I am only just getting used to using handbags. You see, when I was younger in Spain, they were just fashion accessories. A girl had her satchel or backpack for school that also housed all her essentials and could be emptied out into a messy pile on the bed to reuse for girlscouts, going to a friend’s house or a picnic. Handbags were often put in backpacks or carried alongside your main bag. Sometimes they would complete an outfit on their own, but they were still tiny and had little to nothing in them. Being one of the “unfashionable” girls I, of course, had to be contrary and ignore them entirely, favouring the punk look of a tatty, drawn on, stickered backpack that I dragged with me everywhere. After all, if handbags were impractical accessories, I’d darn well not ever own one.
Another breed entirely was the “mummy handbag”. Always medium to large in size and still with T.A.R.D.I.S. properties that made us fairly certain there was everything down to a spare kitchen sink in there. They were often messy inside and, because they were big and not particularly decorative, few girls aspired to owning one. But whether we were tiny handbag connoisseurs or the rebel wild kids, we would hold a certain awe and respect for mummy handbags.
Coming to England, I discovered that mummy handbags are less for mums and more for everyone. They came in many attractive shapes and sizes. Ten year old girls even went to school with handbags instead of backpacks if they were lucky and the dress code allowed. A completely different culture.
Nevertheless, I was reluctant to adopt this alien behaviour. From age sixteen to age eighteen I clung onto my backpacks for school, work, shopping, everything. From age eighteen I adopted satchels and laptop carriers for uni and a huge rucksack for shopping and traveling. When Jon and I moved in together I stuck to an amorphous, heavy bag affectionately known as the “potato sack” for errands and my well worn, well loved leather satchel for work. I was handbag-phobic.
However I did somehow manage to accumulate some. Five, to be precise. A tiny leather one my grandmother owned. A fake leather purse of a similar size. A black and white handbag for going to fancy places. A tattier grey fabric one with fake leather features. And a suede patchwork one with a gazillion pockets. And somehow, their presence corrupted me. I found myself looking at my outfit for the day and wondering whether it was ruined by the giant rucksack I was carrying. And it often was. Because giant rucksacks, contrary to prior belief, do not go with everything.
But I’ve got very used to my giant rucksacks and all their practicalities. So, in the spirit of becoming more feminine, not ruining my look with a giant rucksack, actually putting my handbags to some use and keeping them as a practical item rather than an accessory, I worked out how to get started growing my very own organic mummy handbag. Now, be warned, these are merely the seedlings for your mummy handbag. They may seem like only a few things, but they will gradually grow and expand and fill the entire bag, causing the T.A.R.D.I.S. effect. This will happen naturally, without encouragement and often without your noticing until you start finding forks and small galaxies in there. Regular cutting back of your mummy handbag is required to keep it in good health.
1. The beauty kit.
If we’re talking about handbags as not just a bag to drop things in, but a feminine alternative to rucksacks and plastic bags, then we can’t neglect our beauty. After all, a nice outfit with a nice bag and messy hair and makeup looks as out of place as the same outfit with good hair and makeup and a giant rucksack.
So something to keep around is a beauty kit for light topups. What you’ll keep in it will of course vary based on what you wear. But as the trick of a mummy handbag is to have everything you might need ready to grab, the best idea is to keep a spare of every item you wear regularly and the sorts of things you might wear. Seeing as my makeup bag is very small and my handbag preference is medium, I can often just drop my makeup bag into my handbag, but you will need to keep smaller amounts of spares for smaller bags of if you use many different products.
-Top ups for lips, eyes and concealer.
-Small nail kit with scissors, file and clippers.
-Hairbrush or comb and dry shampoo can.
2. The first aid kit.
An essential to making the mummy handbag seem like magic. A well-stocked tiny first aid kit, prepared for all sorts of minor accidents and some major ones. A lot of the beauty kit can be reused here: wipes, cotton balls, clean nail scissors, etc. But the first aid kit needs to be kept separate and prepared for all sorts of common problems.
Imagine you’re not just trying to be ready for yourself, but for your friends or any passing stranger who may ask for a plaster or a throat soother.
-Plasters of various shapes and sizes.
-Pads for blistered or corned feet.
-Bandaging and sterile needle set.
3. The pens and paper.
In theory you should only ever need your phone for taking notes and writing down contact details. In reality, your phone relies on an often very limited battery, your notes can be lost at the touch of a button and not everywhere has pens and paper, even when they probably should.
To be prepared for everything you need a small assortment of pens and paper, preferably in a tiny folder or binder that fits neatly away into a single compartment of your handbag.
-Four pens: two in black and two coloured.
-A reporter’s notepad.
-An address book.
4. The charger supply.
Everyone needs chargers. We have phones, kindles, notebook computers and all sorts that we carry around with us. And we are mysteriously bad at remembering to charge all of them, all of the time. Even someone who’s normally quite good at remembering can have a bad day. So you need a supply of chargers.
Your options are two.
-A smaller laptop charger.
-A power pack.
-A USB plug. This is basically like any plug you us, except where the wire is meant to come out, there’s a USB port.
-Assorted USB chargers. These come in 2″ versions, so they don’t have to be full wires.
5. The wallet.
Everyone needs a good wallet. Even if it’s in the card compartment of your bag and not an actual, separate wallet. A good wallet contains various sources of real money, not many credit cards (to discourage overuse), any sources of discounts, any necessary ID, etc.
This is basically going to be everything you need if you are shopping, just stop somewhere and want something, need to show ID for any reason or want to donate your change.
-A coin purse.
-Around £20 in notes and large coins.
-A credit card.
-Reward scheme cards.
-In-date coupons and vouchers organized by date.
6. The “just in” case.
Yes, that was a terrible pun. This is a small case, bag, purse or section of your handbag that you use for emergency items. Pretty much anything you often find yourself looking for or lacking when you need it. What they are depends on who you are, who you’re often with and what you’re doing.
-A tightly folded large carrier bag for shopping.
-Candy for students I may encounter.
-A Nakd bar for hunger.
7. The entertainment centre.
For when you or whoever you’re with are unexpectedly bored. These are things to fill the spare minutes at work, to keep you busy waiting for the bus or to keep your kids quiet in the back of the car.
Your entertainment centre needs to have a variety of forms of entertainment for everyone you may need to distract. I largely need just to distract myself, but you may need to consider your partner, children or friends. Good ideas are travel games you can fold away and move or arts and crafts.
-Current sewing project.
-Small artists pad and charcoal.
-Headphones for my phone.
And those are my suggestions for starting your own all-eventualities-covered mummy handbag.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!
What is in your handbag? Why do you carry certain things? What situations do you like to be covered for?