The Overburdened “I’ve Got Too Many Bags And Not Enough Arms” Issue And How To Deal With It

I don’t know why, but one of the weirder things I anticipated about having a baby was the diaper bag. Because, one: I love bags! I love accessories! And two: diapers bags can be soooooo cute and satisfying for my occasional kawaii itch.

But of course, the lived reality of having a diaper bag is more complicated. Like how it can’t be too cute because otherwise a partner-dude-bro type will be reluctant to carry it. And it just gets overstuffed, as any parent-on-the-go will tell you: you have to be prepared for anything, whether it’s a snack crisis, bottle craving, fit of boredom or a poop explosion. (Fun times…not!)

But the hardest logistic of all is that other parts of your life don’t necessarily stop, too — parts of life that need their own bags! I’m a “work from anywhere” freelancer — and so I have what I call a “mobile office in a bag.” I also have a gym bag. I also carry a laundry bag and reusable shopping bags as needed. (I told you I love bags.) Add this to the diaper bag and sometimes I leave the house looking sadly overburdened, each shoulder and arm laden with bags and bags and BAGS. I know I said I love bags, but…argh!

Suddenly my life was mo’ bags, ‘mo’ problems. Feeling like a pack mule made my shoulders ache and my soul cry because I felt so dowdy and weighed down. And it was not convenient. So often I found myself grabbing three bags…but still missing my wallet, because it was stashed away in another bag. Or suddenly realizing I needed hand lotion or a tampon or whatever…only to have my toiletries stashed in the gym bag instead of my work one. Double argh!

So one of my little life projects this spring was to get my bag situation under control. After a little experimentation, I discovered what works for me is the ‘bags within bags’ trick — compartmentalizing different categories of essentials into their own packets, and popping them into whatever bag I needed. I bought a cute set of Orla Kiely pouches at Target — one has my little portable electronics stuff like chargers, earbuds and cords, another has my planner and pens, and another has weird essentials like hand lotion, gum, and those little things that just make life a little easier. I also use a wallet that has enough space for my checkbook and phone. Basically the gist is to do the organizing work beforehand, so you don’t have to go through the whole ‘Do I need this or that or that or this?’ thinking process when you’re getting the day’s stuff together.

Now I pop whatever pouch I need into the bag I need for that afternoon or excursion or whatever. Usually everything lives in my work bag, but if I need to do job stuff after a workout, I’ll toss my iPad, my electronics pouch and my planner into my gym backpack. Or if I’m running off to do laundry and need to do some planning, I’ll bring my wallet, planner and essentials pouch and toss it on top of my laundry bags. Or — best of all — I’ll just bring my wallet out to a quick errand or just stuff it in the diaper bag for a family occasion, with no need to bring my whole dang work bag.

One of the fun aspects of the ‘bag within a bag’ approach is that you can mix and match pouches and experiment with different styles, colors and patterns. And if you’re at all into fancy fashion labels, a pouch is a pretty accessible way to get your Gucci, Comme des Garcons or Marc Jacobs fix without completely breaking the bank. (Although let’s get real, it’s still out of reach for a lot of us! Still, one can dream.) I like my Orla Kiely set, but I picked out a little selection of others that caught my eye. That’s what I like about bags-within-bags: opening my bag or backpack now is like getting a nice surprise pop of happy now, which is always a nice moment during a hectic day.

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