Let’s Talk About Bags

Who knows more about bags and baggage than working moms? Let's talk about how to organize and find the perfect bag to suit all your needs!On my commute from work the other day, I was listening to Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin like I usually do ( and you should too). The first hot topic of discussion for the day was the dilemma of switching bags.  After listening to the reasons, reservations and preferred methods for switching bags, I started to think – who knows more about bags and baggage than working moms? My mind flooded with questions thus sparking the search for answers?

What type of bag is best?

There are tote bags, diaper bags, laptop bags, lunch bags, hand bags,  gym bags, camera bags, pump bags,  pocketbooks, purses, clutches – Is there one bag out there that can do it all? Or all we all doomed to be a “Bag-Lady” or a pack mule carrying a minimum of 2 – 3 bags at all times? As working mothers, determining the best bag for you really depends on your profession, the age and particulars of your children, your lifestyle and fashion sense. A couple of years ago Kelby Carr founder and publisher of Type A Parent put out the call to PR people, companies, manufacturers, Etsy crafters, and whoever else had a purse that they considered mom-friendly to reach out to her. On her blog she wrote about her quest for a mom-friendly purse and came up with 5 non-negotiable requirements:

  1. It must be hands free.
    Reasoning: when you have a kid or multiple kids you need your hands.
  1. If you let it go or set It down suddenly while open, it needs to keep everything inside.
    Reasoning: Some purses will allow gravity to keep crap down, but some actually have gravity working against you.
  1. It must have multiple secure inner pockets and pouches that will hold a variety of gadgets.
    Reasoning: It should be able to hold a multiple electronic devices and allow for plenty of room to organize checkbook, wallet and keys.
  1. It must be roomy, but not ginormous.
    Reasoning: One big glorified tote is a back-breaker; you can carry everything but nothing since you can’t access anything. If it’s too small, to quote Kelby, “It’s utterly useless”
  1. It must not stain easily.
    Reasoning: Because – well, life.

Do you agree with Kelby? What other non-negotiables would you add? I think Kelby was on the right track, but as I said before, depending on your profession, the age and particulars of your children, your lifestyle and fashion sense, the type is not as import and what you put in your bag. Can you get the things that you NEED to carry around in your bag?

What do you NEED in your bag?

Are you one of those fly by the seat of your pants type of people? Do you take life as it comes? Well I am not and I don’t and chances are, if you are a working mom you aren’t and you don’t either! Being prepared is the secret to working mom sanity. Well, preparation and organization, but more on that later.  A good bag truly is so because it can hold and allow access to its contents.  Those contents will vary like I said based on who you are BUT after talking to plenty of working moms and doing  thorough google research I did come across a few essentials that most moms said over and over that they keep in their bags.  Jennifer at Diary of a Working Mom and Ashley at Mommy Week have lists that I think together cover the essentials:

  1. Wallet, Keys and Phone
    Reasoning: the Basics – these are 3 things we would rarely leave home without
  2. Mints/Gum
    Reasoning: When is fresh breath EVER a bad idea?
  3. Wipes and/or tissues
    Reasoning: Life is full of little messes and little mess makers
  4. Hand Sanitizer
    Reasoning: It never fails that you end up in a public restroom
  5. Lotion/Sunscreen
    Reasoning: Never be caught off guard by a blustery wind or a blistering sun. The results when you are unmistakeable
  6. Notepad and Pen/Pencils/Crayon
    Reasoning: Its nice to jot down ideas and have an option if you are stuck in a waiting room
  7. First Aid Kit
    Reasoning: Headaches happen and blood, scrapes and cuts are not fashion accessories
  8. Lipstick/Lip Gloss
    Reasoning: When you need to freshen up and look a little more put together by dressing up a smile
  9. Snacks
    Reasoning: Busy working moms tend to be, well, busy and sometimes we work through the times when we are supposed to eat. Its better to have a snack, even better if its a healthy snack to get you through. Also, hangry (hungry + angry) kids are unappealing.
  10. Tampons/Pads
    Reasoning: Aunt Flo sometimes likes to make a surprise appearance.

Is there something that should be on this list that isn’t?  Are these essential?  While you need all these things, it’s still a lot. I would even add a few more things like headphones because music is a life force and I might be addicted to listening to podcasts; and a hard drive/flash drive since I work in information systems and data storage and access is a must. Do you need a bag with pockets and pouches for all of these things or is the secret to having perfect bag not in the type of bag but instead in how the bag is organized?

Switching bags – why and how?

Do you carry the same bag with you everywhere? If yes, is that because its too much of a hassle to switch back and forth between multiple bags? Or is that because you have found the holy grail? Have you found that bag that serves all your needs? If so, please share!  If no, How do you make the transition? Do you just pick up one bag and shake all its contents into the other bag?

While I was listening to Gretchen Ruben and her sister talking on the Happier podcast about switching bags, they shared information on purse organizing and compartmentalization.  Something that they called the “pouch” method. It was an “Aha” moment! This method is basically that you group similar things together is small pouches inside your bag so that you can just move the pouches from bag to bag. Louenhide an Australian fashion blog summarizes how this process works like this:

The most important step is separating items so they are easy to access. Use small cosmetic bags to store essential handbag items separately. For most, three main pouches should be enough – one for makeup, medicinal and electrics. The makeup pouch can hold essentials such as foundation, lipstick, mascara and deodorant. The medical pouch should have basics like pain killers, tampons, band aids and tissues. The electrics pouch can hold your headphones, phone charger and a spare USB stick.

If you don’t have multiple cosmetic pouches lying around don’t fret. This is not a new idea/concept or method. You can buy purse organizers to serve a similar purpose here, here and here. As far as the kid stuff that you keep in your purpose, I like what Darla DeMorrow, professional organizer, has to say about it:

Someone asked why I don’t have kid stuff and emergency supplies in my purse. Once my kids got out of diapers, I instituted the “you bring it, you carry it” rule. My chiropractor can attest to the fact that it’s better for my health, and my kids are learning to think ahead for themselves. If you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, or if your kids are still tiny, I hope this gives you some hope and a plan.

Talk to me about your bags. What bag do you swear by? Do you use this pouch method or do you have other techniques to keep your bags organized? What is the one thing you MUST have in your bag? Spring is coming will you be switching from your winter bag to a different one? There are so many questions that have so many answers. Let’s discuss!

A perfect handbag can be a working mom's secret weapon. Here's how to find and organize your bag to help you juggle it all!

10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Bags

  1. Loved reading this post – I use the “pouch” method to move from my teaching backpack to my work-at-coffee-shop bag, to my go-out-with-the-kids bag. I look a little silly with my three ziploc sandwich bags, but I’m prepared for anything, no matter where I am 🙂 As a life-balance consultant who helps busy parents I know first-hand how important a bag system is (as does any mom, really!) I’m also a huge Gretchen Rubin fan and love the podcast! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Benita, have you checked out the Austin|Fowler bags? http://www.austinfowler.com
      They have a unique pouch organization system that allows your bag to transition into a work, travel or diaper bag. They are genius! Have an awesome day!

  2. Marie! Now I know I am going to implement the pouch method! Thanks for sharing.

  3. The best EDC (every-day carry) for me the past several years has been the Tom Bihn Co-Pilot – it has compartments that make sense with thoughtful details (cellphone pocket lines in ultra suede to prevent scratches, water bottle pocket w grommet at the bottom for draining condensation) and available with a ton of different sized organizer pouches that tether to built-in o-rings… The perfect bag for someone who wants to have a place for everything, and everything in its place! (And no, I don’t work for them, just a major fangirl!) ?

    1. Antoinette says:

      I think I’d like to invest in a atom Bihn bag! I’m a working mom and I have three kids. I’ve been looking for a bag that’s big enough but also crossbody.

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