In praise of the perfect purse.

marshallpurse (2)The beginning of the school year through about February is the time of year I try to get a little more organized. The craze peaks with the New Year, generally. Year after year, January and February provoke me to look for ways to streamline and minimalize my life. While the grand plans of these two months seldom materialize in their entirety, I do make baby steps of progress.

This year I’m peaking early. At least I hope I’m peaking – I can’t sustain this frenzy for too much longer.

Often on this list of improvements is the acquisition of the Perfect Purse. Year after year, I try to downsize. As is my predilection, I take it too far. Even I should realize that I can’t go from a laptop briefbag to a clutch large enough for my driver’s license and a single Tic Tac.

comparison (2)I’ve been carrying HUGE purses since junior high. It started because it was fashionable. Some of the women amongst us will remember that time between girlhood and adulthood when we had to work to find stuff to put in our purses. We were too young for makeup, driver’s licenses and keys. Mace wasn’t invented yet. And we didn’t have cell phones, laptops, ipods, water bottles, or complicated calendar-agenda thingies. We didn’t have checkbooks, bills, tax receipts, legal pads or unpaid parking tickets.

What we had was a wallet bursting with classmate photos, a note from the cute boy in the second row, 45 cents for lunch, the sacred hair brush, the emergency dime, and a dusty sanitary napkin in the event the gym teacher wasn’t lying and we could expect the full bloom of womanhood any second.

By 9th grade, we did have the makeup and menstrual products, but that still wasn’t enough to get enough weight into the bottom of a tapestry carpetbag that was all the rage of the stylin’ and profilin’. Without sufficient weight, the thing looked stupid. So I tossed in a couple of books, some magazines, a transistor radio, spare batteries, another hairbrush, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, a change of clothes, my school books, and poster paints.

makeup (3)As time went on, the truly useless stuff got evicted (poster paints) and true necessities (mousse, butane curling iron, Sony Walkman, leg warmers) got thrown in. Those things were evicted and replaced with diapers, pacifiers, thermometers, Tylenol, etc.

By the time I was 30, carrying a suitcase for a purse was so entrenched I didn’t think anything of it. I carried everything I might conceivably need with me at all times. (Until the TSA waged war on American airline passengers, I carried a corkscrew.)

Periodically, I think I might be able to rattle around town without quite so much and downsize to a small purse.

Trekking up and down the hill in the snow usually provokes the small purse thing. (Thank you, very much, I will not have to climb the hill this year due to the acquisition of the Subaru. Unless there is a big honking blizzard in which case, I will dance up the hill because BIG snow is fun.)

Last time, I thought I was being more realistic in the downsizing thing. I downsized to a fetching little Liz Claiborne number in a hot red with sizzling silver links. It looked big enough to hold more than a driver’s license and a Tic Tac.

It kind of worked. Everything fit, more or less except I had to take out everything to get to the one thing I wanted.

That got old.

keys I also had to downsize the key ring(s) for there even to be a prayer. I carry two rings of keys. One ring holds the car key, the house key, the post office key, the car remote, and the office key I use most. The second ring holds the other 7 office keys, keys I’ve had so long I don’t know what they are, and a huge circa 2005 4 gig flash drive I use to carry software between offices.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered that what works for me best is the open pit purse – a purse with no dividers , just a gaping maw like the carpetbag of old. They’re very hard to find.  Very.  This past summer I purchased a most-fetching white gaping maw hobo bag.  Well, it was kind of a gaping maw, but the designer insisted on dividing the maw.  It was better than most – far better.  I was in purse heaven. I vowed to no longer flirt with a little purse.

gaping maw (2)When it came time to get out winter’s black purse, all the dividers and pockets and thises and thats made me crazy. I couldn’t find anything and kept having to dump it all out on a floor somewhere to find that one essential thing I needed.

So, the other day I was at Marshall’s when, no kidding, this purse leaped off a hook into my basket where it bounced off the side with some English spin and into my loving arms like a well-sunk 8-ball. I am in purse heaven. It’s huge, has the requisite SINGLE gaping maw, and was made by a bunch of Italians with a sense of how leather is supposed to perform. It cost more than I usually spend, but it is quite possibly the perfect purse. Some of you will scoff, saying there is no perfect purse. You may be right. You are probably right. But right now I think it’s perfect and that’s enough for today.

So what’s in your purse?

6 thoughts on “In praise of the perfect purse.

  1. When my shoulders went south, I HAD to downsize! Several years ago I had snatched up a red leather Coach bag at our local Salvation Army, for about three dollars. It became apparent why the original owner donated it to the thrift store in such pristine condition, It’s really small! But you know what? It doesn’t hurt my shoulders to carry it, Better still, it has the gaping maw with a generously gusseted bottom, an overlapping flap closure and one flat zippered compartment engineered into the back wall. There is also an open pocket on the outside back of the bag. It is perfect! It holds my bulky otter-boxed cell phone, a tri-fold coin purse/wallet, a tube of Carmex, a set of keys, an emery board and a hanky–yes I carry handkerchiefs! I keep my jewelers loupe in the zippered pocket, along with a pen and a book of post-it notes. I can slip a letter that needs to be mailed, or a check that needs to be deposited or a boarding pass, even coupons for shopping trips, into the open pocket. It will actually accommodate my small address book too, and hold it firmly enough that it doesn’t fly out.

    Damn! That’s a lot of stuff in a eight by six bag! Coach seriously does engineer these things. It really is possible to go small!

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