Keeping a Minimalist Daily Bag

Two weeks ago, a rotting avocado exploded in the bottom of my husband’s backpack. I’m talking about a grey-green-goo-all-over-his-textbooks, never-going-to-smell-the-same-again situation. It was a nightmare. You may be wondering why there was a rotting avocado in there in the first place. This is an excellent question, and the answer is that my husband is many wonderful things, but tidy is not one of them. Things are tossed haphazardly into the backpack and never thought about again until they explode and destroy everything. That’s just the devil-may-care attitude with which he lives his life.

I, on the other hand, am extremely careful about what goes into my bag. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I keep a very specific set of items in my daily tote and I do not let it become overrun with miscellany. I’m never reaching into a dark abyss of discarded objects, groping blindly around crumbs and receipts to find that one lip gloss I’m pretty sure I put in there last week. Absolutely not. I can find exactly what I need in my purse in ten seconds with my eyes closed, because there is a place for everything, and I keep everything in its place.

Today I’m going to take you through what I keep in my purse every day and some tips for practicing minimalism with your own daily bag.

The Stuff

In the main pouch:

  • Wallet
  • Kindle
  • Sunglasses
  • Hairbrush
  • Headphones
  • Small zipper bag (my mother-in-law made the one in the picture)
    • tampons
    • migraine medicine
    • bobby pins & hair ties
    • band-aids
    • whistle (I also used to keep a pocket knife in here, but I’ve had it taken away by the TSA twice, and I had to ditch it in a potted plant outside the Library of Congress once. It wasn’t a practical object keep on my person all the time as a DC resident.)

In the next-smallest pouch:

  • Keys
  • Metro card/work badge
  • Small notebook for grocery lists, story ideas, random notes, etc. (not pictured)
  • Mechanical pencil (not pictured)
  • Phone (not pictured…because I used it to take the picture)

If there is only one small pouch, these items are demoted to the main pouch.

In the smallest pouch:

  • Cherry chapstick
  • Lipstick of the day
  • Small mirror

If you’re wondering whether my system actually works or not, let me drop this truth bomb on you: I have finished three chapsticks. Yeah. It’s possible. I have one tube of chapstick, and I never lose it.

My bags:

I typically use either my Madewell canvas transport tote, or my Lonchamp Le Pliage L tote. Personally, I find a tote bag to be the most practical thing to carry daily since I have to take a decent amount of stuff with me to work and it’s big enough to hold anything I might need to pick up at the drug store or the market on the way home. I especially like the Le Pliage tote for how easy it is to clean. I’ve had mine for about eight years and it’s still in great shape.

Tips for Keeping a Minimalist Daily Bag

  1. Empty your bag every day. If you don’t do any of the other things on this list, doing this one alone will make such a huge difference. Make it a part of your morning routine to dump your bag out on a table or your bed or wherever and remove every last object from every last pocket. Then pick up each item, determine if you need it that day, and sort accordingly. I usually make Yes and No piles, and then separate the Yes pile into the categories based on what pouch everything goes in. The No pile is usually receipts and/or whatever lipstick color I wore yesterday. These things get thrown away or put back in their places in the house accordingly. This step is so important because it is your main defense against forgetting about things (like rotting avocados) and accumulating garbage or objects you aren’t using.
  2. Clean your bag once a week. Hot tip: bags are gross! Have you ever thought about why there are crumbs in your purse when you never even keep food in there? Ew, right? I don’t care how clean you are, your purse is dirty. Once a week, turn it inside out and wipe it out with a damp cloth. If the outside of the bag can tolerate a wipe down, do that too. You will be disgusted and elated, trust me.
  3. Get your lip products under control. How many lip products are you really wearing in a given day? I wear exactly two. Chapstick and lipstick (another hot tip: if your lipstick is getting dry and uncomfortable throughout the day, put a little chapstick on it to emulsify it and made it more comfortable). I’m willing to bet that you’ve got a bunch of lipsticks and chapsticks and maybe one of those weird little chapstick egg things rattling around together at the bottom of your bag, but they don’t want to be in there, and one day they are going to give you a shoulder injury. Pack exactly what you need for the day, and put the rest away in your house, wherever you keep your makeup or assorted personal care.
  4. Embrace zipper pouches of all shapes and sizes. You keep your money and credit cards and ID in a wallet to keep them from floating around in the purse abyss, right? Well, create a similar system for your small objects like medicine, hair ties, hand sanitizer, etc. I also recommend keeping snacks in a separate, seal-able pouch if you are the type of person who likes to keep snacks on hand. Again, remember the avocado lesson.
  5. The last tip I will leave you with is from my very favorite tidy person, Marie Kondo. When you are choosing the items to keep in your bag, ask yourself if they spark joy. The point of minimalism is not just to have less stuff, it’s to have more intentional stuff, and more stuff that makes you happy than doesn’t. My keys don’t exactly spark joy, but I do keep them on a key chain with pictures of baby animals. My zipper pouch holds my decidedly non-joyous migraine medication, but it’s a special pouch because my mother-in-law made it for me. Think about that when deciding what gets a place of honor in your bag and what doesn’t. It’s an intimate, personal space, and it can be just as joyful as it is utilitarian if you want it to be.

That’s it for my purse minimalism tips! Not exactly wardrobe related, but I’d say its at least wardrobe adjacent. If you’ve been coming back to read my daily posts during my 10×10 blogging challenge, thank you so much. The feedback I’ve received from you all means so much to me, and I’m incredibly grateful to have readers who engage with my work. I love learning about your own journeys with style and minimalism, so please, share with the class!

Follow along with my daily outfits on Instagram at @goblinshark_, and come back here every day this week for a new blog post!



2 thoughts on “Keeping a Minimalist Daily Bag

  1. I’m also a fan of the zippered pouch. I always carry two: a “large” pouch (probably 4 x 6″) that includes a small hand lotion and hand sanitizer, plus lip gloss and a powder sunscreen with retractable brush. The smaller pouch (3 x 4″ – ish) is more crowded – a few safety pins, bobby pins and hair ties, cuticle clippers, a Shout wipe for emergency spills, etc. When I’m traveling I have a third pouch (also large) where I keep my ear buds, a lint roller and a few other necessities.

    I am envious of women who can carry a small clutch or a wristlet as their everyday bag. But in addition to the pouches, I also have two eyeglass cases (one for RX sunglasses, the other for regular glasses – I need them for driving but I often go without glasses indoors, so I need both cases), a wallet and two phones. And keys. I carry a tote or satchel every time I leave the house.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea of ‘Lipstick of the day’. I am such a lipstick hoarder so you reminded me that I really have to pick the few that I need. I have about 15…. 10 that I barely ever use. Thanks for sharing 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

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