just work great. I use the medium tote, and there is a pocket for my Iphone and lipstick in the front, with more inside for other stashing. They’re even washable and really cheap, so I can change out colors 2-3 times a year when I get bored.

    To style them up, I often rely on a fun thrifted scarf tied on the handle. Right now, I’ve clustered a bunch of button/pins on them, nineties-new wave-style, and it’s making me really happy.

  13. futurelint

    I have one purse I carry pretty much exclusively and a work messenger bag. While it’s fun to switch purses, for me it’s not worth the hassle. I just stick my wallet and phone in my work bag every morning and take them out and put them back in my purse when I get home. My lunch fits in my work bag. When I need to bring my computer, I put it in a thin neoprene sleeve to protect it and just slip it in my messenger bag and pray I don’t fall on the the ice that day. I have a tiny tote bag that I stick my work shoes in if I have to switch between snow boots and heels that day.

  14. Diana

    I can’t do more than one bag unless one is a backpack or cross body – not enough hands, especially if one has coffee to carry in the morning, since I can’t keep shoulder bags up unless I hold on to them with one hand – plus I’m worried about leaving one bag somewhere. I usually bring with me to work: lunch, wallet/phone/keys, laptop (some days), hat/gloves (in winter), reading material, sunglasses, maybe a cardigan, and some other small things. Quite a load, although it helps that the lunch part gets consumed, making it lighter on the way home. My commute is ~1 mile on foot, then a 20 min bus ride. Usually I just go for the giant tote, unless I have my laptop with me, in which case I have to use an even gianter tote. I have a 15 inch mac book pro, which is just a bit too big and heavy for me to comfortably carry in a shoulder bag, unfortunately. To be honest, sometimes I revert to using my very unstylish but very comfortable 15 year old Jansport backpack (I’ve had that thing since college and it’s still in great condition!) which may not be so fashionable but for which my back and neck thank me.

    I’ve always wanted one of the Prada nylon messenger bags, but they are a bit dear for me, especially as it would get beat up with everyday use. I have had a few knockoffs over the years which have been quite useful.

  15. A-C

    I use at least 2 bags, a purse and a laptop/document messenger bag. Allows me to keep private stuff away from work stuff. In the past I have used a rolling laptop bag while I was in school. I used it to avoid more chest and back pain and it allowed me to keep everything I needed together with me at all times. Kind of obnoxious when the halls were full, but overall it worked for me.

  16. Tabithia

    Well when I was a student, like a month ago haha, I would carry my notebooks and a purse. My Purse is always big enough to shove my agenda, a small book, and my water bottle in though. My mom got me this cute little zebra print lunch box to use now (unfortunately we have a refrigerator at the office and I’m the only one here so there’s no point in using it! Haha). As far as carrying my laptop though I just put it in a case and carry it in my arms. I suppose things will change if I ever get that editing mac I want since those are too large for normal cases!

  17. Marie

    My company gave us very utilitarian but comfy backpacks to schlep our giant laptops around, and I use that since I decided to care more about being nice to my back than being stylish and trying to find something else. I’m sure there are lots of cute ones to be found. Otherwise, I carry a small purse because I don’t like to haul lots of stuff around. I know lots of people DO need to haul stuff around…but my back/shoulder would be killing me!

  18. Leslie M-B

    I work on a university campus, so backpacks aren’t too out of place. The one I carry is not at all stylish, but it doesn’t hurt my back or shoulders (a real problem area for me), and it’s very utilitarian.

    I have a large leather over-the-shoulder bag that fits my laptop and a few other essentials. I carry this to conferences and interviews. But if I’m interacting with colleagues or students, it’s the backpack I carry.

  19. STL Mom

    I recently downsized to a small cross-body purse, and use a variety of tote bags when I have to carry more. Most of my tote bags are ones that my husband got for free at conferences, so if I cared more I would get something that doesn’t provide free advertising for insurance companies. But I don’t care quite enough right now.
    I wish I had used a convertible backpack/shoulder bag when my kids were little. Like Barbara, I hurt my shoulders, neck and back hauling kids and their crap around. I like these bags on Etsy:
    They come in different sizes and lots of fabrics or leather.

    • JJ

      Those are cute bags — thanks for sharing. I’ve yet to buy anything on Etsy, but that bag is tempting.

      • STL Mom

        I’ve had wonderful experiences buying things on Etsy — jewelry, clothing, bags, even a rug. I’ve only bought from sellers with high ratings. Check the shipping cost before you buy – once I was surprised at check-out by a high shipping cost, but went through with the purchase anyway. Many sellers include nice personal notes, and occasionally some will throw in a little bonus item!

  20. T

    Ok, I’ve got a system that has been working for me for a couple of months now, and I highly suggest it to all of you working women who no longer carry a diaper bag.

    I have a clutch, a large handbag, and a laptop bag… The aren’t coordinates, but their look is drawn together by the common element of large silver zippers.

    Laptop bag holds my work stuff, of course.

    Large handbag holds my clutch & my makeup bag & lotion & sunglasses & gloves & medicine.

    Clutch holds my mobile phone, a lipgloss, credit cards, & cash.

    To the office I schlep in my laptop bag & large handbag.

    On weekends, I schlep around my large handbag.

    When I go out or when I run a quick errand, I just take my little clutch.

    This system has been very effective for me, after much trial & error.

    (Laptop bag: Kipling Large Handbag Max & Cleo Clutch: Calvin Klein)

  21. LQ

    I don’t drive, I live in New York and use public transit. You better believe I need my Kindle with me 24/7. I’m also spacey as hell, so if I hand-carry a non-handbag secondary tote with short handles I’m liable to leave it somewhere the first time I put it down to get out my wallet or whatever.

    I use one (1) large good quality leather shoulder bag exhaustively selected for its convenient shape and construction (currently it’s a remarkably capacious Botkier) and everything possible goes in there. A shopping bag, or whatever random tote I’ve got with handles long enough to go over a shoulder, takes up any one-time excess, but in general I really need to keep it to one bag or I’ll lose my stuff and/or go insane. I know my limits. This means I don’t change handbags very often which is OK with me.

    If I’m carrying a laptop it goes in my large company-issue High Sierra carry-on backpack which makes up in ergonomics and functionality what it lacks in pizzazz. (I’m not going to leave that somewhere — once the laptop is in it it’s too heavy to forget.) It’s certainly not absolutely f-in fantastic like your awesome fabulous OMG satchel, above, but it’s probably a lot lighter.

  22. Michelle

    I have yet to find my perfect purse; I’m not even sure what size would be ideal. I need something big enough to carry my wallet (which is near clutch sized, but I like it that way), a 5×8″ish notebook, and something to hold receipts in. (I’ve started saving all my receipts to better track finances, currently using a little plastic expandable folder thing, but it’s much bulkier than ideal.) If I could fit my in-case Kindle in there too, that would be great, and I love having lots of pockets for little things – lip balm, lotion or hand salve, pens, measuring tape (don’t laugh, comes in handy all the time!), etc.

    So I don’t know what the best purse-solution would be for me, as I’m still finding one that I really love. I don’t have a need to carry other stuff most of the time – I work at home, so I don’t need a lunch bag, I DO need to get a good laptop bag as my current one weighs about five pounds when it’s totally empty and doesn’t have a shoulder strap, which makes carrying my laptop anywhere pretty much miserable. Thanks so much for linking to the Built bags, Sal – I think I’m going to get one of their laptop bags in the black and white vine print, it’s the best one I’ve seen yet as far as all around style/price/quality. (it looks like it’ll hold up well, anyways, and I’m assuming the lunchbag is well constructed or you wouldn’t link to it! so that speaks well of the brand)

    And hey Jackie, thanks for linking to the Namaste bags, those are great too!

    (Jeez, longest comment ever. Apparently I like to ramble about purses.)

    • Shaye

      I have a Built laptop sleeve and it works great/is very sturdy; I’m sure their laptop bags are the same.

      • Michelle

        Thanks for letting me know, Shaye! Definitely looking forward to getting one of their laptop bags now. 😀

  23. Eliza

    I HATE dealing with large handbags, so I always try to use the smallest bags I can. On weekends, I’m ruthless- vintage handbags from the 50s and 60s only fit my wallet, cellphone, and keys. During the week, I have to carry more, so I use a slightly larger bag, which allows me to jam in 2-3 notebooks, and a couple books for class.
    If I have to carry my laptop, I use a leather messenger bag I stole from my brother (camel hide, from Far Horizon Traders), and can generally squeeze in a few books as well. This bag gets lots of compliments, but when it first arrived, it had an odd smell from the tanning proccess. Hopefully the company fixed that problem by now, since mine was an early model.
    Any days requiring more schlepping, I use a medium sized canvas tote bag as well, the kind that were originally meant for ice or coal. It’s not the most stylish, but I’ve been using them ever since my one and only backpack broke way back in kindergarten, and they are fantasticly practical. No hardware to break, they always stay upright, and the only way they wear out is for the canvas handles to litterally fray into individal threads.

  24. Shaye

    Can I take a moment to sing the praises of Envirosax? I’m the kind of gal who feels the need to carry everything I might possibly need with me (unexpected rainstorm? here’s my umbrella! unexpected half-hour wait? here’s my book!) so I carry a cross-body messenger bag as a purse. But anytime I have extra items to carry (lunch, gym stuff, etc), I unfurl one of my two Envirosax and stuff it all inside. These babies are huge and they hold up to 44 lbs. I’ve stuffed them to the gills with heavy stuff and had no seam straining whatsoever. Then when I’m done, they roll right back up and get popped back in my purse. As a bonus, they are 100% adorable. Look at those designs!

    I get the most use out of them as reusable grocery bags, since I have never once remembered to bring my bulkier reusable bags in from the car, but the versatility is amazing and keeps me from having to plan for extra-bag scenarios. I have them right there!

    • lyrebirdgully

      100% agreed, Shaye! I’ve got 5 of these little $10 “shower curtain’ bags (bought from several of Envirosax’s competitors). I was so impressed with my first one that I went back and bought 4 more (not an extravagance, at that price!) so I now have a range of base colours which works with nearly all of my wardrobe. I like that the fabric has a slightly satiny texture, which means that these bags, unlike most cloth bags, go well with dressier outfits. Whipping out my nifty foldup bag makes me feel like this
      US singer Carly Simon

  25. Diane

    I’m struggling with this. Great post!

    My current strategy is a zip clutch/wallet large enough for my $, phone and maybe a lipstick. That plus everything else goes in a giant Lands End canvas tote, which my keys clip to the strap. It’s not the cutest, but it can hold my laptop, ipad, various cords, coat, extra shoes, books, work papers lunch and so on. It can get super heavy, but I need to have only one catch all bag. I like it because it stands up on its own when you set it down. And it was on sale for 16.99. I’m still looking for something really pretty though.

  26. Lynn

    I have a Built lunch bag and I LOVE IT, I use it every day. My purse is on the large-ish side, so I am a big offender of trying to cram everything in there, but I always seem to have extra to carry, no matter where I’m going. The two-bag system (purse and tote) seems like a great idea, I’ll definitely have to try it!

  27. Peta

    Thanks so much for the link to Diaz bags! Faced with the prospect of schlepping my laptop to uni constantly this year I’ve been looking for something just like that, that I can use as a satchel around campus or when I don’t have much stuff, and as a backack that won’t look ridiculous with my wardrobe of vintage sundresses when I have more of a trek.

  28. RK

    As I recently began a “working life” and finished with my student life, I invested in two nice large-ish purses (one navy, one hot pink as a “fun colour”) for everyday uses. But before when I had to carry my laptop around, I was pretty loyal to my North Face backpack with a laptop slot. I still do bring it out if I need to bring my laptop anywhere, though a part of me does feel silly being so dressed up with a backpack. But I love my laptop too much to risk NOT putting it in a waterproof purse, that’s for sure!

  29. Leah B.

    I schlep everything in a large-ish, slouchy black faux leather tote I got at Target. The bag was $12. I stuck on a $12 sterling-silver brooch of my family crest that I got at Irish Fest in Indy, and it looks SO much richer than the 24 bucks I sunk into the look. Goes with everything, gets a zillion compliments, and holds a ton of stuff without hurting shoulders or back. I can even bring along a couple of books and my huge furry earmuffs in there.

  30. alice

    I love this topic! I was never much of a bag person myself and carried around a $20 fake leather bag for years until it literally fell apart on me (no doubt because i would stuff it with as many things as possible which strained the seams). Since I’ve started paying more attention to my personal style, I’ve found myself being more careful about the bags I buy and paying more attention to that as an accessory. I don’t like bright bags (am a bright shoes girl) and since I don’t have a car and live in a walkable (but rainy) city, I need to be able to carry a certain number of things with me on a given day. I’ve tried to streamline this set of things as much as possible so these days I only carry: wallet, phone, fruit, umbrella, knitting, chapstick, pen. The makeup that’s on my face when I leave my house is all I’ve got. That said, the bags still need to be able to accomodate my netbook and papers if I need them, since I don’t like owning a lot of bags. I do wonder though, how do men get by? These days I see guys with messenger bags mostly, but I’ve never seen a guy with more than one bag and I often see guys with no bags at all.

  31. emi

    If I could afford it, I’d probably buy every single bag on this website:

    So gorgeous. As it is, I carry a purse I thrifted (that I adore), and add a grocery store reusable bag as a tote bag when I have extra stuff.

  32. Fruitful

    I back carry my toddler, so backpacks are out. I have my handbag on one arm and a vintage basket on the other if needed (actually the bag usually sits in the basket until it gets full!). For serious schlepping at markets, fairs and the like, I wheel along a gorgeous grey vinyl vintage nanna trolley – 9 bucks at the Salvos :DDD

  33. Lex

    I have a 4-month-old baby, a toddler and a laptop … although I rarely take them out all together! I’m of the opinion most people carry unnecessary stuff with them.

    I find what works best for me is ONE large, structured handbag with three diapers and wipes inside, as well as the toddler’s water bottle and a snack, plus a tightly-edited series of items for myself (wallet, keys, lipbalm, fold-up shopping bag, notepad and pen).

    If I need the laptop as well as taking the kids, I pop it underneath the stroller – a stroller tray is like a bag in itself. If I have lunch with me, it fits in my shoulder bag in a small container.

    • Lex

      ^ Oh, and all shopping goes in the folded-up shopping bag, which is strong and enormous. I got it at some cheap shop in Chinatown.

  34. Ivy

    I have two bags. A large purse, which usually holds my wallet, phone, keys, etc. plus a book and some form of knitting project. I always have those n me in case of emergency transit delays or things like that. Keeps me from going nuts.

    Then I have my laptop bag. It’s messenger style, but I usually shorten the strap and wear it across my body so I’m focusing most of the weight high on my back. It’s much more comfortable and I’ve had less back pain. My lunch container (when I remember to pack one) fits in there, too.

    The biggest thing for me is that I don’t have to take the bags off at all during my commute, and can have my hands free without setting them down. If I had more bags or ones I could set down, I’d probably be leaving one on BART every week, and that would be bad. 🙂 That early in the morning, I’d rather resemble a pack mule than have to remember too much.

  35. Sonja

    In a book about simplifying your life I once read a great advice. The author suggested to create little units with what you will need in certain contexts: one small pouch with what you will need when leaving the house with the baby (wipers, pacifier, etc.), one for school (a block, pens, post-its, etc.) and similar. I don’t have a baby or go to school, but I created a little unit for my everyday essentials. I bought a transparent makeup bag with a zip and use it for my keys, phone, wallet, lipbalm, a pen, my ticket for the tube. It is small, so it obliges me to stay focussed on the most important, and it is made from transparent plastic, so I find everything at once, see if I’ve brought everything I need and want for today (tampons, Ipod…), and can even check my phone without taking it out. I toss this basic unit into whatever bag I need for the day, my normal purse, my satchel for the days I teach, my backpack when I go trekking. I think this is a good idea for everybody who changes bags or purses often, it really saves time.

  36. Erin

    I’m a college student, and I absolutely adore my Vera Bradley bags. They come in the cutest patterns and are very durable. I have a “Vera” tote, and it’s the perfect size for my books and laptop. It has 3 pockets on the inside which I use to hold 1. pens and pencils, 2. my phone and 3. a lotion, hand sanitizer, chapstick, and concealer. I have a little clutch that I throw in that holds tampons, bobby pins, hairties, and eyedrops. I also have a Vera Bradley wristlet that I use as my wallet- it holds my ID, cash, and cards, and has an outer pocket that will hold my cell phone. It’s big enough to stick in a tube of chapstick as well. When I don’t need to carry my tote bag, I just carry the wristlet around. I’m saving up for a Vera backpack, because I haven’t carried a backpack in quite some time and I’d love to be able to have my hands free.
    I also have a Longchamp purse- these are GREAT. Mine is medium-sized and blue with brown leather handles. It is just a big bag with one small phone pocket, but it’s so roomy without being hugely big, it’s perfect for going out on the weekend. I could even use it for an overnight trip if I wanted to, since it’s so roomy. I throw my clutch and my wallet in there along with whatever else I need, and it fits wonderfully. It is the ideal bag to bring it to work and throw a lunch in there along with a bottle of water and a novel. And, the best thing about it is the fact that it folds up into a small square for travel or storage. Great to throw into a bigger bag in case you need another one!