Is that a purse or an overnight bag?

At the outset, I’d like to clarify that I am not a woman and I have no expertise as to what a woman should or should not keep in their purse. That being said, is it necessary for women to lug around a “purse” that almost needs to be checked in when flying? As long as I’ve been with my wife she has always managed to survive with very tiny purses. Do other women just have that much stuff that they need on them at a moment’s notice? Now I’m not talking about backpacks or computer bags. Those are in a completely different category. I’m referring to purses. The purse may be as large as a backpack, but it is nothing more than a giant purse.

I would think that one could get by with a purse that is smaller than one’s own head, but the bags that I sometimes see could easily fit a couple heads and maybe even an infant. If you’re walking around with a purse that holds tons of stuff, you are most likely carrying around clutter that you probably can do without on a daily basis. Trim down on the clutter that you think you need with you at all times and you could definitely trim down on the purse size. You may surprise yourself and realize that you can carry everything you need in a sleek little clutch.

107 Comments for “Is that a purse or an overnight bag?”

  1. posted by robyn on

    prepare to be attacked! we women love us some purses!

    i’ll try not to attack, tho. i carry a big purse, but not that big! mine is a little bigger than most because i always have a book with me (and usually some yarn and a crochet hook). i hate having nothing to do when in a line (say, at the post office) and so having a bag big enough to carry a book is a must. but other than that? i’ve got my wallet and some chapstick and a few pens in my bag, so it’s still rather small.

    i’ve been trying to figure out what other women carry in their purses for years, as i know i’m an anomally with a book and some yarn in mine!

  2. posted by Tameson O'Brien on

    Frankly, the size of your purse is directly proportionate to what you are doing and who you are doing it with…If I have the kids with me you can bet there’s a drink, and a snack for each one of them, some diapers (plus a wet sack for the used cloth diapers), something to clean the stickies away, a small amusement (toy or book or what have you) in case we have to wait for something, and definitely a knitting project for Mommy because I can’t stand to waste time waiting in line when I could be knitting socks. The purse pictured above may contain her lunch so she doesn’t have to eat calorie laden crap on disposable paper products, and waste money on more expensive food than if she packed it herself. She could have library books to return or some small groceries she picked up on her way home and left the plstic grocery sack at the store…Granted if my husband and I are headed out alone, I usually don’t carry a purse at all, but if I’ve got the kids and I’m going to be out for more than a quick trip, I’m going to have a big, stocked bag.

  3. posted by Lisa T. on

    Maybe women carry a purse the size of a backpack, because the purse in fact functions as a backpack? But more fashionable, of course! 🙂

    Items I might carry are a packed lunch, change of shoes, and a water bottle. This stuff is a direct result of cutting down on my consumption (not buying lunch, wearing runners or snow boots to work because I don’t drive, not buying disposable water). It certainly won’t fit in a clutch!

  4. posted by LazyLightnnig on

    i’ve wondered about this myself. I carry a small purse (about 8″ long, 2″ thick, and 5″ tall). I keep my wallet, checkbook, cell phone, ipod, camera, eye drops, concealer, wetnaps, keys, gum, and other small cosmetic items in there without any trouble. Granted, this would change if/when i have kids. but when I see young women strolling through the mall with these giant bowling-ball-bag purses, I have to wonder what the heck they are carrying around.

  5. posted by Mo on

    Whenever I see someone with a “sleek little clutch,” I am amazed that they aren’t ashamed to be so obviously not carrying a book.

  6. posted by Deb on

    Right now, I carry a small backpack – about ten inches tall. I like something that can go on my back because I have five children and two dogs, so two hands is already not enough for me 😉

    The backpack has two compartments, one of which holds all the stuff I always carry – wallet, pens, notebook, small hairbrush, phone, etc. The other compartment is my “temporary” compartment – I put stuff I’ll need when I’m out *today* in that bit – letters to be mailed, items I want to give to someone I’m going to see, etc. And a diaper, if I have my youngest child with me (which is usually). While I’m out, I put things that shouldn’t live in my purse into that compartment – receipts, small purchases, etc. When I get home, that compartment gets emptied.

    But a few months ago, going out with my youngest child would have required carrying more stuff, and I’d have needed a bigger bag (backpack or otherwise), or a separate bag for child. Since I don’t like to have my hands tied up carrying stuff (5 kids/2 dogs, remember?) I prefer everything in one bag.

    I really think a lot depends on how you use your purse. If it’s to carry your lipstick and credit-card, then a tiny one will do – but if you need a lot of other stuff with you (for kids or whatever), then you might prefer to have one big purse rather than switching all the time.

  7. posted by A woman on

    “I’m not a woman, but…”

    How about not writing about things you don’t get.

  8. posted by Aimee on

    I’ve been on a mission to cut down the size of my bag over the last month and I’ve finally give up. I carry a huge bag because I can’t stand waisting time, even if it’s only 2 minutes. My “purse” is also really more of a backpack but prettier, so I have files and projects on so I can get some work done during my commute and lunch break. I always carry my (tiny) camera so I can take a couple of quick shots whenever something catches my eye (which happens a lot). On workdays, I’ve also got lunch and snacks. I have learned to keep a water bottle and a pair of dress shoes (actually 2 – one black, one brown)at work so I don’t carry those anymore. The absolute basics though are wallet, sunglasses, umbrella, keys, cellphone, iPod, planner & usb key (without which I would feel lost), and emergency kit (this is a small makeup bag with just about anything a girl could ever need from bandaids to dangly earings). Yes, I carry the umbrella even on sunny days, because I am that girl who is always prepared.

  9. posted by Samantha on

    I am actually mocked at work for the size of my purse, it is so large, and usually nearly empty. However, the purse doubles as my eco-friendly shopping bag, a briefcase when I am headed to meetings, or a carry-on when I travel. Also, the idea of going anywhere without a book is a little horrifying (the DMV especially). I would rather carry one bag and be carrying everything I need for the occasion.

  10. posted by melissa on

    my biggest purse definitely serves a function! i’m a student so i use it as a purse and backpack, and it holds enough books/supplies for my longest days (full time work and 1 or 2 classes). that also includes lunch and sometimes a change of clothes. truthfully, it is almost as big as the one pictured above, but since it is so functional i don’t mind the size.

  11. posted by Paula on

    I wear a waist pack. It looks really small, but it holds my phone, wallet, planner, keys, badge for work, a paperback book and a bunch of receipts when I shop. I know they are no longer stylish, but I tried a regular purse and kept leaving it around!

  12. posted by Lulu on

    Guys are not immune from overstuffing. There are plenty of wallets which hold gift cards, library cards, expired licenses and I.D.s and business cards galore, a fiscal quarter worth of recepits/1 page note-pads, loose change,postage stamps, a small album of photos, and a tiny corral of store membership cards, the surface for the card holder holds post-it notes and the back is a writing board and then theres compartments for keys and sometimes condoms!

  13. posted by Christy on

    I think you got the message by now. People who carry tiny clutches have to have a separate bag for everything else they may pick up or need to carry during the day. Those of us with big purses can carry it all in one container.

  14. posted by Sophia on

    Bulky items i carry:
    Water bottle (i don’t actually do this but i should!)

    probably don’t need any of these to be in my bag if i had a car

  15. posted by Libby on

    I’m also a carrier of the large purse, but unless I have class which requires a laptop, my bag usually contains the following: wallet, keys, waterbottle, mp3 player, mini hairbrush, emergency kit (like Aimee’s above), small knitting project, paperback book, cell phone, and a small notebook and pen. If I had a digital camera, it would be in there as well, since I’m forever wishing I had one with me to take a picture of something. I hate being idle and time spent waiting for a bus or during lunch can be used to multi-task.

  16. posted by awurrlu on

    This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. There was an interesting interview on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC earlier this week with a writer/handbag fan and a chiropractor regarding womens’ purses and the effects of just carrying too much. And the fact that men can pretty much leave the house carrying nothing.

    Why should I be a pack animal?

    The problem is that most clothing for women does not have pockets, and what pockets happen to be there are woefully inadequate. Add to this the difficulty of finding a SMALL women’s wallet. [I did find a sleek card holder from Lodis, but if I need to replace it, I saw a similar men’s wallet at Brookstone.)

    So my requirements for any pants or skirts I buy are pockets large enough to securely hold that tiny wallet, my small set of keys, and lip balm. Ideally, I could slip my phone in there, too. (I’m not talking about giant loose clothes, either. I’m talking about jeans and khakis.)

    My work bag contains work and commute stuff: lunch, pen, papers, a book or my laptop, and a 6″x 1.5″ x 1.5″ pouch with cough drops and aspirin. If I’m going shopping or socializing, why do I need all that?

  17. posted by Nancy on

    Those women probably have kids, as mentioned earlier — it’s an order of magnitude harder to declutter kids’ necessities, unfortunately.

  18. posted by Nicole on

    I’ve got a Chilewich bag, 17x9x3-ish. Holds wallet, checkbook, sketchbook, pens, emergency rations (floss, hair pins, powder, etc), gum, phone, sunglasses. At any given time there is also room for snacks, umbrella, bottle of water or wine, and a small set or architectural drawings. It is compact enough but great for the everyday requirements.

  19. posted by Paula on

    I carry a medium purse but when life is busier, alas, the “purse” (briefcase/tote,whatever) gets bigger, too, and for exactly the reasons other posters have described.

    We women have about 99 lives and all the chores that go with them (and then some, since we also often have kids’ and husbands’ errands, too) to lug around.

    The lunch, the “dress” shoes, the library books, the mail, etc., etc. Remember, we’re not supposed to wear comfortable shoes in office environments, our clothes have no pockets, and our schedules are often very tight.

  20. posted by Felis on

    The bigger bags carry around all their insecurities and worries. I know that when my mind gets cluttered, so does my bag.

    In general, I don’t think women have/take as much time to prepare themselves and plan what is going to happen that day. (And then not beat themselves up if it doesn’t go according to plan) Too many times the mom hat, or wife hat takes over and they feel pressured to be superwoman. I think they equate not having “X” with them as a failure on their part, so the purse grows to accommodate a myriad of what-ifs.

    My husband calls it the Mary Poppins Syndrome. 🙂

  21. posted by Jenny on

    I have a decently large purse to carry everything I might need. I don’t want to have to think about where I’m going and what I might need for that trip. Plus what if you tack on another errand and don’t have something that you need? So I carry all the cards I own in my wallet, my other glasses (needed for driving at night, etc.), my camera (you never know when you’ll see something you want to capture!), pad of paper and pen, Blistex, tissues, etc…

  22. posted by verily on

    Mary Poppins Syndrome is very apt, Felis. Bags that big get some serious clutter in them usually. If I were to turn over my friend’s large bag, I would reveal an assortment of makeup, a wad of receipts, a rarely used organizer, pens, a ton of change, tissues, painkillers, a wallet, a checkbook, lip balm, a phone, mints, and so on…

    I personally hate purses. I hate having to lug a bag around at all. There are rare times when it makes things easier, but like awurrlu, I prefer to keep things in my pants pockets. And I too require true pockets on all clothes I buy. I have both a small wallet and a slim phone that I just slip in. My keys are probably the bulkiest thing I carry.

    Granted, I’m very low maintenance. I don’t have a need for carrying makeup around, no reason to carry a checkbook, and my phone doubles as a PDA (so no notepads or pens).

  23. posted by Mayara on

    When I have my large bag, I usually am carrying my daily planner (PDAs don’t work well with my brain, and so while smaller, are less useful for me), one or two books I’m reading, and a notebook for classes/meetings/work. Occasionally, I’m also carrying a textbook for one of those classes. On weekends, the bag serves double duty as a bag to carry library books to/from the library, and as a reusable shopping bag.

    On the occasions where I’m not carrying stuff too large for a small clutch, I’m not in need of a purse at all. And small clutches have a tendency to be left somewhere by the likes of me. Honestly, with the potential exception of going to a formal event, what’s the use of a clutch for someone like me? It’s just more clutter!

  24. posted by Sue on

    Mo said:
    “Whenever I see someone with a “sleek little clutch,” I am amazed that they aren’t ashamed to be so obviously not carrying a book.”

    How true! Whenever I shop for a new purse I take at least 2 books along to make sure they’ll fit inside. Besides, a clutch can’t hang from your shoulder or fit in your pocket. Who wants something in their hands all the time?

  25. posted by ADM on

    If you live in a city with great public transportation, etc., you may need a bigger bag to hold the stuff for your day — errands, gym clothes, etc. I can store stuff this kind of stuff in my car.

    My bag holds a Palm Pilot, cell phone, a Larabar (so I won’t be tempted by junk if I get hungry), sunglasses year-round (I live in the very sunny state of Colorado), chapstick, lipstick, asthma inhaler, compact nylon shopping bag, wallet and water bottle (also necessary in this very dry state).

  26. posted by Kris on

    I carry a small purse with my wallet, chapstick, a comb, my keys and my cell phone. That’s it. I keep a bin in the car with anything I may need while ‘out’ that doesn’t need to stay with me in my purse: diapers, wipes, change of clothes for both boys, juice boxes, snacks, clean tshirt for me, aspirin, anything I need for running errands, magazines and books for ‘down time’, umbrella, sunglasses, etc. The bin has a cover, sits between the seats and if I need something while out, I get it out of the car and bring it with me instead of lugging a huge purse everywhere. Works for me.

  27. posted by Gayle on

    I always carry an over-the-head-and-shoulder bag, about the size of a laptop carrier I think. My hands have no strength and I don’t like to carry things in them, so I sling it over me and I have everything* with me – plus when I’m shopping, small items slip right in and I still don’t have to carry anything.

    *Wallet, keys, business card holder, digital camera (in an altoids tin) & pen in my small interior pocket. Nothing goes in the main pocket except a book or anything large I am taking with me that day – including lunch or a bottle of water. I keep a small flat pouch in the back pocket that adds nothing to the weight or clutter, which holds small containers holding ibuprofen, a lens cleaner for my camera and glasses, toothpicks, hand sanitizer, lip balm, wet-naps and condoms. Because you never know 🙂

    That “small sleek clutch” would get dropped and/or left behind.

  28. posted by devBear on

    My favorite purses are two different sizes. One, for the barest minimum of wallet + phone + camera (phone cameras are really poor). The small size fits inside my larger purses, which are big enough to hold those items plus my nintendo ds and games, a small knitting project, my computer, and a large moleskine for notes I don’t feel like putting in my phone. Everything I’d need for work and to kill some time on the plane.

  29. posted by becky on

    My sleek little Hobo clutch fits in my big Kooba bag. We don’t stay looking this good or being organized by carrying a sleek little clutch. Glasses, a wallet, cell phone, Blackberry and a cosmetic kit overstuff a medium sized bag. Another thing you don’t want to know about – if you have your period, there’s a lot more stuff you need to put in there. When you wear glasses, you need more room. Then there’s the brush, the book, perhaps you don’t have a drawer at your partner’s place and that adds even more. Dude, ya gotta stay away from the purse commentary. While you’re at it, don’t even think about trying to declutter my shoe closet 🙂

  30. posted by Kristin on

    Frankly, it’s trendy right now. I had to buy a new purse and it was hard to find something that wasn’t teeny tiny or a tote bag. Big purses are ‘in’. I have a little purse that I use when we go to parties, the casino, etc. that holds chapstick, my phone, id’s/cash, and a camera. But it is too small for daily use b/c my wallet (the kind that holds my checkbook along with everything else) doesn’t fit.

    So the one I got is still bigger than I would like and my things sort of swim around in it. I carry my wallet, keys,phone,eyeglasses,lipgloss,bandaids(husband is accident prone) on a regular basis, but there is also room for an average-sized book if I need one. And sometimes I do.

    I also have a car so don’t have to haul my life around with me like city-dwelling public transport users do. I also imagine when I have my baby in March that the purse will fill up with lots of extra stuff.

  31. posted by selenium on

    Yes, the trend right now is for HUGE bags. Giant bags like I’ve never seen before. I don’t get it. Several magazines have had cover stories in the past few months on the weight of bags and how they are bad for your bag if they weigh over ten pounds. And these purses are large enough to carry a litter of puppies, let alone one Tinkerbell dog!

    I hate purses myself, and I’m 5’3″ and 107lbs, so I’m very careful about how much I carry. Unfortunately, I have a lot of special needs and I always have to have some snacks, a water bottle, medicine, glasses, a sweater and hat (winter and summer–and it has to be in my purse or I’ll lose it if it isn’t on my head). I am often taking my lunch to work, too. Or shoes. Or both. No car!

    I clean out my purse every week to make sure I’m not carrying garbage around and I pack everything I’ll need for the next day the night before–checking my calendar and the weather first. So ideally I’m only taking what I need. It sounds like a lot of work but it makes my life SOOO Much better and it is much faster/easier to do it before bed than in the morning when I’m groggy and crabby.

    I got a convertable backpack/messenger back that only weights 2.5lbs for my laptop. But b/c it is so light, it doesn’t have room for much else.

    I’m hoping that the 2.5lb leather messenger-ish style bag I just bought will be just the right size for my junk without being ginormous–I got it online.

  32. posted by CM on

    I used to have a handbag just big enough to fit the essentials — wallet, keys, phone, sunglasses. I switched to a larger bag, maybe 1/2 the size of the one pictured above, when I had a baby. I love my bigger bag for all the reasons mentioned above — room for a book, bottle of water, spare pair of shoes, or a few groceries. But the key is ROOM, which means your bag should be mostly empty. I think with a bigger bag, it’s important to empty it out once a week and make sure you need everything in there.

    I also have a separate plastic bag with baby essentials that I keep by the door and stick in my purse when I’m taking my son out. This bag contains two diapers, a few wipes, a small toy, a pacifier, an extra onesie, some formula packets, and two large burp cloths that can double as changing pads.

  33. posted by Nat on

    I agree w/awurrlu that wallets and clothes made for women are not helping. After trying to find a small wallet that will fit into my front jeans pocket, I gave up and made one out of an Altoids tin. It’s great. It fits no more that 8 cards (incl. DL, library card, personal CC, business CC, bank card & health insurance card.) Also, men who wear suit jackets get a generous pocket inside their jackets. No such luck for women’s jackets and coats, probably b/c it’ll “ruin the line” of a woman’s chest. Luckily, I found one GAP raincoat that does have it. I even had to sew one into a suede jacket a few years ago to keep my wallet or passport in for a trip to Europe. Don’t even get me started on where I’m supposed to stash stuff if I wear a dress. It’s possible to put pockets in for some styles, but designers rarely do.
    My husband for some reason thinks I love purses just b/c I have a few of them. In reality, I hate them and probably have a bunch b/c I’ll downsize depending on what I’m carrying that day and b/c I’ve never really found the one that does it all. I have a tote for when I’m carrying the laptop and files. If I’m not carrying those, then I have a smaller one for carrying a small sketchbook (I’m an artist,) a small case of personal items (4″x8″ pouch), a mini-portfolio (around 6″x8″), a pencil/pen case and maybe water. The wallet & Treo cell phone stay in the clothes on my body.
    Ironically, my husband who inherited my gargantuan VisorPhone will occassionally ask me to carry his phone if I’m carrying a purse b/c it doesn’t fit in any of his pockets. Hmmmm. Maybe we should find out if any women are carrying their significant other’s stuff too?

  34. posted by Michelle on

    I live in NYC, and the only time I carry a “clutch” is when I’m going out at night. However, during the day I carry an enormous bag because – well – I have no car to keep all my stuff in! The Usual Suspects in my bag are:
    * wallet
    * iPod (for the subway)
    * cell phone
    * Palm Pilot
    * gum
    * make-up bag
    * book or magazine (again, for the subway)

    The Variable Suspects are:
    * lunch (those salad bowls are big!)
    * whatever I bought at the drugstore that day
    * gym clothes (including sneakers)
    * script/sheet music (for lessons/rehearsal after work)
    * umbrella

    I always wear my bag on my right shoulder, and am hoping that I won’t end up with a permanent lean in my old age.

  35. posted by Allyson on

    There’s something about a man who writes about women’s issues that I find particularly galling. Similar to all male Congress and Senate representatives, who unempathetically vote on Women’s health care and personal body issues. For some reason men, whether they are husbands, boyfriends, politicians, or blog writers feel that they have the clarity of reason and intelligence to speak on matters that relate to the core of being a woman. Simply stated, they don’t.

    There are several arguments for varied purse sizes. The first one relates to body image and proportion. Thanks to the advertising geniuses on Madison Avenue, Barbie dolls, porn magazines, certain video games, and advertisements, young girls to women have been unapologetically bombarded with images of the “ideal woman.” We are to be very curvy on top, tiny waist, and proportionally curvy on the bottom. Thus, as women get dressed, they have to think about fashion tricks that mask any flaws.

    If a woman has been genetically blessed or surgically altered on top, she needs to carry a purse that is on the small side to balance out her body. Conversely, if a woman has wide hips, she is to carry a large purse in a tote-like position to mask the fact that she has hips. (Undoubtly, very strange because, procreationally speaking, isn’t a woman supposed to have hips?) Thus, when the world starts embracing Dove’s campaign for “Real Beauty” perhaps women won’t have to follow purse tricks to mask who they truly are: beautiful women in all shapes and sizes.

    The second reason why women carry small or large purses is that of convenience. Matt, you are the master of uncluttering our lives. Wouldn’t you agree that life is more uncluttered carrying one large bag instead of five smaller ones?

    The intelligent women who have messaged before me state practical reasons as to why they carry large purses: medical reasons, lifestyle and travel reasons, and job reasons. If they didn’t have logical and intelligent reasons, then I would agree that purses wouldn’t have to resemble fashionable dump trucks. However, since uncluttering is about removal of unnecessary, emphasis on the unneccessary, that which physically and emotionally weigh a person down, then your argument against the large purse has no merit. As Mark Twain would say, “I don’t take no stock in that.”

    Since some women have shared the contents of their purse, I feel compelled to share mine. Even though I came from a small-purse family (my mother carried and still carries small purses), I carry a large purse.

    Here is the inventory: wallet, makeup bag, medications, 2 books (I have chemo twice a week for 3 hours), my iPod, notebook for doctor’s visits (I have elevated visiting my doctors to an art form!), sunglasses, cell phone, Splenda packets (not every eatery has Splenda), coupons, my Palm, some feminine hygiene products (go ahead and comment about that Matt–I dare you!!) glasses, and a bottle of water.

    So, oh lord of all things Uncluttered, Matt, what would you take out of my purse?

    And, while were at it, Matt, why aren’t you an equal opportunity purse critique? My gay former 5th grade student who is now a college freshman carries a bigger murse (man + purse) than I do!! So, what say you on the topic of murses? Perhaps a topic for next time.


  36. posted by Roberta on

    Keep a comparison in mind:

    – Every night, my husband removes his wallet, keys, spare change, various business cards and receipts, any name tags and papers from meetings and conferences, and dumps it all on the dining room table. The next morning he pulls out what he needs, puts it back into various pockets, and leaves the crap on the table (only to ask me where it went two weeks later.) In contrast, I take off my bag and put it next to the door, ready to leave tomorrow, and toss the accumulated stuff once or twice a week during slow times at work.

    – Every time we go somewhere together and it starts to rain / the child needs a diaper or entertainment / we sit on the train for half an hour: guess which one of us is prepared to pull out an umbrella / diaper and wipes / small toy / book. I’m not prepared to deal with any eventuality, but I’ve got quite a few of them covered.

    Also, I’m baffled what these statements mean:

    “Now I’m not talking about backpacks or computer bags. Those are in a completely different category. I’m referring to purses.”

    Huh? If my purse carries the same crap as another person’s backpack, why are they in a different category? Beyond the fact that men don’t want to be seen as having a purse, so they invent something that differentiates the two?

    “As long as I’ve been with my wife she has always managed to survive with very tiny purses. ”

    I can only imagine that either she doesn’t have kids and doesn’t carry work home, or else she carries something in addition to her purse most of the time (maybe a car, as some commenters have added.)

  37. posted by Emily on

    Haven’t you seen the series on Lifehacker (I think) about one’s “Go” bag? There are just as many men who carry around messenger bags.

    I don’t know how men commute via public transportation without a bag. I would be lost without a book, my iPod, a knitting project or two, and my lunch for the day. Also a bottle of water. I don’t have a car. I don’t want to have a car. My bag has to carry anything I’d need throughout the day.

    Making this an entirely “woman’s” issue is kind of galling. Men do this, too.

  38. posted by Maria on

    I switched from a small purse to a miniscule one to keep from being my husband’s pack mule. He’d hand me his keys, iPod, sunglasses, and so on until my bag was full. Now there’s no room for anything except a wallet, a pen, and Chapstick.

    However, I do take a tote bag to work to carry a book and any items I need to mail that day (I sell on eBay).

  39. posted by Whit on

    I wear reading glasses, therefore I need somewhere to keep them when doing something other than reading or working on the computer, like walking, driving, shopping, etc. My glasses would never fit in that tiny little clutch!

    I love a big purse for all of the reasons listed about. I usually only keep my wallet, checkbook, glasses, business cards, phone (which is also my pda, camera, and calculator), sunglasses, keys, and chapstick in my purse, but it is so nice to have the extra space when I buy something and prefer to not use a plastic bag to get it home. Most of the time, my purse looks empty, serene and uncluttered!

  40. posted by jesse on

    Uh, yeah. I live in NYC and carry around the stuff I’ll need when I’m out of the house for at least 10 hours a day.


    Book or iPod for my 2 hours on the train daily

    Klean Kanteen water bottle (plastic bottles are gross)

    Lunch for work either in Gladware or WrapnMatt in a reusable bag

    GTD notebook/planner/budget ledger (all tiny and smaller than a paperback novel when put together)

    Plus an umbrella or errand items when I need them (DVDs for the library, etc.).

    I find the more reusable stuff you use (vs disposable), the more $ you save and less waste you create. But the more stuff you have to carry!

  41. posted by Ornery's Wife on

    I’m a convert to small purses. I used to carry a large(ish) bag, but everyone else gave me stuff to carry, so I went to a small one that has barely room for my phone and lip balm. My chiropractor applauds the lightweight clutch, saying heavy shoulder bags are really hard on your body. I can tell a difference, for sure!

  42. posted by Connie on

    The problem with a clutch: it must be clutched. When more clothing for women comes with pockets big enough to hold a wallet and keys, expect to see fewer purses. But till then, a purse, no matter what size, should have a shoulder or cross the body strap.
    Do you not realize how sexist it is to state that women should stand around clutching clutches? Why not add “and looking beautiful”?

  43. posted by erin on

    I have to agree with all the other women who have posted so far – I need and use everything that I carry in my purse. In fact, I’m looking at getting a larger purse (mine is actually quite small) because I can’t fit a book or a notebook into mine.

    I carry a wallet (a man’s wallet because I like the smaller flip wallets rather than the large chunky women’s wallets), my prescription glasses case, my regular glasses case, my iPod, Ibuprofen, chapstick, keys, a pen, gum, and my cell phone. I like to have a reading book or a book of Sudoku puzzles to keep me entertained when I have to wait somewhere. None of that is extra clutter so all of it comes with me every time I leave the house.

  44. posted by thisisbeth on

    My purse is small based on that picture, but not tiny. I need to carry with a planner/calendar. I don’t own a PDA (no interest in one), and I have a poor memory. Other than that, I have the wallet, chechbook, and cell phone.

    To work, I have an actual backpack so I can bring shoes (weather depending), lunch, etc., but my purse fits in there, too.

  45. posted by Kaila on

    I totally understand the point of this post and I totally agree with you.

    I am a woman who does not carry a purse. I carry a wallet, a phone, and my keys. Anything more is an uncessary burden (I don’t have kids). If I need a lunch, I take a lunch bag. If I need a book, I just carry the book. If I need to change my clothes, I leave a bag with a change of clothes in my car, etc.

    The idea of a clutch is great, except it requires that you keep it in one hand or under your arm at all times. So in that respect a purse with an arm strap is easier to deal with.

  46. posted by Janet on

    Wow, this is kind of offensive, isn’t it? First of all why do you care what women carry around? Second of all, women’s clothing is not conducive to carrying things on one’s person. Third of all, since you are making ridiculous generalizations then I can too, I don’t see any men carrying around diapers, bottles, toys, snacks or wipes. And lastly, its a good thing I carry a big purse because my husband is always having me carry his belongings for him.

  47. posted by kweeket on

    What I’m seeing is that the women who say “I carry a small purse” also tend to have a car. So a 4000lb metal purse-equivalent is better? I also agree with many other women who have posted – clutches are less than ideal because you have to clutch them. I find it much more annoying to have my hands full then I would to have a larger bag that can be slung over a shoulder.

    I actually don’t own a purse, but I do use a backpack. It holds similar items as those in the purses of other posters: dress shoes for work, a book for the bus, and so on. When I’m not going to work, I still like to carry a book and maybe a logic puzzle magazine, and its handy to have a backpack if I don’t want to use wasteful plastic bags while stopping by the grocery store.

    I’m skeptical about these claims of back problems caused by heavy purses. I would think we are more sedentary now than any point in human history, and probably carry less weight on a daily basis as well.

    Off topic slightly, but I think its great that so many commenters seem to a) read voraciously and b) use public transportation.

  48. posted by Mary on

    I carry a purse and a large canvas bag …

    The purse has all the usual stuff already mentioned … hairbrush, makeup, phone, financial calculator, notebook, wallet, pouch with pens, pencils, flash drive (I hate it when a pen breaks in my purse), mints, Kleenex (added after my grandson told me that “real” moms have a Kleenex when a kid needs one), small Bible, apple, keys,3×5 cards banded together (a makeshift hipster pda), miniature sewing kit, earphones and 3 CD’s (an audio book) + sometimes an iPod.

    The big canvas bag has two small knitting projects, about three computer books, 6 bottles of water (I drink 3 liters of water a day) and food for lunch/snacks.)

    I dump them out a lot but this is what I need if I’m going to be gone all day at work. I should probably convert to a backpack but this works for me – the canvas bag has a nice leather bottom, I picked it up at the GAP for about ten bucks about ten years ago and it makes me happy.

    oh and I don’t think the original post was to find out what we carry around. I think it’s to generate hits for this website – it’s a subject that will get lots of comments and generate a lot of talk!

    I did declutter a little today when I realized I no longer need to carry around a checkbook ….

  49. posted by Di on

    I’m a little offended by this too. I think I make a good example of why one shouldn’t judge when one has no idea what it’s all about… For instance, I always carry insulin and my blood sugar meter. Try putting that in a clutch – and you can’t leave it in the car because of temperature requirements. I almost always have tampons/pads for those other types of emergencies. I also carry many things that others (boyfriend especially) frequently borrow from me – wipes for eyeglasses, ibuprofen or Tylenol. And of course he will ask me to put his wallet, keys and/or sunglasses in my purse too though he’d never dream of slinging the thing over his shoulder.

    Frankly I’m surprised more people haven’t beaten you over the head about this post.

  50. posted by Jenny on

    Count me among the “big purse because I NEED it” crowd. I have a 14×9 purse that holds my wallet, keys, phone, iPod, lip balm/gloss/stick, headphones, BT earpiece, Splenda, business cards, a book, GPS, and work ID/flash drive/keys, and that’s just when I’m out alone. Add girl friends and their “sleek little clutch” bags into the mix, and I can easily end up with three or more phones, plus the stuff that won’t fit in their pockets. If it’s a weekend, the bag is bigger (American Apparel’s sadly discontinued LA-Z bag) and it holds everything above plus whatever purchases I’ve made that day.

    Seriously Matt, I can’t believe you actually posted this.

  51. posted by Lauren on

    Ironically, this post and the subsequent comments have convinced me that I need to give up my smallish purse and go large. I’m forever stopping to buy a snack, water, or even a magazine when confronted with an unscheduled stop that requires a wait; or getting soaked by an unforeseen thunderstorm; or wishing I had pen, paper, my camera, etc, at a given moment.

    Living a simpler, uncluttered life isn’t always about living with less (in your purse); it’s also about having what you need close to hand when you need it, thus saving yourself stress and anxiety.

  52. posted by lana on

    I think Matt’s off recovering in the burn unit from all of the heated comments he generated.

  53. posted by Melissa A. on

    I think it’s just some fashion thing? I don’t get it myself. Those stupid things whack passengers in the head on the bus. Also, they are very often ugly and I bet all they have in there is some lip gloss, a cell phone, keys, and their wallet.

  54. posted by Krys on

    I understand what Matt was trying to say here, but it’s a little off the mark. I know friends who carry around pounds of stuff every day for no reason other than they’re too lazy to take it out of their bag, and there seems to be a correlation between how big your purse is and how much crap you have in it. I, like many of the other posters here, don’t have a car, and I need my purse to hold everything I need for the day. I only keep in there what I absolutely need, but it still requires a decent sized bag. However, I clean it out daily and make sure to throw away all receipts and other trash, I don’t bring my iPod if I’m not going to need it that day, don’t bring my membership/point cards if I’m not going shopping, etc. Purses are a huge magnet for clutter, but it’s not necessarily the size of the purse that’s the problem.

  55. posted by Joy on

    In my backpack, I carry my wallet, my medication, my moleskin & a pen, drinking water and my mp3 player. Sometimes I add library books or other reading material, work items, camera, lunch. I walk everywhere. I don’t own a car that I can store stuff in. I cannot afford to spontaneously buy lunches and magazines and medication. What *exactly* should I get rid of?
    Perhaps a more respectful way of dealing with the topic is not to assume that everybody is stupidly carting around crap, but to ask for suggestions about the most efficient way to run a handbag/purse. An apology would be nice.

  56. posted by Kayt on

    So, some of us have large bags because we’ve uncluttered ourselves of cars, large trunks, mobile pack-horses, and larger backpacks.

    I live in Japan, and we’ve got a lovely public transportation system here.

    But this means that I’m not going to be storing items in my car as I go from place to place. No car. So on days when I go to work, then yoga or dance, or spend a day out and about, I need a purse or bag that does the job for me and means I can haul stuff back home without gettign extra plastic bags.

    It’s not just a women thing here. The acceptability of “man bags” is the norm…because they are needed. Sometimes I can use a backpack, but on crowded trains a lower hanging purse helps everyone fit in a train.

    Train and subway (and bus) users also need larger bags so that they can multitask if need be.

  57. posted by Erin Ferree on

    I just tried to downsize from a large purse to a smaller one. Now, I don’t carry that much in my purse:
    – a clutch-style wallet
    – allergy medicine (in case of unexpected cats)
    – sunglasses
    – 1 lipstick, 1 lip gloss
    – a pen
    – business cards
    – a collapsible shopping bag (I have a teeny tiny one that I keep with me so I don’t need so many plastic bags)
    – my keys
    – my ipod
    – my cell phone

    Now, I can barely fit all of these into my smaller model of purse. But that means that I’m spending lots of time organizing stuff so that it will fit in the small purse. And, somehow, finding stuff in the small purse is a lot harder than finding stuff was in the bigger purse. I’ve dug through it many times, decided I didn’t actually pack my pen/cellphone or glasses, and then found the missing item in a crevice later in the day.

    The other thing I miss is that I could carry my Nalgene of water and a notebook in my big purse. And, if I was going somewhere where there might be waiting, I could pack a magazine so I wouldn’t be trapped with whatever happened to be in the waiting room.

    So, I’m thinking of swapping out again.

  58. posted by Brooke on

    If you’re genuinely curious about what women carry in their purses, there are some Flickr groups devoted to just that. For example, and

  59. posted by SSF on

    I’ve always carried small purses and have always had more than enough room for the essentials but I think the goal is to have items that have multiple uses. The pen I carry is also part cuticle pusher and nail file. I have a “Miss Army knife” which has enough room for a perfume vial, a needle + thread, bobby pins, has a mirror and then all the other army knife basics. Cell phone has camera, internet, organizer and MP3 capabilities.

    Though for the record, I don’t have kids but I also never keep anything in my car.

  60. posted by Patia on

    I carry a small purse filled with “must-haves” inside a big purse that carries “nice-to-haves.” Often I’ll leave the big purse in the trunk or the office and just carry the small one.

    I wish I could get rid of the big purse altogether, but I’m too attached to my camera, ipod, reading material, emergency snacks, makeup, kleenex, nail clippers, etc.

  61. posted by Kate on

    Finally someone mentioned carrying a penknife of sorts 🙂 I love mine, I have two, a big fat one and a key-ring sized girly one.

    Bigger bags = uncluttered in my view, slinging one thing over my shoulder is better than a small handbag* and carrying other things.

    Try taking the tube** in the mornings, there are some really smart looking woman in wonderful suits wearing trainers (sensible), small business like bags and, totally ruining the look, a plastic bag with their smart shoes in….. me? I expect my shoes to keep up with me 😉 but when I do have two pairs, one is on the feet the other is in my larger bag – hence two hands free!

    BUT… the bag rules:

    * when buying bags make sure they weight hardly anything when empty, no point adding extra weight
    * Straps must be long enough to sling over the shoulder one handed – saves time when out and you’re in and out of your bag
    * Bags must be totally closeable to be safe from pickpockets (depending on where you live, me? London >shrug<)
    * at least once a week, tip EVERYTHING out of your bag and sort

    Right… I need a better bag… shopping at lunchtime methinks

    * oops, coming over all english on y’all
    ** and again 😉

  62. posted by Andamom on

    Thank goodness some other NYers (and other City-folk) responded already. I’ll try to sum this up simply: I walk everyone and don’t want to weighed down by carrying multiple bags — a diaper bag, my necessities (keys, wallet, and phone), and whatever other bags with stuff I am picking up. If I have an adequetely sized bag, I can fit whatever I need in it… and still have room for a book or magazine. If I can manage without a bag too — I am more than happy to do so — fitting my necessities in the stroller or a pocket.

    So, Kate, Kayt, Joy, and so many other posters are right on the mark. Matt, I think the point is that while you say that ‘back-packs’ are okay, we’re actually using our ‘purses’ to accomplish the same task.

  63. posted by t-mad on

    I have needed a purse twice in my life. Prom and one (how are we gonna pay for this…oh well) night out with my husband. Of course, I have had a car from junior year on.
    Also I think huge purses were stylish in the ’70s. So this is not a new thing.

  64. posted by Little Miss Moneybags on

    I generally carry a medium-to-large bag but it’s not stuff full of stuff. As others have said, what I actually *need* to take with me (wallet, phone, chapstick) could fit in my pockets…if womens’ dress clothing had pockets. Since I have to carry a bag, I might as well make it extra useful by having enough room for a book, a sweater if the weather calls for it, space to use as a shopping bag, a GTD notebook, things for errands, etc. If I drove, I’d likely leave some of this stuff in the car, but that’s not an option for me.

    For what it’s worth, my boyfriend carries around MUCH more stuff than I do–he fills an entire backpack which he carts around with him. I wouldn’t call him out and say he doesn’t need any of it–why would anyone carry around a bag that’s heavier than it needs to be? I don’t think this is necessarily a gender issue.

  65. posted by Nancy on

    First of all, large, over-sized shoulder bags are ‘in-fashion’ right now. So a woman may carry a suitcase sized bag, but only have a cell, keys, & lipstick inside.

    That being said, having lived in NYC for 20 years, we NYC women do need large bags. When I leave my home for the day, I probably have any or all of the following in my bag (please remember, most of us in nyc do not have cars & use public transportation for everywhere we go): high heels to change into (hard to manage nyc in heels, so we wear flats & change to heels), lunch, sweater or jacket for the office, keys, camera, wallet, checkbook, pens, gum, book or magazine (to read on the subway), bottle of water, sunglasses, prescription glass case, umbrella, ipod, laptop, paperwork for work, hairbrush, hairclip, change of top or shoes for evening, makeup, hand cream, oh, and a small clutch. That doesn’t even touch upon the times when I have to take presents, bottle of wine for a dinner party, etc. In NYC we women always say “our lives are in our handbags”. It’s really true.

    By the way, while the clutch you refer to is cute, I prefer my Angelina by gg2g ( is sleek & made from recycled billboards. I get tons of compliments & it’s quite the conversation piece when people realize what it’s made of. Not to mention that I can be stylish & chic while also saving the planet. Of course, I admittedly also use their oversized tote bag too ( for some of the above purposes.

  66. posted by ellipsisknits on

    I know that I made a conscious decision to get a very small purse, because I knew if it was larger, I would fill it up until it became too heavy for me to want to take anywhere – defeating the purpose and leaving me without necessities.

    When I was in college (without a car) I worked the two bag system. My pockets would have student id, cash, phone, keys, and my backpack was like a turtle shell: everything I needed ever.

  67. posted by beth on

    We’ve got this idea that women carry purses, and men do not. So when women want to carry lots of stuff, they get a big purse. But when men do, they are carrying a “briefcase” or a “messenger bag”.

    Also, because women are the purse-carriers, they get to carry their guy’s or kid’s stuff (because, hey, the Natural Order of Things has her carrying a purse and him not.)

    Big purses are in this season, but all that means is that women are carrying in “purses” what they used to carry in totes or messenger bags.

    You NYC folks have to take everything you might need that day when you leave in the morning. People who make one trip to work in their own car, another different trip later to go shopping, etc, don’t have the same issue (and the car can hold things). On days that I drive around to errands, I take a small purse and feel like it’s already too big. On days when I’m out-and-about without the car, I bring my messenger bag.

    Me, I’ve got a 3-tiered system. I might just be carrying my wallet, with maybe keys and maybe a phone and maybe a camera (but not all of those). The wallet came from a renfair and can be sliipped onto a belt or into a pocket.

    My purse is really pretty small, but holds a book, all the aforementioned stuff, plus a moleskine, chapstick, etc, and still has room for a book and/or a pair of dance shoes.

    The messenger bag can hold all of that plus a laptop, items to mail or eat, etc.

    A tip on the tampons: ob’s are tiny, and right now they’ll send you a free (tiny, cute) tampon case:

  68. posted by Laure on

    Matt, do all these posts answer your question?

    I hope that one day, there will be an simple-yet-elegant epiphany in the fashion world, similar to the one in 1989 or so when a pilot supposedly added wheels to his luggage, changing our lives for the better!

    It would be great if we could all exist unencumbered and be happy about unwiped noses, freezing at the office, eating unhealthy food, dehydrating, cranky kids with soiled diapers, going into ketosis, having to make repeat trips to Sams or the library, which is no longer so understanding about patrons without their library cards, and so on, but I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future. Whenever I downsize to the “clutch” level, I end up spending/wasting time, energy, calories, money or humiliation that could have been conserved with a larger and better stocked bag. And to be perfectly honest, aren’t most people too busy to change out and restock handbags every day, knowing exactly what they will and won’t need the next day? I leave that task to the people who truly enjoy coordinating different bags to different outfits and different days. I can see that it could be fun for the right people, but I’ll take a practical, pocketed, and slightly generous neutral bag instead, since that is what (almost) works for me. So far, it is very difficult to find bags with enough outside pockets of useful sizes to keep my gadgets from slithering to the bottom of my bag.

    In summary, bags, handbags, totes and briefcases are TOOLS as well as accessories. The right TOOL is the one that accomplishes the job, so it isn’t a matter of downsizing or upsizing at all, but of appropriateness to the task and the number of free hands one needs during the course of the day.

    PS – how many responders cleaned their purses out after reading this blog?

  69. posted by Ginny on

    I use big purses, with 2 kids out of diaper bags I need a big purse! Funny I almost bought that same purse but in a different color. I didn’t like the giant zipper though 🙂

  70. posted by Ethel on

    “Now I’m not talking about backpacks or computer bags. Those are in a completely different category.”

    Not sure why. My backpack is the only purse I ever use – I can’t stand the way a purse hangs. But it serves the same function, plus it can carry my laptop and I can bike while wearing it.

    The reason a purse is so big is often, I think, to cut down on time clutter: Keep everything you are likely to need on-the-go over the next month in your purse so it’s there when you leave. Clean out once a month instead of constantly packing and repacking what you need when you leave the house. I actually store my makeup in my backpack instead of cluttering my house with something I rarely use at home. Same for my wallet, my phone, and my bus card. Since I started doing this, I haven’t lost a single one of these things – unusual for me.

    Parents do a similar thing with diaper bags, only going through them every day or every couple of days but packing everything they are likely to need for the kids when out according to an orderly list – diapers, snacks, extra clothes . . . just check off everything in the morning, and come and go without worry the rest of the day.

    So I think purses swing both ways – sources of clutter, or clutter-organizers. Like baskets.

  71. posted by Jasi on

    I hate purses. Since baby, I have a small hobo for 2 dipes, 10 wipes, benadryl, baby cloth, snack, sippy, cell, wallet, and a link-a-do on the strap for my keys (also makes for a quick toy).

    Evil necessity.

    If you really hate bags though, change the ladies garment industry and have pockets become fashionable or push for credit chip and cell phone implants. I’m at a loss.

  72. posted by Kelsey on

    I have to carry at least a medium sized purse or bag because of the supplies necessary to manage my type 1 diabetes. Especially since becoming pregnant, I need extra snacks and items to treat low blood sugar.

    Sometimes I’d love to carry a smaller purse… but it has to have room for my essentials.

    There are probably hundreds of different reasons that women carry large purses. I’ve used mine as a bookbag for grad school, a place to stash my lunch, etc. Purses are great and can serve many functions!

  73. posted by Cadsuane on

    Are you actually looking for an answer to this question, or are you just wanting to laugh at something your wife does that you don’t quite understand?

    I’ll be honest, I’m a little tired of being asked questions like this – either by my male friends, or by articles in the media.

    Whenever I’ve heard such questions they are usually stated in a tone that’s really quite derogatory e.g. women carrying bags (especially large bags full of “stuff”) = stupidity or madness; men not carrying bags = intelligence or common sense.

    1 – This tone only encourages the battle between the sexes, when really we could and should be concentrating on the commonalities between us and trying to understand each other better.

    2 – No attention is paid to the reasons why your wife, and those like her, feel the need to carry so much with them throughout their day. Many reasons have already been stated in the comments above – carrying a survival pack for when you are out with the kids; carrying your home-made lunch; gym clothes; reading material; work-related items.

    3 – is it stupid to be prepared? Is it stupid to anticipate childrens’ or family needs on a day out of the house? Is it stupid to, let’s say, carry your home-made lunch to work rather than spending an unnecessary sum of money each day on commercially made lunches? Is it stupid to want to have something to read or to engage the mind with when commuting, or standing in line?

    4 – if you look around many towns/cities today, you will see many men carrying bags of one kind or another that are just as full to the brim – either backpacks, laptop bags, briefcases. You name it, there’s somebody carrying it. Are you going to laugh at them too?

    You can tell by my response I’ve had to argue these points before. I’m always amazed that some men see some things women do as a complete mystery (despite the fact that many men do the same things!) There’s no mystery, and you only have to ask us to get our reasons why we do what we do.

    A simple question will do though, one stated in an interested tone, not a sarcastic one.

    There…lecture over, lol!!

  74. posted by Cadsuane on

    On re-reading the full post on this page, I see I mis-read the starting paragraphs. I thought you were using something your wife does as an example. I now see you were actually commenting on other women you see around you.

    I apologise for my assumption.

  75. posted by Nat on

    I decided to actually look at the “slim little clutch” the link went to. Love the descriptions: “The perfect choice for special occasions,” “Not necessarily for everyday treks to the office.” Of course it’s so slim, I’d probably lock and unlock my car trying to cram the key in. LOL.

  76. posted by Devon on

    I don’t want to anyone else on the defensive. I totally understand if you have kids, or if you frequently spend all day out and have no idea what you might need during the day. However, my wife often carries:

    10-20 pens in her purse. She just grabs one and tosses it in until there’s more pens than anyone could possibly need.

    Old receipts from 6 month ago purchases of a few groceries.

    5-6 burt’s bees lip balms. All the same kind.

    5-10 dollars worth of loose change which is heavy.

    Etc… I KNOW she’s not the only one who’s purse ends up simple accumulating things. She’s able to tuck her cell, camera, sunglasses, normal glasses, lip gloss, pens, wallet, feminine products, make up touch-up kit, city map, and more into her smallest purse without issue, but if she’s using one of her larger purses, it just fills with random things she doesn’t need. When she looks through one, usually before flying somewhere, she’s always shocked at home much random crap has accumulated.

    As for myself, I leave the house with my slim wallet, house or car key, and my iPhone. If I think I might end up waiting around, I’ll bring the headphones for my iPhone, but 90% of the time I don’t and don’t need them.

    If I’m going to do work, I’ll bring my messenger bag, but only when I’m going to do work.

  77. posted by rejin on

    I am amazed that people revealed the full content of their purses. Why do we feel the need to justify?
    On my daily commute, I see just as many men as women carrying a big load, usually in a backpack or duffel bag. It is much less than a driver might carry in their car.

  78. posted by johanna on

    Wow, what a freaking condescending & offensive post. Big purses=BAD. Women carry them! But backpacks/computer bags=OKAY. Men carry them! Even though oftentimes they are holding the same things, let’s slam on the “womanly” one. Yeah, nice one.

    I recently put this blog on my RSS feed list but I’m considering taking it off if this is the kind of stuff I’m going to be getting.

  79. posted by Lynoure Braakman on

    I mostly carry a briefcase, which you probably magically understand better than a large purse, even if the contents are the same. 🙂

    I always have a book with me, and my journal, both of them too large for a tiny purse. I also often want to carry A4 size papers unfolded and a boxed lunch. I quite commonly go grocery shopping on my way from work and I don’t want to get a plastic bag, so it is handy for me to have a bag that fits smallish amount of groceries.

  80. posted by ouxu on

    it’s not an overnight bag. it’s fashion. and maybe an overnight bag. lol

  81. posted by Cadsuane on

    Responding to Devon’s post…

    I don’t presume to know what reasons your wife has for accumulating the items you list. My guesses would be – she’s a busy women who doesn’t really have time to worry or care about what small items (pens etc) she has gathered, especially as you say with the larger bag she doesn’t use as often; she maybe hasn’t found the time to clear these items away; coins gather easily in bags/purses, especially when you are running around town e.g. in and out of shops, or on and off public transport. You don’t always have the luxury of stopping and pulling out your wallet/coin purse to put your money away. This can actually be dangerous in some places, depending on where you are. Someone could very easily snatch these out of your hand and run off! It’s much more convenient to just drop change into bags or pockets and worry about it later.

    Also, men are not so innocent in terms of carrying “crap” around. I know many who cram their pockets full of coins, receipts, tickets, loose papers, pens. Then the wallets themselves are full to the brim too – more receipts, more tickets, more loose papers.

    What I don’t understand, is why women are always held to account over the simplest things – things that men are just as likely to do. Men who gather just as much stuff (although maybe in a different form) don’t have this fact flouted in their face and held against them. They’re not made to feel the need to feel ashamed or feel that they should explain themselves.

    What a person does or does not carry with them each day is their own business after all. No one has the right to pry or point the finger and laugh at them – especially over something so trivial.

  82. posted by lind on

    A big bag is significantly smaller and cheaper than the smallest of cars.

    When I take public transportation, I sometimes need to take my laptop for work, gym bag and yoga mat for exercising afterwards, lunch and snack to avoid buying food for the day, and sketchpad to jot down ideas as well as a magazine to preoccupy myself inside the bus.

  83. posted by Wendy on

    Well… my bag usually has all the junk the DH can’t carry because he DOESN’T have a bag….

  84. posted by Joanna on

    I don’t have a car, so I have to carry everything I need for the day with me. I have a large-ish tote, but it is seldom full in the morning. I leave space so that I can stop off at the library/grocery store/whatever on the way home if I need to. In my bag, I have:

    – Wallet
    – Cell phone
    – Dayplanner
    – Sunglasses
    – Small water bottle
    – Packed lunch
    – Medical kit

    I have food allergies, so I always carry my own lunch. That’s also the reason for the medical kit—that alone would exclude me from ever having a small purse. I carry benadryl, itch cream, asthma inhaler and an epi-pen.

    On days I need to take the laptop to work with me, it goes in the tote and I carry my lunch in a second bag.

    I think many of those women with tiny bags must be drivers and have a car to put stuff in. But for someone like me, a car-less city girl, I really need a bag that can carry the things I need for my day.

  85. posted by Sarah on

    Three reasons to have a giant purse:

    1. A sweater. It’s great to have a place to stash one.

    2. Plastic bags. Best to avoid, and sometimes you just want to buy 5 apples on your way home and not have add to the landfill.

    3. Public transit. If you take the bus, you don’t have a back seat to huck things that don’t fit in your purse.

  86. posted by Mags on

    I think most people have covered it. I have two core handbags. The small bag carries the basics (up to and including a paperback book) and is used in the evening or at weekends. The big bag is half empty but big enough to carry the basics plus lunch, an umbrella, paperwork and a folded up shopping bag. Both have to have enough space to carry the basics *and zip up* as you don’t want to travel on public transport with your valuables on display. My boyfriend’s bag often weighs more than my work bag what with the DS, ipod, comics etc.

    I suspect that those of us carrying around big bags carry a lot less clutter than those throwing things into the back of a car: we have to think about what is essential and what isn’t, weighing up the positive of having anything else to hand against the negative of actually having to carry its weight all day.

    BTW, the photo clearly shows a fashionably big bag, not a full commuter neccessity bag.

  87. posted by r on

    “Posted by Mo – 10/25/2007

    Whenever I see someone with a “sleek little clutch,” I am amazed that they aren’t ashamed to be so obviously not carrying a book.”


  88. posted by heather on

    Matt,you forgot one of your own cardinal rules, uncluttering isn’t about size, it is about simplicity. Why have a bunch of uni-tasking bags when you can have one bag that serves most of your needs?

    I would have just given this an eyeroll and moved on, but when I saw the clutch you recommended (which by the way is a wallet) I had to see how others responded.

    The other women here have done an excellent job of explaining why women may carry a large purse and that it can be in line with an uncluttered life to do so.

    My solution for an uncluttered bag of reasonable proportions is to have a great wallet (very similar to the one you suggested as a purse) that I can throw into a large workbag for the week, a medium sized purse for non-work days, or even a small purse for evening.

    I also clean out my bags as a I switch, which helps me keep them in good shape, get rid of garbage, file receipts, record phone numbers, and easily find what I need on a daily basis. I’d like to add that I only have a couple of bags for each season. I like to buy good quality bags and carry them for years.

    If I’m just running an errand, I can always just grab my wallet (which you would call a purse, apparently) and my phone. But guess how many free hands I have left when I do that?

    I keep stuff I like to carry with me compartmentalized in a “like with like” fashion and I don’t have a lot of loose stuff. This makes it easier to throw a few things into different bags on different days, when I am doing different things.

    Normally your observations and advice are thorough and spot on. But you really should have talked to a few women before writing this.

  89. posted by Clarice on

    As a public transportation commuter, I always carry a bag that can have a book, notebook and my ipod. I do have to admit though that I don’t carry a wallet. Instead I have all needed cards (debit/license/health insurance/library card/metro card) and money all clipped together with a binder clip in an inside zipped pocket of my bag. Women’s wallets are gigantic and just take up lots of space for me. If I’m going out dancing or to a concert though, I just wear jeans with pockets and stick the cards (sans library card) and my simple keys (front door, inside door) into my pockets with a lip balm and my phone and I’m good to go!

    It is possible to go without. I just like entertainment other than advertisements as I go.

  90. posted by jane on



    change of shoes
    change of clothes
    hair brush
    hair ties
    hair product

    so let’s talk again after you start bleeding through your penis, or you start having to wear makeup to fit in with social images, or you start running the risk of being punished for wearing comfortable shoes and frumpy clothes.

  91. posted by meghan on

    let’s add

    and read books, which apparently Matt’s wife does not

  92. posted by meghan on

    I just went and clicked on your “sleek little clutch”, and laughed, because that? is my wallet. That goes inside my (medium-sized) purse. It’s very very slim, the size and thickness of a checkbook, and has a hard time fitting cash and half a dozen cards.

  93. posted by Karen on

    Surprised to see Matt speaking without at least an informal survey of the women around him. These comments show the functional needs in womens’ lives and how women must either find tools that are readily available or start a clothing/accessory revolution.

    When I was a detective in Wyoming I had to have my hands free at all times and be able to move quickly without worrying about where my purse was but I also had to carry my various i.d.s, badge, camera, phone, firearm, mace, planner, notebook, pens/pencils, tape recorder, Leatherman tool, PDA, wallet, and breath mints. (Nothing ruins an interview faster than bad breath.) I’m a minimalist makeup person but since my lips are always chapped I at least had to have lip balm, and 9 months out of the year I was also in possession of gloves and a hat. The only thing that had a real home was my gun, which went in my shoulder holster. I tried waistpacks, backpacks, etc – too bulky. And you can bet I didn’t want to ind I’d forgotten my mace or my badge. Anyway, I found a great blazer in LLBean that had a few pockets —- then I looked at the men’s version and it had a TON of pockets and I got angry. Why was the women’s version functionally wussy but the mens’ wasn’t?! So I ordered the men’s, had it tailored to fit me, and wore that sucker every day of my career. Women envied me but didn’t have the kind of jobs that would allow them to wear one all the time; many of my male friends got their own blazers. It was fabulous. It held all my necessary gear plus a book and my lunch for heaven’s sake.

    Then I moved to Arizona and am no longer a detective – can’t wear a wool blazer all the time (hardly want to wear clothes at all). Sigh. I’ve been trying to find a workable solution; I don’t have to carry as much, but when you’re unencumbered AND fully prepared for so long it spoils you. I luckily have a job with no dress code to speak of so I’ve resorted to wearing men’s cargo pants every day but have to leave at home many things I have regretted leaving behind.

    So Matt, it’s a fair question but maybe next time you should present it with curiosity instead of with a sneer. And please let us know what your wife does with her time when she’s stuck in traffic, in the line at the grocery/atm/dry cleaners, eating lunch, waiting for meetings to start, since she can’t possibly fit a book or language flashcards or a crochet hook in that “sleek little clutch”. Those of us lugging around flight luggage (but learning French, finishing Moby Dick, or crocheting a scarf) are quite curious.

  94. posted by Bee Hind on


    • I don’t have a car, so I carry an umbrella at all times.
    • I am an artist, so there’s a sketckbook and a digital camera.
    • I have a child. thus the cellphone, mini first aid kit, towelettes, tissues, small box of crayons with a mini coloring book (for restaurants), and a few small toys. In the winter months, an extra pair of mittens, in case one goes missing. We are past the diaper stage thankfully.
    • I carry a small make-up bag, with tampons, and a hair brush.
    • A folder with coupons for the grocery store.
    • A wallet, keys, a bottle of water, and a few snacks (again, I have a child.)
    • A nylon shopping tote for picking up a few things at the market, so that I don’t have to use a plastic bag.

  95. posted by Lisa on

    I have a large bag for two main reasons:

    1) I’m a graphic designer and I carry at least one sketchbook and a notebook with me at all times in case inspiration should hit. Also, usually a book or magazine pertaining to my latest project.

    2) I’m diabetic and have a hella ton of medical crap that I have to carry with me, including but not limited to, a glucometer, test strips, insulin, syringes and alcohol pads. Not to mention, I always need to have a snack with me in case my blood sugar plummets.

    On top of these, I have a lot of the same necessary stuff that most women need to carry with them.

  96. posted by Jenagain on

    OK, I read most of the posts (but not all) and I didn’t see this one – I can’t count how many times my husband will ask me for tissues, a band-aid, a penknife, a pen, a notepad, a cough drop, aspirin, chapstick, etc. Or even better, he asks to put his sunglasses or keys in my bag because his pockets aren’t big or secure enough.

    The problem is that it’s unfashionable for a man to carry a purse, so he doesn’t have the things he needs when he’s out and about. If he’s lucky, he’s got a wife/partner/girlfriend with a purse, and she’ll have whatever he needs.

    My husband ocassionally jokes about me looking like a “bag lady”, but then comes the time I pare down. And when I tell him I don’t have something, he replies, “But, you always carry binoculars!”

  97. posted by Miriam on

    Oh, this is great! It’s amazing how many women have the same experience! I’m a mass transit believer, and I think I end up being more uncluttered than people with cars. I have a larger bag, but it’s still a lot smaller than a car.

    For me, if I had a clutch, I’d lay it down and lose it. Multiple bags to carry? Same thing. No bag? Everything I carry would get lost. Not big enough? Then I’m not prepared for all that happens in my 11-hour days – meals, water, workout, work itself, illness, boredom. One simple, notebook-sized, well-organized, nearly-attached-to-me bag helps me get through my day without with minimum fuss.

    The women here carry bags in many cases because they’re responsible for someone other than themselves – children. I wonder what men with children to take care of or medical supplies do? I bet they have a largish bag they carry, too. I bet a lot of men who don’t carry bags have turned to their girlfriends/wives and said “can you hold this for me?”

    My husband’s actually a convert to bags. For years he’d ask me to hold his stuff and was never prepared for anything. One day he figured out that the secret to my organization and preparedness for all was a bag, and now he’s working on perfecting what goes in his.

  98. posted by Electra on

    It should also probably be mentioned (and I didn’t want to read all 97 entries posted thus far, so sorry if I repeat) that women don’t usually get pockets or at least large ones in our clothes because it ‘ruins the line’ of them and makes them un-flattering to our curvy bodies. We don’t often get belt loops either for that matter. Where do you keep your wallet, cell phone, and keys?

  99. posted by Emily on

    I do carry a small purse. It goes inside a) a backpack b) a canvas tote or c) a bike pannier, depending on my plans for the day. It’s just not possible to fit a week’s worth of groceries into my purse, never mind my bike lock, library books and all the other things I need to carry on a daily basis. That makes my second bag a necessity. The larger bag of the day gets cleaned out after the job is done. My purse gets cleaned out every week or two, depending on how quickly it reaches sap capability. Once it gets heavy enough to make a good weapon, it’s time to clean it.

    (and to those that asked, I didn’t go clean out my purse. I did it Tuesday, and it won’t need it for another week or two.)

  100. posted by Haven on

    Ha, this is hilarious! My husband never questions the size of my bag, he’s much too smart for that!
    ALL THE TIME, within the depths of my purse are: my checkbook-sized wallet, a pencil case-sized bag which has esential medicine and make-up, chapstick etc in it, my Navman screen, a hairbrush (with hair down to my butt, I CANNOT ever be without it), a few extra hair accessories, my personal cell phone, my work cell phone, a couple pens, a small note pad and my keys. Depending on the weather and how long I’ll be gone for, I may also pack a compact umbrella, water bottle or snack. We currently do not have children, but when we do, yes, it will probably get worse!

  101. posted by jmanna on

    Okay, I had to stew on this one a while to compose my thoughts. There is a lot of outrage in the comments above. And it is justified.

    Here is why:
    The author made a judgement based on gender. If the post had been all encompassing, perhaps about all the flotsum and jetsam that we cram into purses AND backpacks and laptop bags there wouldn’t have been such a strong reaction. I will assume the intent was innocent but when other items (backpacks and laptop bags) were elliminated the author made it specifically about gender.

    Second, the author did not actually offer any solutions because I don’t think he fully understood the sitution. This could have been remedied by speaking to some of the woman around him. Organization is not about having the least amount of things. It is about having the right number of things, at the right time, stored in the right way. Clutter is defined to me as useless items. By the posts above I can see that many many of the readers do not feel purses are useless.

    The author focused on a gender without understanding the situation and therefor failed to offer a soltuion.

    I do not think the author is a bad person. But even good people are wrong sometimes.

  102. posted by iryne on

    Dear Matt, i’m a uni student. When i go out shopping i wear a handbag, and for my lectures a slingbag.

    What’s inside my slingbag:

    -water bottle

    For my handbag, replace the books, calculator and water bottle with a lipbalm. Tell me, how are you going to fit all those things into a purse? It’s just more convinient to stash everything into one container than in your jeans backpockets.

    Lastly, most women i know don’t carry purses/handbags that large. And even if they are, is it any of your business?

  103. posted by Zig on

    I second jmanna and go on to point out that the tone of this post is incredibly patronizing. No wonder there was a reaction, it felt like a little pat on the head. Sheesh.

  104. posted by Liv on

    Add me to the carless city-dwellers who spend most of the day away from the home.

    I’m always trying to carry as little as possible, but no small purse, would carry what I need in a day.

    I carry around my everyday purse, plus a combination of totes and grocery bags. That’s cumbersome and is driving me crazy.

    I’d actually love to hear people’s suggestions for big-enough purses and bags! Both the small purses that they put in their bigger bags, as well as the bigger bags/totes, that they carry.

  105. posted by laninamichaela on

    Yes, carrying a big bag is eco friendly, as when we do shop we refuse plastic bags. having a big bag is equal to a big heart

  106. posted by Mags on

    Hey Liv,

    I can’t help with a specific bag: my current day bag is ‘last season’. I can suggest my rules for a day bag though…

    It needs to be tall and wide enough to take A4 folders in landscape orientation. That’s standard work files, and also the typical size of a laptop.

    It needs to be deep enough to take a folder plus the various bits (purse, folding brolly or sunglasses, keys, A6 sized diary, pens – you’ll have your own list of essential stuff).

    It needs either an overflap or a zip – i.e. it must do up so things are secure. Whenever I see someone on public transport with their bag hanging open, I get the urge to nick their purse then give it back so they realise how risky an open bag is.

    It needs an inner, zipped pocket for valuables (my work ID and swipe).

    It needs one or ideally two slots inside for my mobiles (work and personal).

    It needs one or two outside pockets for quick access stuff (my oyster swipe card for the Tube as you *don’t* want to be rummaging for it in rush hour, a fan in summer, a compact mirror).

    I prefer handles to a shoulder strap, as I’ve a damaged upper spine: carrying a bag on my shoulder increases the risk of trapping a nerve again. So I go for slightly padded handles long enough to hook over my forearm (and I try to resist hooking it onto my shoulder).

    Oh, and it should look stylish! I want to be able to swing it as I walk down the street!

    I have my eye on a rather nice red leather one from Filofax but I’ve not checked it out in person yet so I don’t know if it will really be right.

  107. posted by Kate on

    I really wish Matt would post a response to some of our comments and/or clarify a few details (for example, does his wife have a car in which to stash things? Does she carry her own lunch? Does she have a medical condition which requires her to carry any medication?) This post left a really bad taste in my mouth and seeing it show up under the popular articles section on the homepage just reminded me. So Matt—you were ignorant, and now have bee thoroughly educated. Any comments for the 100+ readers you pissed off?

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