What’s In My Bag?

My buddy Maria at Mom of Three Seeks Sanity tapped me to join her and Liz and some other bloggy friends in playing a game of “What’s in my bag?”  This exercise reminded me of Nicki’s and Big Little Wolf’s public explorations of the contents of their wallets back in January.  My nosy nature enjoyed those little reveals so much that I was excited to play along.

Excited, that is, until I realized how little – and how much – my bag says about me.

Pictured above you can see the contents of my bag – or, should I say, bags – in their entirety.  Not much there.

The bags themselves – a small Vera Bradley “hipster” purse and the coordinating Vera Bradley backpack into which I stuff the purse whenever I go somewhere with my kids (and when do I ever go somewhere without them?) – and the matching wallet were given to me two years ago over a series of holidays.

I don’t really like them.  I like the size of them and the fact that I can use the purse with or without the diaper bag backpack, but I don’t like the pattern.  I don’t feel good when I use them.  They’re just not “me.”

And that’s pretty typical of me, style-wise.  I know what I like when I see it on someone else, but I don’t know how to create a look for myself.  I tend to wear and use things that people give me, even if I would never have chosen them for myself.

Visually-speaking, I am a composite of comfort and the projections of what other people think me to be.

Moving on to the contents of my bags (working clockwise from the top left):

  • giant roll-up changing pad with pockets for diapers (Tiny Baby’s), Pull-Ups (that’s right; Big Boy is now diaper-free!), wipes (diaper wipes are one of man’s greatest inventions; I just as often use one to clean up the coffee I’ve spilled down the front of my shirt as to wipe one of the small butts they were created to clean), and plastic bags (to dispose of said diapers, Pull-Ups, and wipes): Well, no surprise here.  I am the mom of a baby and a toddler.  Where I go, they and their supplies follow (or, at least, are toted).
  • small collection of mini-toiletries (aspirational nail file, contact lens re-wetting drops, lip gloss, tissues, Tylenol, hand sanitizer): I am a relatively low-maintenance woman, generally more focused on practicality than looking good.  But oh, how I would like to know how to look good!
  • small wallet filled with the usual credit cards, business cards, ID cards, and cash: Hmm…some interesting stuff in here.  Now I understand why Nicki and BLW explored these separately from their bags…
  • notebook and two pens (one working, one out of ink; one wonders why I didn’t throw the latter away when it stopped working.  Hope for inky resurrection in this season of Lent?): Thank you to Anne Lamott for introducing me to the idea of carrying note cards as a means to capture ideas in words as they happen.  Yes, indeed, another step toward my dream of being a writer.

Although playing this game started out as a romp, it revealed to me a lot about myself and how I might appear to others.  Is there power in a great bag?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

But there is a distinct lack thereof in one that doesn’t quite work.

What item in your purse/briefcase/laptop bag/diaper bag reveals the most about you?  And, if you’re feeling so inclined, why don’t you play along with us and show us what’s in your bag?  Let me know if you do and leave a link to your post in a comment below.

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72 responses to “What’s In My Bag?

  1. I know what you mean. I am currently carrying a really nice black Coach bag. It is nice but not really me. My sister passed it down to me. I, as I read this, found myself looking forward to the spring/summer bag change to get to something that is more me.

    • Ooh, a nice black Coach bag? That sounds like it might be “me.” Wanna trade? 🙂

      Thanks for the reminder that the change of seasons is the perfect excuse to pick out a new bag that sends a message I want to send – rather than, “I have no clue what I like. See?”

      • Not really me. That sucker is heavy and has some hardware on it. I do like having a nice bag but I usually go for color in my accessories.

  2. So fun and strangely revealing at the same time. Like you, I fear what’s in my bag is quite boring. But my bag itself, it’s read, vibrant and full of life! A bit of a stretch for me since I’m not wild and crazy in the style department. When I bought it, my BFF said: I would never have imagined you with that bag. Good! What fun that was to hear. Outside of the kiddie, items, though I’m sure I have a stray wipe in mine, it looks much the same as yours. About as interesting as it gets is the peppermint lip gloss.

    Fun game!

  3. I have two bags–the diaper bag (also Vera Bradley, care of my mother from Christmas), and my purse. I actually think a good game would be looking at the actual bag to find out about the person, rather than what’s inside, because I spend a lot of time picking out each new bag I buy with the new season. (Cheap ones, from Kohl’s.)

    I carry the purple purse when I go out without the kids. Rarely, yes, but it’s important to me to have something separate. It still has tissues, bandaids, a note pad, dental floss, old receipts, lip gloss.

    The diaper bag is filled with, you know, kid stuff, boring stuff. But there is an old New Yorker thrown in, just in case I get an opportunity to read. Fat chance.

  4. My bag (or my “pocketbook” as I call it) is my lifeline! I get migraines so I always have my meds in there. Lip gloss, tissues, the requisite small blank book for writing/blog ideas, wallet, phone. I’ll stop now because Lord I sound boring…

    • You remind me, Maureen, that my phone and keys weren’t in my bag when I photographed its contents. My cell phone – the most basic version Verizon offers (without a text messaging or Internet plan) – also says something about me and my efforts to try to hold the line against the tide of technology. Or maybe it says I’m cheap? 🙂

  5. I just might do this, as long as it isn’t too embarrassing. There are some things about myself that just shouldn’t be said in public…

  6. I hate to even sort through the junk in my purse. It probably contains everything but the kitchen sink. I tend to add more and more things. It’s starting to hurt my shoulder so it’s time to clean it out! Thanks for reminding me to do that.

    • Are you a Seinfeld fan, SuziCate? There is a hilarious episode in which George starts getting terrible back pain because his wallet is so overstuffed that it messes up the alignment of his spine. Let that be a cautionary tale for you. 🙂

  7. I love this question. I often wonder the same thing. I am a bit quirky with what I have but it has been the same thing for the past 20 years.

    Here is my list of whats always in my bag: (usually the cheap Target variety)

    1. a note I wrote when I was 16 to my future self. It is what a palm reader told me on the boardwalk in Ocean City to expect in the future.

    2. A list of all the presidents of the US in order along with the mneumonic my grandfather taught me so I could remember it as a party trick.

    3. Cut out from the paper of the definition of success by Ralph Waldo Emerson from 1990. The year I entered college.

    4. A seashell or a rock

    5. Wallet

    6. Too many lip glosses to count

    • Okay, Joely, I’m dying to know: did the palm reader get it right?

      And I would have loved to have known your U.S. Presidents mnemonic back when I was teaching U.S. History. There were always a few 19th century ones that I forgot about. How embarrassing – and problematic when trying to help prepare kids for the AP exam!

      • Yes the palm reader got it all right. Very odd. But now this list is expired really, it has caught up to my 37 years. I think of replacing it but not sure if the future at 37 is the same as 16. At 16 it is all so exciting. At 37, do I really want to, or need to know? So, for now I will keep that expired list.

        The mneumonic: (it goes to the 22nd president)
        Would A Jolly Man Make A Jolly Visitor. How Terribly Poor The Forlorn Paper Boy Looks Just Getting His Goods Arranged Carefully.

        I will have to work on the next set. My pap was borm in 1914 so that was good enough him.

      • I’m happy to report that I could come up with all of the presidents using your device. (I almost forgot the “V,” but I remembered after a moment.) Now the trick will be to remember it so that I can remember them!

    • Oh my gosh, Joely – your collection is my favorite so far!

  8. Kristin, I thought about the overstuffed wallet episode of Seinfeld, too, and laughed aloud. If only I would let that be a cautionary tale…
    I’m not sure I’m ready to confront my purse, which is a black hole of a shoulder bag. Always from Target, on account of all the spilled milk and snacks that are bound to collect in the bottom. And always filled with notebooks, pens, small board books, earrings I’ve decided not to wear after all, toys for Jack, etc. I could go on for days.

  9. Normally, I’m a Coach kind of girl because I’m rough on things and their bags are indestructible. But after my back surgery they were all over my 5lb weight limit so I bought a Vera Bradley bag for it’s lightness. Now I continue to buy them in all colors and increasingly bigger sizes for all the stuff I carry: wallet, sunglasses, computer glasses, coin purse, inhaler, hand sanitizer, 4 different lip balms (I’m an addict), Cross pen & pencil, pocketbook of crossword puzzles, current novel I’m reading, Moleskine weekly appointment book and notebook, cell phone, pack of gum, work ID on a lanyard, and a gazillion receipts. That’s just from memory… there maybe more. Oh! And my favorite part about the Vera Bradley bags… they’re machine washable!

    • Whoa, Erica, I hope your back surgeon isn’t reading this!

      Your impressive list made me realize another thing that I always carry with me, but didn’t have in my bag when I photographed it: sunglasses. I’m one of those weird pale creatures who wears sunglasses all the time, even on cloudy days. I guess I’m going for the Hollywood starlet look. 🙂

      And you do mention an important feature of Vera Bradley bags, especially for this stage of my life: machine washability.

      • Kristen, I discovered that once you’re a mother and switch to the “mom bag”, you never go back. Only the support equipment changes. But the need for machine washable fabrics doesn’t. Well, at least not for me. 🙂

  10. My take on this is slightly different. I say put as much (or as little) as you like into your bag but CARRY a bag just because you CAN!

  11. The contents of my purse were fairly plebian, as well. Congrats to Big Boy on his mastery of the potty!

    • Thanks for the kind words for Big Boy, but I should clarify: the diapers are gone, but he has yet to fully master the whole pooping in the potty part of the deal. Pee, he’s got down, but, for some reason, he still prefers to do some of his business in the manner to which he’s grown accustomed.

      I know this is a sensitive topic for you, and I wanted you to know that we are still sisters in the potty-training roller coaster. 😉

  12. Ooh, I love this game! I can’t wait to do it myself.

    It reminds me of how when I am at the grocery store I look at my miscellany heaped on the counter and wonder what inferences the cashier may be making about me. Or I look at what the person in front of or behind me is buying. I asked the cashier the other day, “Do you think you can learn a lot about a person by what they buy at the grocery store?” She appeared to be partly amused but mostly bored by my question and replied, “I can tell whether they are junk eaters or not.” Well, okay. I guess inspecting other people’s stuff would be fun for maybe the first week.

    • Your comment reminds me of a conversation I had recently with one of the clerks at our grocery store. When I was about to pay, he said, “I bet you are a vegetarian with two young kids.” I was thrown off for a second, but then realized just how much we can learn – as you point out – about a person from a single load of groceries if we take the time to look.

      Thanks, Celeste!

  13. I switch bags about 3 or 4 times per week, depending on mood and outfit coordination. Today’s is grey patent leather Coach. Contents are:

    1. Blackberry
    2. Sunglasses in green case
    3. Zippered make-up case containing roughly $375 worth of Bobbi Brown lipstick, gloss, and liner (even I was surprised at that tally…), one Burt’s Beeswax Lip Balm, small Curel hand lotion, and a travel container of Advil.
    4. Wallet
    5. Car keys
    6. ID badge that gets me into my office building.

    The most interesting thing, though, is inside my wallet. It’s a fortune I got at a Chinese restaurant a few days before learning I was pregnant. It reads, “A cheerful message is on its way to you.”

    Oh, and I also just noticed I still have a pacifier in my purse leftover from church on Sunday.

    • Whoa, 3 or 4 times a week? You are one organized lady! Every time I switch bags requires a 15 minute decluttering, re-evaluating what I REALLY need to carry with m e.

    • Gale, I join Eva in being impressed at your ability to switch bags several times a week. I also love that you change your bag according to your mood and your style considerations (i.e. even though you’re a mom, you don’t let your son’s needs totally dictate your own fashion statements).

      I love that fortune. And I love even more that you still have it and carry it around with you.

      Thanks for playing along!

  14. I LOVE this, Kristen!

    My current purse is one from Target, because I’m cheap and/or practical. It’s orange with some lovely silver buckles and hardware. I LOVE anything with buckles.

    I always have 2 or 3 chap sticks in my purse. This is the one thing I must always have on my person, ever since I was a teenager.

    In my wallet, I have very little cash and multiple coupons for Papa Murphy’s pizza. I have my Costco card, my gym card, postage stamps.

    I’ll leave it at that… maybe I’ll be dumping everything out and revealing all soon.

  15. For Mother’s day last year, we were in Toronto and I fell in love with this Canadian company, Roots, and My Guy got me this purse as a gift: http://usa.roots.com/VenetianVillageBagInClassicPrinceLeather/RootsOriginalFlatBags//18018851,default,pd.html?cgid=ViewAllWomensMedium&selectedColor=2111

    I have to say – best present yet (sorry guy, although I don’t think he’s reading this). I happily and proudly call it my Mom Purse because:

    a) it’s a crossover, so handsfree. Uber important feature when I’m with my toddler or when I (often) over purchase at the grocery store and need all the hands I can get.

    b) the various compartments help me keep organized – something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Now I know exactly where my keys are.

    c) it’s not too “mom”-ish. Unlike the mom jeans that are a sure giveaway. Not that I wear one. I’m just sayin’.

    d) it’s big enough to contain books and magazines, and small enough to not give me a nasty shoulder-ache after toting it for hours.

    e) this is very me.

    But I digress. The item in this bag that screams me is also one I’m least proud of: an expired rebate form that I had completely forgotten about, until your little exercise here. I try to be frugal – cut coupons, seek rebates – but I often forget to use them, so I have a plethora of them around the house. Little bits of my well-meaning but forgetful self.

    • I love your bag, JT! I love all of its benefits, but mostly the fact that you can say that it is “very you.” As I mentioned above to Gale, I think my tendency is to let my expressions of self be dominated by the fact that I am a mom to small kids. I am, of course, but that doesn’t mean I have to shout it to the world through my fashion choices.

  16. I tend to get a bag and wear it for years. It’s amazing what you’ll find in my bag. Old crackers. Twelve pairs of ”readers.” Lots of change but no bills.

    What does this say about me?

    I’m a mess. A complete mess.

  17. unabridgedgirl

    Hey, sounds like you have what you need to me! I think the diaper pad thingy is a fabulous idea, btw. I need to mention it to my sister.

  18. Love this idea. I’m always finding things like small socks, mittens, toys, rocks, acorns, etc. in my pockets. I recently cleaned my bags out so any explore might not be quite as revealing as it otherwise might have been (empty Green and Black chocolate wrappers, etc.). And I’m totally with you in not “creating a look” for myself, and having a closet full of others’ castoffs…working on that in a hopefully not too expensive or destructive to the environment and human dignity kind of way. And I too find dead pens in every nook and cranny of my life…why can I not bear to part with them!!

  19. Oh the fun this post is providing me! I’m so tempted to join in with my bag(s), but I think they are all empty. I carry a little ID case in one coat pocket and my keys and cell phone (also sans keyboard/touch screen — trying to hold the line myself!) in the other. I, too, am the owner of purses I have been given rather than ones I have chosen for myself. I like about two out of the five or six.

    As for clothes, similar thing — my sisters tell me what looks good on me and I nod, stuck in the trusting and awkward phase of fashion identity development I got stuck in around adolescence. I’m all about low-maintenance. Perhaps this is why I’m slow to acquire new clothing/makeup?

    • Ah non, Contemporary Troubadour. Impossible. Je suis certaine que vous avez des affaires fascinantes dans votre sac. Go on, spill

      And as for stuck in the “fashion identity” – I’m getting cosmic vibrations… the “old broad with French Twist style update service” is going to need to take place, right next to the Complaint Department.

      But there are homework requirements.

    • Oh bon d’accord, BLW; voilà:

      1. Three neatly folded but used tissues.
      2. Three business cards, two of them to one-off boutiques in a city I visited last October. One of those two has instructions from a Seattle doctor I scrawled on it after I saw said doctor for a routine check-up. The third business card is to an audio restoration service run by a guy out of his own home — he converted some fragile tape recordings to CD for me as a gift to my mother for Christmas.
      3. A completely flattened Glucerna bar in case of low blood-sugar emergencies.
      4. The aforementioned ID case, silver, embossed, containing various IDs, cash, credit cards, and folded receipts.
      5. Two quarters.
      6. The tag from a necklace I bought at one of the one-off boutiques (I put it on right away).
      7. A single pill that has somehow found its way from the bottle it came out of. (Said bottle is not in the purse!)
      8. One plant stanol ester-containing caramel chew (for lowering cholesterol but also convenient when sugar lows hit).

      There were, at one point, a cell phone and small digital camera in there, but they were sitting innocently next to the purse on the couch this morning.

      Kristen, let’s sign up for those lessons! I don’t mind homework if it means I’ll learn something I can use for life.

      • BLW, CT and I are your ready, willing, and (hopefully) able students. I can’t imagine we’re alone in seeking a style pointer or two. Do I feel a blog feature at Daily Plate of Crazy coming on?

  20. This is a fun exercise, isn’t it? (And thank you for the linky love!)

    It’s funny – I was 36 years old when I became a first time mom (shhh. don’t do the math.) I always carried small purses, and if needed, a briefcase.

    BAM. BABIES. One right after the other. And of course, the ever-elegant (NOT) diaper bag. Which, all these years later, seems to have transformed into two or three large shoulder bags that can hold my laptop, a heating pad (yes, I’m that ancient), notebook and pen, moisturizer, tums, water, excedrin migraine (is there a theme here??), a small bottle of perfume (mais oui) and still – typically – anything I think my kids might need. Often food, extra water, extra pens and paper (my son forgets things on his way to school), and makeup (thank you all the gods of Dior, Lancome, Chanel, and Lauder).

    As for my wallet – you know those metro tickets for the Paris subway are ready and waiting, along with some Euros. Now why can’t I just throw a European converter kit into my updated diaper bag and GO??

  21. What a great exercise this is! I may have to try it. But then, again, maybe not. I’m a little nervous about what it might reveal about me!

  22. Love this. I think what’s “in the bag” is very much symbolic of “who we are” at the moment. My bag is consistently a disaster – full of uncapped pens, parched highlighters, errant coins, pacifiers, crumbs, crumpled receipts, lone baby socks… The list goes on and on. And it’s not a pretty sight.

    Thanks for this peek 🙂

  23. Okay, Kristen, so if I do “what’s in my bag” here, can I wiggle out of the tag Maria sent my way too? ‘Cause I’m dying to avoid it, due to my bag addiction. Also, with older kids, no problemo having an impractical bag (read HOBO)!

    So, I don’t know. I’m mulling it over. And cleaning it out. But it’s been fun peeking!

  24. Ha! This reminds me of a conversation I had with my mom the other day.

    Me (digging through purse): “Oh, I have a bottle of shampoo in here!”

    Her: (doubled over laughing) …pause… “Don’t worry, last week a found a paint can in mine!”

    Hahaha… some of us do need to go through our bags more often.

  25. My non-diaper bag of choice is a teeny tiny (Target) purse in which I carry three things: wallet, phone, keys. And chapstick in winter. It’s so wonderfully liberating to leave home without all the “accessories” children require. You know, the two times a year that happens. =>

  26. Am I the only man who dares venture in here? No bags, no wallet. A simple money clip and a little plastic thing that holds a few pictures.

    Those items don’t reveal anything of any substance about me, which is the way that I like it.

  27. Kristen, I sound like a broken record whenever I’m here! You know I carry index cards and pens too 🙂 Because of Anne, of course…

  28. Feeling a bit shallow, but as a guy who shouldn’t care for bags in the first instance, and who finds nothing to recommend in Prada, Channel, etc. and with lips pursed in dismay at myself, I must admit that I have only two words on this issue: Orla Kiely

    And in my man-bag? A laptop, a camera and a lot of homeopathics…

  29. Kristen, here’s the funny thing: As mentioned in my post, I was never a big believer in the power of a great bag. Then, a year and a half ago, someone game me (drumroll please): a VERA BRADLEY HIPSTER BAG! And I had to struggle back and forth with “This bag is SO NOT me, although I have no idea what kind of bag IS” and then not hurting the gift-giver’s feelings. Long story short: she returned the bag, was happy to get her money back for something I did not like, and I went on to discover the power of a bag that makes you feel good!

    • Thanks for sharing this story, Liz. I read you post and Maria’s and thought, “Now, those girls have style!” So it’s comforting to know that style might be right around the corner for me. 🙂

  30. I don’t really have a purse. I think I might find one in our storage (meaning our one closet), but besides that I either carry a diaper bag or put things in my pocket. I don’t really like the hassle of carrying things. I really hate having to bring my diaper bag with me!

    But, my diaper bag is loaded. And I mean loaded. Diapers, wipes, snacks, sanitizer, lotion, chapstick and gloss, diaper rash cream, burp rags, extra clothes, and a few other items. Having two babies requires a lot of stuff! (You can relate.)

  31. Pingback: Mama Needs a Brand New Bag « Motherese

  32. I did this a few months ago (the contents of purse thing) and it was frightful. I’m due for another clean out soon, seeing as how I found a fossilized tangerine in my purse this week. Seriously.
    http://summermb.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/confessions-of-a-handbag/

    • Hi Summer – Thanks so much for stopping by Motherese. I just spit out some of my drink (lovely image, I know) when I read your comment about uncovering a fossilized tangerine in your purse. That’s as good as the can of paint a previous commenter’s mom had in hers. 🙂

  33. This is the first time I comment on your site, but I’ve been keeping up with your work for about a moth. I admire the passion with which you write the articles and dream that someday I can do the same. Love

  34. Pingback: Mama Needs a Brand New Bag

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