Jun 252011

No, this isn’t the grapefruit diet, or the all-you-can-eat diet, or the “use this one silly trick to blast stomach flab” diet. It’s the purse diet.

As in, when was the last time you took everything out of your purse and then decided what to put back in? Or—brace yourself—switched to a smaller purse?

That’s essentially what I did to move into panniers for bike commuting, and I took it a step further when I recently switched to my cute Po Campo pannier and Logan tote instead of the Black Ninja Fingernail-Breaking Monsters.

This cleansing process illustrates yet another of my life lessons learned from biking: If you can’t carry it, you don’t need it.

If you’ve ever ridden a heavy bike load up a steep hill, you know that you don’t want to carry excess weight (whether it’s on you or on the bike). I’m not talking about the crazy roadies who obsess over shaving 10 grams off the weight of their pedals—just your average concern for not working any harder than you have to.

When I started commuting, I’m reasonably sure I hauled a lot of extra weight because my instinct was simply to transfer my purse straight into my pannier. That way you get to carry not only the weight of the stuff, but the weight of the purse too.

But honestly, how much of that stuff that you carry do you ever really need? You’re carrying it “just in case.” Just in case what—you find yourself stranded 85 miles from the nearest Rite-Aid or 7-11 and you don’t have an emery board? (My mother always carried at least three.)

Honestly, how long will it be until you can get to a source of whatever it is you’re not carrying right this very second? And can you survive that long? Unless you’re a diabetic and looking at your insulin, I bet you’ll be okay.

Every so often I find that the little detritus has started to creep back in and the pouch of essentials I carry is inching upward. (And if I do carry an actual purse, as I do on the days I ride the bus, all bets are off. I rarely bother to clean out my purses because I use them so seldom.)

The basics? I fit everything into my adorable new Six-Corner Wristlet from Po Campo with the bike fabric (available at Bike Style shopping events). I especially like that I can clip it not only to my handlebars, but also to the D rings on one of my other Po Campo bags.

I carry some “me” stuff:

  • Bike wallet (a small waterproof hard-shell case I got from BicycleGifts.com) with ID, debit card, folding money, and a couple of essential cards (bus pass, insurance, library card, Rocket Bakery preloaded card for coffee)
  • Checkbook only on days I actually know I need to write a check
  • Lip balm or lipstick, although I keep those in my desk at work so technically I don’t “need” to carry them
  • Nail clippers (because I obsess about my fingernails in a highly unhealthy fashion and can’t stand it if I can’t immediately deal with a broken nail—and because they make a good emergency pair of scissors)
  • Keys (to get into my house and my office, silly–did you think I meant car keys?!)
  • True confession: Right now I also have wetting drops for my contact lenses and a little travel tube of Aleve, both of which I technically could get at the nearest Rite-Aid or 7-11.

And a little “tech” that I usually put in my Po Campo pannier with my laptop:

  • Smartphone
  • Extra battery for my phone (a work necessity)
  • Patch cable so I can use my phone as a tethered modem if need be
  • Flash drive
  • A couple of my business cards and a couple for Belles and Baskets in case I see a woman riding a bike and can tell her about this fun group
  • Pen

That’s it for the basics. On work days I also carry my lunch, a water bottle, and a laptop with power cable (I bought an ultralight so this only represents about 3-4 pounds total).

Play Our Home Version

  • What excess baggage do you carry?
  • What would it tell me about you if I looked in your purse?
  • What are you afraid of if you don’t carry this stuff?
  • When was the last time you actually used most of the things in your purse?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen? (In my case, if I’m not carrying the nail clippers I will chew on the rough edge in a most unladylike way. This is not a terminal disease but I prefer not to.)

Feel free to extend the meaning of “if you can’t carry it, you don’t need it” metaphorically. I’ve had thoughts that weighed me down and when I finally set them down and rolled away without looking back, I felt light as a feather.

Post inspired by “Instead of Driving . . . I Won a Pack!” on Kent’s Bike Blog. He won a pack and could have received a larger size, but said, “If I have too much space, I tend to take too much stuff.” This piece first appeared on my personal blog, Bike to Work Barb; I’m updating and posting a few items here that fit with Bike Style.

Sharing is karma--pass it along!

Reader Comments

  1. I made the switch to a little purse years ago. I want one big enough for my wallet (at it is very small, thanks to a friend who made it for me), phone, lip goop (or 5) a nail file, and my little tin box of drugs (migraine, allergy, ibuprofen). oh, and keys when I drive. I even took a note from Barb’s new paniers and attached a hook on the chain of my little purse so it can hang from my handlebars. when I go to work I take a bigger bag that holds my lunch, a sweater, book, and sometimes a change of shoes.

  2. She actually left the house today with just her purse, wallet, keys and phone! Nothing else. I was shocked. 🙂

  3. Also, the real point is that things we think are “essential” and thus worth hauling around actually don’t make the difference between life and death most days of the week, so you can just wait until you get to your home or your office or whatever the destination.

    And since I know how much you carry around in your purse I know just how (un)sturdy that soapbox really was…. 😀

  4. I’m surprised to see you encourage frequent drugstore trips for small, light items; it seems to me that that’s precisely the attitude that a sustainability advocate would reject! Those trips promote waste, if we’re using the “one of everything is enough” model. Purchasing multiple plastic containers entirely defeats the purpose of paring down and reducing unnecessary duplicates for ecological purposes, and in fact works *directly* against the efforts to reduce waste and over-use that you’re furthering by choosing modes of transportation other than atmosphere-clogging, fossil-fuel consuming, road-congesting cars!

    *steps down from shoddily-constructed soapbox*

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.