Service of You Never Know

June 13th, 2013

Categories: Be Prepared, Fashion, Handbags

Paris Evening Bag

You never know: That seems to be my motto. I like to be prepared which accounts for the weight of my handbags and totes ever since college when I’d drag home the semester’s texts in the event I had time to study for January finals during Christmas vacation. I never did but the books where there in case.

This is not just a woman thing. My husband drags eight to 12 lbs of books and papers in a tote on the train every Friday. When I ask him if he refers to all the materials in two days he insists they are essential. I had a boss whose doctor suggested that he leave his briefcase in the office until his tennis elbow, brought on by its weight—not the swing of a racquet—had time to heal.

Red everyday bagThis season I reduced the size of my summer bag exponentially. To do so I reviewed the keys I’d carried for years that made me look like a superintendant in a high-rise apartment building. I’ve tossed more than half that opened past apartment and office doors—I hope. I’ve moved some stuff from my winter bag to a moderate sized tote that makes the trip back and forth from work and put other things away. It’s been three weeks and I’m still not relaxed about it.

In “Get A New Bag, Lose Five Pounds,” Elizabeth Holmes wrote: “Small is the big thing in handbag fashion, as clutches, cross-body bags and shrunken versions of full-size styles replace large, heavy totes.” In her Wall Street Journal article she continued: “Women accustomed to carrying around everything they could possibly need—an umbrella, a change of shoes, a bottle of water—are downsizing to a bag that holds just the essentials: a cellphone, keys, an ID and a credit or debit card and a lipstick.”

What about business cards, brush, blush, hand sanitizer and a pen? My evening bag [photo at top] is bigger than this. When using it at a business event I’m lightly anxious that I’ll need something that’s missing.

Coach clutchFran Della Badia, an executive at Coach, told Holmes that she uses a clutch the size of an iPad at lunches and meetings. I love the look but clutches are out of the question for me with the exception of that evening bag. I normally require something that hangs on my shoulder or crosses my body and frees my hands.

Chiropractor Karen Erickson estimates that on average women’s handbags weigh from three to five pounds according to Holmes. While I complain when I lug around my laptop and charger—on average, minus charger, laptops weigh about five pounds—I don’t whine about the heft of my bigger handbag. If asked to hold it for a second, others have been known to groan.

Do you carry around more than you usually need or use? Why do you think that is?

Chanel Bag

Chanel Bag

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12 Responses to “Service of You Never Know”

  1. Christine B. Whittemore Said:

    I pride myself on having all that extra stuff in my bag. I became really good at it after having Emma… although it has changed as she’s gotten older. No more crayons.

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    The “Boy Scout” in me says— “BE PREPARED”!

    The ‘hippie’/’buddhist’ that’s left of me from the ‘sixties’ days (That’s 1960’s!!!)says: “You need very little”.

    So… I take only 1/2 of what I own, and lug that around every day!

    Today, in New York City, I’m thrilled that a small umbrella was part of my PACK!!

  3. Phyllis Stier Said:

    I love this! I ‘downsized’ my handbag about 18 mos. ago, what a relief! I was tired of having all that stuff….you never know…who has a band-aid–I do!..a safety pin, me!– scissors??–yes! After my bottle of Smartwater leaked all through a nice leather bag as I was wandering through Target,all my necessaries were ruined (why are my coupons all wet???) : business cards,doctors’ cards and numbers, notes,wallet, gum,mints, work schedule….Now I happily carry a small cross-over or a manageable purse, just wallet,phone,pen, and, ok, because I am a creature of habit, a small tin container of mints which also holds 1 band-aid, a few tylenol, and travel size dramamine. I am very happy to hand over being the go-to person to those who have huge totes,etc….just like a living space, the less space, the less stuff. I love the freedom.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wonder if there’s a difference between people who generally commute in their own car or by public transportation.

    I laugh at your Band-Aid reference. I carry one of those–essential when someone develops a blister.

    A coughing fit at a concert? I like to have a wrapped sucker to pass along. What about hand sanitizer? I don’t currently have the sucker, the sanitizer or even tissue in my summer bag. And because everything is so squeezed in, I can hardly reach the stuff that’s there. It doesn’t feel like freedom to me but the summer is young. Currently it feels like loss and inconvenience.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I follow your philosophy, though I’m trying to wean myself.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Zen has never been in my nature, much that I admire streamlined lifestyles, design and fashion. My umbrella would have fit in my winter handbag but it doesn’t in my summer one. So it goes in a separate tote.

  7. Phyllis Stier Said:

    Full disclosure: I live in California, so I do have a lint brush, sanitizer, and a dozen or so paper napkins in my car, and now I carry a small calendar because I accidentally erased my work schedule from my phone; I do agree that we edit our contents for the season,tissues and cough drops during cold/flu season, and alavert and lip sunscreen in the summer. I love changing bags, makes me think about what really needs to go with me; so interesting to read what is ‘necessary ‘ to others!

  8. Lucrezia Said:

    The lighter I travel, the better. If something’s not there, it’s a simple matter of doing without. The lesson learned is to remember it the next time, or discover it’s unnecessary baggage. That goes for travel as well. If that Chanel bag is for real, hope the person toting that ridiculous looking thing is enjoying herself!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Because we do so much walking in NYC it doesn’t make sense to drag around heavy things but as Hank noted, thank goodness he had an umbrella with him today!

    While I keep lists and take notes on my phone, I also like to have a pen. When I add to my list in public the folks around me think I’m being rude and sending a text or responding to an email. With a pen and a scrap of paper what I’m really doing is obvious.

    Every time I change my bag I leave out something so I’m not as happy to do this as you are. I am obviously a packrat, a handbag Collyer Brother.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your viewpoint is practical and makes perfect sense. Nevertheless I act as though there aren’t a zillion places in which to pick up a packet of Kleenex or a nail file–I always have.

    The model carrying the Chanel wants us to notice her and if I was as pretty as she appears to be, I’d want it too! I thought the bag was cool and my bet is that when it was sold it was on special order as something that big would take up a heck of a lot of retail real estate!

  11. JPM Said:

    I used to travel extensively on business, often visiting as many as six or seven countries on one trip. Conditions, both in the air and on the ground, were far more accommodating to passengers’ needs than they are now. Nonetheless, to avoid delays and hassles, I pared down what I took with me to a bare minimum, no more than what would fit into one small, light carry-on bag, not much larger than one of my wife’s pocketbooks, and used hotel laundry services. I brought nothing non-essential with me, not a briefcase, no pajamas, nor casual clothes, not even a pocket alarm clock.

    In yet kinder, gentler times, a generation or two before that, when one went abroad by sea, and there were plenty of porters available almost everywhere, I remember travelling quite differently. One could and did take what one pleased, from black tie to bathing suits and steamer trunks to pack them in. There was always somebody else around to lug the stuff, and, of course, anybody looks better in crisp, pressed clean clothes.

    Now, I find that whole exercise of going places sufficiently unpleasant that I try to stay at home whenever possible. And I doubt sincerely that conditions are going to improve anytime soon.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Every year there is some travel guru or other who gives packing tips, now more crucial than ever given the few pounds one’s allowed on airline flights. Bet you could give the guru’s tips!

    Having looked at the price of hotel laundries I assume the cost of this was a business expense that you didn’t need to cover. For a tourist the additional expense of hotel laundry would add a considerable amount to the trip’s cost, especially if a family is traveling.

    Once I’m somewhere special, the travel nightmare fades for me much as the memory leaves once a horrible headache or cramps go away. Breaking from the routine is essential to recharge. I’ve found that on my return things that annoyed me only make me shrug and that life seems rosy and filled with possibilities.

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