The quest for the perfect bag

July 7, 2018 § Leave a comment

This post was inspired by my weekend reading from Pancakes & French Fries about the average woman’s handbag and her own struggles to lighten her load.

As an avowed “bag lady” I enjoyed her post and quickly ran to inventory my bags and weigh them loaded (daily backpack just under 10lbs; daily wristlet just under two lbs!).  This inventory got me thinking about my current bag selections.

Before I started down my semi-minimalist path, I had a least a few dozen bags in my closet.  Different sizes, shapes, and colors for a variety of purposes.  It was actually my bags that started my clothing simplification (or maybe it was my shoes?).  I had gotten tired of trying to make sure I had just the right bag to coordinate with my clothing (I have a matchy-matchy gene that demands this).

My first step for me was to eliminate all bags and shoes that didn’t go with black.  (Which led to ultimately only wearing black, but that’s another story.)  That worked for a short while until I accumulated more than a dozen black bags.  Then I started to really think about what bags I needed and for which purpose.  The truth for me is that there was not a single perfect bag for my life, but there COULD be a perfect bag for the most often functions I most often performed.  I narrowed that down:

  1. Bag for work — needs to hold a laptop, my wallet/wristlet, snacks, and must have cupholders for water and coffee.
  2. Bag for weekends — needs to hold grocery bags (a plus if it can function as a grocery bag itself) items needed for errands (library books, store returns, water bottle, towel, blanket, whatever is needed on the weekend)
  3. Bag for regular evenings — after work, I do not want to carry a big bag — just the essentials: my phone, keys, lipstick, glasses, lotion, motrin, cards
  4. Bag for dressy evenings — basically needs to carry the same as regular evenings, but look good doing it
  5. Bag for traveling — in addition to a suitcase, the bag to carry all the other detritus needed when traveling either while on the plane, in the car or sightseeing

Several years later, I’m down to these six:

Clockwise from top left:20180707_110330

  1. Bag for work — I’ve used this Japanese-style backpack for the last six months and it meets all needs identified, but would prefer with silver hardware if I ever find it.  I’ll be back in Japan later this month and will be on the hunt.
  2. Bag for weekends — I’ve used this French Market Basket with both short handles and long for over a year.  It holds virtually everything I need on the weekend and I love the look.  Occasionally it will snag on more sensitive fabrics, but it’s otherwise been perfect.
  3. Bag for regular evenings — I used this satchel for a few years for both work and evenings before I got the backpack but noticed that I’ve rarely used it since.  I can no longer carry this for work with a laptop in it because I’ve got some shoulder damage that has required me to switch to a backpack.  This may not make the next cut.
  4. Bag for traveling — the fold-up Eagle Creek backpack has been a perfect addition to my life in the last three months.  I use it either as my personal item with a carryon or (if I’m traveling for work and have my backpack with laptop) I toss it into my other bag and use it when I arrive.  It’s lightweight, spacious and gender-neutral so my husband can also use it when we travel.
  5. Bag for life — this Lo & Sons convertible wristlet/cross-body/waist-pack is an addition in the last three months as well and it’s been perfect.  It replaces a Hobo wristlet/wallet that I used for over five years that I loved, but was limited because it didn’t convert to a cross-body (I even looked at how it could be adapted to do so rather than replace it).  I still use this mostly as a wristlet, but the times when I could use it as a cross-body or as a waist-pack have meant that I didn’t need to reach for a different bag.
  6. Bag for dressy evenings — I’ve had this clutch for a couple of years and I love the look and it works well for its purpose, but it’s pretty limited.  Since I’ve been using the Lo & Sons bag, I’ve not pulled this one from the closet.  This may not make the next cut either.

What’s in the bag?

Another thing Jules included in her article was an inventory of the stuff she carries in her bag.  This is also an area where my semi-minimalist focus has made a difference over the years.


In my daily backpack (weighing on average 10lbs depending on how full my water bottle is or whether I’m also carrying a coffee-to-go), I carry (from top left): a water bottle, a rations bag, my wristlet, a lipstick, fan, pen, hankie, earbuds, umbrella, planner & notepad, laptop and cellphone/wallet.

To further inventory what’s in the bag, I unpacked my ration bag: 20180707_104638.jpg

And my wristlet:


Overall, I’m pretty happy with how well I’ve been able to reduce what I carry to really only what I use (which I know is a luxury of the empty-nester).

What about you?  What do you carry in your bag?


Welcome 2017!

January 2, 2017 § Leave a comment


Like most of my friends, I’m happy to see 2016 end because it reminded me of my own mortality (to have so many of the cultural icons of my lifetime lost in one year) and it crushed some of my natural optimism and faith in humanity.

That said, I like to start off as I plan to continue and I’m an optimistic person by nature, so I’ve been working to catalog a few of the things I loved about 2016 that I would like to expand on this year.

Black magic — I discovered some amazing authors and artists in the African American community in 2016 who inspired me to think more critically and justly and to celebrate the achievements of those who have often been overlooked and/or dismissed outright.  From the vision of Ava DuVernay’s work in film (to say “13th” is eye-opening is a huge understatment) to Luvvie Ajayi’s humor in print (“I’m Judging You” manages to chastise and inform while you’re busy laughing at your own foibles), it’s clear that I’ve missed some critical pieces of American culture and look forward to filling in more gaps this year.

Semi-minimalism — We downsized our home in 2016 and got rid of about two-thirds of our belongings, but now that we’ve been in our apartment for six months, I’m seeing a lot more that has outlived its usefulness or joy.  This year, we’ll continue to evaluate what comes into our home and where we spend our money so that we can reduce material consumption and focus our efforts on shared experiences.

Order — Once we got rid of most of our belongings, bringing order to our environment came much easier.  We now have a clearly defined home for about 80% of what we own.  This year will be refining another 10 percent.

Contribution — we were moved to support charitable organizations at a much higher level in 2016 than in previous years.  This year, we will increase our financial support for those organizations who fight for equality and access.

Education — I refreshed my risk management, business law, business ethics and writing skills/knowledge in 2016.  This year, I plan to learn some HTML coding skills and maybe even some podcasting (both for work).

Inspiration — I found dozens of new sources of inspiration (generally music and writing) in 2016 and will continue to expand on this area.  It’s too easy to fall into the Facebook spoon-feeding, but I find it to be a less-than-inspiring way to spend my computer time.  I’ll continue to move away from spending time on Facebook to more intentional sources that feed my soul, heart and mind.

How about you?  What went well for you in 2016 that you’ll be expanding this year?

Overcoming Childhood

January 1, 2017 § Leave a comment

One of my favorite twitter feeds is when people share their #sixwordstory.  When I thought about what mine would be, in all cases, there was a component of where I came from to get to where I am. Childhood lessons taught compassion and wholeheartedness.

I visualize these childhood/life lessons as starting in the fingertips of my left hand and working their way slowly up my left arm … research, noodling, journaling … until they settle around my heart.  That’s when they hurt most, but that’s where the healing begins.  Sometimes, they even settle into my lungs making it difficult to breathe.  As I process this pain, I feel like they start to move down my right arm until finally I shake them off my right fingertips or better yet, drop them fully like a loud, singular mic drop.



Career Satisfaction

July 25, 2016 § Leave a comment


One of the things I’ve never really been able to embrace is the minimalism movement’s push toward quitting your work for “the man” and following your bliss.  I mean, I WANT to follow my bliss, but I still don’t know what that is.  So in the meantime, I’ve crafted a career and working environment that allows me to have what I consider the best of both worlds … steady paychecks with benefits combined with flexibility and the ability to contribute in a way that is very personal to me.

To get there, though, I had to question myself a LOT and recently a friend asked me for some of the resources I used, so I’m sharing them here:

Strengthsfinder 2.0, Tom Rath: Don’t buy used – there’s a code to take their strengthsfinder test and when the book is used, the code isn’t good.  I bought the Kindle version.  This one uses their test plus your Meyers-Briggs to help you understand your ideal working environment.  Once I realized my current working environment got me 7 out of 10 on my ideal list, I felt much better about loving my day job.

Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job, Jon Acuff: I listened to this one – Jon Acuff wrote the blog “Stuff Christians Like” and has a great sense of humor – he reads the audio version himself.

48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal, Dan Miller: I also listened to this one.  This is the first time I started to understand my calling and how I can select jobs that align with my calling.

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant To Do, Chris Guillebeau: I love all things Chris Guillebeau and haven’t read this one yet, but went to his book-signing and heard his overview of the contents and main points (and had been reading snippets about the book pre-publication).  I’ve followed his blog The Art of Nonconformity for years and love all of his work – he really helped me start thinking about my work non-traditionally.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, Seth Godin: I have also followed Seth for years and loved his book on tribes as well as this one … Linchpin really helps you identify how to be the “go to” for whatever you love and do.

Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell: Not necessarily career advice, but really great dissection of some of the people we think are complete geniuses or uber-talents and how they had opportunities that we can create for ourselves (in other words, talent and intelligence are not the only things these people had and how you can achieve similar success by letting go of those limiting beliefs).

How about you?  What books would you recommend for growing a career (or even just a job) that is as satisfying as possible?

Feminism and consumerism

July 11, 2016 § Leave a comment


“Feminism is not a simply a woman in the White House, or a female CEO. It is a woman who climbs up there and says “this system is broken, this system has lost the yin from its yang, this system is starving our children and shaming my sisters.” It is a woman who says, “this system is perpetuating war on our brothers and sisters of other nations. This system is asking my brothers and sisters to trade their souls for consumerism.”” – Sadie Rose Casey


Downsized at last!

July 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Like many other Gen-Xers, we followed the traditional path of the American Dream and purchased a few homes — each larger and more updated than the last — over the past couple decades.  During that time, we enjoyed having space for our kids to play, to have sleepovers with their friends, and to host birthday and holiday parties.  It was fun playing “adult” during those years.

We noticed as the kids got older, and our family time more often involved shared adventures than playing at home, that our home and our belongings had begun to feel like a burden.  Since our youngest daughter has now graduated and both girls are working away for the Summer and living away in the Fall, the time and opportunity finally presented itself to downsize our living space.  We’re almost complete with the move-in to our new two-bedroom apartment, and have already begun to enjoy some of the benefits:

Cleaning — I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have no kids at home anymore or that my space is smaller, but cleaning as you go seems so much easier.  Since my living/dining/kitchen/office is all one space, it takes no more than five minutes from start to finish to sweep or mop my floor.  Because my laundry “room” is now a closet in this same open space, I can swish and swipe with my daily dish towel and toss it into the laundry.  My closet is in my bathroom and my laundry bags are next to the closet door so clothes go immediately into the bag.

Decluttering — I’ve been decluttering for years now, but it’s always been so overwhelming because our house was large with several closets and a two-car garage and it felt like as soon as I would clean out one drawer, the other parts of the house would get worse.  With a smaller, manageable living space, I’ve already removed another three bags of donation (even though we only brought half of our belongings from the big house).

Enough — My theme for this year has been about enough-ness … defining a virtual “limit” of what would be enough and then working to reduce what I have to that limit.  I had already done that with my clothes and my shoes and personal toiletries but I was struggling with all the other multiples in my life.  (Multiple cleaning supplies, multiple nail clippers, multiple tool boxes, etc.)  In the process of downsizing, it has been so much easier to reduce the multiples into a single “home” in our apartment.  Rather than viewing the limited space in our new home as a restriction, I embrace the physical enforcement of my own chosen limits.

No Guilt — It’s amazing how much underlying guilt and responsibility there is with a house.  I don’t think we even realized how much until we moved.  (And because we didn’t grow up with homeowner parents, our own knowledge of home maintenance has always been limited.  Are we supposed to be re-sealing our sidewalks?  When are the gutters supposed to be cleaned?  Do we have to hire people to do these things?!)  Now, short of walking our dog, if we want to do nothing all weekend except watch movies or play video games, there’s no thought about what we should be doing.

I realize that apartment living is not for everyone.  I have many friends who genuinely enjoy working on their lawn and garden or who love to cook and entertain or who really enjoy their DIY projects.  And we may find a reason to live in a house again in a future phase of our lives.  For this phase — the early empty-nester phase — we’re looking forward to traveling and happy hour and our apartment seems to suit us just fine.

How about you?  Have you changed your living situation to suit different phases of your life?

Critical Consumption: Restuarants

April 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

pucketts_img_3350_adjLong before there were shows like “Restaurant Impossible,” it’s been a joke in my family that I have a critical eye for what needs to be improved in restaurants. I’m not talking food here — I rarely enjoy dining experiences solely because of the food. I’m a sucker for good ambiance, great service and thoughtful details.

I grew up eating out and as an adult continue to eat out for most of my meals*.  I try to avoid unhealthy fast food and nationwide chains when possible, unless on a road trip when we prioritize driving comfort over adventurous dining.  (Nothing worse than being stuck in a car with food that didn’t agree with you!)

I’m lucky to live in an area that values local establishments in a historic downtown setting, so it’s been fairly easy to cull my favorites and we dine regularly at restaurants where the servers have come to know us; who value supporting local growers and products; and who continually improve their offerings and environment.

A few tips for critical consumption:

Food: Does the restaurant only buy bulk foods from big trucks or are they using local growers and dairies?  Our favorite restaurant for breakfast uses a local dairy and eggs from free-range chickens.  For celebratory meals, we favor a farm-to-table restaurant housed in a restored antebellum mansion … talk about feeling special!

Ambiance: Does the ambiance add to the experience or detract from it? We stopped dining at a place that otherwise had good food offerings and service because the restaurant was designed as one large open space from kitchen to front door.  This resulted in meals that felt so loud (add that to their orange walls!) and you could ALWAYS smell when they burned toast.  A place with string lights and low music will have me coming back if the food is decent.

Thoughtful details: Is there something delightful to add to the experience?  Our newest favorite puts together some amazing combinations using their homemade jellies and sauces and they bring each diner a hot biscuit while you’re waiting for your meal.  I love that they use environmentally friendly to-go boxes and that their happy hour includes creative house specialties.

How about you?  How often do you eat out and have you developed some requirements for the establishments who win your business?


*Experts recommend eating together at home four to five nights a week to improve your kids’ chances of future success in life.  When our girls were young, we made menus and ate at home and that provided a foundation for the family dining rules (no phones or texting) we still follow.  Although this wasn’t available when our girls were young, The Family Dinner Project provides a great resource for young families to establish that foundation.