Losing Weight

No, this isn’t the grapefruit diet, or the all-you-can-eat diet, or the “use this one silly trick to blast stomach flab” diet. It’s the purse diet.

As in, when was the last time you took everything out of your purse and then decided what to put back in? Or—brace yourself—switched to a smaller purse?

That’s essentially what I did to move into panniers for bike commuting. It illustrates yet another of my life lessons learned from biking: If you can’t carry it, you don’t need it.

If you’ve ever ridden a heavy bike load up a steep hill, you know that you don’t want to carry excess weight (whether it’s on you or on the bike). I’m not talking about the crazy roadies who obsess over shaving 10 grams off the weight of their pedals—just your average concern for not working any harder than you have to.

When I started commuting, I’m reasonably sure I hauled a lot of extra weight because my instinct was simply to transfer my purse straight into my pannier. That way you get to carry not only the weight of the stuff, but the weight of the purse too.

But honestly, how much of that stuff that you carry do you ever really need? You’re carrying it “just in case.” Just in case what—you find yourself stranded 85 miles from the nearest Rite-Aid or 7-11 and you don’t have an emery board? (My mother always carried at least three.)

Honestly, how long will it be until you can get to a source of whatever it is you’re not carrying right this very second? And can you survive that long? Unless you’re a diabetic and looking at your insulin, I bet you’ll be okay.

Every so often I find that the little detritus has started to creep back in and the pouch of essentials I carry is inching upward. (And if I do carry an actual purse, as I do on the days I ride the bus, all bets are off. I rarely bother to clean out my purses because I use them so seldom.)

The basics? I use two pouches. One pouch has “me” stuff:
  • Bike wallet with ID, debit card, folding money, and a couple of essential cards (bus pass, insurance, library card, Rocket Bakery preloaded card for coffee)
  • Checkbook only on days I actually know I need to write a check
  • Lip balm or lipstick, although I keep those in my desk at work so technically I don’t “need” to carry them
  • Nail clippers (because I obsess about my fingernails in a highly unhealthy fashion and can’t stand it if I can’t immediately deal with a broken nail—and because they make a good emergency pair of scissors)
  • Keys (to get into my house and my office, silly--did you think I meant car keys?!)

The other pouch holds “tech”:
  • Smartphone
  • Extra battery for my phone (a work necessity)
  • Patch cable so I can use my phone as a tethered modem if need be
  • Flash drive
  • A couple of my business cards
  • Pen

That’s it for the basics. On work days I also carry my lunch, a water bottle, and a laptop with power cable (I bought an ultralight so this only represents about 3 pounds total).

Play Our Home Version:

  • What excess baggage do you carry? 
  • What would it tell me about you if I looked in your purse?
  • What are you afraid of if you don't carry this stuff?
  • When was the last time you actually used most of the things in your purse?
  • What's the worst thing that could happen? (In my case, if I'm not carrying the nail clippers I will chew on the rough edge in a most unladylike way. This is not a terminal disease but I prefer not to.)

Feel free to extend the meaning of "if you can't carry it, you don't need it" metaphorically. I've had thoughts that weighed me down and when I finally set them down and rolled away without looking back, I felt light as a feather.

Post inspired by “Instead of Driving . . . I Won a Pack!” on Kent’s Bike Blog. He won a pack and could have received a larger size, but said, “If I have too much space, I tend to take too much stuff.”

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  1. Barb~I love this! I switched purses yesterday because there wasn't enough room in my smaller purse for all my stuff. I think I may have too much stuff. In a bigger sense, one of my goals for 2011 has been to get rid of stuff I don't need or that causes me anxiety. It has been one of the best goals/resolutions ever! I don't know about the purse, though, I love me a big purse :)

  2. Glad you liked it, Sherry! I actually have a truly beautiful great big patent leather green purse that functions as a briefcase because I can fit my mini-laptop into it. Every time I carry it I get compliments. My two little pouches can transfer easily from panniers to purse and back again.

    But I'm trying to be ruthless about not feeling I must be prepared for every contingency. Out went the mini bottle of hand lotion, the hand sanitizer (which just helps the stronger, nastier bacteria to survive anyway), the metal business card holder (looks nice but weight is excessive for everyday use), the extra coin purse that had all those extra pieces of plastic "just in case."

    Since I also want to be more mindful about my purchases, I don't want to carry plastic that encourages impulse shopping. Stripping down the wallet contents can be good for the bank account as well as for the soul :D.


  3. I have a very cute little Baggalini purse with two sections. One holds my tiny wallet (enough room for cash, ID, 5 credit cards (only one of mine is a credit card, the rest are like yours), my smart phone and some hand wipes. The other pocket has my comb, some tissues, my keys, lip gloss and receipts of the day. The whole thing is about 6 inches wide, by five inches high, and 4-5 inches deep. I can wear it over my shoulder or tuck it into my pannier. The little bag even has loops on it so that it can be attached to a belt, though I've never tried that. I meant to only use it in the summer, when I bought it last Spring, but I love it so much, that it's all I carry most of the time. It's easy to travel light if one has a well organized purse, and a well organized smart phone!

  4. all good, except as a nail obsessed, ex hairdresser, I must say it is much better to use an emery board and not a clippers. and lighter, too :)

  5. I feel the time for another Karmic Clean-out coming on! And I'm not just talking the purse (although I will always be a fan of the big purse stuffed with stuff. And I will never give up room for my Gerber multi-purpose tool. Ever).

  6. I carry a pretty little coin purse/wallet by Fossil in one back pocket, and my iPhone in the other. Keys go in a front pocket. Lip balm and loose change in the other.

    I actually periodically _try_ carrying a purse, but I find it so annoying to have to keep track of it that I eventually stop. Plus, it's nice to not have that extra weight hanging off my shoulders...

    Now baggage in my home, that's another story! :-D


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