7 Handbag Essentials for the Recent Acquirer of a Handbag.

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.

-Baby wipes.

-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.


-Cough pills/sweets/mints.

-Pads for blistered or corned feet.

-Sanitary products.

-Mild painkillers.

-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.

-Post-it notes.

-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 multicharger.

-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.

-Debit cards.

-A credit card.

-Gift cards.

-Reward scheme cards.

-In-date coupons and vouchers organized by date.

-ID cards.

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.

My bag:

-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.

My bag:

-Current sewing project.

-Small artists pad and charcoal.

-Travel chequers.

-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?

How To… make the time.

Sometimes, when we’re juggling work, family, dating, studying, housekeeping, hobbies, etc, it can be hard to find time for something specific. You may get up, go to work, get home, clean the house, study, spend some family time together and later find that you haven’t done the laundry, the shopping or found time alone with your partner.

It’s so easy to do, you just find yourself looking at the clock and asking “When did it get so late?”

So let’s work on a few ways to carve a little extra time into your day.

1: Clip out nonessentials.

First make sure there is nothing you are doing that takes up time unnecessarily. I’d say something is unnecessary when you don’t want to or have to do it.

So, for example, putting the kids’ toys away after they’ve gone to bed is essential, because you need to keep some order. But putting the kids’ toys away whenever they’re done with them is not essential, because they’re bound to drag them out again and should probably learn to put back what they move.

Or planning outfits a week in advance is unessential, unless you enjoy it, in which case it isn’t really doing much harm.

Have a proper look at jobs you can do that should be done by someone else, that you do repeatedly and could afford to do just once, or that just plain don’t need doing.

2: Tasks of a feather flock together.


Being crazily organized helps here, but you can do this in chaos too.

When you are doing the dishes, whip round the house and look for any dishes, cups or mugs that may need washing. Follow by drying and putting away.

When you are hoovering a room, make an effort to return things to their places and respective rooms as you do it. Perhaps even make a pile of things to return to the kitchen, to return to the bedroom, to return to the bathroom, etc.

When you are cleaning windows, bring a duster and dust the sills and ornaments at the same time. Maybe clean, wipe, dry, polish and dust.

Basically, make sure you do a task in full, do all the tasks around the sides and clean whole rooms at a time. That way you run around a lot less and get more done in record time.

3: Schedule in anything time-consuming.

Whether it’s a task, an activity, a date or a piece of work, if it takes over half an hour, schedule it in.

This way you don’t have to stress much about it until it’s time to do it, can do everything else beforehand and know when it will be happening.

4: No Free Hands.


This is an approach described in the book I’m working on “On A Budget: The good housekeeper’s guide to economizing.” The basic principle is this: as long as everyone had done their duty, all free hands at home are working hands.

Now, let’s first remember that the main housekeeper/s should first pull their weight. You don’t just sit around drinking coffee whilst you’re home alone and the second your partner or the kids walk through the door shout “No Free Hands!” and give them your tasks. You should prioritize your own work and schedule it properly, if you stay at home you should make the effort to actually keep house whilst you’re on your own.

But at the end of the day when the kids are back from school, both you and your partner have finished work and there are four jobs left? Fair game.

No Free Hands basically means that if you’re overwhelmed and everyone else is being lazy, you should at least be able to request them to help you a little.

When your children unload the dishwasher and feed the dog and your partner packs the lunches so you can put the laundry away, the extra hour you would have spent on the jobs can be reduced to 10-25 minutes, leaving you extra time together.

5: Pockets of time and tiny tasks to fill them.

And finally we all have pockets of free time in the day. Little gaps where we’re doing nothing, not even relaxing.

To make the most of these times, have a look at what jobs you have that take 0-10 minutes and see when you can do them. For example, when you’re waiting for bacon to fry for breakfast you can wash up any utensils or cups from last night, when you’re at work and waiting to start you can answer your personal emails, when the kids are getting dressed you can lay out their shoes, coats, bags and lunches. Basically look at the things you can do quickly and easily as you wait to do the next task. It frees up far more time than you could imagine.

To be honest, although I recommend them all, I’m pretty sure I’m quite bad at scheduling anything and at NFH. I’m naturally skittish and hop from task to task and I prefer to take on everything and revel in the pressure and responsibility even when the stress is killing me. I should work on that!

How do you free up time in your day? Do you already do any of these things? Which do you find most helpful? Which do you find most difficult? What else do you do to free up some time? I’d love to hear from it in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!