How to Lighten Your Load

how to lighten your loadIf you’re carrying a million bags, how do you look professional?  How can you lighten your load and reduce the number of bags you’re carrying? Reader R wonders…

I work in a large corporate environment and recently had a daughter. I’m back at work, but I feel like a bag lady. I’m only 5’3″ and have to carry in my laptop, purse, pump, lunch, and coffee. (Not brave enough to add my gym bag to the mix, although I’d like to.) I feel like the bags overwhelm my frame and generally make me look smaller, younger, and unprofessional. How do others juggle all this STUFF?

Congratulations on your daughter, R!  Great question — I can see how this is a problem for new mothers, but also for other people carrying too much stuff.  We’ve talked about what your tote bag says about you, as well as how to save your back while commuting, but we haven’t really talked about a) how to lighten your load, and b) how to balance your load (particularly if you’re petite) so it looks more managed.

From my perspective, most of reader R needs to do is to reduce the amount of stuff she carries.  Some tips:

- Replace your purse with a wristlet.  I’m not sure about you, but I carried about 90% more stuff than I actually needed or used before I had a baby.  When I do wear a purse these days, I grab my wallet, my lip gloss, and my phone… and not much else.  This is one of the reasons wristlets are so popular these days.  (We just featured one yesterday; as well as here and here.)  Go for a bright color that you can find easily in a larger tote, and invest in one nice enough that you can take it with you on lunch with a client.  Everything else that you were carrying in your purse (e.g., tissues, umbrella, sunglasses case, snacks, etc), keep in your desk drawer.

- Sleekify your lunch.  Some lunch totes are huge.  My current favorite one is this square, flat lunch tote that would easily slip into a tote bag — I see no reason why this couldn’t do double duty to carry your expressed milk home.  I suspect you can still fit the bottle-shaped ice pack your pump probably came with, but even if you can’t you’ll probably be fine with just a regular flat ice pack unless you’re commuting for hours.  (In that case you may want to consider freezing your milk in flat bags for the commute home — maybe use a separate tote bag or even a brown paper bag to contain your milk if you’re using a public freezer.)

- Reconsider your method of transporting coffee.  I’m assuming you feel burdened by your coffee because you’re holding a to-go mug in your hand while juggling all of these other bags.  Can you invest in a thermos that you can just throw in your bag without worrying about it spilling?  Alternatively — coffee makers are relatively inexpensive (Amazon has them as low as $30; I’ll bet you can find them at a discount store like TJ Maxx for half that) so you may want to consider buying one for the office.  Even a $5 funnel allows you to make coffee with just boiling water and a few supplies (filters, coffee).

Built laptop sleeve- Stop carrying a laptop.  Why are you carrying your laptop to and from work every day?  If it’s an in-office security issue, ask HR or your boss to buy you a filing cabinet that locks.  If it’s a file-transporting issue, please consider remote storage options such as Dropbox or Google Drive, remote log-in options (which let you access a computer in a different place) like LogMeIn, or even an old-fashioned flash drive.  If you truly must carry your laptop to and from work every day, consider using a laptop sleeve instead of the tote (I’ve always been a fan of the bright and colorful Built sleeves, such as the envelope sleeve at right), and buying an extra power cord to keep at home.  Another option:  see if you can downsize to a much lighter netbook for your daily commute and only use the full-sized laptop when you really need to.

- Finally, the pump.  I’m assuming you’re lugging the whole thing back and forth every day because you need it in your off hours.  I probably could have squished most, if not everything, listed above into the tote bag pump that I had, the Medela Pump in Style.  If your pump came without a tote bag (or came with a smaller tote bag), you may want to consider getting a larger bag that you can use for your commute.  The Lo & Sons OG tote is really big and would be a good option; even a big beach tote (like this Lands’ End one) could work — I’ve seen a lot of partners use it for carrying massive documents and more to and from the office.

If, with all of these suggestions, you’re still carrying multiple bags and worry that it’s overwhelming your frame, the one suggestion I have is this:  carry one bag that has shoulder straps, and one bag that is more of a satchel (with shorter straps designed to be carried by the handle or over your forearms, such as this Longchamp tote).  Not only will it literally help you balance your load, but it’ll visually balance you, as well.

Readers, what tricks have you used to lighten your load?  Which big tote bags are your favorite?  Particularly readers who’ve had a daily commute with a laptop and/or a pump, please chime in!

 

Comments

  1. I second Kat’s suggestion of the Lo & Sons bag – I have the OMG and it is amazing. I also don’t bother carrying a separate lunch bag but instead put my lunch directly into the OMG (in glass tupperware with those locking tops that don’t come loose no mater what) and I also carry my laptop and a smaller purse (crossbody) in there too. All of that fits in my OMG with room to spare, so if you had the OG I don’t see why the pump and coffee couldn’t fit in as well.

    For those of you who were talking about Everlane a few weeks back – I ordered two v-neck t-shirts on your recommendations and love them. I can’t wait for the Ryan to come back in stock. https://www.everlane.com/n/86pa5n

    • I keep all of my stuff in the big lit bag that I carry around, even in the summer! It look’s clunky, but I am getting excercize carrying it around all day, so that is a good thing, Dad says.

      The manageing partner is getting antzy b/c Sam is busy texteing me, but I am NOT “parlayeing that into busness” for the firm. The manageing partner says I MUST put aside socializing for business and he think’s I can squeeze $500K per year out of Sam’s company, even tho it is a famous company. I have to figure out HOW I can get Sam to throw us some billeable’s without scareing him off. I think I will ASK Myrna, but does anyone in the HIVE have any sugestion’s for me? HELP! I am a partner, but am NOT abel to think like one, YET! FOOEY!

      • What about: “Dude, I can let you text me all you want and text back if you can throw me some business to get my boss off my back. Otherwise I have to be more good about texting at work.” Direct, in a teasing way.

    • Those of you that own a Lo & Sons bag – how do you feel it does for “dressy-ness”? I’m a law student and will be interning next semester in a pretty stuffy environment – not a firm, but a corporate trade association. All my internships so far have been pretty casual and i’ve gotten away with a backpack, but I’m thinking of investing in the OG in black. How does it look with a suit? Would I look super intern-y going to a client meeting? I’m almost 30, but look a lot younger, so am sensitive to looking age-appropriate and professional. Also, any general feedback about Lo and Sons is greatly appreciated. On my pathetic budget, purchasing this bag would be like a buying a house for some other people, so I need to know it’ll last.

      • Love my OMG – I use it in my (biglaw) office all the time and don’t think it would look intern-y at all in a conservative color (I have a deep gray but black would be just fine as well).
        I did get mine at 40% off (after new year’s) – I actually got it at 30% and then they went on deeper sale and I asked for a price adjustment and got it. Not sure full price was in my budget, but it was definitely a great purchase. I love all the pockets, I love the strap options, it’s a great product.

      • I feel like they look completely professional. I wear mine with a suit all the time and wouldn’t bat an eye at anyone wearing one in any professional environment. I wouldn’t take it to a black tie affair, but even business formal isn’t a black tie affair. :)

      • I have the TT in black and wear it with whatever I’m wearing (bus cas or suit, office is bus cas and not conservative). I’ve had it about 2 years and have been pleased with how it’s held up. That said, I think there may be some people who will never think nylon is as appropriate as leather in an office, especially a more conservative one.

        Look for a sale–you can at least get 10-15% off for liking them on FB (or you could when I bought mine).

      • I’m summering in biglaw and got the OG in black. Even though I’m really tall, it’s way too big to use as a purse but is SO great as a work bag. I keep a nice small purse in it, as well as snacks, paperwork, my laptop (if i needed it) & tons of other stuff. I also keep plain black flats in the shoe compartment, and that has come in handy so often. I love it.

    • Veronique :

      I bought the OG for travel and now use it for work as well. I can fit my 15 inch laptop, purse, lunch, etc into one bag instead of looking like a bag lady.

    • Will the OG be ridiculous for me if I am 5’1″? I have a lot to carry, and have been on the waitlist for the OMG (also quite big!) for a while, thinking about just getting the OG.

      • I don’t think so. I find the OMG almost looks too small on me (5’5) and I wish I had the OG. I think the model they have must be tiny because I had the same concern when I ordered.

      • chi squared :

        I purchased an OMG and returned it b/c the zippers felt cheap. For $200+, I expect YKK zippers. Also, the OMG was a little too big on my 5′ frame, and the straps were uncomfortable with the bag fully loaded.

        • I’ve had my OG for about two years now, and the zippers are pulling away from the nylon. In fairness, I’ve yanked on them a lot over the years. I asked Lo & Sons if they’d fix it, and they said they don’t do that but they offered me a discount on a new one.

    • I ordered it this weekend. I’ve been looking for a navy blazer for a while, so keeping my fingers crossed.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        What are you planning to wear it with? I have one but never seem to wear it because I feel like a salesman wearing it with gray bottoms. Not sure why that is the image I have in my mind, but I see a middle age guy who sells something with the color combo. I’ve been looking for a yellow or green skirt to wear with it but haven’t found anything that I love yet.

        • Everything! Although I know what you mean about the salesman feeling. My gray & navy image is a security guard, but totally the same middle aged guy.

          I ‘ve accumulated a few blue-ish print dresses (one light blue and another dark blue with yellow flowers) that I hope it will look nice with. Also, a maroon skirt. Anything camel colored. Yellow or green sound really nice but I don’t have much of either color unfortunately. I also think it would look really nice with a muted purple, and I have a russet colored skirt that I hope will work with it for Fall. I don’t think I could bring myself to do dark gray, but per yesterday’s discussion I am now looking for some lighter gray separates. Maybe that color combo will work better.

        • TO Lawyer :

          I have the same concern – I also wear a lot of black and grey and have a casual navy blazer that I rarely wear so I don’t know that I’d wear this one but it’s such a good deal. I think I need someone to either talk me in or talk me out of this…

          • I think if you have one and you don’t wear it, you may not need this one. But you should wear yours. If nothing else, it will always work with jeans and a white top. Or with a purple or burgundy sheath.

    • Midwest Transplant :

      Also purchased this weekend after a similar jacket was on the Brooks Brother’s sale and the sleeves looked like bracelet length on me. Hoping for better luck this time around! I sometimes find the jcrew blazers to boxy for my pear shape.

    • Thanks for this! I’ve had this on my list for years and I think this is the cheapest its ever been.

    • Jessica Glitter :

      Can you comment on sizing?

  2. I have a standing lunch meeting on Wednesday so I try to bring two days worth of lunch in on Mondays and Thursdays. It makes me feel so much “lighter” on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

    From the weekend thread, if you can throw money at the issue: (I don’t have kids so correct me if I’m wrong) could you get a second pump or set of parts so you aren’t hauling the whole thing every day? What about sucking it up and buying coffee at work while you are pumping? For workout clothes, can you bring in enough sets once a week and stash them in a locker? It might be worth it to rent a locker at the gym or, if your gym has a laundry service, have the gym launder your workout clothes.

    Also, go through your purse and see if there is anything you can remove from your purse and add to your office emergency supplies: feminine products, OTC meds and vitamins, hand lotion and nail files, emergency snacks, maybe a second set of make-up (or a partial set), comfortable shoes, etc?

    • Yeah, I haven’t had my baby yet, so I am not an expert, but I’m also curious why you need your pump at home. I’m planning on leaving mine at the office, and maybe taking some of the parts home for a washing. Am I missing something?

      • I had to pump every morning after I fed my daughter, before I left for work. She typically only needed half of what I was supplying, so I froze the excess for months down the road when I was not producing as much.

        • I had that same problem. Or, if maybe perhaps on occasion you might have had one glass of wine too many after the baby went to sleep and you felt the need to pump and dump just to be safe…

          But if you don’t have those issues, then I would leave the pump at work during the week. And I bought extra pump parts (in triplicate), to save on the amount of time I spent washing/wiping/etc.

          • Need to Improve :

            Pumping and dumping is not necessary. Alcohol leaves your b-milk at the same rate at which is leaves your bloodstream. So you don’t need to “remove” the boozy milk. The only reason to pump and dump is if you get uncomfortably full and need to express some milk. Lactation consultants these days tell women not to do it . . .

        • Why did you have to pump every morning? Oversupply? Could you just tell there was milk left in there? Was it leaking? (I’m showing my ignorance. Yeesh. The baby will be here ANY DAY.)

          • Diana Barry :

            I had oversupply and m*stitis with #2, and also found I didn’t pump as much at work as my baby ate, so I needed to pump extra before I went back. Look on kellymom dot com – it is a GREAT resource about b-feeding and pumping.

          • Need to Improve :

            Your body makes milk on a supply and demand system. The emptier you get your b__b at each feeding, the more milk it will make, thinking that it needs to feed the baby more. So removing more milk and saving it is great if you can do it. I started pumping after feedings pretty much right away to get my supply up as high as I could, then I had stores of milk for things like overnight trips, etc.

            I second Kelly mom and also the LLL wesbites for lots of answers abut this stuff.

          • Thanks, ladies. This is all very interesting.

          • There is no mistaking the feeling of being “too full” if the baby doesn’t eat enough. I had to start out exclusively pumping and then transition to n*rsing (long story…), so I always had an oversupply.

          • Anonymous :

            Even if you choose to pump from the very beginning to inflate your supply, the first 3 days post partum are colostrum, not regular breast milk, and your baby needs that at the beginning — so stick with only nursing for the first few days!

      • Partner Anon :

        My children went to bed at first around 6:30-7 at night and for bo0bs that were used to being emptied every 3-4 hours during the day, not pumping at 10 before I went to bed would mean waking up 1) in pain and 2) in a puddle sometime over the night. It was bad enough going from 10pm pumping session to 6am wake-up feeding and then getting into work so I could pump again by 10 (then 2 and then hope I could do the pickup and nurse again by 6ish). Working late = bring extra bottles or bags. Work travel = yikes!

      • I still had occasion to pump at home, for similar reasons others have mentioned. I got a much cheaper medela hand pump ($30) at home, that worked plenty well for those occasions. I really did not want to lug the thing back and forth, in part because I knew I would forget it at some point.

        • Second the Medela hand pump. I received that one from the hospital and actually preferred it to the Pump In Style, though I still used (and kept) the latter at work when I needed to be hands-free.

      • A pump is about $300, so it could be a little expensive for some (like me) to buy two. If it’s an option – go for it. It was important for me to have it with me both at home and the office, for many of the same reasons already listed: pumping after nursing to increase supply (in the morning and at night) to build up a supply for use when I was at work and for freezing, pumping after my son went to sleep, and for times when he wouldn’t nurse (didn’t happen very often).

        And remember – you have a right to pump at work!

    • Diana Barry :

      +1. I bought two pumps. One lives at work and one lives at home. When I am working from home and my baby is somewhere else, I use the one at home. I got one in style and one symphony. The symphony was very expensive, but I have used it for 3 kids and have pumped for a total of almost 3 years at work at this point, so worth it IMO.

    • Need to Improve :

      I had 2 pumps for this reason. If you can afford one fancy and one middle of the road, keep the middle of the road one at home for the morning or night pumping sessions. If you plan to pump for a long time, it’s worth the money not to have to lug the pump back and forth every day.

      • Plus ACA now requires insurers to pay for one, so you’d only be buying one.

        • +1! I have two kids and one was born pre-ACA, so I had purchased a Medela Pump in Style for her. With the ACA, I was covered for a pump when my son was born this year. One pump lives at home, the other at work. If you can manage this, it’s amazing and totally lightens the load.

          I also own three sets of pump parts and enough bottles so I don’t have to wash stuff every night. I have two wet bags I picked up on etsy and every day I bring a full complement of pumping items (flanges, bottles, caps, etc.) to work, along with the cooler bag and ice pack. There’s always one set of pump parts on standby for the next day (in the second wet bag) and one set in the dishwasher. This has streamlined my life IMMENSELY with kid #2.

  3. Kim Kelley :

    TJ – I just had a great experience with returning and exchanging something (a suit that Kat recommended back in May) from Neiman Marcus Las Call, and I wanted to share (and give them a shoutout so that the karma keeps on flowing). They mistakenly sent me 2 skirts instead of a jacket and a skirt that I ordered during the Memorial Day sale. The 45 day return window had expired (because I take forever to deal with these things) and the items are no longer on sale. However, the lovely manager at NM LC allowed me to buy the jacket at the sale price, and even order another skirt in a larger size to see if it would fit better – while waiving the shipping for the return. They were nice, I was nice, everything is nice! Would be nice if I had the mojo to bill more than 30 minutes today, but you can’t have everything.

  4. S in Chicago :

    In addition to Kat’s advice, think about possibly making use of a wheelie wand setting another bag on top, if needed. It makes the whole mess of it a lot more manageable. A ton of folks do this in my office.

    • S in Chicago :

      “and” not “wand.”

      (Although wouldn’t it be great if you could just wave something and make it all disappear? I need a good wand today…)

    • A Nonny Moose :

      This is something I love about my OMG– that it has the zipper to let you slide it on top of rolling luggage. Amazingly handy for traveling, and I’m sure for commuting if you use a wheely bag.

    • This. If you hunt, you can find stylish wheelies. I have a purple croc one that I got at the airport, but saw similar style on sale at naturalizer outlet recently. Found a green croc one online. Hunt enough and you can get a cool one, get all the above into it except your Pump in Style, which you can set on top.

      • No, wait, get a pump for home and for work. Although if you litigate, you will have the fun of bringing your pump to courthouse. That’s always fun, looking for places to pump in a crowded courthouse.

  5. What i wanna know is how you carry all that stuff without your body in constant pain. Just walking less than a mile from the Chicago metra station to my office with my laptop bag results in my shoulders being incredibly sore/in pain

    • Word. If I *had* to carry all that stuff every day, I would get a professional looking laptop backpack and stuff everything in there. I actually own two – one for when I need to jam a lot of things in there and another for the laptop and just lunch + wallet + keys. Carry the coffee. Done. My purse collection comes into play when I don’t need to carry my whole life around.

    • Anonymous :

      I have this same problem, but I heard if your shoulders hurt from your purse/laptop bag you should do strengthening exercises for your back/arms/core. This doesn’t mean anyone should carry 20lbs of gear in a tote on one shoulder but strengthening helps. But I’m with Godzilla, if I carried that much stuff I would just do a plain black backpack!

    • Just wanted to high-five another daily Metra walker…sometimes I feel like I spend half my life schlepping all the way across loop. I switched to a cross-body bag recently, and I wear it on opposite shoulders in the morning and evening (for some reason I can’t wear a regular should bag on my left; it just slides off). It has helped.

    • layered bob :

      also a Metra schlepper. I tell myself the reason I don’t work out more is because I just can’t carry workout clothes TOO.

  6. For many organizations, it’s probably a very bad idea to store work files on Dropbox, Google Drive, etc and also probably against some companies’ policies to use regular thumb drives for proprietary information. Most of the things suggested in the don’t carry a laptop paragraph would be unacceptable in my company. Some I’d probably get fired for. The only thing we could possibly do is use remote access, but we can’t connect a personal device to the corporate network via VPN. We definitely couldn’t try to use an outside vendor like LogMeIn. Maybe the suggestions would work better in a small office with few rules.

    • I guess that sounded kind of alarmist, but as an example, one woman I used to work with started emailing documents to herself to work on at home after work. The documents contained some customer information that wasn’t allowed to be transmitted that way, resulting in financial penalties when the customer found out.

    • Just to echo – that also wouldn’t fly at my office. The only way to get in to the network is through the work laptop. If you’re dealing with sensitive information, be aware that there may be restrictions on how you save and deal with that information.

    • Midwest Transplant :

      This. At my consulting firm we are not allowed to send emails to our personal accounts with attachments, no USB drives and certainly no external storage site. Many of my clients require us to use their computers only for their work or remote log in through very secure sites.

      However, can you try to save work like reading or editing decks (printed out) for home and leave the laptop locked up in the office?

      I recently started to have shoulder issues and switched to the method suggested by Kat. I switched from a leather tote to nylon for my laptop, got an extra converter so I didn’t need to carry that back and forth, purchased extra thin notebooks rather than the five subject, and started leaving everything possible in the office. I carry my lunch and coffee thermos in a separate bag in my hands. The load on my shoulders is definitely improved.

      • We are not allowed to do any of that either (dropbox, emailing files, etc.). With manager approval, you can get work email access on your smartphone/tablet, but even with that some things (large attachments. databases, etc.) can only be accessed from your work laptop.

    • Same here (big law). Also carry my laptop back and forth when there’s any chance that i’ll be doing work from home that can’t be done from my phone.

    • Also, it sends HUGE red flags if you are ever in a situation of going to work for a competitor and having someone evaluate whether you may be violating your non-compete or taking trade secrets to the competitor.

      Also also, as a lawyer, you are ethically responsible for vetting the security of any “vendor” you use, so know the security of dropbox, etc. before using it and check firm policies.

    • Yep, same. I’ve never tried to use Dropbox for work but I’d be shocked if I could. I’ve considered emailing myself documents to access via Webmail, but even then I’m risking (1) having the unexpected email come in and not having access to all the relevant documents on our system, and (2) wishing for precedent language to copy over but not being able to get to it until back online.

    • This. No dropbox, no Amazon Cloud, no google docs. Just don’t do it, not even to hang the files for a few minutes until you can get them to a company-approved site.

  7. I think the advice to downsize is spot on. We all carry way too much extra stuff. I have been trying to carry less, and I know it’s hard but after a while, you really don’t miss it. One thing that has helped is getting the smallest possible size of something – e.g., soft eyeglass case instead of hard, flatter wallet, small keychain, etc. I also bring a lot of stuff to work and just leave it in my office (plastic forks, hand lotion, nail polish, advil, etc.). With lunch, if I bring it, I try to repurpose old take out containers (the hard plastic ones) so I only carry it to work and then recycle once I’m in the office. I quit carrying my own to-go coffee cup because I hated having to carry it back. Instead, I drink coffee at home and buy lots of tea for the office and use the hot water cooler & go out for coffee when I really want it. If I really wanted coffee and didn’t want to go out for it, I’d buy a coffee maker for the office as Kat advises. For snacks, tea and other things that I bring in, I try to pick them up during lunch so that I’m not carrying anything extra to work with me in the mornings.

    • I should also add make sure your tote is lightweight. When I was studying for the bar, I switched to a fabric bag with thick supportive straps.

      • Amen to this. After I took everything out of my purse except my empty wallet, I realized that just the purse and the wallet (both leather) weigh a ton. It actually didn’t make that big of a difference relatively speaking when I put everything back in; the majority of the weight was in the leather. So, next time I buy a purse or wallet, lightweight is going to be priority number one.

    • For the coffee people – I use a press pot at work. I just use regular grind coffee (however the ground Dunkin Donuts stuff that Target sells is ground), put a couple of spoonfuls in the press pot, add hot water, let it sit a minute, then press down the plunger and pour the coffee. I think it’s very good coffee – not so acidic as coffee can sometimes be.

      I know there’s something about press pot coffee raising your cholesterol, but honestly I can’t be fussed about it. I’d be more worried about permanent shoulder joint damage from carrying a super-heavy bag!

      • I use the french press at home & think it makes much better coffee, even if you’re just using regular maxwell house. I think the cholesterol thing is only an issue if you have high cholesterol to begin with and/or are drinking a lot. I usually have a cup to a cup and a half in the morning and haven’t noticed any spikes. My mom has been using a french press for years and also hasn’t seen any impact.

        • Brooklyn Paralegal :

          +1 to french press.

          The coffee tastes much better to me, and it’s such a space-saver in my tiny NYC kitchen!

      • I use a funnel at work.
        While the french press coffee is probably better, the funnel is less messy: all the grounds are discarded with the paper filter and there is no spring assembly to rinse.
        I also keep tea in the office for afternoon caffeine doses. I usually have some kind of loose green tea that I steep with an infuser, and teabags for when I am in a rush.

  8. Blonde Lawyer :

    I haven’t read the other comments but I have the Brahmin Weekender bag that I use as my trial bag. I can fit notebooks or redwells along with my clutch and any other personal stuff I need. I got it at their outlet for much cheaper than it is listed online but it was a sample and there was only one there. It is really sturdy and looks nice. I have it in navy.

    https://www.brahmin.com/product/G96151BK/travel–anywhere-weekender-black

  9. Blonde Lawyer :

    Also, my first year of law school I had a busted shoulder so I carried everything in a rolling suitcase. LL Bean has a nice one that has a shoulder strap. You can wheel it through the parking lot but then carry it like a duffel when you are walking to your office. I had no shame though and just wheeled the regular looking suitcase everywhere.

  10. Re coffee at work, I recommend a French press. Dump coffee grounds and hot water into it, let it seep for a few minutes, pour into your coffee mug. Then when you go wash your coffee cup, you wash (rinse) the French press + grounds at the same time.

  11. Here’s my plug for the Freestyle: it’s so tiny you can throw it any purse. It saves it’s charge really well, too, and even when I was pumping three times a day at work, I only needed to charge it once a week (and this was after years of use as I just stopped pumping for #2 last month). I had a mini fridge at my desk and brought my pump parts and enough bottles for the week on Monday. I would use the Medela wipes daily but only do a good sterilizing clean of the pump parts on Wednesday so that cut down on lugging back and forth and cleaning time. Then, I’d just carry the bottles home at night. I had a short commute (45 minutes on a bad day) so I wouldn’t use a cooler bag since breastmilk is fine up to four hours just out. Freeze back the milk at night and do a weekly deep clean of bottles. This is a tangent but there are ways to minimize what you lug for pumping.

    • YUCK — *its charge*

    • pumping anon :

      I had two sets of pump parts. One was always at home in the dishwasher and the dry set went into the pump bag. I carried an ice pack with me to chill the milk, but never put into the refrigerator on our floor. And I just wiped the parts dry with paper towels (kept a roll at my desk) after pumping. I would have died to have carried them to the kitchen to wash them out after each use.

      I pumped for 9 months after each baby (eventually dropping from 3 to 2 to 1 pump each workday + 1 pump after they started sleeping for 12 hours at a time).

      You’d think I’d have a ton of free time now . . .

    • working mama :

      If you place your pump parts into a plastic storage bag and store it in the fridge along with your expressed milk, you will save time. Most women pump at least 3 times at the office and cleaning can take longer than pumping… by placing the parts in the fridge bacteria doesn’t grow and you just take them out each use and can worry about cleaning them when you get home. I had to clock out to pump so every minute saved was literally a penny earned!

  12. I’m the question asker – thanks for all the great suggestions!! I agree, my back would be killing me if I schlepped all of this around for much longer! Time to downsize and reorganize!

    I do have to carry my laptop. Company policies prohibit all but the company laptop for accessing files and I work on sensitive information so need to make sure it’s 100% audit proof. Plus I need access if the baby is too sick for daycare and I’m stuck at home for the day. But I like the idea of carrying a sleve and getting an extra charger!

    Sadly, I have to pump at home because I don’t get enough during the workday. I like the idea of either a manual or second pump at home, and just bring back and forth the parts for washing (with maybe a backup set!) I live in total fear of forgetting even a part of my pump one day.

    Super cute lunch tote that Kat linked to. And I can’t believe I didn’t think about a coffee maker at work. Totally worth forgoing coffee during my commute! (I hate Starbucks coffee, so the thought of spending $3/day for it is out of the question.)

    Thanks all!

    • darjeeling :

      if you can afford it, definitely buy a second pump and leave one at the office. I did this with my 2nd kid (kept the first pump with its no longer as powerful motor at home for supplementary use) and it made things so much easier.

  13. I just received the MK jetset mac tote as a gift and that would eliminate the need for a sleeve as well (adds bulk).

    You could then slide in your lunch on one side and other stuff on the other… The tote, as one big bucket, also does not weigh much.

    As for coffee, you could get the “Clever”, which is like the pour overs(uses paper filters) but also like a french press (you can let the coffee “brew”), and use whatever hot water you have at work.

  14. I also tend to carry a lot of change and receipts around with me. Totally not necessary.

  15. I love the Medela Pump in Style Freestyle. It’s small enough to put Ina large purse / tote, and isn’t “trapped” in the bag it comes in. Plus it’s relatively quiet and efficient and had been going stron for 10 months for me

  16. A few thoughts:
    1. I have a Michael Kors bag that I love, it’s big enough to fit in all of my “mom” stuff but looks professional, and instead of taking my briefcase places, I tote it with my iPad. Using OneNote on iPad and being able to sync my mail and calendar with my Outlook makes it a very reasonable option when I’m not in need of my laptop (I have a desktop in my office).
    2. I used my Medela at work, and an Isis manual pump at home. The manual pump was great because it was so quiet, I could pump one side while I nursed on the other and not wake my baby.
    3. Leave the coffee mug in the car. Splurge and buy yourself a small Keurig for your desk – if you don’t have one at the office – it’s about $40.
    4. When I was on the road (previous job, I flew about 100,000 mi/year – pre-kids!), I scrapped a big purse for a small Coach bag that held my phone and wallet, and that’s about it. But I could pop it in the top of my laptop bag, still fit the laptop and a spare charger, and files for the plane. Consider asking IT for two chargers – one to leave at work, and one at home. They’re small, but they take up a ton of space!!

  17. On the pumping: If you don’t want to get a second pump for home (I actually got a free one through my health insurance and borrowed another from a friend — just replaced the parts and opened it up and cleaned it for extra security), then try getting a hand pump, like the Harmony or there are a few other brands. They are less than $100 (I got one on sale for $40) and can be almost as fast as an electric pump EXCEPT that you have to do one breast at a time. But if you’re at home and have a bit more time than at work, I’d suggest that. You can also get two hand pumps and do both boobs at the same time and it’ll still be cheaper. Plus you can use it when you are traveling and don’t want to lug the whole electric pump or when you are going out for dinner or drinks and need somethig you can discretely pump in the bathroom (I had to go to a bachelorette party once and pump and dump in a club bathroom once!)

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