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?


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.



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.


Minimal housing

November 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 7.04.34 AM This is almost identical to the house I lived in during high school with my single mom.  She redecorated the kitchen (smartly) with a moveable island and barstools instead of a kitchen table and added a screened porch off the back (here the right side because we lived in a tri-plex).  I personally lived in one similar before I got married — same layout only the front door was on what would be the left side of the house here.  The kitchen in that one had been updated as well.

The size was good — I remember being a little cramped with stuff — never enough places to put my stuff — but with a renewed love of decluttering, this is still a livable size for two people.  And it was only 675 sq ft.  (I know, not a “tiny home” by today’s standards, but definitely smaller than anything I’ve lived in since.)

Tolerance is so yesterday …

September 24, 2014 § Leave a comment


I’ve seen this bumper sticker … a take-off on the similar Co-exist but this one leaves me feeling less enthusiastic … jaded, even.  (Don’t believe me, google “tolerate” and check out the images — it’s not as pretty as it sounds.)  And the definitions of tolerance confirm my feelings:


transitive verb \ˈtä-lə-ˌrāt\

: to allow (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) to exist, happen, or be done

: to experience (something harmful or unpleasant) without being harmed

: to accept the feelings, behavior, or beliefs of (someone)

The time for tolerance was when you didn’t have a choice … because you grew up in the same town where your parents and grandparents lived and leaving wasn’t so easy … because your best friend married that schmuck from science class … because you grew up being a minority in your community in some way … whatever your reason was, tolerate was something you did because you had to.

Today, the ability to surround ourselves virtually and even literally with “like-minded” folks is easier than ever.  To simply tolerate, therefore, is no longer a valid benchmark.  I am now setting my sights on celebrating.  Care to join me?



Let the inspection begin

June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

I heard a statement last week that was true for me — we don’t get what we EXPECT, we get what we INSPECT.

My housekeeper quit today.  I think it’s the right thing at this time and look forward to taking back some ownership of the condition of my home.  I’ve used my work as an excuse for too long now for mindlessness — around money, food and STUFF and all have gotten out of hand.

So today, I’ve refreshed my subscription and I’m on my way upstairs to dress to the shoes.

Happy holidays to our military

December 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

At our middle-school Christmas concert last night, I saw one of my favorite small-town vignettes during the “March of the Armed Forces”. Three, maybe four, generations of service people were in attendance and stood to represent their branch and be recognized. Each year I live here, I recognize a few more of those standing … so this year I felt for some fellow band parents when their son stood for maybe the first time as a representative of his military branch; for our band instructor when her father stood up as a long-time representative of his branch; and for many of the the eighth-grade parents serving active duty.

I grew up in a big city, too expensive for retirees to live on a limited income and so the average age in my community always stayed relatively young. It’s the kind of place people move to “make their fortune” or when their first marriage breaks up and they want a fresh start.

The town where we first moved to raise our girls was a fast-growth town with big, shiny, new houses and young families to match. Some of our parents moved in to be close to the grandkids and now the retirement community is growing there, but it’s not the organic growth that you see in a town where people rarely leave.

Our new town is historic, with a Main Street that pre-dates the Civil War and a sense of community all new to me. Support for our military is a shared community value. The first town settlers were veterans of the Revolutionary War who were granted land as payment. A major battle of the Civil War was fought inside the town limits and local homes were commandeered as field hospitals and headquarters for both the Confederacy and the Union. I witnessed the town’s continued dedication to service at our high school’s 100th anniversary Veteran’s assembly when my daughter was in JROTC and we had local veterans from every war all the way back to WWI attend and be recognized. Our Veteran’s parade in downtown is heavily attended, even in the middle of the week in the middle of the workday.

I come from a military family. My father was in the Navy. Both of my grandfathers were career military. I have eight different “patriot” lines in my ancestry documented with the Daughters of the American Revolution. I was raised to honor our military heritage even at a time when that was incredibly unpopular where I lived. I’m grateful that time is gone.

To all who are or have served I thank you and wish you a wonderful, peace-filled holiday season!

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