Reader Eva asked:
How do you schlep everything around while looking cute and not hurting your back? Carry everything in one bag, or more than one bag? Are backpacks terminally unstylish? I mean, once you add laptop, lunch, and book to the normal keys, wallet, phone, makeup, etc, you’ve got quite a haul. What do you do with this, especially if you’re smaller of stature or also need to shop, carry a child, etc.?
A fine, fine question and a tough one to answer succinctly. Especially as we all have different daily tasks, and different stuff that needs schlepping. But here’s how I managed my load back when I worked in an office:
I keep my wallet, keys, phone, sunglasses, business card holder, and makeup bag in my purse. I gravitate toward larger handbags, so I could slip a bottle of water or a novel in there … but I don’t. I reserve my purse for my daily personal essentials. Since your purse is the bag you’re most likely to take just about everywhere, try to cull its contents. No need to drag a can of Sprite and your Kindle and a hair dryer and a spare pair of wellies in there, ya know? (Also see my post on how to change handbags quickly and easily!)
A cute lunchbag is a sound environmental choice and also aids in stylish schlepping. Mine was a solid red one, similar to the one shown above, by a company called Built. It’s flexible, washable, and helps keep my food a wee bit colder than a paper bag. On days when I had nothing additional to carry, I would waltz into the office with just my purse and my lunchbag and feel fabulously chic.
I bought a monster black nylon tote many years ago, and it still gets a ridiculous amount of use. (Mine hails from Amazon and is no longer available, so I’m showing a similar style here.) Pretty much any time I needed to bring anything non-lunchy with me to the office, it went in here. I used it to carry my work shoes when it was too snowy to wear them, the cylinder of oatmeal I kept in my cube for late breakfasts, and just about anything else that required schlepping. My lunch would go inside this bag whenever it got carried, so I kept it to a maximum of two bags at any given time.
There are far more stylish and elegant solutions than this baby, but I love it because it’s big, it’s black, and I can beat the crap out of it without worrying. If something spills in it or on it, I won’t shed a single tear. And although it’s utilitarian, it’s simple and sleek enough to suit my taste.
Now. Here’s where things get tricky.
The bag shown here and in the image at the top of this post is the only laptop bag I’ve ever owned and I adore it. It’s from Diaz Bags, and I get more compliments on it than almost anything else I own. Carrying a laptop is something I started doing after leaving my desk job and becoming a freelancer, so I have the luxury of sticking to a style that can only hold the computer itself and a few cords.
If I worked a job where I needed to bring purse items AND my lunch AND a laptop everywhere I went, I’d definitely invest in a bigger laptop bag that could accommodate some extra items. Since my purses tend to be large enough for me to crawl into, I’d probably put either shoes or lunch in my purse, and everything else in the laptop bag. Diaz has some amazing larger bags many of which convert to backpacks, but eBags is also a terrific resource for stylish-and-roomy laptop bags. I feel like a leather or faux leather laptop bag is a great choice if you’re a leather or faux leather handbag-carrier, since it creates a unified look. Sportier versions are great if your style is more casual overall.
SCHLEPPING AND BACK HEALTH
Now, as for the question of backpacks and coolness, at the time of writing leather backpacks are incredibly trendy … but that is likely to fluctuate. Still, if you are prone to back pain (or want to avoid becoming someone prone to back pain!) I say embrace them regardless of the trends. At any given time I can always find modern, chic backpacks that could sub for either the Purse of the Everything Else bag. I owned this red one from The Leather Store for many years, and it was roomy, sturdy, and stylish. Lugging loads of heavy crap around with you, day in and day out, WILL take its toll on your back, joints, and muscles, so if you’ve got a helluva load to bear, consider seeking a stylish backpack.
All this said, I don’t think there’s an elegant solution to carrying everything. Especially if, as Eva mentioned, there may be a kiddo who needs carrying in the mix, too! And whenever someone responds to the cry of, “I can’t find a way to carry all my stuff stylishly!” with “Just carry less stuff,” I cringe. Sure, most of us have an item or two we could leave at home … but inevitably, when we do, that item is the one thing we need most while out and about. We carry what we need, and we each know what we need to have on-hand. So I’ll never tell you to pare down.
But I WILL tell you to try to consolidate. And when you do, make sure your consolidation bag – the one that holds the majority of your carry-ables – is one that is comfortable to schlep, and one that feels like it aligns with your personal dressing style. It may be tough to track down, but search and research for as long as you can. Feeling forced to lug around a massive laptop bag or boat tote that clashes with your vision for yourself will just cause resentment to fester. And schlepping-related resentments are the worst.
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