Minimalist Challenge Part 1: What I Carry

June 24, 2014

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I am a control freak. Usually I have things under a comfortable amount of order, but every so often I feel like I’m back in the recurring dream I had when I was small, where I was behind the wheel of a car but had no idea how to drive (including brake) or where any of the roads were going. In times like these, when there are things going on in my life over which I have no control, I achieve peace of mind by actively seeking something onto which I can focus my energies.

Striking the right balance between too much, too little, and not enough is something that I think about, and struggle with, a lot, and so it’s the perfect theme on which to try and exert some pent-up control.

If you’ve been reading some of my recent PD posts, you’ll know that I’ve been looking for ways to streamline my life, from my home to my office to my person, for a while. Enter my new project, which I’ll call my Minimalist Challenge.


A classic case of indecisiveness.

Part 1 of my challenge will be an extension of a project I started a few weeks ago, when I cleaned out my overstuffed purse. This easier-than-I-thought purge has changed my life, and posture, for the far, far better. But what if I took it one step further? What if I had just one bag for everything–work and non-work items? Well, I’d be a One Bag Wonder. No longer would I have to compartmentalize my life and try to figure out ways to fit everything in. A woman’s purse is, as they say, a very apt reflection of her life. If I had just one receptacle for everything, then maybe I, too, would achieve a sense of calm unification.

Finding the right bag is key to this, and so is letting go of my odd attachment to things (I once reasoned that I should quit a dance class not because I didn’t love it, (I did), but because I was afraid my worn-down dance shoes would fear I didn’t love them anymore). If I don’t use my purse every day, will it think I abandoned it? No, it is a purse and cannot think. And, I can use it whenever I like, when the situation suits. It’s fulfilling its purpose more by being helpful, not resented.

There are obvious size requirements for an all-day bag, and so a medium-sized tote does the trick. The minimalist style of this Leni Penn Vegan Ostrich Tote also goes great with my mission’s aesthetics.

Leni Penn Light Grey Ostrich, $230

Leni Penn, Light Grey Ostrich, $230


Inside the bag, I still set some boundaries between the various parts of my day it’s carrying. Gym clothes and face wipes (for yoga) go in their own small reusable shopping bag I’d had in my closet, which keeps things clean and hygienic while also putting to good use something else that I’d been hoarding away. Lunch (often comprising containers from the refrigerator–more on that in the future . . .) is in another small Whole Foods tote, which prevents condensation from wetting other things inside the bag. My wallet, keys, and makeup case are safe to float around near the bottom (this took some getting used to, but these inanimate objects were also okay being suffocated), while my phone and work ID are quickly accessible in a small interior pocket. And, there is still room inside for anything I might need to bring home at the end of the day, like a printed manuscript or book (or three).

Minimalist Challenge Part I: What I Carry

Feeling breezy with what I carry…priceless.

The first day I left the house with just one bag on my shoulder I felt as though I’d lost a limb. But knowing all of my things are neatly condensed in one place, which I can easily stow away in my cubicle’s tiny storage closet, is a mental relief. I love the classic look of my tote, and how great it feels to not need to try to balance so many bags on just my two arms. There’s just one I need to maintain control over, which is a piece of vegan cake.

Check back for Part 2 of the challenge, wherein I tackle the space where I spend most of my time: my office.


Also by Jennifer: Purse Purge – 4 Ways to Lighten Your Load

Healthy Breakfast: Nutty Sorghum and Quinoa Pudding

Related: Minimalism for Beginners

Eco Friendly Wardrobe Challenge 




Photos: An Apple Pie and Other Nursery Stories via Flickr;; Jennifer Kurdyla

Features Editor Jennifer Kurdyla is a New York City girl with Jersey roots and a propensity for getting lost in the urban jungle. An experienced publishing professional, yoga instructor, home chef, sometimes-runner, and writer, she adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in 2008 and became vegan in 2013. She has written for The Harvard Review Online, The Rumpus, and Music & Literature and maintains a wellness-based website, Be Nourished, which features original writing and recipes. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram @jenniferkurdyla, Twitter @jenniferkurdyla, and Pinterest.


always stay inspired!