It is one of those little-known ironies of the fashion world that Jane Birkin no longer carries a Birkin, the iconic Hermès bag specially designed for and named after her. Apparently, she got tendonitis from lugging around her oversized version and was forced to give it up – or so she said in an interview I read a year or so ago.
I have to say that I both know the feeling, and sympathise with it. Like most women, I have bought into the whole con that a Big Bag is a Good Idea because you can carry your whole world around with you. You will never run out of chewing gum, tepid water, sanitising hand-wash, wet wipes, or even nail polish remover for manicure-related crises. You will have an iPod for when you need to kill time between meetings; a paperback for the commute; and plenty of chargers in case your phone or Blackberry battery packs up.
If you pick the right Big Bag you can bung in a pair of sneakers for when you hit the gym (or simply want to give your feet some respite from those killer heels). You can pile on the foundation and blusher when you go out after work. You can carry the odd bit of jewellery to dress up an outfit. And you can smell fresh at the end of the day if you have a bottle of perfume tucked away.
As working women we are constantly being told that we should Always Be Prepared. And that every work or home-related emergency can be dealt with so long as our Big Bag is properly kitted out. Band-aids come in handy when the backs of your feet are hurting from new shoes or if the children gash their knees. A bag of nuts is mandatory to deal with in-between meal hunger pangs. An apple to snack on if you are dieting. And of course, a PDA device to make sure your appointments are in order and that you’re running on schedule.
So, naturally, all women of substance and style are required to tote a Big Bag that accommodates all their paraphernalia. And somehow it never occurs to us to ask how men manage to get through the entire day with just a thin briefcase – if that – at their disposal.
Big Bags are the call of the day; and one that we answer with alacrity. In fact, I can bet that nine out of 10 female readers of this article carry a nice Big Bag around all day.
I know that I do. A quick look inside confirms the following items: ticket stubs from the last six flights I took; ditto boarding cards; assorted bills; two strips of Alex lozenges for my allergic throat; six lipsticks covering the colour spectrum; five pens; a dog-eared copy of the latest John Le Carre; a virtual mountain of coins in every currency; a champagne cork (don’t ask!).
Now stop acting all superior for a second and examine the contents of your own bag. Just how much junk do you carry around? Umm, yes, I thought so. You are just as bad as I am.
But now that my back is beginning to protest at this load I’m constantly carrying around, I have decided to give up on Big Bags. And quite frankly, so should you.
In case you are still dithering, here are the top three reasons why you should ditch the Big Bag.
Carrying all that weight around is murder on your back. Pair that with high heels and dodgy knees and you have a scary medical scenario awaiting you.
Small bags make you more disciplined by forcing you to think about what you actually need through the day.
Big Bags encourage the man in your life to use you as a carrier service, dumping all his stuff – sunglasses, mobile phones, the odd small purchase in your bag, because hey, you have plenty of room in there don’t you?
But if you are going to junk the Big Bag for a smaller version you first need to do some serious de-cluttering. And here, the golden rule is: if in doubt, throw it out.
Draw up a list of all the things you absolutely need: throw everything else into a drawer, from where you can access them on a need-to basis.
You don’t need the entire contents of your make-up case. Just one lipstick, one powder compact and one eyeliner/kohl pencil will do. If you need to freshen up your foundation or concealer through the day, keep a back-up in your desk at work. If you must carry a perfume, make it a purse spray.
Keep the credit cards and a few hundred or five hundred rupee notes. Throw out the coins – you never use them and they add to the weight.
If you must carry water, do it in a small bottle which you refill through the day.
Get rid of the old plane tickets, bills, mouldy apples that you never got around to eating.
Throw out the dozen pens littering the bottom of your bag.
Junk the heavy notebook and start making notes and to-do lists on your phone or Blackberry.
And finally, choose a bag with minimum hardware on it – no fancy buckles, chains and charms that add to the weight. Believe me, your body will thank you for it every day to come.
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami
- From HT Brunch, February 27
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