How often do you hear (maybe even from yourself) that a woman wants to lose five pounds? The phrase is as ubiquitous as “come into down dog” in a yoga studio. Listen up, ladies: what if there was a way to lose not five, but seven pounds, without extreme dieting, day-long cardio sessions, or a week of hot yoga + kale juice detoxing? The secret to shedding some instant weight has nothing whatsoever to do with your body. Rather, it’s what hangs off your body: your purse.
The average woman’s purse weighs close to seven pounds, roughly equivalent to 7.5 blocks of tofu (!). If you’re a student or have a job outside the house, you most likely carry a second bag, too (with lunch, paperwork, extra clothes/shoes, umbrella, commuting reading, etc.), and so the non-body weight on your back and shoulders can easily double or triple–depending on the day.
It may seem impossible, terrifying even, to not have on hand any of the essential items we carry around with us. What would I do without my chapstick(s)/mini flashlight/variety of Band-Aids/tape measure/extra comb/bobby pins/agenda/copy of The Goldfinch? What if I find myself in a store unexpectedly without my coupon folder? These thoughts and worries have echoed through my mind on countless occasions, causing any voice of concern about my health to be drowned out by a paranoia of being without. I’ve even tried to justify purse overload by distributing the weight into my “other bag,” which while helpful doesn’t mean I’m carrying less. In fact, it usually leaves more room to pack more stuff.
Just as high heels can wreak havoc on the body, the heavy bag is a sure way to, over time, cause physical damage. Pain in the neck, shoulders, back (upper and lower), hips, and head are just some of the issues that result from carrying too much on your arm. Shoulders can even start to become lopsided if you carry your purse on the same side all the time.
With the technology available today, it’s easy to radically purge much of your purse’s contents: an agenda, coupons, store cards, and even money are all accessible on a smart phone. But beyond that, taking a good hard look at what you really need in your bag can relieve you of much physical–and mental–weight.
After finding myself complaining of tension in my neck and shoulders (not associated with stress or sleeping), I realized I might turn to my bag for a possible cure. I’d consider my purse to be moderately heavy: I always managed to have the extra thing a friend needed, but it didn’t take two hands to lift. Nonetheless, I was a bit embarrassed when I dumped out the contents to find so much clutter.
Here’s what I did to get rid of some of these items without making me feel less prepared:
1. Eliminate duplicates: Why do I need three pens? One is just fine, thanks. The same goes for lipglosses, notebooks, and hair ties.
2. Digitize: Almost all of the information I had on business cards, coupons, and store credit cards was already somewhere on my iPhone. And if I needed to know something I couldn’t find online, it probably wasn’t that urgent.
3. Run statistics: There are situations that are less likely to come up than others, and therefore aren’t absolutely essential to be prepared for. For example, I realized I had on my person at all times a card for the T, the public transportation system in Boston, where I went to school. Would I ever really need this without advance warning? No. If I were traveling there, I’d know and I could pack the card; or, on the small chance I was somehow there without time to prep, I could just buy a new one. Plus, the card I had was expired anyway!
4. Size down: Having more space usually makes people fill it up faster, and I found this was true of my medium-sized purse or purse-tote combinations. I retrieved from my closet a long-forgotten bag I had that was about 30% smaller, which put obvious constrains on what I could carry. With mini-bags a la mode this season, it’s even easier to find an excuse to pack lighter.
The results? Not only is my body happier, but I find myself less plagued by those what-if thoughts I’d been so anxiously prepared for. With fewer expectations of what I’d need, I can let myself be more spontaneous and enjoy some non-material pleasures in life. What can you gain by losing?
Also by Jen: 3 Creative Uses of Miso
Photos: Jennifer Kurdyla; bloomingdales.com