Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Heavy Laden - Being a Practical and Philosophical Enquiry into the Contents of my Handbag

I've always rather envied women who carry tiny handbags. Not so much for the handbags themselves - although they're very cute - but for the attitude they seem to represent. Their owners toss in a few essentials - lip balm, driver's license, maybe a credit card - and sally forth with confidence, ready to meet life's challenges.

I can't do that. I seem to have an odd compulsion to carry my entire life around with me, slung in a bag over my shoulder. Though I have never been a Boy Scout (for obvious reasons), my handbag seems to embody the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. In it I have something for every contingency: pen and paper for jotting down ideas; teabags lest I be stranded somewhere with only hot water and sugar available; stray vitamins (relics of past travels); ibuprofen, in case a headache strikes; crossword puzzles, in case boredom strikes; Altoids (peppermint), for potential tummy or breath problems; a comb; cough drops from my last cold, in anticipation of the next (I get about one cold a year); my pay-as-you-go cell phone which only gets turned on when I travel more than 30 miles from home, yet lives in my purse lest I forget to take it along on the few occasions it actually gets used. For years I carried my passport in my purse - just for the fun of knowing I could leave the country at a moment's notice if necessary. It gave me a sense of adventure. (I did finally put the passport away after our 2010 trip to England.)

My purse also contains a zip-lock bag filled with Almost Absolute Necessities: a vial of peppermint oil, again for headaches; tinted lip balm (2 shades); lipstick (2 shades, almost never used); an assortment of hair clips, scrunchies, and bobby pins in case I desperately need to re-style my hair (never happens); a tiny pot of mineral makeup for touchups which are seldom required; several safety pins for an unforeseen clothing emergency; glasses wipes - again, never used; dental floss; nail clippers; and a small unbreakable mirror (for the touch-ups and restyling that never take place). In short, everything but the kitchen sink. (I used to carry small bottles of body spray and hairspray, and felt quite proud of myself when I got rid of them.)

All this in addition to the true necessities of car keys, wallet, and gloves.

If this were not enough, my purse also seems to be a sort of Black Hole into which the detritus of my life is sucked - with a concurrent increase in mass and weight. Discount coupon from a department store? Toss it in - I may suddenly decide to go shopping during the applicable 3 days. Receipts from the post office? Keep them - the package may be lost on the way. Old deposit receipts from the bank? What if it burns down and I need to prove I really made a deposit? Punch cards from various bead stores? (Some of which have closed down.) REI membership card? Old gift cards with a few cents left on them? Pizza coupons? Hang on to all of them - I never know when they might come in handy.

An analysis of these contents would seem to reveal one of two things: an attitude of hope (something wonderful may happen! I want to be ready when it does!); or despair (something dreadful may happen - I want to be ready when it does). I incline to the more hopeful interpretation - after all, I put these things in my bag, assuming that I would actually remember to take them out again when they were no longer needed. If that's not hope, what is? (I seem to have a much higher opinion of my own diligence than is warranted by experience.)

Every so often (usually when I'm about to take a trip) I clean out my purse and start afresh. I get rid of the old coupons and receipts. I pare down the contents of the Almost Absolute Necessities bag by unloading some of the bobby pins and hair clips. My purse loses a few pounds, and I feel light and carefree - for a few weeks. And then, of course, the second law of thermodynamics kicks in, and once again I start hoarding useless paper and accumulating scrunchies. "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" (which as we all know is French for "you can't teach an old dog new tricks").

What do you keep in your purse?

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27 comments:

  1. This completely describes how MY purse looks like. I have lib balm, cheque books, lip color (Never used), moisturizer cream, old receipts (some older than 6 months), safety pins, scrunchies, bobby pins, at least 10 membership cards to different stores, random papers of ideas jotted down, grocery lists which never came out, even fabric flowers...
    And I do envy those clutch carrying women.

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    1. Hooray! I'm not alone! Thanks for commenting. :)

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  2. I am one of those totally disorganised people who relies on people like you who have everything!!
    I see no mention of yarn or hooks, now I feel slightly jittery if I go without mine as there may be a spare five minutes wheni could have made a hexagon or square or something.

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    1. Believe me, Faith - there is often yarn and hook in my bag. But I put them in just before I need them and ALWAYS remember to take them out again when I get home. Priorities, you know!

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  3. Mine is a small purse.

    It has a small wallet - with two kinds of currency, a credit card and a debit card, medical ID card, a ration card, two forms of loose change, and a shopping cart token
    A piece of paper with emergency contact info including my own phone number since I can't remember it
    A clip on ID badge with drivers' license and two forms of ID
    A small memo pad with pen
    Travel Tissues
    And a sandwich sized ziplock of emergency needs: 6 acetaminophen, 4 anti diarrhea, 2 antacid, 1 coated rubber hair tie, 2 safety pins, 1 lip balm, 1 travel hand lotion,2 single serve eye drops, bubble pack with 4 decongestants in case of allergic reaction or stuffiness, 2 cough drops, and a folded up gallon plastic bag and twist tie in case of leftovers while eating out (all told contents of sandwich bag takes up less than 1/3 of the bag)
    And knitting, socks, a hat, something portable.
    Anything else that accumulates in there during the day comes out in the evening to decorate my desk until it's filed or tossed.

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    1. Chris - I applaud your diligence. My bag is small-to-medium, with plenty of room for yarn and hook when necessary.

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  4. Oh I am so glad I am not the only bag lady around here! I have a friend who laughs at me because I am the one offering baby wipes, tissues, polo mints (stale), etc, etc. I think it all stems from having children, but they are too old to be any sort of excuse now . . .

    Pomona x

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    1. Pomona - I have no excuse. Never had kids....

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  5. I used to carry only teeny tiny handbags which held only my keys, wallet and lip gloss. Now that I'm a mother I carry much more. I'm going to give you a run down of what's currently in my bag: hand sanitizer, lip gloss, a lady product, organizer, pencil, water bottle cap (?), mittens, umbrella (I DO live in England), wallet, empty ziplock bag (?), and one piece of chocolate. This isn't too bad, really. I've gone to work with all those things as well as a diaper (or three), wipes, several cars and a sippy cup.

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    1. Shoot! I forgot the lady product and the occasional half-bar of Green & Black's (but that never lasts long once I discover it). I usually forget I have the lady product in there, and it comes out battered and half-wrapped in the semi-annual cleaning.

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    2. I had to laugh out loud about finding the lady product in such a state. I usually find mine like that too. Anyway, Green and Black's...so yummy!! My favorite is the Maya Gold.

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  6. Yup, I carry pretty much all that too Sue, and baby wipes (a hang over from having four children), and a folding umbrella (essential in Wales, trust me), assorted camera attachments (though as I found to my horror the other day - when the most beautiful rainbow appeared before me - no spare memory card), and a spare dog lead in case one breaks ... I walk with a tilt toward whichever shoulder I have the bag on ;D

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    1. I have a permanent tilt to the right. Can't seem to train myself to carry it on the left shoulder. :)

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  7. Wow! I'm the extreme opposite and don't take a bag at all if I'm out on my own (if I'm with the children, esp the younger child I have a bag with his spare clothes & baby wipes etc).
    I wear jeans almost all the time. I don't like wearing skirts as they don't have enough useful pockets.
    So for me its...
    front left pocket: keys & coins.
    back left pocket: small bank card wallet.
    back right pocket: hanky and sometimes bank notes (if the front pockets are small).
    front right pocket: mobile phone (and if deep enough, bank notes)
    If I'm taking my camera it fits in my jacket pocket (it's a compact), when I don't wear a jacket I have a little shoulder bag just for my camera.
    I like to have my valuables on me rather than in a bag I might easily lose/forget and don't see the need to have to humpf around a lot of stuff generally. I also like to wear longer length tops which cover my tummy and have the added bonus of hiding my pockets, not that they biulge too much!

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    1. Anne - I want to be you. But I seem to be stuck being me. :)

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  8. My "purse" is really just a wallet with a long strap which I wear crossed over my shoulder/body. If I don't have something like this and I can set it down it WILL get lost. It's such a pain to have to cancel all your credit/bank cards and go the the license office for a new drivers license over and over again!! Once I left my purse in a shopping cart and a lady stole it and wrote checks out to high heaven!! No more purses for me!!

    Now my pockets, that's another story!! I don't really do "girly" so you'll find change, an occasional stick of lip balm, lists/notes, rocks, shells, lego blocks, my phone/camera, bits of yarn, buttons, screws, nuts/bolts, and just about anything else that is small and needs removal or is a precious gift from one of my little ones!! In fact I have said many times that if someone were to go through my pockets they would think I was a child!! :-)

    I've always envied the purse carriers who are so happily "prepared". In fact my survival has depended on such a person more than once. (a big thank you to all those people!!) See, it takes all kinds to make the world go round!! ;-)

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    1. I've had Legos in my purse too, but not for some years. My camera sometimes rides in my purse but - I don't know why - I worry about it falling out and so try not to carry it too often. (Never mind the wallet and credit cards - save the pictures!)

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  9. I haven't carried a *loaded* hand bag, for years and years and years.

    By now, it is totally off-my-radar, to do so. I look at the purses of others and wonder...

    To each his/her own though... :-)

    Some day you will be old enough
    to start reading fairy tales again."


    ~ CS Lewis~

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    1. Loaded is a good word, Auntie. I think I could fell a full-grown man with my bag.

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  10. I carry a backpack purse and at times it's way too full. I have a wallet/checkbook combo that's a couple of inches thick, a brush, lip balm, concealer for the dark circles under my eyes, eye drops (I suffer from extremely dry eyes), handiwipes, assorted receipts, small notebooks for making lists, dozens of pens, my cell phone that is only turned on when i'm using it--which is usually when I'm lost, my camera, reading glasses (I wear contacts but need readers), sunglasses, an epi pen (I had an allergic reaction--serious--to a wasp sting and have to have one anywhere I am, and last, but not least a book or my Kindle. I usually wear this slung over one shoulder so needless to say one of my shoulders is lower than the other from the weight of this thing.

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    1. Epi pens are very important. As is reading material. I forgot to list my sunglasses but I always carry them too, in a rather bulky case that takes up too much room but protects them from scratches.

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  11. First of all, I do not carry a purse, for obvious reasons. No arms. Of course I suppose I could get a back pack. But secondly, if I did carry a purse, it would be filled to the brim with Peanuts because, of course, one never would care to be in a position of NOT having any Peanuts.

    I have to tell you that the Goatmother's purse, however, is very much like yours, though hers seems to have an array of paper and trash because she always needs to throw something away and it is inevitably when there is no trash can near.

    I think your purse is like Punxsutawney Phil's burrow. It keeps things status-quo and if you come out of it (or empty it out) you will see your shadow and we will have six more weeks of winter. So don't. Empty it out, that is. Please.

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    1. Dear Marigold - Peanuts are about the only thing I DON'T carry in my shamefully overloaded purse.

      I shan't entirely empty it out - but it is due for a cleaning. The status quo will have to take its chances.

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  12. My purse has an assortment of pens (which I can never find when I need them), 3 nail files, a plastic bag (empty),a calaulator, Hand lotion, lip balm, lipstick, and lip gloss (hardly ever remember to use any of them). A needlepointed sewing wallet with small scissors, thimble, and needles. (Doesn't seem to be any thread in there?) A small fabric bag with band-aides, a lens cloth for my glasses, punch cards from quilt stores, nail clippers, tweezers, and gift cards. My walking foot for quilting which I need to replace. Sale flyer for the fabric & craft store. Wallet, keys, checkbook, card holder for all the credit & debit cards. Small pill bottle with assorted pills for pain, acid...etc. Sugarfree gum. Mints. When going out I usually add a book, a piece of fruit, and possibly knitting or hand sewing. I can not carry the purse on my right shoulder. I think I am starting to lean to the left. ;)

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    1. Ooh, I like the sound of the sewing wallet. I have a credit-card sized calculator that hides in my wallet so it almost doesn't count. Thanks for commenting!

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  13. How lovely to have (finally) five minutes to wander over and read your latest thoughts. I see I am at the end of a long line of other readers who have also found your words to have struck a chord within them.

    My handbag suffers from the same ailment as yours - forgive the negative connotation used here - plus the complication of being a mother to young children. Added to your long list (minus the passport and crossword book) I will throw in a crumbling crispbread, a small book, a soft toy, a very creased diaper, toddler sunglasses, ... the list is long and tedious.

    I have, like many, tried to force myself out of my huge carpet bag sized handbag by using a teeny tiny bag but I have simply noticed that this too gets stuffed with receipts, etc. and then I have to carry a larger bag for the toddler accoutrements and, dare I say, knitting JUST IN CASE I get five precious minutes to myself.

    It's a lost battle in my case. I must regularly clean out the fluffy, crumb filled bag and watch my husband and children laugh and cackle in astonishment. At least in those moments thet get a sense of superiority ;-)

    Have a lovely weekend.

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    1. Stephanie - "ailment" is exactly the word. And my bag isn't even huge - it's just medium size. But it usually has crumbs too. I forgot to mention those. :)

      I wish you a lovely weekend as well.

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