The other day I read a post about someone’s handbag and that got me thinking, about handbags and life in general. The post was written about something completely different (more about the sustainable aspect of handbags) but it reminded me that I actually don’t have a handbag. I mean, I have bags I sometimes carry around but if there was an emergency and I needed to run out of my house, there would be no bag ready to grab.
I gave up a large handbag when my kids started walking and I had to chase them. A handbag is very impractical in those situations. Since then I usually have my phone in its case with the most important cards, tucked in one of my pants’ pockets. If I don’t have a pocket I use a belt bag, the only sort of handbag I use regularly. For any longer trips, I use canvas bags.
What a handbag says about us
I did a bit of reading around on handbags and was astonished to find a vast area of research, from funny to serious (or at least it was supposed to be serious). Most of the studies concluded that a handbag says a lot about its carrier.
Handbags have been around for centuries. It served the purpose of carrying items, mostly money, close to a person’s body. Handbags date back to those days when clothing didn’t have pockets. Back then, it was mostly men who used handbags because women didn’t leave the house enough to be needing one.
Some of the research then concludes that women using handbags is a sign of emancipation. It’s become a status symbol and often a handbag can be more important than clothes. Today, women use handbags for almost any occasion.
What my (lack of a) handbag says about me
The messages from that research on handbags made me flinch in multiple ways: Women didn’t use a handbag because they didn’t leave the house; a handbag is a status symbol and a sign of a woman’s emancipation?! What does my lack of a handbag make me?
I don’t want to depress myself (or anyone like me) but rather turn this on its head. What does it NOT make me?
A lack of a handbag for me means freedom, physical and financial. I’ve never been the type to spend a lot of money on a bag but without using one, the need for one disappears. Admittedly, in the past, I have bought handbags. My belt bag came from a market stall and my other (larger) handbag was a gift from my husband. I don’t however, spend money on a bag as an accessory.
Without carrying a handbag around I also get physical freedom. My kids were the reason to give up a handbag but now I really enjoy walking the streets without the extra weight.
A lack of a handbag also means that I don’t carry things around I don’t (really) need. It leaves me puzzled, honestly, when I see some handbags and their content. Why do you carry all these items with you? Some researchers suggest that in particular women show through the content of their bag their nurturing side. They are prepared for anything. And it’s not just for themselves but for anyone around them.
While anyone could conclude that my tiny handbag means that I’m not prepared, I prefer to say this: I don’t prepare for an uncertain future but only for the immediate one. I pack what I need for that particular trip away from the house.
Handbags and minimalism
This discussion about handbags and my tiny one reminded me a lot of minimalism: focus on what’s important at a particular time; financial and physical freedom; and breaking the norm by not participating in a game of status symbols.
A video the other day listed some weird signs that you might be a minimalist but handbags wasn’t one of them. For me, having a tiny handbag is certainly one sign. If you can live with little while out and about then you certainly can in your home.
The aim of minimalism is to reconsider all of our possessions and what they mean to us and our lives. I don’t need a big handbag, neither as an emergency kit nor as a status symbol.