As someone who carries her entire life around with her at all times, I know and understand the love we all have for the oversize purse. How else are we supposed to be ready for anything the world might throw at us? (A coffee stain, a dead cell phone, the apocalypse—who knows?) But I can attest that this level of preparation usually results in a layer of unused, miscellaneous items at the bottom of my bag.
I recently became fed up with lugging the same heavy items to and from work, and decided to downsize—you could say, Marie Kondo style. I still have emotional (and probably physical) scars from my college days of carrying a laptop everywhere I went. Plus, smaller, compact bags better complement an airy sundress or a breezy off-the-shoulder top and cut-offs. When you have the sun's rays relentlessly beating down on you, the last thing you want is to be weighed down with a 20-pound tote.
I challenged myself to trim down to the bare essentials and—spoiler alert—successfully made the switch to a tiny cross-body.
Looking to do the same? Here are the seven life-changing steps I took. While there will always be a time (and a place in my heart) for the oversize tote, I can now say I enjoy a commute sans shoulder pain (and having a cute new bag helps, too).
1. Start with the Bag
I picked my bag first, so I knew how much space I had to work with (this J.Crew option I bought is currently sold out, but shop for a similar style, below). The minimalist shape, structure, and neutral shade goes well with day-to-day work outfits. Mine is in black, which means it works with 99 percent of my wardrobe.
Tory Burch available at toryburch.com | $250
2. Switch to a Cardholder
3. Leave Hardcovers at Home
The next problem was books, since I love having a good read on the subway. I opted for a six-inch Amazon Kindle, which is not only small enough to fit in my little bag (shocking, right?), but it's also easier to grip onto with one hand when I don't have a seat during my commute.
Amazon available at amazon.com | $80
4. Trim Down Your Cosmetics
I know, I know. The makeup guru in you will find this part particularly difficult. The trick? I dumped everything. Now, I only carry around a single tube of Burt’s Bees Lip Balm. Keep the rest of your stash at home or at your desk at work. You’re not going to want to apply mascara while bumping into strangers anyway. I also carry the tiniest bottle of Purell ($11 for 8; amazon.com), which, if you live in Manhattan like me, you’ll know why.
Burt's Bees available at cvs.com | $4
5. Opt for Small Electronics
No one can imagine a commute without music, but do you really need your big noise-canceling headphones? Apple's ear pods ($29, apple.com) fit anywhere, and the built-in microphone means you can chat with your mom during your walk to work. Plus, the Apple addict in me can’t fathom using anything other than my iPhone 6S, but any skinny smartphone will slip right into any small bag.
Apple available at apple.com | $649
6. Nix Unnecessarily Large Key Chains
You know which ones I’m talking about. Yes, the hot pink stuffed animal key chain from your little cousin is cute, but not space efficient. Keep one that you love to maintain some flair—I have a chunk of amethyst hanging from my keys that I get endless compliments on, and it's not too big (shop a similar one, below). It holds my house keys and my teeny Swiss Army knife ($20; swissarmy.com).
Urban Outfitters available at urbanoutfitters.com | $12
7. Save Room for the Random
Keep your sunglasses perched on your head and your coffee in your hand (versus toting it in travel mug form), but make sure you reserve some space in your bag for any odd, but necessary items. Pilot makes my favorite pen, and it goes everywhere with me. I’ll admit, more small objects make their way into my tiny bag (bobby pins, Band-Aids, a pack of gum, etc.). but keeping things pared down allows for a bit of wiggle room.
Available at staples.com | $10 for 5